I don’t consider myself an avid television watcher. Except for the important news on local channels, informational or documentary-type programs on Japan’s national channel, and my favorite detective dramas broadcasted on foreign channels/ I especially don’t watch competition programs or game shows. The main reason why I don’t watch them is that I don’t gain anything from those shows, and I can’t bear to see some of the contestants’ vulgar speech and disrespectful behavior towards each other. For me, watching TV should have a purpose, and that purpose should either be to learn something or be entertained and clear my mind. When a television program is entertaining and instructive, it is more valuable to me as a viewer.
From the moment reality shows started to become popular on television channels, I refused to watch all types of reality shows or any type of show that displays the lives of ordinary people. Television programs that provoke people, stir their emotions, and aim to establish an emotional bond between the audience and the people on television do not appeal to me.
The habit of staying at home, which was formed during the pandemic, my television screen time and therefore the variety of programs I watch have surged. Especially when I heard that two of my former students were participating, I started watching Masterchef Turkey 2021, from the beginning of the season. Despite being like a reality show and a contest, it sort of interested me mostly because of my profession.
Masterchef Turkey, as in other similar programs, reveals the personal problems of the contestants, the good or bad events that happened to them, their families and everything related to their professional lives with all their bluntness, while the program encourages and emphasizes conflicts between the contestants. When ordinary people share personal information with the audience about their lives on the screen, it inevitably creates a bond between the contestants and the audience. Despite all these features, the contents and the format of the Masterchef Turkey is well thought out, planned, executed and stands out from the other similar type programs.
While watching the program, as a viewer, you gradually start to get to know the competitors, see their characters, in fact kitchen is one of the most suitable environments for character analysis. How do they use the material, are they messy or clean, can they handle the stress? All their qualities are reflected very well in the dishes contestants create. In addition to their hand skills, you can see their knowledge of culinary culture, creativity, time management skills, the respect they show to their chefs and teammates, and all the vulgar behavior they display. In the continuation of this, you inevitably start to choose favorites among them. When your favorites win and go to the next round or lose and get kicked out; you get corresponding feelings as if it was someone you really know and love. In addition to this, can you secretly or openly enjoy the humiliation of the less favorite contestants when they lose (!).
However, apart from all these, what makes the program very special and valuable for me is the sharing of prized information about cooking methods and food culture. There is a wide range of information sharing, from the easy method of removing the shells of boiled chickpeas to explaining Gaziantep’s most famous and troublesome holiday dish, yuvalama (which is an excellent dish that incorporates lamb chunks, tiny meatballs, chickpeas in a yoghurt-based broth). In fact, while watching the program, I realized that it is possible to think of this program as an educational tool or even as an institution, first for the people who compete in the program and then for the audience, rather than being a program that aims to only gather the public in front of the television and increase their ratings. Although the different characteristics of the chefs presenting the program and their approach to the competitors at times are not as I approve, but despite this, it is very treasured that they share their experience and knowledge during the competitions.
While declaring their reasons for participating in the program, most of the participants state that they see this program as an educational institution. They acknowledge the importance of all the skills they will develop and the education they will receive by being a part of this competition. It will require a lot of hard work, persistence and practice but no doubt it will be one of the most prized experiences they will ever receive and will help them advance in their future professional culinary careers. Besides it is free, and they will get a lot of screen exposure which makes them almost celebrities?