Thursday, 8 March 2007
MasterChef and all that jazz
I'm writing this rather late in the knowledge that I have not done too much writing this week. There are several reasons for this, the main one being work commitments which also means that I have not cooked much at home this week at all. The shame of it.
For this reason, I have decided to not write anything about food. I'm feeling all cooked out after watching my red face adorn the box for the past week or so on MasterChef Goes Large. I've been proud one minute, deeply embarrassed the next and constantly amused as my daughter gets confused as to why I'm on the TV and the couch at the same time. In a brief moment of self indulgence on my involvement on the show, I've decided to just write a few lines on the subject. I apologise in advance; aside from my poor wife who has had to live through the whole experience, I have not really put my thoughts down in writing.
First of all, I cannot begin to explain to you how difficult the competition is. Not only are you up against some brilliant amateur cooks with the same intention of winning on their minds as you, but you are put under extreme pressure that tests you to your limits. It is exhausting, both physically and emotionally. It is also exhilarating and depressing, taking you from extreme highs to extreme lows in a very short space of time. To try to cook in a short time with cameras in your face, a small kitchen, bizarre tasks and two very probing judges on your shoulder asking questions all of the time is about as far removed from reality as it can get. All in all, it was an experience unparallelled with anything that I have ever done in my life. Would I do it again? Well, I did this year and after two shots at it, I can now safely say a firm no. What I can say is that I loved it each time, the experience is fantastic.
I was lucky enough to meet some people that shared a love and, dare I say that over used word, passion for their subject. Ambitious, creative individuals who were trying to live the dream just like me. I am being as honest as can be when I say that I felt so bad for the likes of Susie, Jan, Marta, Gillian, William and Harriet. After all, I was evicted the previous year and it broke my heart. I know how they felt and probably still feel. If any of you guys are reading this, I have thought about you all so much since. You were all brilliant in your own ways, never lose the love. Get over it quickly as you are all cracking cooks and take confidence from the experience rather than taking it as a blow. Gillian and I had such a close competition in the quarter finals with her and I can seriously say that after seeing the show broadcast, she deserved it more than me and should have gone through on her food alone. Her tucker was sublime, the techniques were quality and her will, knowledge and passion for superb seasonal food clear to see. Gillian will do some great things in the world of food and I cannot praise her enough.
As for the 3 finalists I spent a lot of hours with, rarely can I say that I shared and bonded so well in such a short space of time. All four of us were driven and determined, competitive and injected liberally with fighting spirit. But not once did I feel anything other than a bond and a want for us all to do well. Okay, on the odd occasion we drove each other bonkers, more so me with my non-stop talk and the odd need to hug their heads off their shoulders. But that was my way of hiding the nerves. And I know they appreciated it deep down. I'm very happy to say that we all keep in touch and continue to share our recipes and ideas. Check out my links. Ben is one of the most naturally talented amateur cooks I have ever met and his food is a dream (aside from maple syrup on the breakfast of course, ouch! :o)). A complete opposite to my big British dishes, but packed with finesse and appreciation. He is also one of the finest cheese mongers in the UK (taken directly from his website.....) and I look forward to coming down to sunny Cheltenham in the not so distant future to sample some of his dairy delights. Steven is a dude, a self confessed lover of food and the arts and one brilliant individual who cooks some of the tastiest grub known to mankind. Hannah is the best hugger in the world,very supportive, cooks the best cakes in the whole wide world and I hope to always be sampling them for the rest of my life. All 3 are the most talented of cooks and I am proud to have spent a long time with them all.
The people in the background were a constant support and believe me, we needed it. Lovely people who did an amazing job in a very pressurised environment. As for the judges Gregg and John, in Gregg's own words they have the best job in the world. That is until they have to evict somebody. I always felt a genuine empathy from them. They kept faith in what I was doing, my belief in our great British menu and my desire to bring some of these hidden gems to the forefront of people's minds. Their knowledge is second to none. I learned so much from their constant talk and I thank them for all of the good and the bad things that they said to me as it was always taken as good advice, never as criticism. Even Gregg's jokes were usually pretty funny.
A brief message to people who feel the need to write malicious comments on fools like us who bare our souls for the sake of TV - I can't blame you at all for watching this brilliantly addictive TV show and wanting to write or talk about it. But never assume that these people you see on a heavily edited show are the people that are being perceived. It is never true to life, as it is impossible to show 2 days of filming within a 30 minute show. We are all pretty normal everyday people with not too many bad bones in our bodies. Okay, I'm a Geordie, but please forgive me for that. Seriously though, words do hurt and it is sad when you see people that you know are good people being ripped apart. I can't speak for myself and I'm sure you will continue to make up your own minds on me, but Steven, Hannah and Ben are superb individuals and I cannot say anything bad about them at all. And I know them. If you still think bad of some of us, all I can say is please enter the competition and give it a go. Really, only then will you see what it is actually like and live the threshold of agony and ecstasy that we did. And then relive it all of National TV for all to see your best and worst bits, especially my double chin.
Well, that is it from me on the subject of MasterChef, although I might want to add a few more words as the final week progresses. Thanks to everybody that have somehow found my Blog and decided to write to me with lovely kind words, I've been touched and flattered each time. And it also a relief to see that not only Gregg Wallace swooned over my leek pudding as it has been my most requested recipe! And that makes me very happy, as it proves that the nation do believe in simple, honest, gutsy and not always pretty food. Often it is flavour and quantity that do count you know.
Right, back to normal food waffling after the weekend. Thanks for listening xxx
PS Apologies for the poor quality of the photo, I pinched it off Ben....