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Masterchef addict!

My name is Mark and I am a Masterchefaholic.

You may have picked up from this column in recent weeks that I’m just a tad obsessed with Masterchef Goes Large, and it seems I’m not the only one, going by the ratings.

Last night’s double bill of culinary brilliance under pressure took the show to a new ratings high of 4.3 million. BBC2’s decision to move Masterchef to a primetime slot has paid dividends and then some, with a million new viewers arriving in the move from 6.30pm to 8.30pm. But schedule change aside, this third series of Masterchef Goes Large has been a slow sizzler from the start, building steadily from an opening audience close to two million, building to a tasty 3 million.

It’s so easy to have a go at broadcasters when they get things wrong (witness the ramshackle scheduling of Life on Mars), so it’s nice to give a pat on the back when a channel nurtures a show and lets it find a natural place in the schedules.

It helps that I respond to Masterchef Goes Large as a format. The 6.30pm scheduling of the regular shows dovetails beautifully with my arrival home and provides a gentle 30 minutes to relax and ease into the evening. As the early shows proceed and move towards the semi finals, you find yourself rooting for a favourite. John Torode and Greg Wallace flit around the kitchen like angels of death, handing out scathing criticism to the chefs with gay abandon. However, they’ll be nice when it’s deserved, and seeing John in the Downing Street kitchen last night proved he can put his money where his mouth is at the drop of a hat. And what about Greg Wallace? He’s worth it just for the moment when he shouts: “This competition. Just. GETS. TOUGHER!” at the beginning of every episode.

I know it’s just some amateur chefs throwing food together, but as a reality show (and let’s make no bones about this, it is a reality show) it has more going for it than any other reality show out there at the moment. These three finalists are being put through the mincer, with each cooking task piling on the pressure. There’s drama, there’s blood, sweat and tears and most of all, some real achievement taking place in these kitchens. In one week the finalists have cooked for an entire TV crew, flown to Cyprus to cook for the army, put together a three course meal for Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern, and endured the ultimate test of baring their cooking souls to some of the country’s finest chefs. I’ll quite happily admit to crying at the climax of last night’s double bill. If you’ve been there since day one, you’ll know where I’m coming from.

But I’m afeared that as Masterchef Goes Large comes of age with this third series, gaining deserved success, it will stop being a well-kept secret. I can see BBC1 eyeing it with hungry eyes, lining it up for transfer across like The Apprentice. This must not happen!

Masterchef Goes Large: The Final is tonight at 8pm on BBC2. Go Hannah!

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