The cooking has come a long and impossible way and there’s now almost nothing I could cook for a family meal. It gives me ideas, sure. For instance, celeriac makes a delicious buttery puree but also makes you flatulent as all get out.
But here we are, a few days out from the grand finale (rhymes with Carly) of MasterChef and I’m back. Sitting on the couch five nights a week. Holding my breath. And sick to death of tuiles.
I’m back because of Khanh and Jess and Sashi and Chloe’s kids. I’m back because that’s the Australia I live in.
I’m back because MasterChef represents where we are now. In 2009, with the exception of Poh, the top five looked like what we imagined a stereotypical Australian to be, Home and Away circa last century. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Julie, Poh, Chris, Julia, Justine and Lucas cooked hard, liked beer and we liked them. We were nuts for the recipes.
But now in 2018, our top five really are stereotypical Australians. From Indian backgrounds. From Indonesian backgrounds. Working mums. Builder Ben Borsht. Teenagers working in hospitality. This is our reality.
Look I’m fudging it a tiny bit when I say Sashi Cheliah represents the largest group of migrants to Australia over the past five years – India. He was actually born in Singapore, as were his parents, but his grandparents emigrated to Singapore from South India (Madurai) Tamil Nadu. So Indian by way of Singapore. And half a million people in Australia at the last census were born in India.
Jess Liemantara’s parents are from Surabaya. Khanh Ong was born in an Indonesian refugee camp. Chloe Carroll’s father-in-law is from Ghana and she has two kids who look adorable (I have children, I know appearances aren’t everything).
These folks are gay and straight. Beautiful and less beautiful. Tall and pretty short. Tatts and no tatts. Older and Jess, 19. Nine contestants all up were born overseas but clearly there are a truckload with parents and grandparents from all over the place. In Australia, at the last census, people born overseas, or who had at least one parent born overseas, made up just about half of our entire population.
That makes this MasterChef more watchable because we can identify. I feel like they are more like the folks I’d see on the street although they clearly get their hair done every day. And someone else is doing their laundry and cleaning up the kitchen. Not exactly reality.
So, into finals week and who should we be cheering for?
Doesn’t matter much who wins now, because we’ve had a whole season of a different Australia cooking on national television. The publicists sent me viewing stats which said MasterChef had lost only one per cent of its audience compared to a ninja show which has lost half of its viewers. And home something something, which is probably about freaking renovations; and just living through them is bad enough, let alone watching them for entertainment.
But watching people cook is entertainment; and watching them cook well is even better. I’d love to avoid watching people make melting icecream, crunchy granita and endless snow eggs. I am not, by nature, a reality television lover; and seriously, the sight of Mr Badger, soon to be on The Bachelor, makes me feel ill.
But the contestants on MasterChef reflect the reality of Australia, they are far more diverse. Not so much the judges.
Jenna Price is a Fairfax columnist and an academic at the University of Technology Sydney.
Jenna Price is a Fairfax columnist, and an academic at the University of Technology, Sydney.
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