The scene: Melbourne's Docklands, outside the new MasterChef kitchen. The day's first light.
MasterChef: The Professionals is a furtive, stubbled figure getting ready for work.
Original MasterChef, holding a leash with two golden retrievers, bounces by.
Original MasterChef: "Hey there, don't I know you?"
Professional: "I doubt it."
Original: "No wait, you're the new guy! We're moving in together. Welcome."
(Original goes in for a hug. Professional recoils.)
Professional: "Uh, that's great. Listen. I got prep to do."
Original: "Oh that's cool. I can help. George says that every time I cook, I put my heart on a plate."
(Professional sighs and lights a cigarette. Takes a drag. Exhales.)
"Look. Don't take this the wrong way, but you don't really have . . . You know. Industry cred."
(Original falls quiet. Light bounces off the water and dances on his brow. One of the dogs yawns.)
"But I've got a cookbook."
"So does Huey."
"And a range at Coles."
"But the croquembouche!"
(Professional stamps out his cigarette. Lights another. He pats the dogs.)
"I like dogs. Had rottweiler once in Hanoi. That was a big night. What were we talking about? Oh yeah. It ain't that we don't like spending time with you, Original. You're beautiful."
"And you got good manners and crap. But chefs are mean. Shit gets real. And what's with all the personal growth? By the time you knuckle down to anything like a restaurant service, you've already had Beau breaking down because he doesn't want to go back to laying bricks, or Debra welling up because she's glad to be alive. And don't get me started on your contestants giving three cheers for the eliminated ones - in their absence. More corn than the MasterChef pantry."
(Original is indignant.)
"But viewers want real people. Nice people. Anyway, you delve into the lives of your contestants. What about that guy who wore the Akubra and talked in mantras?"
"Yeah, I'm glad he got the chop. Look, contestants aside, you can't top Marco Pierre White."
"But Gary and George made everyone feel included, like a food tech class."
"Exactly. Like a food tech class. This is TV, and there was an ineloquence about Gary and George, though offset by Matt, that made them not as engaging as Matt and Marco. Am I right? Marco smoulders. People listen. His words curl like fine-cut chips."
(Original fidgets. The dogs are pulling. He wants to leave - he's got a book-signing at 10. He holds out his hand.)
"Well, it's great to meet you! I'm sure there's room for both of us."
(Professional takes it, and watches him jog away. He stubs out his smoke.)
MasterChef: The Professionals is on Ten, 7.30pm tomorrow.