Masterchef: The Professionals, BBC Two | TV reviews, news & interviews
Masterchef: The Professionals, BBC Two
A phenomenal final trio prove, in a trial by fire, who has the X factor in cooking
There are all sorts of reality shows, but the best ones really do strip people bare. It’s the reason why The X Factor is more interesting than Strictly Come Dancing, why Don’t Tell the Bride is more revealing of the gamble of love than Snog, Marry, Avoid? It’s the reason why Masterchef: The Professionals is more gripping than the estimable Great British Bake-Off.
While it’s cheering to see talented amateurs like you and me win the original Masterchef, the most popular in the franchise, it’s far more exciting to see the culinary genius that so many college-trained chefs, beavering away in the noisy obscurity of kitchens all over Britain, uncover in the Professional version. No year has had more edge-of-seat thrills than this year’s, despite a long slow burn over 24 episodes, which ended last night with a win that to my mind states that something more profound, more theatrical, more about the art of creating joy than just eating well is going on in British cooking.
The paradox is that you actually can’t taste the food in Masterchef. It’s like discussing painting on the radio - an act of breathtaking cheek. Because even when plates are offered dressed with a visual artistry that miraculously crosses Jackson Pollock and Richard Dadd, what actually counts is entirely out of reach of the TV audience - taste, flavour, aroma, temperature.
This means the judges need exceptional selecting. Competing in dodgy superlatives may pass for the normal Masterchef, but for The Professionals - with a final in which they cook for 34 3-star and 2-star chefs - there comes the tranquil pleasure when chief judge Michel Roux Jr, patron of Le Gavroche, has passed through the patronising whirlwind of “exceptionals” and “sublimes” and reaches the sincere accolade of “this is very good cooking”, one master to another.
That happened several times in last night’s final, when three cooks of evidently stupendous talent competed for the title. All of them were what some might call in today’s hokey-academic climes underachievers. Two started in kitchens from 15 or 16, another drifted into it at 19. One learned as a tot from his grandma, another would get her brother to pay her to make family breakfast, the third grew up in the Tasmanian bush eating veg from his family garden. All three had Roux speechless at times, and dimpled über-grocer Gregg Wallace rolling in the lard of his own clichés. All three drew plaudits from the roomful of multi-starred masterchefs, memorably pared down to the envious basic, “If you cook like that in a restaurant, you’ll be busy every day,” from one of them.
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