MasterChef: More On The Menu Than Just Entertainment

During the 18th Century, lively debate in intellectually charged coffeehouses were reserved for affluent male patrons. As advances in the media began to accelerate, however, more diverse, inclusive forums emerged (McKee, 2005), and with the rise of the Internet, eventually culminated into the widely accessible, dialogic virtual spaces we are familiar with today.

Is this the modern-day coffeehouse?

Is this the modern-day coffeehouse?

Unlike the coffeehouses of Europe, the mediated public sphere is argued to be populated by apathetic citizens engaged by the trivial issues of popular media that is too commercialised, fragmented and over-reliant on the spectacle rather than the rational (McKee, 2005). Whilst there is truth to these arguments, it is often overlooked that consumption-oriented, low culture products can also contribute to meaningful discussions.

Contrary to popular belief, MasterChef has been known to cook up some heated debates.

MasterChef has cooked up some heated debate in the past.

Consider, for example, the well-loved Australian cooking game show MasterChef. Certainly, the show has led to the rise of the self-professed Foodies who Instagram photos with the hashtag #masterchef, Facebook pages and blog posts dedicated to the ridicule of host Matt Preston and the development of a range of commercial products including books and cookware.

At the same time, however, MasterChef
has also brought to the forefront of public attention some serious social and political issues. For example, the promotion for its ‘Boys v Girls’ competition prompted much debate in social media regarding the personal and social implications of gender stereotyping in mainstream media as well as broader concerns over the underrepresentation of female chefs in Australia (Lee, 2013).

For example, one user wrote on the show’s Facebook page:

Ads and shows like these continue to condition people to think these out-dated and completely false stereotypes are reality and it continues to reinforce sexism in our society. Children see this ad and this show. What do girls and boys internalise from these messages? (Chung, 2013)

On the other hand, some users defended the concept:

“Seriously, women are being stoned to death all over the world, and you’re calling for women to mobilise over this?! How embarrassing.” (Chung, 2013)

MasterChef has also provoked outrage amongst religious groups after a digitally-altered image of the three hosts heaping spaghetti on the head of the Dalai Lama was released by the Herald Sun (Ross, 2011). This was believed to be offensive to the Buddhist belief system and raised questions regarding cultural sensitivity (Ross, 2011) and respect for religion in Australian society (Carbone, 2011).

In this way, it is important to overcome preconceived notions that popular texts exist only to serve for entertainment purposes. In actual fact, it is due to their everyday relevance that people can naturally formulate insightful opinions on the social and political issues raised and thus, participate more knowledgeably in the mediated public sphere.


Watch the full MasterChef  ‘Boys v Girls’ promo here:


Reference List 

McKee, A., 2005, ‘Introduction: The Public Sphere’ in ‘Public Sphere: An Introduction’, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, pp. 1,2.

Lee, N., 2013, ‘MasterChef what are you thinking?’, Daily Life, retrieved 6 April 2014, <>.

Chung, F., 2013, ‘MasterChef: The Misogynists? Ten in the firing line over ‘sexist’ promo’, AdNews, retrieved 6 April 2014, <>.

Ross, N., 2011, ‘Dalai Lama silent on digitally-altered spaghetti photo’, Herald Sun, retrieved 7 April 2014, <>.

Carbone, S., 2011, ‘Lunch with Julia will cost you $6500’, The Age, retrieved 7 April 2014, <>.

‘MasterChef Australia 2013: Coming Soon to TEN’ 2013, video, MasterChef Australia, retrieved 6 April 2014, <>.


10 thoughts on “MasterChef: More On The Menu Than Just Entertainment

  1. Loved this post! Very well articulated and straight to the point, making it incredibly easy to read. I liked how you demonstrated the two sides of comments from the Facebook page, and I also thought the inclusion of the voting poll at the end of your post was very clever. Great job! 🙂

    • Thank-you very much for your comment Bijanka. It was very interesting to research people’s varied responses to the ‘Boys v Girls’ promo as I can understand the point that people may be overreacting, but I also feel that the ad pushes the boundaries too far and makes false generalisations. It is disappointing that MasterChef took advantage of these myths rather using their popularity to change Australia’s preconceived beliefs on the way men and women cook.

