Monday, September 11, 2017

MasterChef: Feast For The Eyes, Food For The Soul

I can't get enough of MasterChef. I'm glued to the show whenever it comes on TV. This means a lot for someone who (a) is not a foodie; and (b) doesn't watch much TV. So why the fascination with MasterChef?

Firstly, it isn't really about a food - we as the viewer can't actually taste the food, and can only admire it visually. And secondly, it's not a piece of fiction - the participants are ordinary people facing off in a real-life competition.

Ultimately, what I like about MasterChef is that it celebrates diversity and inspires dreams. And those two ingredients make up for a pretty tasty treat.

Your mushroom is so raw... it said that the princess is in another castle!


Everyone has a fair shot at MasterChef. White, black, Hispanic, Asian - all are welcomed. In fact, given that culinary creativity is one of the skills that the judges look for, it's one of the rare competitions where having exotic roots pays off.

There's also zero discrimination in terms of age, sex and social class. MasterChef draws in people from all walks of life - college students to retirees, accountants to yoga instructors. Cooking is a skill that everyone can pick up and master. It's not magic, or a talent that only some are born with.

And unlike other reality TV shows, MasterChef showcases minimal drama. Sure, there's always one or two oddballs with an overly competitive streak shit-talking and bad-mouthing others.

But by and large, the atmosphere is positive. Those safe from elimination will cheer loudly from the top rail at those sweating it out below during pressure challenges. One by one, they exit not with anger and bitterness, but with grace and gratitude. They hug and cry, whether in victory or defeat. Genuine friendships are formed. The show overflows with joy.

Maybe some parts are scripted? Maybe some contestants put up an act for the camera? Maybe the producers cut out the ugly bits? Possible, it's a show, after all. What we see on screen may not be all that happens behind the scenes.

But as diverse as the characters are, they are not caricatures of cultural stereotypes. There are no dumb blondes, no openly hyper-excited gays. Westerners cook Chinese dishes, Chinese cook Western dishes. The only time contestants speak of their cultural roots, it's usually done out of misty-eyed nostalgia over a long-kept family recipe.

As diverse as people are, they are still as ordinary as you and me. And that's the simple truth about life that MasterChef so artfully and subtly reveals to us.

Sarah (left) and Diana (middle) flying the Malaysia flag in MasterChef Australia Season 9


MasterChef is also about the power of dreams.

MasterChef Australia has been running for 9 seasons. Two of the winners are Malaysians - Adam Liaw and Diana Chan. Their success stories make my chest swell with patriotic pride. Malaysia Boleh!

But the most inspirational award surely goes to Christine Hà, winner of Season 3 of the US version.

Christine's blind.

A blind chef! Mind-blowing! That's a superhero ala Daredevil story right there! Doesn't her loss of sight hold her back from cooking? Nope, she simply sharpens her other senses. Shouldn't she stay away from sharp objects altogether? Nope, she's tough as nails. "Since I've lost my vision, I've cut myself once," she explains. "And it was minor. I've never had to get stitches. It's really about being organized, careful and using my other senses."

To be the first ever blind MasterChef contestant is admirable itself. To win it all under the steely glare and nasty words of Gordon Ramsay - now, that's epic.

MasterChef isn't just an inspiration for home cooks. No, MasterChef inspires us to chase our dreams - whatever they are.

Sure, some dreams are much harder to reach than cooking. Some dreams require natural-born talent, abundance of resources, and lots of luck.

But as Christine has shown us, no dream is impossible to reach, even if the odds are stacked against us.

Every story in MasterChef carries a simple, cliché but all-important life lesson: where there's a will, there's a way.

Blind but bold

Recipe To Success

I'm not a die-hard fan of MasterChef. I've not watched a full season, maybe about 20 episodes in total.

And that's good. I'm not addicted to keep watching it. I'm inspired to shut the TV, stop making excuses about the unfairness of life, get out, and live my own life to the fullest.

I won't be a MasterChef, at least not in the present universe. Like I said, I'm not much of a foodie.

But I'll be a master of something. Somehow. Someday.

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