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Master Chef Season 1 Favors Drama over Real Talent -- Will You Apply Next Round?

Wow. I watched it all the way through. I barely made it out of the first few episodes, where it was clear that they were largely choosing contestants based on how much they could emote and the personal story they could tell. And many talented people got through as well.

The middle episodes were fine -- the better home chefs were exalted and the weaker ones only good for their personal drama were weeded out. I was happy about this, and thought the show had a chance.

But the final episodes came full circle. Back to deeply subjective judging and a nice little personality contest perfect for good Reality TV.

So Whitney wins, and Master Chef loses (credibility). You could see the setup for Whitney about four episodes from the final, and the more critical members of Master Chef community chat boards were groaning..."please say this won't happen"...but it did.

I know at least half a dozen individuals who have incredible skills as home chefs, and would blow all 2010 competition out of the water. I talked to several of them who watched enough episodes to make a decision, and it is this comment from one of them" "If the show really is about the best home chef in America, I would take the risk of leaving work for 6 weeks to give it a shot. But it's a contest of personality over skill, and Master Chef producers get to play God...and that said, I'm not going to waste my time."

I'd love to hear your thoughts as well. Knowing how many passionate and talented chefs are on Chowhound, I am wondering: are you more or less interested in applying, knowing how season one ended?

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  1. The fact that it's on fox and Ramsay is a part of it, is a no go for me. Bastianich is the only one who brings any credibility to the show. I'm really surprised he signed on to it. They really missed the mark with this show. Hopefully someone changes the format around for season 2.

    1 Reply
    1. re: SDGourmand

      Bastianich had credibility with me before he started acting like a buffoon on the show. I think the producers put the screws to all the judges and prodded them to be more dramatic than they authentically are.

      Consider Chopped -- a show I like a lot -- the expert judges do a great job of offering great criticism and deliver it with authentic flair. That's the kind of judging style I would like to see on the next season of MC.

    2. It's good to be King Monday Armchair quarterback.

      1. I did apply last year. And I am 100% sure that it was all about personality, no DRAMA.

        8 Replies
        1. re: julietg

          Julietg - wow. Good to know. Question: in hindsight, do you believe that your cooking skills were on par with the top 10 contestants, higher or lower?

          Just curious. And anything you're willing to share about the casting process will be very interesting to hear about... to all of us I'm sure.

          1. re: kaysyrahsyrah

            I didn't watch, because I was too jealous :)
            I set in an email to the casting office (I had seen it on craigslist), and I included my headshot (I'm a former actor).

            They wrote me back and said I was a VIP. I had to cook a cold dish and show up at a Sur La Table. I had to bring along some pics. And fill in a huge application. When I got there, there was a huge line. But since I was a VIP I went right up to the front. They brought us in groups of 15 or so, and we all got a space at a table. We set up our dish and waited for casting to visit us. The casting director came around, and spoke to everyone. I had pata negra on my dish, so I encouraged the casting director to try it. She did so, unwillingly, seemingly to humor me. I regret this now, but I was very calm and cool and sympathized with her having to get through so many dishes. I should've acted insane. I was asked to stay, along with three other people. Then after a few minutes, the assistant casting director came over to give me the kiss off. The only one they "kept" after me were a guy who looked like Guy Fieri and was using a blowtorch. He was also quite loud.

            The owner of the store stopped me to say my dish was beautiful
            here it is.

            1. re: julietg

              Looks good but too many dots, would have been better to do 3 good size dots.. or you could have painted the sauce from corner to corner and put the main component in the middle..

              1. re: SDGourmand

                SDG - don't know you on the Chowhounder boards, but your criticism, sans context, doesn't land so well for me. You're really criticizing Juliet for having plated too many dots???

                1. re: kaysyrahsyrah

                  Why it's a simple observation.. The first thing I said is it looked good.. Why not try different ways of plating and play around with it.. Lighten up..

                  1. re: SDGourmand

                    Whatevs. It was darn tasty.
                    BTW- if you are wondering, that was a homemade piquillo sauce.

                    1. re: julietg

                      I'm sure it was tasty.. I'm not knocking it juliet.. Just my first observation the piquillo sauce takes away from the main part of the dish visually.. I'm sure they complemented each other nicely.. dont understand what the big deal is I'm harder on my self with plating..

        2. I'm not at all sure that it isn't about the food- I have probably 20 places within 10 miles of me that make passable to very good fried chicken. But for really great fried chicken I have to drive nearly 100 miles. Whitney's chicken could have possibly been that good- but we won't ever know without tasting it, will we?

          1 Reply
          1. re: Clarkafella

            You're right. We won't ever know. Ramsay made a point of beating up David for attempting a Wellington that supposedly took him 1000 tries to get right (no frigging way, drama boy). So Whitney humbly puts up a slab of fried chicken with a Flintstonian presentation. One of the ugliest dishes of the whole season. David arrogantly puts up a beautiful Wellington plate. But we know by the editing that he is doomed.

          2. Sorry to sound so cynical, but in the end, it's all about selling advertising. This is a network TV show that relies on advertising dollars to stay alive. It's about making the show interesting enough to lure the right target market into watching the show -- AND the commercials -- and enticing them to buy the advertised products. The personalities, drama and suspense are the vehicles that enable the show to meet its entertainment goals.

            1. It's a godawful show. I was able to view last season's Master Chef Australia, and it was night and day. First of all, unlike Ramsey's show, the contestants were picked by their ability to cook---nearly all, even those on the bottom, showed a mastery of terms and techniques and could could talk very precisely about what they were doing and needed to do. They were 'foodies;' in the best sense. Here, there was lots of macho posturing but little food sense . From his other shows, it feels as if Ramsey only wants a kind of "vulgar" type, less articulate and less informed but full of angry vigor. Second, the Aussi judges were very sympathetic and polite and studious. They struggled to get the intention and taste right. Instead of that American beared bully boy of a critic, as uninformed as he is peevish and vengeful, you had a charming and diplomatic Aussie named Matt. Charm is hard for Ramsey productions, I know, but that guy was the worst. 3. The kitchen sets and colors were bright in the Australian version; in the American, the sets looked like dark and gloomy torture chambers. 4. These US judges, in particular that bearded wimp, were -I am repeating myself--poor at analysis. The episode with Cat Cora showed exactly what the show needed--she examined, pulled and picked and sniffed, asked questions and in general showed what a serious food critic should do. In short, without people like her, Master Chef USA is a waste of time for anyone who cares about good eating and good cooking.

              1 Reply
              1. re: judex3

                very true but this is FOX the same network that airs Hell's Kitchen, a joke of a competition.

              2. So I published an open letter to the Master Chef community boards last night. There was a lot of negative chatter buzzing, and I added to it.

                I posted something that more or less said in my original Chowhound post above... but with a terse warning that a lot of talented home chefs will not be coming to the next casting call if this is the way they are going to play.

                This morning, the entire Master Chef community board was torn down, and now has a 404 error. Hmm.

                2 Replies
                1. re: kaysyrahsyrah

                  Well, they must have rebuilt it pretty quick because it was up again seven minutes later. 8-)

                  1. re: Clarkafella

                    hmm. I'm still getting the 404 error from both my house computers.

                2. I don't understand why the show producer's didn't fess up during each episode that the contestants are given recipes.

                  A guy that never made cupcakes wins a cupcake challenge.
                  Making souffle...etc.

                  Who knows a cupcake or a souffle recipe by heart?

                  In other words, the show is shady; how they select the contestants and winners is shady. I don't want to put myself in a shady situation.