Master Chef & The Art Of Criticism

My 11 year old son and my wife watch Master Chef Australia every night. It’s almost like date-night with the mom.

While I try very hard to wear headphones, and bury myself in something else, my attention does move to the screen from time to time. I must admit, parts of the show are fascinating.

We also get to watch advertisements of MasterChef USA, with Gordon Ramsey spitting food out, or chucking some of the contestant’s preparations into the bin.

In sharp contrast, the Aussie judges deliver hard judgement, with a dose of kindness, and with a lot of positive strokes thrown in. Very different from Aussie cricketers, who are notorious for sledging!

I find the judges in MasterChef USA to be obnoxious and rude. Yes, it is a show, and possibly their obnoxious positioning helps to drive TRPs up. Yes, in real life, maybe, they are woolly little lambs, but that is not how they come across.

When I look back on my own path in life and in my career, one lesson I was always taught was – criticise the action, not the person. I was taught this when I was blasting my daughter one day. I have tried to live by this lesson, though I have not always been successful.

I was better at this in the mid phase of my career. In the early phase, my seniors where macho, and to be almost abusive was considered great. I hated this. Later on, I became more constructive in my criticism, but later on, as the stakes grew, I did find myself yelling out (not literally, but in effect), “Youcrazysonofabitch, whatthehelldoyouthinkyouaredoing?Doyouwantoruinthecompany,youcrazyass!?”

I don’t offer any solutions. However, when I was at my fiery best one day, I was taught the following lesson – Before you react, pause. Breathe deep. Then, react.

As a great trainer once said: between the stimulus and your response, lies your greatest freedom, the power to choose your course of action.

In order to do this, we have to be centred in the now. We need to be mindful what is happening.

Easy to write about this, yes?
But, to practice? Oh yeah, now that is difficult.

The book that said it all to me, was one called “The Miracle Of Mindfulness” by Thich Nhat Hanh. A slim, beautiful book.

It can help us, before we spit some one else’s cooking out of our mouths in front of the TV camera!


  1. Hello Rajiv,
    Just to let you know, your wisdom and insight are much appreciated!
    (I hope it’s no longer 47 degrees Celsius over there now?)
    Best wishes,

    1. Hi Takami
      Well, I am not that wise, but i try to keep learning! Thanks for the comment.
      The weather, strangely, is worse now. It is 40 degrees Celsius and humid. We are not used to wet heat. We are used to dry heat!
      NB:- btw, I also opened a Zazzle Store…

      1. It’s still a learning process for me too… 😉
        And it’s great to know that when the rains come, the weather will be a bit more bearable. Anyway, I am sorry for so many comments. I promise it’s my last one for today!

  2. Having watched the UK, US and Australian versions of master chef, the cruelty in the American version is there way of adding tension and drama to the episodes. In the others the criticism is there to teach the contestant and the audience on what to do next time.
    When giving criticism I try to be constructive and show where my students have gone wrong but sometimes you do need to hard. Although the best advice is that which you don’t follow.

  3. Criticise the action not the person…its so true but when we are angry we forgot and start criticising the person…Good Post 🙂

  4. OH my God great post! I made the same observation a couple of years ago! I love Masterchef Australia and the ever-smiling, sometimes goofy, but mostly genuine human beings who also happened to be great Chefs AND judges. They always make me smile, regardless of their positive or negative feedback because their feedback oozes like sweet honey. I only chomped on one season of Master Chef USA, and it didn’t go too well with my stomach, precisely for the reasons you mentioned above. Rudeness is just a big turn off!

    1. I am not sure if I replied. My bandwidth was being eaten up!
      Thanks for the comment. Yes, rudeness seems to be becoming a bit of a fashion these days. Sadly so

  5. I have also noticed how humane Master Chef Australia’s criticism is compared to others. It’s partly the reason why I prefer it. Thich Nhat Han is a favourite of mine and I often re read his books and try to apply his teachings.

      1. Well, I don’t watch much TV, but just a bit.. TV can overtake your life… Even the news channels, which tend to be hysterical (at least, in India)

  6. I’ve become better at pausing…perhaps it is age or not having the energy to “go there” anymore. Sometimes it is simply astonishment at other’s behavior. Very thoughtful post.

  7. A little kindness goes along way, there is a quote by Maya Angelou, I’m sure I don’t have it word for word…People may forget what you say, what you do, but they will never forget the way you make them feel.

    I admit I fall into the trap of “ill” treatment when watching Gordon Ramsey’s Hell’s Kitchen, this is what people like, they like confrontation, they love it when Gordon goes off, it gets the ratings up, people appreciate positive criticism but unfortunately positivity does not boost ratings.

      1. I use to watch WWE/WWF a long time ago, yes the drama was good/entertaining, it was fun “back then.” I don’t watch much now.

        But people like drama look at those reality shows, Real Housewives, Bachelor, Bachelotte, etc.

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