Who makes the better chef?

(10 /08 /2015)

I love a good drama – especially one that revolves around food – so tuning into the Masterchef grand final recently was a no-brainer.  And boy, did it deliver!  With a four-point lead going into the last challenge, our first wannabe-chef, Georgia, had it in the bag…or so I thought.  But then, out walks Heston Blumenthal whose insane, scientific approach to flavours strikes fear in the hearts of most chefs, let alone an amateur.  His pressure test was one of the most beautiful, technically challenging plates of food I have ever seen!  Great for ratings though because our second wannabe-chef, Billie, walked away with the win after coming from behind to win by two points.  What drama!

So why am I talking about Masterchef and giving the TV juggernaut more publicity you ask?  Apart from brilliant TV viewing, I think these types of TV shows are a fascinating approach for an amateur cook to break into the hospitality industry.  Not only did Billie win the Masterchef title and the sweet cash prize of $250K, she walked away with an even bigger prize – a job at Heston’s restaurant, The Fat Duck.  Apprentice chefs work for years and years for that kind of opportunity and yet here Billie is, a very good amateur cook, with no formal training, being presented with the opportunity of a lifetime.  I have only one word for it – WOW!

Now I’m pretty sure this type of break doesn’t happen very often but certainly many of those cooks that have featured in Masterchef, My Kitchen Rules and the like, have managed to break into the hospitality space and been quite successful, without having to work from the bottom up.  Lucky them!  But is this route into hospitality realistic?  Can the average cook who wants to become a chef consider reality TV a legitimate way of achieving their dream?  And have you ever worked with anyone who has taken this shortcut – are they as good as someone who has completed an apprenticeship and worked from the ground up?

Lots of questions I know but here are my thoughts…reality TV is not reality.  We don’t see behind-the-scenes but you can bet that these cooks are receiving training in basic techniques to ensure they can plate up mind-blowing dishes.  You can also bet that there’s a fair bit of mentoring from the hosts off-camera – if a chef with many years experience struggles to achieve these dishes, then realistically how can an amateur be expected to?  For those offered jobs in restaurants, I am pretty sure they will start down the bottom of the ladder too.  I would imagine that there is a possibility of cold air in the kitchen if an experienced chef was working at the same level as an amateur who came in the back door.  I may be wrong but certainly in my experience, a learner has to prove their worth!  Finally, the opportunity to appear on these shows is pretty slim – thousands of people apply for not very many positions so if hospitality is where you want to be, working from the ground-up is probably a more achievable option.

I would be really keen to hear your thoughts on this one, particularly if you’ve worked with a cook lucky enough to get their food in the door via this avenue or better yet, if you were that cook that landed such an amazing opportunity.  Would you recommend to aspiring chefs to put your hat in the Masterchef kitchen or bite the bullet and get yourself an apprenticeship?


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