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Jun 29, 2011 06:27 AM

Cooking Competition Shows: Define your Terms! Or at least refine them!

Color me confused at this point, but am I the only one whose teeth go into "autogrind" when a new cooking show rears its' head with a name like, "Master Chef?" (Not going to argue the fine points of what constitutes 'new', either; I realize it was on last season, and this bugged me as much then, too.)
So: what exactly denotes a Master Chef, or a Top Chef for that matter? I actually have an easier time for some reason with the term "Top" then "Master", don't ask me why. I'm not talking about in the culinary field: I know every position of every possible brigade or echelon not defined in a competitive way, and in the culinary competitive world I'm pretty clear on the distinctions that are made when considering the paramaters that must be met for being granted the title, say, of Certified Master Chef. But these are two different things, oh yes indeed.
For instance: does one pass through the gilded, caphalon-lined doors from Chefdom to master Chefdom when one has supervised a brigade of 8, not 7, for exactly 927, not 926, days? Not in my (kitchen-based) world, anymore than peeling your billionth friggin' shrimp automatically qualifies you to leap like Nureyev from the ranks of cold station to sous-chef.
Is anybody with me on this? Am I even making sense? Or is this, as I'm beginning to suspect, just the hungover, pissed-off rant of a burnt out insomniac with too much On Demand?

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  1. "is this, as I'm beginning to suspect, just the hungover, pissed-off rant of a burnt out insomniac with too much On Demand?"


    Could be!

    I hear ya, tho

    1. Precisely because the formal or industry-accepted titles are completely irrelevant on these TV shows, they can call anyone anything they like. I get more upset when promises are made that are understood within the industry, and then broken. When Hell's Kitchen makes a big deal out of promising an Exec Chef position and then you find out that they're lucky to be a Sous, for example. Of course, most of these winners could not possibly be Execs. But then why make that part of the prize in the series?

      As far as Master Chef the series is concerned, these people are about as close to being Masters of anything food related, as any of us are. I haven't watched every episode, but they appear to be good at one dish or one area of cooking - which a lot of us amateurs are. But they're not cooking school grads and they haven't worked in the industry to gain all-around experience. They're lawyers and truck drivers, and as much as I'd love for them to cook me their specialty dish, calling them Masters is just plain absurd.

      1. Do you realize that the US show is based on an Australian one, which in turn derives from a UK show that started in 1990?
        Also MasterChef is one word, not two (with an internal capital - clearly coined).

        3 Replies
        1. re: paulj

          Why no, paulj: I didn't realize either of those things. But had I known them - it wouldn't have stopped my rant. Thanks!

          1. re: mamachef

            Aren't you trying to relate show titles like MasterChef to some professional certification or ranking? Why should an amateur competition that's been on TV around the world for 2 decades have anything to do with professional cooking? The show title is its own definition.

          2. re: paulj

            What difference does that make to the subject at hand? Neither the origin of the show nor the mid-word capitalization is at issue here.

          3. You never know - next thing, we could find ourselves debating about the next "Culinary Idol", have elimination week in the "Big Brother" household, watch the whole new world of mixed-marination arts in "The Ultimate Biter", and top it off the gripping drama of the "Real Sous Chefs of New Jersey"

            3 Replies
            1. re: josquared

              how about 'So You Think You Can Cook?!' The opening voiceover needs an old Yiddishe grandma to say this with total astonishment and in astounded tones .

              1. re: smartie

                I think Clara, the Depression Cook, would be a good voice over for that! :-)

                1. re: LindaWhit

                  LOL...forgot about the ubiquitous dance show.

            2. This whole concept is circling the drain--hopefully. I'm holding out for blindfolded chefs and underlings or a pitch-dark studio with night vision cameras and goggles for the commentator and judges. Might be fun to watch them figure out how to cook something they can't see.