Masterchef Review: Eggs Factor

MASTERCHEF: Wednesday 16th February, BBC1, ALERT ME

For a nation that is mocked the world over for our rubbish cuisine, we sure churn out a wok of cookery programming. Come Dine With Me broadcasts on a variety of channels at pretty much every hour of the day, whilst Jamie Oliver is like a spatula-wielding Jack-In-The-Box, frequently popping up on to his soapbox to have a whinge about the latest lunchbox travesties. And tonight the greediest slot-filler of them all, Masterchef, returns to our screens, complete with a brand new look to try and win over its critics.

Producers of the popular cookery contest must have sought advice from Simon Cowell this year, because an audition round has randomly been introduced to proceedings in order to spice things up. As with any wipe-out round an entertaining mixture of raw talent, competent performers and absolute buffoons have been provided, all desperately trying to impress the judges with their signature dishes. Though not quite as entertaining as the abundance of idiots found on The X Factor auditions, watching one woman attempt to ‘deconstruct’ a trifle that is more akin to an infected ulcer is fairly amusing. The lighting in the studio has also been turned up so that contestants sweat profusely in order to create a dramatic atmosphere, but it’s actually more repulsive than riveting as beads of sweat cascade from their anxious foreheads into the food they are preparing. Nevertheless, big-bellied judge Gregg Wallace gobbles each dish with the same enthusiasm as an overweight escapee from fat camp.

That said, John Torode and Gregg Wallace are sadly not at their critical best and reject contestants for undercooked fish and lack of imagination rather than any scandalous kitchen nightmares. Wallace still looks like an over-ripe cauliflower and Torode still does that weird, emphasised eating that’s like a goldfish gulping for air, but the two are far more timid than previous series as they decide whether they agree or disagree on the desperate wannabes. If they cannot agree, that particular contestant is given a lifeline and gets a second chance to showcase their culinary prowess, which is all very nice if not a little boring. The long pauses and pulsing music is meant to create tension as Torode and Wallace contemplate the contestant’s fate, but in the time it takes Wallace to stop eating and make a decision the hopefuls could have attended catering college and got a job in McDonalds

Hopefully once the auditions end and the contestants are confirmed, Masterchef will return to its former excellence, although we at OTB certainly wouldn’t mind if the plummy narrator India Fisher was replaced by the witty Come Dine With Me talent Dave Lamb. At least he would provide some humour, because at such an early stage in the competition viewers want to see kitchen casualties, not friendly banter about profiteroles. We at OTB have seen more controversy in our local supermarket than in this audition round. Sorry Wallace, but cooking DOES get tougher than this.