The return of MasterChef, plus the best food TV shows of 2007
MasterChef (they seem to have dropped the Goes Large part) is back for a new season (or series, as they say in the UK), starting tomorrow! It's still my favorite competition cooking-reality show. Even the short Celebrity version is not bad. I think the reason why it stays consistently watchable is that they take the food, and the contestants, very seriously. Unlike other shows there's no soap opera drama, and no gaming. It's just about food and cooking skills, as it should be. I do sometimes I disagree with the two host/judge's decisions (and I still can't remember who is Greg and who is John) but most of the time I think they are quite fair.
Can it be improved? Sure - they should take the opinions of the professional chefs that participate in the 'restaurant round' (where the contestants are thrown into the fire of a busy restaurant kitchen for lunch service) a lot more into account. Or maybe a guest judge would be nice. Or, maybe they should keep things just as they are. In any case I'm looking forward to another eight weeks of fun.
I won't play along with the show every day as I did two years ago, though I may try some of the combinations. I may do a weekly recap. Regardless, if you get BBC Two where you live, don't miss it! It's on later in the evening this time, at 8:30PM BT / 9:30PM CET, Monday to Friday. My DVR is set.
The best Food TV shows of 2007
Here is my list of the best food-related TV shows of 2007. Noting of course that most of the shows I get to see 'live' are from UK television. US shows I grab...however I can. (There are some German food programs, mainly on TV Gusto and RTL Living, but so far their original programming leaves a lot to be desired. TV Gusto shows are so boring and all look they same, that they just put me to sleep. Maybe it will get better...)
- MasterChef Goes Large 2007 had several interesting contestants and ended on a really high note. Unlike 2006, I think most people were happy with the winner. The spinoff show Celebrity MasterChef was not bad either, since it kept any annoying behavior from those 'celebrities' at a minimum.
- Kill It, Cook It, Eat It was an eye opening program on BBC Three that took us into a real abattoir and a real chicken processing plant. I was repelled and fascinated at the same time. It made me really think anew about where my food comes from.
- There were two great programs on BBC Four about the Edwardians and the food they ate, Edwardian Supersize Me and The Edwardian Larder. A great combination of history and food.
- Kitchen Criminals was a surprisingly entertaining cooking contest show. I hope they can bring it back somehow, though the surprise element would be lost. (I talked about this and several other shows here).
- The Restaurant, a reality competition show rather similar to The Apprentice that aired on BBC Two, had Raymond Blanc in the Boss role, and the winning couple got to run their own restaurant within his group.
- Ever Wondered About Food is always shown after Saturday Kitchen (BBC One) on Saturday afternoons, when I am never in front of the TV, so I keep missing it if I forget to DVR it. Nevertheless it's a great combination of food science and cooking, presented by a very hot host.
- Indian Food Made Easy (BBC Two) made me a fan of host Anjum Anand's way of cooking Indian with a light touch.
- Top Chef Season 3 was better than season 2, which sunk quite low. I was happy with the choice of Hung as the winner.
- The second season (series) of Heston Blumenthal: In Search Of Perfection (BBC Two), was a bit over the top, even for him, but he capped it off with an sensational Christmas show.
- Rick Stein's Mediterranean Escapes (BBC Two) was another great food and travel show from the amiable host.
Honorable mention: Jamie (Oliver) At Home (he returns to top form); the UK version of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares; Sweet Baby James (James Martin cooks great desserts); Neneh and Andi Dish It Up (ex-popstar Neneh Cherry has become an earth mother and cooks great Caribbean-fusion food); Rosemary Schrager's School For Cooks (a Masterchef wannabe but not too bad); The Roadkill Chef (mmm, braised hedgehog); The Truth About Food (a nutrition myth-debunking show, very entertaining); Cook Yourself Thin (cheesy presentation, great 'lighter' recipes that are right up my alley).
And ones I didn't like...Nigella Express, the latest offering from Nigella Lawson, was disappointing. I want the serious Nigella back, not the one with the cheesy grin and the pseudo-fast-food. The US version of Kitchen Nightmares suffered from horrible editing and voiceovers and needless crap that watered it down unacceptably. The Next Iron Chef and The Next Food Network Star proved that the Food Network don't know how to do competition-cooking shows right; they both started out promisingly but really went downhill. As for Hell's Kitchen, both the US and UK versions were awful, for different reasons, and had little to do with food.