Why Do We Indians Love MasterChef Australia So Much?
India’s love affair with MasterChef Australia: why can’t we get enough of the show?
Something curious has been happening lately in the world of nighttime television.
If you listen – and watch – very closely, you will find that the ghee-streaked parantha and the katori of sabzi are slowly making way for visions of chocolatey decadence and the goodness of a perfectly pink rib-eye steak. The sounds of primetime drowned out by the all-too-familiar voices of three smiling, effervescent men.
Masterchef Australia is the current high-water mark of reality television in India – and has been for all the eight years it has been on air. Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston are beloved icons and household names.
Yet, what is it that makes the show so very popular in India? I mean, here’s television from Down Under, hosted by three Australians – a show that even has an Indian counterpart that you’d think we’d relate to more (not to mention a distant American and a British cousin!)...
So why do we love it as one of our own? The possibilities are both endless and pleasing:
The Food, the Food, the Food...
Let’s get real; the prime reason behind watching a food-based reality show is well, food. And MasterChef Australia provides sumptuous, gorgeous helpings of the same. What is heartening about the show is that it keeps its cameras very tightly trained on the table top – and rarely ever deviates. Phrases like George’s “Boom, boom, shake the room!” to spur on a new batch of home cooks have become the stuff of MasterChef legend.
Then, there are the many seemingly meaningless nuggets of food conversation that you’d think the average Indian viewer wouldn’t understand – bits about a blast chiller or two, plating techniques, et al. But they have now become part of our primetime lingo.
There’s No Shaking the Happy Trio
It’s been 8 years, and I cannot get over how happy the three look – mentoring, guiding, judging.
For a populace fed on ugly, vicious reality TV in the form of a Roadies or a Bigg Boss, (and being told constantly that we derive salacious pleasure from the same) it’s a joy to know a TV love that isn’t guided by the tongue. MasterChef doesn’t have warring contestants – the judges don’t fight amongst themselves. They are, in fact, the kindest, sweetest, most generous hosts you will find.
George, Matt and Gary are more likely to shed a tear than anyone when a contestant is eliminated, or when a particularly heartrending story of one’s humble background. How can you not love that?
The World is on a Plate
Quite literally. Campared with its Indian and American counterparts, MasterChef Australia features the most diverse crop of participants you will ever see. At any given time, a Singaporean will be seen rubbing shoulders with a Frenchwoman, a local from Perth with an Indian. We’ve had quite a few Indian and Indian-origin participants on the show – which in itself, would be enough to tickle our fancy – except that the judges themselves LOVE the diversity. Gary, George and Matt have been observed, through the last eight seasons, wolfing down pavlovas and parathas with equal relish.
We Adore the Very ‘Mate-y’ Culture
Methinks the very easy breezy attitude that wafts along the Sydney harbour curries favour with us on the Indian coastline too.
One of the most horrifying moments on reality TV I ever witnessed was on Masterchef USA, when a semi-finalist asked a co-contestant for an extra helping of sugar since she’d run out. The contestant staunchly refused, and the judges laughingly approved. I tried hard, but couldn’t imagine the same thing happening on Masterchef Australia. Here men and women constantly pat each other on the back, coming in for group huddles and generally making you feel like you’re missing out by not being on the sets with them!
The Judges Love India
How can we, as an Indian audience, possibly blank out on the obvious? Gary, George and Matt are adored in India – and they seem to visit as often as they can.
In fact, they were here as recently as a week ago, delightedly answering Indian food questions and professing their love for dosas and vadas – all the while dressed in dhoti-kurtas. And let’s face it – even the most hardened amongst us will smile each time one of the three breaks off a piece of roti on the show, and dips it in sarson da saag.
Most recently, Nidhi Mahajan (an Indian contestant on the show) chose to touch the judges’ feet as a mark of respect. She also bowed in namaste to them as she exited – a gesture the three of them returned. Nidhi’s elimination saw George’s eyes well up in tears – a moment that made for pretty heartwarming television.
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