Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Culinary Grand Slam: Master Chef Australia

Much like the grand slam tournaments for tennis in a calendar year, the culinary majors/grand slams for this calendar year have begun with the show Master Chef Australia. The show, Master Chef Australia, is aired from Monday to Friday, 9 -10 pm IST on Star World channel and this year's season has gotten off to a brilliant start. The top 24 contestants form a highly capable lot and they churn out wonders in entree, main course and dessert categories, day after day. Three eliminations - that of Kevin, Lydia and Matt occurred over last three weeks. After Master Chef Australia, Master Chef USA and our own - Master Chef India awaits eager audience. 

Master Chef Australia has the same familiar, friendly trio for its judges - Matt Preston, Gary and George. All of them are extremely supportive, appreciative of sincere efforts and never too critical. However, my favorite  is Matt, an internationally acclaimed food critic,most balanced and impartial in delivering judgement, he forms a crisp opinion with relevant, grounded reasons and possesses taste buds that are sensitive to wide variety of tastes and cuisines. Gary has a terrible weakness for anything sweet - pies with apples and berries, lemon cheese cakes, deconstructed tarts, burnt meringue, ganache, anglaise, granita-  all have him sinking down on his knees and he gets tilted in favor of contestants who seek pride in dessert making. Matt Moran is another judge, more a mentor, who helps contestants during immunity challenges without airs. 

I began watching Master chef Australia intently from the last season. Various techniques contestants use for cutting, cooking and plating are impressive. Recipes for baked dishes and desserts appeal to me largely. This year has already offered many interesting episodes - reinventing a basic sandwich, identifying/making different pastas and preparing a magical 8-textured mousse cake. Team challenges, too,  have been equally exciting. 

My favorites in the show are Audra, Mindy, Amina, Ben and Andy. I pray they go a long way and remain till the end. The ladies are all exceptional in producing clean; lip smacking flavors and innovate with ease. Ben works with extreme patience and precision in the kitchen; qualities that his job as a teacher too demands. Andy is terribly calm and composed, well organised and these qualities along with his poise and confidence impress audience just as much as his cooking skills.

Dalvinder, with Indian roots (advertisements of Master Chef Australia aired in India project her as a representative/ambassador of the nation, much like an athlete representing the nation in Olympics event), Kylie, Alice, Tregan (three of them form a cheerful, happy go lucky gang), Emma (the soft and kind hearted cry baby), Filippo (an expert at bread baking and wood fire oven baked pizzas), TK, Beau, Andrew, Julia (dessert queen) form the next rung of my personal favorites on the show. 

Debra, the oldest contestant on the show has always won accolades from all judges for her expertise in cooking and producing clean, impeccable flavors. To me, she fell from her promising position, only seemed a typical oldie, always ready to complain/incriminate younger folks around for failure after the Yum Cha team challenge at the Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney. Now I would love to bid her bye ASAP.

There are many more action packed episodes - a multitude of masterclasses, immunity/team/elimination challenges lined up before an immensely talented one wins the title and trophy of culinary excellence. 
And , definitely there will be tears and emotions, much like Roger Federer.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Some Dumbo Kids with Over ambitious Fathers

There are awards for best actors/actresses, awards for sports persons and their teachers. Recognition is meted out in field of arts, literature, press, journalism, photography, environment protection (despite calamitous damage done to it by humans), try naming any field and a bag full of awards, trophies and medallions bestow honor and appreciation.

Parenting too, is an art and this seems to be a department where I have not heard of awards or accolades. There are days or occasions celebrated across the world to mark its importance like Father's day and Mother's day but no particular trophy is given out to a chosen few.

If there was an award for the most doting, caring, supremely dedicated father (in India, keeping focus on some star kids) it would go to Amitabh Bachchan, undoubtedly.

With a dumbo - Abhishek Bachchan, for a son, Big B's efforts as a father to shape his son's career, future as an actor, to elevate him to a larger than life image have been relentless. From Bunty Aur Babli to the recent take - Bol Bachchan, the father has shouldered all responsibilities in an unimaginably excessive fashion leaving no stone unturned. In a ripe old age, he sings, dances, emotes, shouts, delivers crisp dialogues in his baritone voice and pulls along Baby B to stardom. Be it interviews or KBC shows or personally upclose moments, as a father he constantly swears by his son, stands by his son and is an immovable Rock of Gibraltar to him. The son, though now a father himself, no doubt, loves the cozy, warm zone of protection , has not shown enough mettle to prove his capabilities. In fact, the million dollar question is if he is capable at all? Or toning down the quotient of sarcasm, is he fit/suited for the field of cinema? Barring the movie Guru, where Mani Ratnam fiercely extracted some expressions from this rock faced star child, Abhishek has proved disastrous in all his other movies in all departments. When he dances, he makes only Tapori like/Dappan koothu moves, biting and rolling his tongue, making dodo like expressions on his already awkwardly shaped face. However, the father still believes his son who turned to stone in one of his earlier births by a stare from Medusa, will turn victorious some day.

Though Big B and Aby baby make the most outstanding example of best dumbo son, over ambitious father combination the world can ever witness, there are other examples from the film industry itself. Rishi Kapoor and Ranbir Kapoor (recent histrionics in IIFA awards) is an example that hits my head directly; the son is not a failure in all departments but looks a complete dodo and definitely delivers incomprehensible dialogues. When Ranbir sings "Jo bhi mein kehna chaahoon, barbaad kare, alfaaz mere" in Rockstar movie, you cannot refrain from nodding in appeal.  

Moving from these examples and changing domain from films to sports, recent newspaper and TV reports have made me conclude that though the kid is not a dumbo here and the father has not done anything overtly to push the kid into limelight, this nosy father and an arrogant kid combination has wreaked havoc to true sportsmanship spirit. Leander Paes and Vece Paes form this unexpected example. The father features in all press reports like a spokesperson, brokers deals and bargains, asks for written assurance from Sania Mirza that she will partner with her son in mixed doubles format on the pretext of which he claims his son will play along with Vishnu Vardhan in men's doubles format at London Olympics (2012), all of this has gone awfully irksome and weird. Leander too,  throwing his weight around, quoted preposterously - " The only one I need to worry about is Vishnu, the poor boy is 307 in the world and I don't even know if he has grass court shoes. So it is like a bit of tough one." Such a gibe from an Olympic Bronze medalist, Commonwealth Games bronze medalist, winner of men's and mixed doubles in 1999 Wimbledon is a real shocker.

Personal frustration, ego, superiority complex and professional vendetta have ripped Leander off true sportsmanship and his father, an ace hockey player himself, has forgotten to drive lessons to get his son grounded. Paes will need to pick cues from other sports figures in India - Tendulkar and Vishwanathan Anand for instance, who are GODS in their respective games; yet haven't roped in their families/fathers to speak on their behalf, their likes and dislikes. 

True, we all admit - Like Father, Like Son; a son always looks up to his father for emulation. However, it is true that each one of us has a distinct talent, an area of super specialization which can quite be different from that of the father. Leander took this lesson to his head and chose tennis, not hockey; but few lessons of humility went starkly amiss and his over ambitious father failed to reinstate them.