On Sunday evening the latest iteration of MasterChef New Zealand screened over at its new home on TV3 with a refreshed cast of judges, and a clutch of red-faced, sweaty, desperate home cooks auditioning for the famed white apron, the Skoda, the book deal, and the chance to radicalize New Zealand cuisine; to perhaps reduce it to a final drop of blood in a grass-infused sauce.
The configuration of the new judging panel is interesting; Josh Emett makes his return as the stringent, always dissatisfied mentor-chef, who takes the ‘treat them mean, make them clean’ approach; there’s newcomer Al Brown, becapped, ‘cool dad’, super relaxed, recently seen in the match the beer to the sandwiches ads in an effort to get New Zealanders drinking even more beer. Finally, there’s Mark Wallbank also new to the franchise, a restaurateur and ex-Hastings boy who cut his teeth on parliamentary sausage rolls, before traveling the world and establishing his own non-sausage roll style.
What is also interesting is the absence of a female on the judging panel — again — to speak to the high volume of female viewers and noticeably high number of female contestants. I mean, according to the New Zealand Pork board, who recently ran an ad campaign along the lines of ‘give mum the night off cooking’, surely in this country it’s the women who are not only doing the bulk of the cooking, but who are also the ones at which this programme is aimed? Did Julie and Mark sit down in a small room at MediaWorks at their five-minute meeting to plan the show and say to each other ‘We really need the male demographic buy-in for this to really take off.’?
I doubt it. Although the show is going to be pretty much plain sailing given the panel as it stands (no Renaissance Man Ray McVinnie to cats-anus his lips at the parsley sprigs idling on the platters; no GONG sound when Ray disapproves) is this still where we’re at in New Zealand?
I can’t help thinking there’s a trope for cooking faces on New Zealand television — either spunky young men, like the Bresolins, or spunky slightly older men like Gareth Stewart, or even spunky ancient men like regular tv face Rick Stein. Gordon Ramsay has his tight trousers, and even Marco Pierre White, who resembles a Game of Thrones afterthought, can be immensely attractive to watch, if you like torture and raw equine dishes.
Where are the Petas, the Judiths, the Annabels, the Lauraines? Serious judging, not just a one-off appearance to showcase the scone recipe from the revamped Edmonds cookbook. These women are chefs, not home cooks. They run cooking schools, restaurants, they’re all gorgeous, sexy, entertaining women. Where are they?
Well, I’ve figured it out. There’s probably two things going on here. Firstly, continuity — MediaWorks likely decided not to disrupt the franchise completely with the changeover from TVNZ to TV3, and in keeping with the Australian, American, and British versions, kept angry, fussy, hormonal and repressed males in the roles of judges. In turn, as Wayne Campbell once said, If you book them, the ladies will watch [sic]’.
I guess the rationale is that the female audience will tune in, watch the sponsors’ advertising, rush out and buy a dozen boxes of Chanui and try to arm-twist their husband into scoring them a Skoda Octavia (please note pronunciation OCTAR-VIA, to disassociate it from arms factories of the Eastern Bloc of old) and sign up to a year’s worth of My Food Bag.
Simple and effective.
The disappearing female chef. Is it a syndrome? Is there a name for it?
Yes there is. ‘Irrevelant’, apparently.