“Do we start commenting on tonight’s edition? I expect all food bloggers to get on my case, except Hădean (I don’t know him, but I like what he writes), who may even support the idea that there are too many people writing about food! Don’t let yourselves be fooled by pretty plates, check the recipe, and if the taste isn’t good, it’s not your fault.”
These words belong to Mr. Florin Dumitrescu, chef and Masterchef Romania juror, meaning one of the three members of the jury. The words were posted on the Facebook page of the sir mentioned above. As I don’t rush getting on people’s case, I afforded to take some time and analyze the issue (it’s not actually an issue to me, it’s more of a…situation over which I’ve been asked, indirectly, that’s true, to reflect and if from this reflection results an opinion, I will express it). In other words, the ball is in my court. I get this often, the slight visibility that I’m enjoying attracts both balls and nets. I’m clever enough to dodge then, but since this is about Masterchef, one of the most discussed and disputed TV shows in Romania, I’ve decided to write, with the risk of making my own lunch.
In order to prevent beating around the bush, I got a voyo.ro subscription and watched all the episodes from the fourth season of the show (I don’t have a TV in my house since August 2013, my sources of information and entertainment being books, internet and, occasionally, wine). I watched the first season breathlessly, even the reruns. I watched the second season for as long as I could before I lost interest,
the season with children came in a busy period of my life and I skipped it completely (maybe because it was broadcast by another TV station), and the season with celebrities didn’t interest me at all. This is my experience with the show, I don’t know any of the three jurors, I would never even consider to question their authority in the show and in the kitchen, not without eating at one of them, no before working with one of them. Regarding my experience with television, radio, press, food industry, cuisine and blogging, it is shortly described here (maybe you can find some time to read it before commenting to this post). And now, let’s get to the point.
What is Masterchef? It’s a TV show. What is its mission? You might think that the mission of a TV show, in this case Masterchef, is that of offering entertainment, meaning fun. Wrong. The mission of a TV show is being the most watched one, meaning bringing money in the accounts of those who are financing it. The entertainment/fun represents the method to become the most watched show, not the purpose. If this effort also results in slightly educating the target, well, this is just a positive side effect. In my opinion, Masterchef manages to settle all three issues. If it hadn’t been watched, it wouldn’t have been filming (television is a rough environment, what doesn’t sell isn’t produced – we’re not talking about TVR, which is a completely different story). If it hadn’t offered fun, it wouldn’t have sold, if it hadn’t offered a bit of culinary education, there wouldn’t have been this tide of recognition candidates, who are easy to see with the naked eye. On the internet, every other person commenting has a more or less certified opinion, spots an error or appreciates a dish or a plate as if he/she was an expert. Of course it’s not enough and that simply watching a TV show doesn’t male you an expert (damn it, cooking for your family doesn’t make you a specialist nor does blogging), but it’s a step. Maybe you’ll say we deserve a bigger step. I’m saying we don’t. Let me explain:
We can’t ask anyone to take steps for us. We’re not children anymore, to put our feet on top of our parent’s feet and ask them to walk for us. We pretend to be past over 20 years of living freely. It’s time we got an education, put on a pair of sneakers and start moving for ourselves. Only those prepared understand things from a TV show or from blogs. To most viewers, the avalanche of information is just a noise in which an accent is vaguely distinguishable. If we want to understand more, we have to study more. Us, cooks, us bloggers (I happen to be a cook with a blog and I happen to have made so many mistakes in both instances that I couldn’t be accused of being subjective), us culinary entertainment consumers.
I watched that food bloggers were pretty ruffles in two of the editions. It’s no wonder, I’m not surprised. On one hand, I suspect it’s a method (very inspired, if I were to consider the virulence of the reactions that I saw online) used by the producer to draw attention on the show and it also arouses an emotion (maybe you’ve noticed, the format is based on emotion and on human response to the type of emotion displayed or induced by the behavior of the jurors). On the other hand, the jurors might not have had positive experiences with food bloggers present in the show or food bloggers generally. The third aspect of the story is the following: as a food blogger participating in this type of show, you are subjected to the same type of pressure as a restaurant owner in the same situation (note that not a professional cook, but a restaurant owner), you are expected to prove what you can do and prove you’re not just a person sitting behind a keyboard from which you write with more or less talent about a food made hastily, in the comfort of your home kitchen. Consequently, I wouldn’t rush to blame three of the country’s renowned cooks for whacking (verbally, of course) a few bloggers, even food ones. I wouldn’t rush to say that blogs and bloggers should hide either, they are important to the evolution of Romanian gastronomy (I’ve written extensively on this topic here).
It is because I’m convinced that food bloggers, due to their dynamism, to their openness to new things, to their freshness, are important to the progress of Romanian gastronomy, I may suggest they become more involved in self-education. Before reacting, dear co-citizens and fellow bloggers, know that I’m suggesting this to myself and I try to stick to mu suggestion every day. If today I know 100 times as many things about food than I knew five years ago, it’s because this is what I wanted, because I read and because I’ve worked next to many great cooks, who may not be too good at writing thoughts 2.0, but who are very good with technical things. I’ve learned many more things straight from the kitchen than from blogs. For the next 5 years, I would like to keep learning as many things from blogs, documented information, not written after what you hear, which is how many of us write. In my first years, I’ve done that pretty much, myself and others like me. The excuse of pioneering is no longer applicable if of 10 readers, the recipe made by 6 of them didn’t turn out well; it doesn’t mean that all six suck at cooking or reading, but that you might have slipped something.
Let’s not look for education in TV shows or on food blogs. Education lies in handbooks, on sites dedicated to this objective (you usually have to pay to obtain access to useful and quality information), education is made in schools. Television, blogs, magazines with glossy chefs on the cover are offering entertainment, ideas for those who can process them quickly and find them a place, they are offering opportunities, they expose some people’s opportunities, experiences who, put in our shoes, could become less attractive than they appear. Let’s learn to cook before wanting to become Masterchef. Cooking isn’t about the recipe (which is essential if you want to obtain the same result every time), but about passion and technique, mandatory in this order, because without passion you’ll never have the patience it takes to learn a technique. That’s all for today. Stay healthy.