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Of acid tongues and food porn

In India, it’s always been the Australian MasterChef that’s been the big hit, with its trio of celebrity judges, particularly Matt Preston.

tv Updated: May 17, 2013 22:22 IST
Poonam Saxena

In India, it’s always been the Australian MasterChef that’s been the big hit, with its trio of celebrity judges, particularly Matt Preston (claim to fame: his vast collection of cravats that he displays episode after episode; it’s a slightly quirky sartorial affectation since no one knows anyone who wears cravats quite so regularly outside of Jane Austen movies/TV series).

In MasterChef USA, the star of the show is British chef Gordon Ramsay (claim to fame: his mop of tousled hair — the comb is one invention that has clearly passed him by — and of course his notoriously short temper and acerbic comments.)

But after having watched the first few episodes of MasterChef USA season 3 (it’s just begun on Star World), I’ve come to the conclusion that Ramsay has relinquished his crown of being the most acid-tongued and intimidating judge on the show. That honour now goes to the Italian-origin judge Joe Bastianich, who has a way of demolishing contestants in an almost off-hand way. “This is garbage,” he will say softly. “It should go into the garbage bin.” And he will then throw the offending thing into the bin.

This is not to say that Ramsay has turned into a cuddly teddy bear: “This looks like vomit!” Or: “There are only two things I like about your dish — it is white and it is round” — referring to the bowl in which the food was presented.

So you do feel quite sorry for the contestants as they stand like chastened children before this rather terrifying trio (the third judge — Graham Elliot — is probably the least scary of the three). The contestants are a mixed bunch, from permanently teary-eyed unemployed single moms to more experienced but brash and over-confident cooks. The show itself has lush production values with a sparkling kitchen and a pantry that is so spectacularly loaded with vegetables and ingredients, it’s like the equivalent of Willy Wonka’s factory for a chocolate lover.

The other food show that began recently is Nigellissima on TLC, with the delectable Nigella Lawson in a beautiful kitchen, dishing out sinful creations like chocolate-and-hazelnut cheesecake and meatzaa (the sort of pizza for which diehard non-vegetarians would probably kill). The show is supposed to be about Nigella Lawson giving viewers Italian recipes. I don’t know how Italian a cheesecake is, but does it matter? Not as long as Lawson looks so fetching in her black dress, and the food looks so decadently edible. The one tip I gathered: when you want to make potato chips, dunk them into cold oil. Ms Lawson swears they come out perfect: crisp outside and fluffy inside.