Saturday, May 17, 2014

"MASTERCHEF" IN TWO COUNTRIES



As regular readers will know, I have enjoyed all three series of MasterChef Italia and have written about the programme several times, the most recent post being this one.

It had been a long time since I'd watched MasterChef UK but this year - thanks to the wonders of technology -  I managed it and what a series it has been! Last night's episode from Barcelona was a joy to watch and tonight's final kept everyone guessing until the very last minute. For those of you who are not in the UK, the deserving winner was this lady.

I must say I found the series very refreshing and calm after the noise and clamour of the Italian version! That is not to imply that the contestants do not work flat out in the UK version, because they do. They just don't let their inner panic show and, although a few tears of relief and exhaustion are not unheard of at the end of particularly challenging rounds, emotion is largely contained.

The British contestants do not argue with the judges, make bitchy or near-racist remarks about each other, clap themselves or sulk and, strangely enough, the programme's twitter commenters do not generally tweet their observations about the contestants' or judges' appearance or clothes [and here I must confess that I couldn't help asking where Spanish guest judge Christian Escribà got his spectacles last night]. It would also be hard to imagine the UK judges throwing dishes they don't like across the studio, à la Joe Bastianich.

From watching the series, I have learnt that in my own country there is a fashion for "deconstructing" classic dishes, a concept which would be incomprehensible to an Italian, to whom a tiramisù, for instance, is a tiramisù and if it is deconstructed, it is something, or several things, else. The British cooks, inspired by some of their country's top chefs, also have a penchant for precariously leaning one piece of food against another, creating dishes with at least seventeen component parts [ or "throwing too much at a plate", as a series catchphrase goes] and for serving  dishes which consist of just one piece of pasta - beautifully filled, admittedly, but horrifying to an Italian cook.

On this programme, no one can pronounce pistacchio, bruschetta or gnocchi and chefs and voice-over lady alike have trouble with the concept that pasta types are plural.

But what has really surprised me is the extent to which the British chefs use their bare hands during the cooking process and in "plating up". [Incidentally , the Italian equivalent of this word, impiattare, has just entered the dictionary.] They even use their hands to press down food that is in a hot pan and there is never a catering glove in sight! Yes, I know you have to use your bare hands sometimes and my own mother used to say, "A good cook uses her hands" but there are some limits! I suppose this has struck me because Italians are very fussy about not touching food with their hands, especially when they're eating in public. If you are served a croissant with jam in a bar, for instance, it won't come on a plate with a knife and a little pot of jam; the jam will have been injected in and the croissant will be part-wrapped in a paper napkin  so that you don't have to touch it with your hands. The only exception to this "no hands" rule is, of course, pizza. 

Anyway, the British series is over for another year and I'm wondering who I can fall in love with now that lovely, knowledgeable chef John Torode and Cockney charmer Gregg Wallace will not be popping up on my screen on Wednesday - Friday nights. During the Italian series, you may remember, I was rather taken with Italy's "sexy chef" Carlo Cracco and I did start watching his Hell's Kitchen Italia series. I stopped, however, after an episode in which two teams of contestants were taken to a farm to "catch" the animals for the food they were to prepare. I do eat meat and that means I have to accept that animals are killed to feed me but I don't have to watch people making a game of it.

I have one suggestion for John, Gregg and the MasterChef UK team - next year, why not bring the contestants to Modica, the chocolate town?

5 comments:

James Higham said...

I was thinking you should go on that.

Laruchka said...

I enjoyed this. It's been ages since I've watched 'shovel and shout' at work. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfeyUGZt8nk Have you seen this yet?!

Winchester whisperer said...

I'm surprised that the British are more hands on in the (public) kitchen than the Italians. All that pasta dough rolling has presumably been replaced by machines?

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Thank you kindly, James but I couldn't keep up the pace! Thanks, Laruchka and for the video link too - that was fun. Hi, WW. Not machines, but they make sure their bare hands touch food as little as possible and I've never seen an Italian cook put his or her hand in the pan!

Lee said...

Our new season of MasterChef has just begun here, too...a couple of weeks ago.

This season's group of cooks are brilliant...and it's still early in the show. Even greater things are to come by the looks of it.

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