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No taste for The Taste…

Recently, I saw TV’s latest foodie talent show, ‘The Taste’ for the first time. A double whammy, in fact: not only did I see the original UK version, but yesterday I also saw how they do it in the USA.

Entertaining as it may be: I don’t think I will be watching much more of it. You don’t really learn anything about cooking or ingredients, but instead you do learn a lot about the massive, clashing egos of the contestants and the judges. Basically, watching The Taste means you lock yourself up in the presence of a truly obnoxious, egotistical crowd. Where the quality of the food seems to be of secondary importance.

Obviously, the American version is worse than the English one, because Americans are always so fake, so pumped up, so hyper and so arrogant. It was actually quite delightful to see how almost all of the contestants failed to make it through to the next round. And to hear the excuses they made… no, there was nothing wrong with their food, but the judges just did not ‘get it’, a sad cook mused after his deep-fried watermelon failed to impress. 

The judges are as annoying as the contestants. Egomaniacal, exaggerated, cartoonesque. Ludovic, a heavily tattooed Frenchman with an accent that puts Pepe le Pew to shame and who clearly has been told by the producers to say ‘sacrebleu’, ‘bordel’ and ‘merde’ as often as possible. Nigella has been asked to crank up the estrogen levels, she just bats her false eyelashes and lets her boobs quiver, and that’s basically all she does. Anthony Bourdain is probably the only real judge out of the four, and judge he does, ruthlessly so… and almost always the aspiring cooks deserve the humiliation Anthony serves up in short, sharp verdict. The fourth judge in the USA is a certain Malarkey, and his bizarre name is really all that is worth noticing about him. 

If you enjoy watching a show full of unpleasant, self-absorbed annoying twats, then The Taste is essential tv for you, especially if you like seeing crushed egos and dashed hopes. However, if you are genuinely interested in good food, or if you are one of those people for whom cooking is not a bloodsport but something that is done with love, then by all means stick to the Great British Bakeoff. 

Why I hate Masterchef

Suddenly, Masterchef is everywhere. In Holland we have the original Masterchef on the BBC, plus Junior Masterchef, Celebrity Masterchef and Professional Masterchef. Basically, hardly a week goes by without some sort of Masterchef, and that’s just the Beeb. Then there is obviously Dutch Masterchef, and our Dutch commercial tv channels have scoured the globe to bring us Australian Masterchef as well, plus reruns of the UK Masterchef, USA Masterchef… bloody Papua New Guinea Masterchef! In short: it’s all too much and I am not even sure if it’s a good thing in the first place.

I love cooking, and I could probably do quite well on Masterchef because I have a good palate and I have the weird ability to know what something will taste like before actually tasting it. And most of all, because to me food and love and inextricably mixed. I love to cook and I love to cook for people I love. I express my love through my cooking. And some of the most precious memories of my life -anyone’s life!- involve sharing food with loved ones. It’s a spiritual, emotional thing for me. And so much more than just some shrill competition.

To then have to watch Masterchef, and see how such an act of loving is turned into yet another competition and another means for annoying egotistical immature people to self-inflate and assert themselves is absolute torture. I hate competitive people and I love to see them fail. They always do on Masterchef because good food is never about trying to be better than others. But tell that to those smug sociopaths.

The worst is Australian Masterchef, with three presenters/judges/divas that are incredibly annoying. Especially a little stubbly Greek who apparently secretly thinks cooking is for women and sissies, so who as compensation tries to be this huge overstated testosterone clump all the time. I would smash his skull in with a Le Creuset skillet if he talked like that to me. Cooking is not the same as racing a Ferrari, George Kalombaris! Even the -far better- BBC version is guilty of souping things up to a ridiculous level. John and Gregg excel in stupid oneliners like ‘Cooking does not get tougher than this’. I could just slap them. Whenever a contestant is stressed out and clearly struggling to serve his food on time, they just stand on the side and yell at him or her, as if that makes the work go any faster or better. Intensely annoying. Get out of the way, or help. But don’t stand there stating the obvious.

I also hate the way every chef is pushed into some sort of cookie cutter, and taught to produce fashionable pretty looking food. The obsession with pureeing everything into some sort of baby-food on the BBC version is simply ridiculous. The same goes for the reductions that end up as a nasty smear, and the obsession with using snobbish jargon. Crème Anglaise instead of custard? May we charge you 5 pounds extra?

My biggest hate is the insane trend of deconstructing tried and tested dishes. There is a reason why a tarte tatin works the way it does. There is an age old method behind a perfect Boeuf Stroganoff. Any other combination leads to something that takes hours more work to produce and yet never quite reaches the same quality and flavour as the original dish did. So why so it? Showing off skill is great, but the purpose should always be to improve the favour of the dish. Yesterday I witnessed how a three-star chef devised a menu where basically 80% of all ingredients was reduced to the point of irrecognizability. The wastage, in a time of austerity, was simply staggering. Turning rhubarb into snow, by juicing two kilos and then whisking it through liquid nitrogen, so a mere handful was left of it? Whoever thinks this is the way cooking should go needs his head examined.

So there you have it, the reason why I will never succumb to Masterchef. I will not allow anyone -least of all judges from a tv show- to stand between me and my love for food, and my need to share that with people that matter to me.231450

Welcome

Well hello there!

Here I am, yours truly, 12 years and many more kilos ago. Having a sip of rosé at the stunning Chateau Yering estate, just north of Melbourne, Australia.

I like this photo because it shows me doing two of my favourite things: traveling and enjoying great food and wine. I look happy in this photo, and that’s precisely what I felt like.

Why are so many of our greatest memories often tied in with food and drink as well as travel? Mine certainly are, and the more I talk about this with friends, the more they seem to have the same experience. Traveling the world introduces us to beauty, variety, adventure and amazement. And to combine all those visual delights with edible one is the shortest way to create life-long memories. With of course the addition of great company: I am one of those people who does not enjoy traveling alone. The best experiences are the ones I share with people I care about.

So picture me in a beautiful place, having a wonderful meal and enjoying lovely company, and you have my recipe for happiness. In this blog I want to share as much of it as possible in the hopes of enticing you all to go out, travel, open up your senses and invest in wonderful memories.

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