reﬂects on his time at MasterChef.
WOW, what a ride! Or should that be, in reality TV speak, “what a journey”? I’ve been incredibly lucky to spend 11 years working on a show I love so much and there’s so much to be thankful for. So, as part of my lingering goodbye, let me pen my personal love letter to MasterChef.
The primary reason MasterChef has been a success is thanks to the incredible amateur cooks who put their lives on hold to “chase their dreams”. (Another reality TV cliché.) They’ve come from all backgrounds, reflecting so many facets of this great country’s society, and they’ve brought their dishes and stories, too.
I don’t want to single any out – all 260 of them played their part; all inspired me; many are friends for life.
And as they’ve gone on to achieve amazing things through their own persistence and talent, I’ve felt like an under-10s footy coach watching his former charges run out in a grand final. I know my impact was negligible, but I’m so proud of their achievements whether I’m sitting at the restaurant or café they’d dreamt of opening, reading something incisive and witty they’ve written, making one of their recipes or watching them on their own show.
THE PINCH-MYSELF MOMENTS
MasterChef was full of those times when you find yourself in a place you never expected to be – sitting next to the Dalai Lama, nervously waiting to chat to Prince Charles, setting a team challenge on the podium of the General Assembly of the UN as the first TV show ever to be allowed to film there.Then there are the indelible memories of filming in the shadow of Notre Dame and Mount Fuji, or with the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hong Kong skyline as a backdrop. None of these, however, were as evocative as the places we went in Australia. It might seem hokey, but shooting at the silos in Brim, at the Need for Feed challenge in Briagolong, on a beef farm in York, at the Noosa surf club, on Sydney Harbour or in Katherine Gorge left deep impressions on me and a great sense of pride that these images would be seen around the world by about 19 million people – exporting a true picture of the Australia I love and the people who make it so special.This has been one of the things I’m the most proud to have been part of. Got to stop – something in my eye.
THE SORRY MOMENTS
I’m sorry about the questionable words we’ve popularised like ‘heroing’ or ‘plating’. I’m sorry I dropped that plate – it didn’t end up the way I wanted. I’m sorry for the endless parade of beautiful but faintly ridiculous clothes I’ve worn (none as bad as the old pinstripe jacket in the first episode) and I’m sorry for any time I was argumentative, annoyingly stupid or for anything else I might have said or done over the years. I know I can be a little vexing.
THE FUNNY MOMENTS
Many laughs kept up the spirits on those 17-hour days, but Nigella sharply ticking off George for licking his knife and the constant jokes about Gary’s old-man shoes or his polar bear impressions would be among my personal favourites.
Flicking back through the happy snaps of the food we ate, it’s amazing not only that I’m not fatter, but how many trends were set. Good things like salted caramel and the drive towards more plant-based cuisine, and bad. I’m looking at you kale (or, worse, kale dust) and deconstruction.
Part of the joy was getting to spend time with (I hesitate to call it working – it never felt like that) some of my heroes. I have a special place in my heart for Maggie, Nigella, Yotam, Heston, Massimo Bottura, Rick Stein, René Redzepi and my late great friend Antonio Carluccio. Curtis, Shannon, Kylie Kwong and Matt Moran were family.We were blessed to have so many of Australia’s best chefs joining us. Oh, and then there was that crazy week with Gordon Ramsay and the sheer pleasure of working with Jamie Oliver. I’ve pinched myself so often it should have left permanent bruising.
We were just the hood ornament on this Rolls-Royce of a show that’s actually built by the crew. It’s another cliché to say MasterChef is a family, but it is. Now I suppose we’re the uncles that moved to Auckland. I’ll miss them all something rotten come October, though not the eye-watering plucking of nose hairs or the look of despair from hair, make-up and wardrobe about how to turn the dishevelled 6.30am Matt into something presentable. (Oh, let’s be honest – it was seldom 6.30am, no matter what the call sheet said. Sorry.) I never had a real chance to say thank you and goodbye to the crew, but I love all you guys. Got something in my eye again.
This is why I’m confident that whoever the new judges – luminaries or bright new sparks – the show will continue to be a beacon of supportive and warm TV where the food is what matters because, simply, it’s this crew that makes it so.
My keyboard is totally tear-splattered now and while I’ve never been a fan of tears on the show, any pain or sadness that I feel at this inevitable ending is negligible when I think of what the show has achieved, what we’ve done, seen and eaten and how I’m just so excited to see what comes next.
And, finally, thank you for watching – without you it would have all been pretty pointless. Tasty but pointless.
Head to delicious.com.au to see some of Matt’s favourite MasterChef moments.