HOLLYWOOD—Oh, I was such a fan of “Hell’s Kitchen” when it first debuted on FOX. It was a reality series unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Seeing Chef Gordon Ramsey losing it on contestants who vie for the ultimate prize to be an executive chef at one of his restaurants, was epic television. So why have I found myself so drawn to the series “Master Chef,” I have no idea.
Chef Ramsey who is a beast to deal with on “Hell’s Kitchen” brings that same type of hard nosed truth, as seen on his other serious, but the number of contestants vying for the top prize is much larger. I think I’m such a fan because it presents the idea that even the everyday cook can have sharp kitchen skills without having culinary training; just because you attended a top-notch culinary institute doesn’t make you the best at what you do.
With that being said each week the contestants face a challenge. Dishes are tasted and then there is the dreaded pressure cooker challenge that places the contestants in some crazy situations. What I adore about “Master Chef” compared to many reality cooking competitions is you never quite know what’s expected. One minute it could be a savory dish, the next minute a sweet dish, or perhaps a combination of the both.
The power dynamics in this kitchen shift all the time; one minute someone on top finds themselves at the bottom of the totem pole, the next week, they’re back at the top. People who are skilled cooks are tested to their fullest potential; those without the kitchen skill set soon learn to push themselves to their greatest potential.
Of course, Mr. Ramsey himself is one of three chefs who judge the contestants. By his side is also restaurateur and vineyard owner Joe Bastianch and Chef Graham Elliot. I will admit I have frowned at some of the rude comments that Bastianch and Elliot say to some of the contestants. I know it’s intended to be constructive criticism, but in my opinion it doesn’t come across that way. They aren’t able to get away with the blunt, somewhat violent terminology that Chef Ramsey gets away with; I mean the audience is well aware that is apart of his personality so we come to expect it.
The contestants usually find themselves vying in one of four challenges: the mystery box challenge, elimination test, team challenge or the dreaded pressure test. The uncertainty that each contestant faces from week to week, places the contestants in a situation where they should expect the unexpected. I will admit the idea of allowing one contestant safety upon winning the mystery box challenge is quite fun; they get the opportunity to watch all the other contestants sweat as they fight for survival. The great thing about “Master Chef” is safety is not always guaranteed it comes and it goes. Yes, a few contestants have obtained safety more than once, but that doesn’t necessarily make them a frontrunner.
I must say I’m really looking forward to the competition once the contestant pool is dwindled down to about eight contestants. Then we’ll really see the claws come out and those who really want it to step up to the plate. To see all the drama unfold, catch “Master Chef” Mondays at 8 p.m. on FOX.
By LaDale Anderson