  2. I think the assumption with cooking is that they say men are the better chefs and that can be seen in the fact that on Masterchef the judges are all men and it always has been men. I don’t like the ad at all because in the end it should be all about who is the best cook not who is better the men or the women. Great chosen topic Giverny 🙂

    • Emma, I really appreciate that you have shared your viewpoint and I agree with you completely. The focus should definitely be on talent and skill rather than a gender contest, yet it is due to such ads (just like the Snickers ad we saw in the lecture) that these outdated stereotypes continue to perpetuate. Thank you for adding this new dimension to my understanding of the issue. 🙂

  3. You’re examples and images are great! I found this topic very interesting and you linked the ideas of ‘popular texts’ and ‘political issues’ very clearly. I think most people can relate to the points you’ve made as Masterchef is so popular and widely advertised. The use of the poll really adds to this blog post, as it made me question my own view on this topic. Nice work 🙂

    • Hi Hayley. Thank you for your lovely feedback, I’m glad you found the topic interesting and that it was able to inform your own views. I really enjoyed researching MasterChef as it is one of those positive, encouraging shows which are great fun to watch, yet which, at times, draws upon clichés and stereotypes only to serve its own interests which revolve around revenues and ratings. At least we know that there will always be people who will question such motives and raise them in the public sphere. 🙂

  4. I believe the idea that women should not be seen as unequal in anyway! As the judges are male I feel that this dominance shows that a chef is basically a mans job! I agree also that the show should portray the best cook and to not be defined by gender! I love how you put a voting poll in your blog, great idea! I was also interested in how you said that Master Chef provoked outrage amongst religious groups, I haven’t seen this photo before so good find!

    • Thank you Erin for your comment. Your point about the domination of males as judges is very insightful. It is so true that this perpetuates the notion that only men can be professional chefs. I also find it interesting how many of the special guest judges that they invite on the show tend to be males as there are only a small handful of renowned female chefs in Australia. I believe this is a clear indication of the effects of these stereotypes on women’s career choices. Hopefully this will change in time, but I don’t believe society can change its perceptions unless such representations in the media are addressed and changed as well. I appreciate your positive feedback. 🙂

  5. I really enjoyed reading this post, Giverny.
    The girls vs boys picture intrigued me as well, as I would have previously thought that men preferred food cooked by women (I don’t really know why- I just always thought that)
    It seems that master chef is really causing quite a bit of controversy- who knew! I think offence could be taken from the image with the spaghetti- and frankly I just don’t understand it!
    I think your blog posts are all really well written, your writing style is easy to read and enjoyable 🙂

    Reading the previous comments made on this post was quite interesting as well, I have never realised there was such gender bias in the food industry that was so lenient toward me. I have grown up in house-holds when the cooking is predominantly done by females (1950s style) so this really intrigued me. Do you think its making a sexist statement that all the hosts of master chef are male?

    All in all I really liked this post, huge thumbs up for you! And the little comic you included at the start was great- made me giggle 🙂

    • Thank you very much for your lovely comment Bridie. Your observations are all very intriguing. Like you, I have also grown up in a family where these traditional gender roles exist, so MasterChef was a very interesting media text to research.

      Your point about the show featuring only male hosts is very interesting. Does it mean there are limited highly renowned female chefs in Australia or is it, as you said, a sexist statement? I actually read that Anna Gare, who is not a trained chef, was approached by the procedures of the show to audition to be a judge, but she declined due to family commitments, later appearing on Junior MasterChef. Perhaps then, this is the reason why the hosts are males – they do not have the same responsibilities as females, as I imagine being a judge on the show would be quite time-intensive.

      And yes, the image of the Dalai Lama covered in spaghetti is very odd, I’m not exactly sure what they would have achieved in promoting such a silly image. 🙂

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