As I exited Hell’s Judgment Room, I was told “You should hear from us in a day or two.” That was on Sunday the 10th. The next day, I got a call from Boston Casting, asking if I indeed had a chance to present myself and my dish to the judges, and apologizing for making me wait in the cold. I asked when I would hear back, and was told “soon.”
Last Wednesday, I called Ashley (Cheerful Person) and asked again when I could expect to hear something. She explained that the judges had been traveling and attending meetings, but that I should hear something by Friday the 22nd.
What have I been doing in the meantime? I’ve been preparing myself for the next step in the selection process. I figured it would be better to be ready than to be caught flatfooted after a last-minute phone call, and anything I did now wouldn’t go to waste.
I’ve been reading a lot, particularly Culinary Artistry and The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. They’re not so much cookbooks a books about how to cook, dealing with classic flavor combinatons and why they work well. I’ve also spent as bit of time pulling together recipes for dishes that I can cook in 30 minutes, an hour, and an hour and a half.
But most importantly, I’ve been watching the 2009 season of the British version of MasterChef, the show on which the new Fox version will be based. It’s a tight half-hour production in which six contestants per round are weeded down to one winner. The winners of each round compete in a quarter-final, and eventually one contestant emerges victorious. Here’s the first show of the series, broken down into sections. To start, we are introduced to six cooks, who have 50 minutes to cook anything they’d like from the ingredients in front of them — a classic “mystery basket” challenge:
After the time is up, the dishes are judged:
Three cooks are chosen to move on to the next challenge: work the line at lunch service in a busy restaurant.
Immediately after the lunch service, the cooks have 60 minutes to cook two dishes. One cook will be chosen as the winner, who will go on to a quarter-final round.
I’ve seen one quarter-final contest so far, thinking “I can do that” as I watched. Each of four cooks has to survive an “identify the ingredients” test and then cook a three-course meal in an hour and 20 minutes. This whole process is repeated over the course of 32 episodes until someone wins the title of MasterChef.
If the Fox version of the show follows the same structure, then they will need close to 100 contestants, which improves my odds slightly. However, given how Fox messes with the formulas of the British shows it lifts, there’s no guarantee that they will use that many people. (And how does Gordon Ramsay fit into the structure?)
I’ve also been following various blog reports about the show. Here’s one person’s account of her audition in Seattle, ending with her immediate selection for a 30-minute on-camera follow-up interview. She (like me) was pre-screened for the audition and was able (unlike me) to present her dish shortly after arriving at the casting call.
Then there’s this post from an editor at the Epicurious web site. As you can imagine, I didn’t have a lot of sympathy for her. In fact, I submitted a comment which was not approved, so I’ll post it here instead:
How terrible for you that you had to DO YOUR JOB, and how fortunate for me that I had to wait outside in the cold for four hours and not witness your suffering.
I’ve received many supportive and sympathetic emails and comments in the last few days, for which I am extremely grateful. “Everything that was in your control you managed perfectly. The rest was completely out of your control.” was some much-needed perspective.
Now I wait.