I have been watching MasterChef Australia 2015 (Season 7) off-and-on with some interest. I really loved the glitzy sets and the professional manner in which the show was presented. Complicated, but gorgeous looking courses were dished out in almost every episode by some contestant or a celebrity chef that did make your mouth water.
There were pressure tests galore that every amateur cook had to pass. Or fail and go home. Contestants had to always juggle priorities and start from scratch, even gutting fish or separating meat from rib cages, which was quite a spectacle.
Often 3-course meals had to be rustled up for over 120 people in three hours and you could see, in close up and in full HD, tears rolling down the cheeks of a number of wannabe chefs proclaiming on camera that they may not be able to make it today.
The intense pressure would often make cooks slip up. They would drop full ready-to-eat dishes on the floor or set fire to their pans or leave meats uncooked, or just make the stupidest of mistakes which would ruin their dishes. The judges would give exact and sometimes ruthless feedback about the various elements in the dishes and what worked and what did not work.
And in all this drama, you would sit with your fingers crossed as to who would be going home tonight. MasterChef Australia is indeed a great reality show on TV. But the show also reminded me of something.
In April 2013, I had started this blog cookinginajiffy.com. Like any other blogger, I was in the habit of posting recipes with photos on Facebook and Twitter. A friend of mine once commented that my dishes did not look as professional as the ones dished out on MasterChef and that I was just an AMATEUR. Sounds harsh, right!
Do you know what my reply was?
THAT WE ARE INDEED NOT MASTERCHEFS.
But we do run a food blog. So you would assume that we are wannabe Master Chefs, right?
Surprised? Intrigued? Huh?
Let me explain a little bit more. Have you ever noticed why cooks participate in MasterChef Competitions worldwide?
The answer is pretty obvious. They all want to open a first class restaurant. So they prepare the kind of mouth-watering dishes that will cost you a fortune if you ordered these in any expensive highbrow restaurant.
That is the aim. It is a publicity platform for new chefs trying to gain some recognition. And in the process if they could go home with a prize money of a quarter of a million dollars, why would anyone sneeze at that?
However, that is NOT, and couldn’t be, our aim. Our primary purpose is to help families, and busy people, create home style meals from scratch in their “homes” in less than 30 minutes.
Did I say “Home Style”?
Yes friends, emphatically “Home Style”, I dare repeat.
On MasterChef Australia, if a judge commented that your dish looked “Home Style”, it would be considered a condescending or disparaging remark, meaning that nobody would ever want to pay for your dish in an expensive restaurant when they could very well rustle up that item at home.
Now compare this mind-set to our philosophy which is exactly the opposite. In our world, a “restaurant-style” dish would actually be considered as an insult meaning that your dishes are so wasteful, time-consuming, full of fat and calories and needlessly obsessed about presentation that it is not fit to be called “Home-Style”.
We take great pride in sharing “Home-Style” recipes. All our dishes are prepared at home and we eat these every day. They do not look gorgeous and DO NOT have the kind of presentation that MasterChef dishes have. This is because for most of the time to keep food hot we keep them in insulated casseroles covered till we are ready to have them. Nevertheless, they have a soul and are full of flavour, sometimes even better than the ones presented on MasterChef, I dare say.
But our aim is still NOT TO BE MASTERCHEFS.
Our purpose is to motivate and inspire people to cook light, healthy meals at home, prepared from scratch from fresh ingredients.
There are many more reasons why I am so critical of Master Chef Competitions even though I really love the drama of the show. Not to mention that Master Chef US with their frequently beeped out cuss words is absolutely hilarious, if you know what I mean.
Anyway, here are my reasons:
Look at the amount of food wasted: For example, to fry a few pieces of shallot, half a pan full of oil is heated and wasted. Not only will this burn a big hole in your monthly budget for groceries when you go shopping for oil next but would also mean that you and your family members are forced to unnecessarily consume more fat and calories. This is something we definitely do not recommend.
Similarly to make a stylish looking rib, the MasterChef cooks have to remove quite a bit of meat from the bones so that the bones look “nice and clean”. To make one chicken dish, the breast of the chicken is taken and the other pieces simply discarded.
This certainly amounts to wastage of meat that could have been utilised somewhere. Can we really afford to do such a thing at home? So unless you are wanting to run a restaurant where the sheer size of the orders or the margin you can have on those dishes will make it worth your while or where your entire career is dependent on it, such cooking is certainly not for Home Chefs.
Look at the amount of time spent: To make one dessert, as much as ninety minutes to five hours are spent. Who has the time in the modern world to be spending so many hours in the kitchen unless you are a professional cook making a living out of your cooking?
The needless number of “elements” used: In MasterChef if someone used 10 elements and the other 15, the latter may win because the latter would look more complicated, unusual, original and even beautiful. For the final dessert called “Botrytis Cinerea” which sounded like a disease (and it actually turned out to be a disease afflicting grapes!), there were in all 17 elements to arrange and 55 stages to be gone through. At home, I would rather eat those 17 elements separately, if I so desire, than to waste five hours to prepare and 15 minutes ‘plating’ them for an admittedly gorgeous looking dish. No wonder, some people call this all “food porn”.
So what is my point really? Am I simply raving and ranting?
At home we like our food to be healthy, cooked quickly and to taste delicious. And this is the purpose and soul of my blog. We take great pride in being “Home Style Chefs,” whatever that may mean. The cookbooks and the recipes that you will find on my blog all emphasise this very concept and we are constantly inviting similar minded people from all over the world to join us in this “mission”.
We are not competing to put up one small dish with plenty of “elements” but we are trying to put up dishes which have a fine balance of flavours and fulfil our eating and nutritional needs. Home food need not be bland and unfulfilling BUT by following the methods of sequencing and parallel processing we can easily create a healthy, soul nurturing meal literally in a jiffy.
AND THIS IS THE REASON WHY WE ARE NOT MASTER CHEFS NOR DO WE WISH TO BE ONE SOMEDAY.
What do you prefer to consider yourself a Master Chef or a Home Chef?
I would love to hear your views on this.
By the way if you want to know how you can rustle up a complete meal in less than 30 minutes from scratch, you may want to grab our FREE e-book by going here.
This mission is dedicated to all those friends, relatives and acquaintances who have sampled my mom’s cooking either at my home or at my work place from my lunch-box. I’m starting with Indian cooking, so that the fear of “cooking curries every day” (that my friends in University College London would so often comment on) is banished forever.
We will love to post recipes that are unpretentious and literally come from your Mom's kitchen. They must allow themselves to be rustled up at home, from scratch, from fresh ingredients, in 30 minutes or so, with minimum equipment and fuss. We welcome ideas and tips that prove beyond doubt that cooking at home is NOT drudgery but a very enjoyable activity that also improves your family's health and well-being in a very cost-effective manner.
Those who wish to contribute similar recipes from their parts of the world, here’s a full throated invitation to come join us and make COOKING IN A JIFFY a worldwide movement for HOME STYLE cooking that also celebrates "togetherness in cooking "above everything else. Please send your articles with images (if possible) to this address and we will publish it by your name.