"Cooking doesn't get much tougher than this": MasterChef and Competitive Cooking

Deborah Philips

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Masterchef first appeared on BBC television in 1990. In 2005, it presented in a new format, titled MasterChef Goes Large ,which set out to make the competitive element more aggressive; as one of the judges put it: 'we wanted to up the pace and make the series more hard-hitting, so it was relevant to the way we live today'. (Masterchef goes Large, p.8) This paper argues that while cookery on television has a link back to Reithian principles, in that it initially set out to teach the audience skills, in the current format this has been co-opted in favour of a competitive professionalisation that denigrates co-operation in favour of individual initiative. The qualities expected of the participants in the current series of Masterchef and their self presentation are close to those demanded of those in The Apprentice , and the framing and narrative arc of the programme follow similar formats, with a contestant eliminated each week and a dramatic focus on the process of elimination. The contestants themselves use the language of The Apprentice : 'I'm very competitive and I give everything I do one hundred per cent. That's why I'm here' . As successive governments have seen 'apprenticeships' as a solution for youth unemployment and flagging productivity, the cookery programme has become yet another site for the discourse of enterprise identified by Jim McGuigan as 'Cool Capitalism', in which 'passion', competitiveness and ruthless focus are required in the interests of a neoliberal professionalism. Keywords: Masterchef Cooking on Television, neoliberalism, The Apprentice
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-178
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Popular Film and Television
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 20 Sept 2016

Bibliographical note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Popular Film and Television on 20/09/2016, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/01956051.2015.1119099


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