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Aug 12, 2013 05:59 AM

Masterchef AU - whether Muslim contestant should have to cook pork?

Personally I disagree with the argument of the article. To me choosing to follow the dietary laws of any religion is equivalent to choosing to be a vegetarian. I respect that choice and would do nothing to intentionally violate or disrespect that choice. But I also acknowledge that this choice means narrowing one's culinary world. This means that either getting a job in the culinary world or competing in food challenges will be limited to the culinary world that embraces those choices/parameters or finding a way to navigate a world not designed to respect those choices.

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  1. I agree with your train of thought. As far as I know Samira on this years series had no problem cooking Pork. It's a well established show you know your going to cook with pork and other meats. If that goes against your beliefs or life style you are free not to try out.

    1. I agree. If you enter into a cooking competition like Top Chef/Masterchef/Chopped you are agreeing to cook whatever necessary for the contest. I've seen cooks that are horribly allergic to shellfish go ahead and cook shellfish, vegetarians dispatch live crabs. It is what you sign up for.

      1. If you're going to enter a cooking competition, you're going to have to follow the rules. They had an episode of Chopped with Vegetarian and former Vegetarian chefs, and they they left obvious animal products out of the baskets, but put honey into the dessert round - but one of the contestants was a strict vegan and he had a major moral dilemma whether to use it... he said that he decided he had to follow the rules like everyone else (but he'd never use honey in his own home or restaurant... and the judges actually apologised to him and said they hadn't considered that honey was an 'animal' product.) Then there are the inevitable vegetarian chefs confronted by meat, like Bri on Master Chef. Nobody's making her eat it (that would be just obscene) but she has to be able to deal with it and I'm sure she knew that going in!

        1. I'm with you until you say "a world not designed to respect those choices". Since when does "the world" have any obligation to that? If I make a decision to be a race car driver I can't tell the race car world that I've made a decision to only wear straw hats instead of helmets b/c I've got a problem with putting hard objects on my head. It's ludicrous.
          Same with people who for some reason have a 'problem' cooking certain foods. 'PC' has gotten out of control.

          9 Replies
          1. re: Puffin3

            By "the world" I was referring to the food world of halal, kosher, vegetarian cooking world that would cater to someone's choices versus the food world at large. A Jewish kosher chef has options to never have to be in a nonkosher environment. But if the chef wants to compete on Chopped/Top Chef/other high visibility competitions - that world isn't kosher. That's all I meant by "the world". Food worlds built around religious/moral choices and the greater food world.

            1. re: cresyd

              Last night's Chopped: kosher chef, and of course the 1st basket contained smoked pork chops and blood sausage. He didn't taste, but was gung ho in adapting Jewish recipes to the basket (another item was gingersnap cookies, from which he made a matzo ball. Looked vile, but judges said it tasted good).

              If you volunteer for these game shows, you gotta realize your choices/beliefs may be challenged. Just don't taste.

              1. re: pine time

                By the rules of kashrut, touching unkosher ingredients* in against the rules. And all food cooked in unkosher pots is unkosher. Also the pilot light of a stove needs to be lit by a Jew. In the Chopped episode where the chef from Mexikosher participated, in his bio story you actually see a brief clip where a religious Jew lights the pilot light.

                Compared to halal the rules are a lot more involved, and so for a kosher chef on Chopped I imagine the choice basically occurs prior to entering the competition. Even if you never see a pork product and even if all the food brought into the kitchen was kosher, the kitchen itself isn't kosher. So it's not exactly a choice made during the competition.

                *By unkosher, in this case I am referring to a pork product as opposed to an egg that after it's cracked has blood in it. You're not supposed to eat the egg, but it's not like you can't touch it during it's disposal.

                1. re: cresyd

                  Thanks for the info. A kosher friend of mine couldn't eat food from my kitchen because of the items you enumerated. She also said that--even in a baked vegetarian dish served in a disposable foil pan--"something" could have fallen from the roof of my oven, making it unkosher, correct?

                  1. re: pine time

                    Yeah, a kosher kitchen really means everything. And while something could have fallen into your dish, a bigger concern would be that your knives were unkosher and that you don't know how to properly check vegetables/fruits for bugs, etc etc etc. It goes way beyond no double bacon cheeseburgers.

                    1. re: cresyd

                      Another friend is Jain, so I've had separate utensils for him for years and knew about the knives, utensils, etc.

                      From what little I've seen, the commitment is incredible. My friend's kosher kitchen is immense, with separate everything, all sorts of automatic sensors for when she doesn't touch "work" on the Sabbath, etc. As you wrote, much more than excluding dairy from meats.

                  2. re: cresyd

                    Reb cresyd
                    I think that you are are wrong on one point. It is not forbidden nowadays to touch pork - perhaps forbidden if you are a cohen. No need to go into complications here.

                    I also understand that a professional cook may taste and spit but not swallow. Again complications.

                    I once tried this line of reasoning with a Jewish girlfriend but lost.

                  3. re: pine time

                    When thoracic surgeons started using porcine heart valves, there was naturally a question about whether Jews could use them for valve transplants. Several surgeons asked a (forgive me here, I don't know the Jewish religious hierarchy) representative group of scholars and rabbis, and they said that since the patient wouldn't be EATING the valve, it was allowed. Sounds to me like a really sensible religious governing body. Of course, this may vary according to different levels of Judaism, but that's all I heard in the OR that day.
                    But yeah, if you have an issue with non-vegan/vegetarian foods, why try out for these contests where there are no alternatives to the contest ingredients?

                    1. re: EWSflash

                      actually, it isnt because the porcine valve is uneaten. It is because preserving life is more important than obeying the laws.

                      Here is some more information for you

              2. I know Muslims who own restaurants, deli's, etc. They have to sell pork products to stay in business. They simply wear gloves when handling it.

                6 Replies
                1. re: EricMM

                  I don't get why anyone who has any 'issues' around food would even want to put themselves in a situation wherein their 'issues' would present a problem for them. What's the point?
                  Your religion says don't touch a certain food so why go on a stupid game show and whine about the fact that touching the food in question is against your religion? Something not right about that picture.

                  1. re: Puffin3

                    In reference to the article I posted, the Muslim contestant did not complain about it and stated that she knew it was a likelihood in the competition and she knew how she'd handle it.

                    The article was written by an author who felt that the show should not have made her do it.

                    1. re: cresyd

                      Maybe the article's author would prefer that there be no cooking contests with any pork evolved. And all the contestants must wear burkas and Shiria law is to be imposed on all losing contestants.
                      Oh, that's right, TV wasn't invented in the twelfth century.

                      1. re: Puffin3

                        That wasn't the point of the article. While I do ultimately disagree with it, it was more nuanced than that.

                        1. re: cresyd

                          Slightly off-topic here - there is a Masterchef Malaysia franchise. Same format, except that in mainly-Muslim Malaysia (60% of the population are Muslims), pork and any pork products are banned from the show. Not surprisingly, Muslims form the majority of the contestants (18 out of 24 in Season 1 of Masterchef MY).

                          1. re: cresyd

                            Agreed, cresyd. The article is far more nuanced and not at all straightforward.

                            It is a similar subject to that which applied in one of the Masterchef UK series. The contestant was a vegetarian but who was, on occasions, required to cook meat. She did it without a problem. In fact, I cannot recall the subject even being raised on the programme.