An Un-Masterly Chef

Last Wednesday night I received a call from the Future Hub, clearly on the train home from work perusing the Evening Standard television listings. "You do realize that the first episode of Celebrity MasterChef starts in 15 minutes, don't you?"

I nearly sprung off the floor from where I was doing my back exercises (I didn't though – I'm not supposed to spring while my back is still injured). I couldn't get to the DVR fast enough to make sure I didn't miss a nanosecond of what is currently one of my favorite programs. Celebrity MasterChef, Professional MasterChef, just-plain-old MasterChef. For those people living under a rock, and my US based readers (not sure if BBC America broadcasts such lovely programs), MasterChef is a cooking competition. It's been recently revamped to make it more exciting and it is on nearly every day in the evenings as they whittle through the weepy contestants who say over and over again that this competition could "change their life".

Perhaps that's why I like the celebrity version best. There's no pretence that these people are actually trying to open up their own country pubs for a better life for their families (do they even know anything about the restaurant industry?). In fact, I find the first rounds a bit depressing – it's really sad when these people find their dreams come crashing down when they get eliminated because of a televised cooking disaster.

But I have to confess, I just love reality TV. Not the Big Brother kind where people lie around and talk to each other about nothing much. I like the focused competitive programs, where you get to watch people trying to learn a skill or outsmart other contestants. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I am also a fan of the UK version of the Apprentice with Sir Alan Sugar. It's so interesting to watch people try to perform a business task – so many psychological elements of the process: which products to sell, to whom, and how to work as team together. If it wasn't being televised, I'd definitely sign up.

But back to MasterChef. I really love cooking. It's the one thing I like to do but don't treat with the same level of perfectionism as so many other things in my life. I think it's because no matter how much I mess up a dish, I know I will have many other times to try it out a different way. You've got to eat three meals a day (at least), so there's lots of room for trial and error. I also love the repetitiveness of the tasks involved and how absorbed I get when I'm simply chopping up a cucumber. It's the definition of "flow" to me (see my posting on Monkeys And Meditation for more on flow).

So would I ever sign up to be a contestant on MasterChef? No way. Not even taking into consideration whether I'd be good enough anyway, I don't want to go there. Perhaps that's why I like watching the competition so much – it allows me to live vicariously through others without putting myself through the mental anguish of it all. A skill that you enjoy but don't aren't a perfectionist about? A real gem. Guard those things with all your might.

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