If you’ve been following my Trakt profile recently, you’ll notice that I’ve been binge-watching Masterchef Australia, and for good reason.
I was constantly told to watch Masterchef Australia because it was signficantly better than Masterchef US. But I never got round to doing so until recently. I guess part of it was that I wanted to stick with US TV shows as a knew what to expect. I also enjoy Gordon Ramsay’s presence on the show. This was another deterrent to Masterchef Australia: I didn’t know the chefs on the show.
However, after watching Masterchef Australia, I can say, hands down, it is far superior in quality than Masterchef US. I’ll go over the differences (and there are many!).
First and foremost, you’ll notice that Masterchef Australia has a siginficantly larger episode count than Masterchef US. While Masterchef US lasts around 20 episodes, Masterchef Australia goes on for at least 50 episodes. Usually, it breaks the 60 episode mark. The reason for this is that the show actually airs every single day, and takes place over the span of several months.
The format of the shows are very similar. Both shows have a Mystery Box challenge, a Team Challenge and Pressure Tests. They both also have Invention tests (although Masterchef US doesn’t specifically refer to them as that). However, there is a significant difference in difficulty between the Pressure Tests in the Masterchef US and the Pressure Tests in Masterchef Australia. The Pressure Tests in US look like a joke compared to Masterchef Australia’s Pressure Tests.
For example, in Episode 7 of Season of Masterchef US, the pressure test was basically to break down a chicken and then make fried chicken. In contrast, here is the dish the constestants had to make (they got a recipe) for Masterchef Australia.
The kicker is that everything (except for the base and the plate) are edible. The string is edible, and so is the balloon. The one thing I noticed is that Masterchef Australia does not seem to focus on butchery skills as difficult tasks. They just expect contestants to know how to break a chicken, fillet a fish, etc. There is a clear difference in skill level between the shows. While the pressure tests in Masterchef US don’t last more than a couple of hours, Masterchef Australia pressure tests can last more than four hours.
In addition to the challenges in Masterchef US, Masterchef Australia also has an immunity challenge. This is a challenge where a contestant has to cook off against a professional chef for the chance of immunity. An immunity is basically a get-out-of-jail-free card for an elimination round. I find these challenges to be particularly fun to watch because of the presence of a professional chef. Watching them cook is like a performance in itself. While at a glance, it may not seem fair, but there have been contestants to beat professional chefs when making a dish. Not easy, some of the cooks have succeeded.
Lastly, Masterchef Australia has Masterclasses – my favourite part of the show. The judges (two whom are chefs and one food critic) actually teach the contestants various techniques, give them recipes and cook dishes in front of them. I have flamed critics in the past for not knowing what they’re doing, but Matt Preston’s part of the Master Classes are my favourite. He portrays himself as this simple “non-cheffy” person. So, he comes up with very creative, clever and interesting hacks for cooking without the most advanced equipment.
The people also make a big impact on the quality of the show and this is a point I would like to elaborate on in particular detail. Firstly, the judges. The judges in Masterchef US are usually harsh when a dish fails, condescending to a certain extent and flat out intimidating. However, the judges in Masterchef Australia are a lot friendlier, kinder and just have more respect towards the cooks. They offer not only advice and support, but useful advice on the dishes presented to them. They look for the good points of the dish.
I feel that this has a positive effect on the contestants. It encourages them to try out new dishes and further their skills as cooks. I’ve seen terrible dishes get put up, and the judges realize that. But never are they condescending towards the cook. They offer advice on how to improve. They make a point to focus on the good parts of the dish (regardless of how few there are). This is how useful feedback is provided.
I’ve watched episodes where a contestant would literally break down in the middle of a pressure test. A judge would come over and clean up their workspace so that they could carry on. That level of humility speaks to the quality of person judging the food.
The cooks themselves also have different personalities when it comes to comparing the shows. I find Masterchef US to be filled with drama queens, people will an alpha-male syndrome and people with a God-complex. I’m not sure whether this is a cultural thing, or if the editing was done that way to make the show fit into the “reality TV” category, but I’ll often see Masterchef US cooks talk smack about other cooks. You never see this in Masterchef Australia. The one time in happened in Masterchef Australia (and that was in Season 1, during the auditions), the contestant was promptly put down by the judges, who explained to him the important of humility when cooking.
In fact, quite the opposite, you’ll see people supporting each other, their own competition, because they have that innate sense of respect for each other. This could because throughout the course of the show, they live with each other in the same house. But I think we need to give credit to them just being better people. I’ve seen elimination rounds in the US version where people get thrown under the bus, where their fellow team members would vote them to participate in a pressure tests because they let their team down.
In Australian version, people would fight to be in the elimination. This was simply because they believed they could have done better and they believed that they deserved to be in a pressure test because others did not. They wanted to protect each other dreams. I’ve also seen an episode of Masterchef Australia where one contestant eliminated himself so that the other two contestants could carry on and maybe achieve their dream. That level of integrity and respect is unseen in Masterchef US. He said that he already had a fortunate life, and that by removing himself from the competition, they may have a chance to improve their lives.
As a result, I find Masterchef Australia a lot more pleasant to watch. It is very difficult to vouch for someone to win because everyone is so nice, talented and deserving. When you see a group of people who have such a great amount of respect for each other, who care about each other deeply, it is very easy to empathize with them. For Masterchef US, my philosophy is to vote the one who is least of a douche.
Masterchef Australia is a lot more emotional, and the contestants are significantly more likable. There is a lot of crying, a lot of laughing, and is an outright better watching experience. Combined with the panel of great judges, who not only care about the quality of food, but the wellbeing and the happiness of the contestants, it is definitely a show to watch.
I intend on dropping Masterchef US once this season ends and I don’t think I’ll ever look back. Masterchef Australia is just infinitely better. It has better judges, better contestants, better food and is a better learning and watching experience.