Welcome to MasterChef bingo. Eyes down, cooking.
“Doesn’t get tougher than this!” “Let’s cook!” “I don’t get it!” “What was she thinking?” “Get your pudding spoon out!” Bingo! You win!
Yes, it’s MasterChef (BBC1), which I believe is either in the early stages of its one hundredth series, or is on the three thousandth episode of its first series. I’m not certain which.
Anyway, it’s still going, and all the classic hallmarks are here to be seen. Smears of puree dragged across plates, phrases like ‘big flavour’, funky beats with percussive chopping – all the boxes are ticked.
We’re still meeting new contestants. There’s Scott, who began cooking ‘seriously’ five years ago (lord knows how he did it before that), and Jemma, whose dad only ever gave her beans on toast, leaving her to teach herself to cook.
Then there’s Claire, a ‘kitchen designer’ by trade. What that means I’m not entirely sure, but presumably she’ll always know where her utensils are.
I like Claire. She always seems to enjoy herself, and she positively glows with delight when presenter Gregg Wallace yells his delight at her rhubarb tart.
It’s the only time that the notorious pudding fanatic manages to get really excited all episode, as his enthusiasm is dampened by a distinctly haphazard bunch of contestants. Most of them seem to be struggling to even turn on the hob.
Scott – who looks very much like a Viking warrior pillaging his way across the kitchen – is first out the door, after presenting evergreen presenter John Torode with a dish of brown mush that used to be chicken livers.
Jemma also gets the boot, on the grounds that she looks absolutely petrified every time she comes within a foot of a frying pan, leaving the remainder facing their toughest challenge yet.
“Toby, Zara and Claire have been sent to the Mango Tree,” the voiceover purrs, leaving me worried they may have committed some sort of terrible crime in the Caribbean.
But really, it’s the professional kitchen round.
Normally, contestants find themselves being given orders so precise they wouldn’t sound out of place in the CERN particle accelerator. Not this time, though. Recipes include stir fry, griddled lamb, and a curry served in a hollowed out pineapple.
It’s probably for the best that this crowd doesn’t get anything too complicated. They don’t seem to be the best bunch ever to come through the hallowed halls of Masterchef.
Zara has considered her game plan, for example, and decided the best way to showcase her ability is to make a chocolate pancake. John doesn’t look impressed, while Gregg tries to frown, but appears to have chocolate smeared all over his face.
Claire’s gone berserk though. She’s making scallops, with sweet red onions, with hazelnut dukkah (even Gregg doesn’t know what it is). She smiles all the way through though. It’s probably why she’s the only one who’s put through to the next round. All the rest are sent packing, tails between their legs.
It’s testament to the strength of MasterChef ’s format that it remains eminently watchable even though it’s the same format it always was.