Masterchef South Africa simmers rather than sizzles

South Africa… the land of where good reality shows come to die– is the mantra that a portion of local production companies are following to the tee with what we’re seeing on TV these days. Tuesday saw the airing of the first episode of MasterChef SA and for the most part it was welcomed with groans of medium to full boredom.

I am probably more critical of South African reality tv shows than the Jews were of Jesus but I feel like we really need to look hard and long at the thought process that goes into adapting a global reality show brand to South African audiences. Whether it has been past SA Big Brother, Idols, Survivor or Masterchef shows, I have felt like I’ve been watching a watered down, made for dummies version of the original and highly successful reality series.

Thus far, my intelligence has been insulted the most by the latest addition to crew of “not as good as the original” SA reality shows, Masterchef South Africa. The judges acting- and I make sure to refer to it as “acting” (hoping that people don’t ever act like this in real life)- has been simply atrocious. To see judges Benny Masekwameng, Andrew Atkinson and Pete Goffe-Wood pull ridiculous faces after tasting food, hover spoonfuls of the various dishes around their wide-open mouths like it was someone’s penis and pretend to be nasty when they clearly are not, irritates me beyond belief. Maybe it has something to do with fact that the show was depicting the early part of the competition where numbers needed to whittled down, causing it to come across as frenetic and a little bit directionless. Maybe it’s the fact that producers in SA believe that the local audience is too stupid to recognize the fact that there is very little reality going on in the versions of globally-recognised that are put together here.

I’ve always had the feeling that if you take a concept of something that works overseas and adapt it for local audiences, you need to go all the way and make it really relevant. Sure, keep some of the things that at the core, make the show what it is (ie Survivor SA still needs to have people “surviving” in a remote location in it), but then make sure the hits home with the current climate in South Africa and how we like to interact with things and each other. A carbon copy of the original show that doesn’t take into account what South Africans believe about themselves really isn’t going to cut it for anyone with an iota of intelligence.

But hey, maybe I’m completely wrong and clearly don’t understand how awesome the show actually is, as evidenced by these quotes and comments from Sonia Cabano, chef, food writer and social media manager of Robertson’s Spices (who just HAPPEN to be the show’s sponsors as well):

When talking about Masterchef SA she said her family gathered on Tuesday evening to watch the show-

“I know many of the contestants.”

Then going on about the content of the first episode she added:

“I think it’s well done, exciting and has a strong local flavour.
“I like the judges, they are people you will either hate or love a lot, and that’s the attraction.”

– and we all know that I, for example am ALWAYS going to say that MyCityByNight is cutting edge and better than everything else out there because it looks good and is produced right here in our backyard- obviously making these statements FACT.

Only 50 of the 100 amateur chefs went onto the next round called the MasterChef Bootcamp, the next step in their 18 week journey. I’m going to watch the next couple of episodes in the hope that the show gets better or that at bare minimum they show us more of the yummy mooiness Ilse Fourie.

The second episode airs this coming Tuesday March 27 at 19:30 on M-Net (DStv channel 101).

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  1. I agree with you 100% and I haven’t really watched the show besides the adverts. I saw the “Judges” and already had this sense of irritation and decided I wouldn’t go further.

    What EVERYONE seems to actually not know is that there is a Masterchef UK – now from what I know, that’s the original and I used to be addicted to it on BBC a few years ago.

    When I watched Masterchef AUS on MNet last year I was horrified but also astounded that they practically changed the whole concept to fit into Australian headspace.

    Now ours is a rip-off of the AUS one, when in actual fact I think we should rather have gone closer to the UK one…

    1. Agreed. I have watched the BBC British version for years and I find it more genuine, less like a ‘reality’ show, and the ultimate winner is the most talented person. (Great British Menu is another gem, if you haven’t seen it yet). I hated the Australian version with its contrived emotions and where ‘luck’ in the elimination rounds seemed to be more important than real talent. A few of the better contestants were eliminated that way, and some mediocre contestants got through to the final rounds. All that frenetic rushing around was also extremely irritating. Unfortunately the South African version seems to be going that way…but its early days yet.

  2. great read, thanks and I couldn’t agree more, Idols S.A. the better of the South African reality shows is still way below par compare to the rest of the worldwide phenomenon!

  3. I have agree – 1st episode 100% boring. The judges – now really. Would it not have been better to have Jeremy Mansfield and Nathanial on the show? How come it is so below par – take a look at Masterchef Australia – totally awesome!!!!
    Episode 2 – really!!!!!!!! Such a disappointment and look at the wonderful sponsors for this show in SA.
    Will attempt Episode 3……

  4. I watched Masterchef SA for the first time last night, as I absolutely loved the Australian version and thought that before I dismissed our local one as a ‘wannabe rip-off’ I should at least give it a chance. I really shouldn’t have bothered. After 10 minutes I was annoyed at the judges behaviour – overt disdain, condescension and downright rudeness seems to be what South African copy-cat judges on reality shows like this one (and another popular singing competition I won’t mention) revert to in the face of having to live up to the original international success. Why oh why can we not innovate instead of copying others??

    1. They copied the Australians directly – remember the onion dicing and egg beating challenges at the start of the Australian version? I really hate the cringeworthy contrived emotions, facial expressions and crocodile tears. Why can’t we have the genuine thing? Only marginally less boring than ironing.

  5. Absolutely terrible, the judges are boring very unappertising to look at not to mention the dishes.Can’t be do better? If they could’t get better judges why didn’t they invite the judges from the other Master Chef progammes.

  6. Cringe – that is what comes to mind. I cannot face another episode of that embarrassing show. The UK format was lovely, why did they have to go the Aussie route? Talk about creepy judges – yeeks!

    1. The show would be more palatable if the judges could ‘act’ in a more normal or natural way. They, as well as the contestants, insult our intelligence with their contrived expressions and faked emotions – cringeworthy indeed. The one good thing that I hope will be included from the Australian version is the cooking masterclass, although that was left out in the later American version. They can leave the rest.

  7. My wife and I are big fans of the Masterchef concept But the standards on the SA version are abysmal compared say to the UK Masterchef. On the latest challenge one of the contestants says “I have made bearnaise sauce hundreds of times Any idiot knows that a split sauce can be rescued with a teaspoon on cold water
    How anybody can enter Masterchef without ever having made a Bearnaise or Hollandaise sauce boggles the mind (This applied to the cute Khaya who was given the boot)And I believe the contestants were given detailed recipes Ever heard of “mise en place” ie set out your ingredients before you start cooking As for the Bleu venison The UK Masterchef juudges would have refused to taste the venison It was raw not blue.

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