I've been in Melbourne with the contestants of Masterchef Australia. More accurately, the contestants have been in Melbourne; I've been in Sohoe watching them online.
Perhaps you've seen the American version, full of a bouncing, face-scrunching Brit judge and trash-talking amateur cooks. In that version of the franchise the three judges are highly critical and often unkind. I don't enjoy shows where the participants are demeaned either designed by the show or through their own behavior.
Masterchef Australia, on the other hand, tends to have lovely contestants honestly keen to learn as much about food as they can. Yes, there are a few out-sized egos - and a few nutbars - but they tend to be supportive of each other. The three judges are kind - though honest - being almost mentors to the contestants.
Australian cuisine as shown in this series is very appealing, with an enticing blend of classic French and Italian influences and then Asian and Middle Eastern flavours. Fantastic! And inspiring! Of course I'm too busy watching episode after episode online to actually do any cooking myself, but I'm inspired.
There is a rhythm to the episodes: a set challenge, either individual or team, followed by either an elimination round or a chance to cook for immunity. These people aren't cooking mac-n-cheese either. They do actual restaurant cooking with the prep, working the line, running the pass... the whole shebang. They've cooked against Heston Blumenthal, Curtis Stone, Jamie Oliver. They've been judged by Nigella Lawson and Donna Hay. They've had to catch and butcher their own ingredients. They've had to make selections from the pantry blind. (That was a fun challenge. One of the women wanted to do a dessert, so she wanted to find flower, sugar, milk, eggs. Take a moment to imagine in your mind what those ingredients would feel like as you groped for them along the grocery store shelves. She came out of the pantry with a basket full of minced meat, sausage, and prawns.) Then there are Master Class episodes where a top professional chef walks us through specific techniques and recipes. For people who want to expand their repertoire, that's like learning how to bend the ball from Beckham himself!
Another reason I'm enjoying the show is the accent. There is nothing on earth that sounds like an Aussie talking at full speed. Have you ever heard one say, "No"? I'm sure they have 17 more vowels than the rest of the English speaking world does. I know they're speaking English, they just use words I've never heard before.
The cooking down under almost makes up for the sharks and snakes and spiders. Almost.