Joe Bastianich has become a household name for his role as a judge on Fox's hit culinary reality show "MasterChef" (and on "MasterChef Italia" in Italy). His never-smiling, slightly confrontational, always cool and honest assessments of the amateur chefs and their offerings have become an anticipated part of the show. For many, there just isn't enough Joe on the show. So where to turn?
For those who can't get enough of Bastianich's direct and often dry descriptiveness, of both the presented dishes and the presenters themselves, he also blogs about "MasterChef" at People.com. That's right. A blog.
And if you're expecting him to be a little less intense in his writing, set your expectations a little higher. Bastianich blogging is like the reticent -- and edited -- judge fleshed out, more in depth, and just as cuttingly honest.
For instance, when writing about the episode in which home chef Tali Clavijo was sent packing (and by some estimations, late in coming), he writes of the confessionals -- the edited asides outside the competition where finalists speak directly to the camera -- that he rarely pays any atttention to and of the Chicagoan not being able to take constructive criticism. Because it was during a confessional that Tali's arrogance showed through (and had shown through many times before -- and -- hint, hint -- if the judges watched the confessionals more, might see the end of the road for such holier-than-thous like Clavijo) and was caught by Bastianich.
Clavijo made the comment that judge Gordon Ramsay was interrupting his creative genius. In his blog, Bastianich admitted he would have enjoyed hearing Ramsay's response to that had Tali said it aloud in the "MasterChef" kitchen.
Bastianich said it was part of Tali's "delusional thinking." He later added, "Quite frankly I find that remark insulting to everyone who participated in this season. It was a slap in the face to all those who auditioned – those who gave it their all for the opportunity to be mentored and critiqued by someone like Gordon Ramsey. Throwing away the opportunity of a lifetime by an inability to take constructive criticism doesn't seem too genius to me ..."
His honesty is refreshing, not demeaning or belittling, and precise. He doesn't have a problem admitting he had doubts about some of the contenders, like Tanya Noble, and sometimes still does. In the episode where the judges challenged the amateur chefs with their favorite desserts, Tanya won the following challenge by delivering an impressive steak. Bastianich wrote that prior to that episode, he thought Tanya had simply gotten in via luck and had been "coasting." (Tanya was later the eliminated in the tenth spot.)
He also doesn't quite know what Monti's deal is. He stated on the show and wrote early on that he didn't quite buy the whole odd-named single mother schtick (Carlo is her last name), but he later amended his appraisal to giving the now Top 8 finalist kudos for having good instincts. However, he finds her insecurities might get the better of her as she gets closer to the end of the competition.
But underneath that calm, cool demeanor beats a caring heart. Not just for the food he so apparently cares about (whether it be in his own restaurants or being prepared in the "MasterChef" kitchen) but also for those preparing and serving it. He doesn't have the slightest problem complimenting a well-prepared and/or well-presented dish. And if you had the impression that he was an objective assessor of those doing the cooking, that had to have changed when Christine Ha came on the show.
Although blind, Christine has soldiered on, making it into the Top 8 chefs. But during the audition phase, he admitted to not knowing what to think of her at first -- and that she was the first visually impaired person he had ever come across in his years of being associated with the cooking industry (which is considerable, for he comes from a family of restauranteurs).
"I have no idea how challenging it must be to function in today's world with a disability as significant as loss of sight," he wrote in a prep blog for the upcoming season. "But far be it from me to make assumptions on what she can and can't do. But to be honest, watching her come through that door left me completely baffled." She impressed him with her humility and determination not to let her impairment be too much of an impediment. When the audition aired, you could see that he was visibly touched by her drive. He also noted in his blog that she was "one to watch."
And she has been.
As "MasterChef" enters the home stretch of Season 3, it is expected that the judges will become more demanding of the amateur chefs' talents. And rightly so. But during it all, you never get a sense that you don't know what the judges think, just that you could use a bit more detail. They're very good at not hiding their true feelings. However, if you are the kind of person that likes the little accessories, the garnishes that come with a dish, to find out the garnishes that accompany Joe Bastianich's thinking, try a little of his blog. It just might tide you over until the next episode.
(photo credit: Kelly Campbell, Wikimedia Commons)