So, what does it take to be a MasterChef? Here are some Reality Chef Lessons from Superfoodie Achala Srivasta, who knows a thing or two (or twenty) about what it takes to be one!
Food reality shows have been the craze for a while now. To all those aspiring Masterchefs, it’s not just enough to be able to navigate your way around sous vide, pancetta and jicama, you need to have the smarts to navigate your way around the Masterchef kitchens as well. Now, I consider myself in the best position to advise you since I have been closely following Master Chef, Iron Chef, Top Chef (does anyone see a pattern here?) and practically every other show that’s around. Yes, I do need a life. But, on the other hand you, dear reader, now have the benefit of my knowledge.
First, whatever you do you must demonstrate that you have SPIRIT, you want to live the DREAM, you have the kind of can do, walking the talk spirit that tells the judges that you will slit your Labrador puppy’s throat for a chance to be MasterChef.
The actual cooking of the food is of no importance. The more important thing is your attitude as demonstrated at two vital points
- The presentation of your food
- Your reaction to winning or losing
The presentation of the food to the judges is critical. You will need to size up the judges in order to tailor your approach. You have several options
- Napoleonic Confidence – The dish you’ve just made is spectacularly awesome, a party in your mouth, their tastebuds will die and go to heaven. Works best if you are American.
- Modest Self -Deprecation – you will demur coyly – you don’t know, mate, but you’ve done your best, you think it’s pretty good, yeah.
- Brutal Self -Deprecation – Your dish is probably shit because….but well there it is… Best left to the British.
- Glutinous Sentimentality. Works best if you are Indian. Weep copiously and overwhelm your judges with heart-rending sobs. This has been your childhood dream (and don’t be shy about giving them minute details of your trials and tribulations while growing up), you are here to fulfill your parents’ dreams for you and if you don’t win, you’ll slit your wrists right here.
- Relative Invocation – the dish you’ve prepared is always a dish you grandmother/mother/aunt used to make when you were a child and if you don’t get it right, she’ll slit your wrists
- The Creativity Clincher – Your schizophrenic version of tacos which includes wasabi, tandoori sauce and truffles must be attributed to a huge surge of creative self expression. This is YOU – on a plate.
- Covering your posterior: In every competition, there comes a time when you know you’ve completely stuffed it up. You know your beef/chicken is so raw a good vet can bring it back to life with resuscitation. Your rice hasn’t even softened. You could, of course, tell them the truth but then that would pretty much be the end of it. Alternatively, you could throw yourself at the mercy of the court (I knew it was burning, but I had 8 other things to do.. it’ll never happen again etc) but that’s hit or miss.
No, the far more manly thing to do is to brazen it out… let me illustrate
i. Yeah, my steak is bleeding but that’s the way I like it.
ii. The customers at my restaurant prefer my risotto crunchy
iii. Salmon has so much more of a clean, ethereal simplicity when it’s pink and translucent and raw, doesn’t it?
iv. At home, we feel our potatoes have a much more earthy and robust flavor if lumpy
Follow these few words of wisdom, and I am confident you will be the next Top/Iron/Master Chef. I will follow your career with keen interest.
Now if despite my advice and your heroic cover up efforts, you should lose or get eliminated, resist your instinct to fling a sharp object (and you will have the means and the opportunity to acquire quite a few of these in the kitchens) at the judges. You have three options
- Slap your opponent on the back – hey, it was a good fight and the best man/woman won.
- Wipe back brave tears. You did your best but it wasn’t good enough. You’ll be back/ follow your dream to be a great chef/open a restaurant…
- Weep uncontrollably – you’ve let yourself down, you’ve let your family down… you’ll never forgive yourself
On that note, go forth and cook…