Hate Fox TV’s MasterChef? You Can (Kind of) Blame Me

Last December, I joined three chefs (Andre Natera (Pyramid), Mary Helen Kelt (NYC) and Ferdinand Metz (a certified Master Chef and the longtime president of the CIA)) as a judge for the Dallas auditions of the current Fox show MasterChef.

Over two days, our team of four judges and two network producers ate too much, met too many weird people (they drove in from all over Texas and the southwest), and threw away too many plastic forks (which would have undoubtedly pissed off a bluebird or two). But who could blame us? Once contestant brought a single pan-seared, unadulterated, unseasoned chicken breast as his audition dish; the tines of our forks broke when we tried to cut into it.

The format was simple: contestants lined up and were then summoned into our judging room  at Le Cordon Bleu in groups of fifteen or so. They had a few minutes to assemble their dishes, which they brought fully cooked from home. Then we tasted and chatted, ranking each dish on such mundane aspects as flavor, technique, difficulty, presentation and whether the contestant could carry on a conversation. Some couldn’t. At the end of each round, those whose score exceeded a certain threshold were advanced to an interview round with still other producers. Oh, and if you were really strange–like the guy whose chicken broke our forks–you received a bye and advanced anyway. Hey, it’s tv.

Here’s a few snapshots from our adventure. Sorry EscapeHatch didn’t have any get-in-first tickets for the audition, but the producers must not have liked me that much.

Oh, and I’m sworn to secrecy about whether I judged local faves Jennie Kelley (kicked off last week) or Ben Starr (still hanging in there), but hi to both of you (again).

uh-oh, this guy

chef andre natera was awfully kind.

casting call

One of the producers screened this chick, who probably slugged too much Rock Star

These two producers were cool -- but they

chef Mary Helen Kelt flew from NYC to judge this. Mmmm.