October 12, 2011

Doing It Late

Had TS Eliot been one of the judges on Masterchef Australia would he have voted Kumar out? The 62 year old design teacher of Sri Lankan origin could have been the perfect embodiment of Eliot’s famous observation that, ‘It's never too late to be who you might have been.’

Out of the four who battled it out to make it to the final ten of the season Kumar started at a clear disadvantage. He could guess only four ingredients out of the 24 in a dish; so when the others had between 7 and 11 items to cook their dishes with, Kumar really had to think in order to come up with something substantial. He kept it simple and his presentation was really up there with the others. Michael Weldon who deduced 11 ingredients, the one who was chosen over Kumar, changed his dish at the last moment and even left out the main protein. He mused that he goofed up to the extent of choosing a great time to serve his worst dish and yet the judges decided to go with him to the top ten. A few years ago someone would have used the R word and cried foul but while watching the show one couldn’t believe that racial prejudice had anything to do with how things panned out. So, what was it that worked against Kumar.

Does age really have anything to do with success or the perception of success? The manner in which the judges went about deciding that between a 30 something white man and a 60 plus Australian of Sri Lankan origin, the likelihood of winning the chance to open your own restaurant (I’m guessing that’s the mega prize of the show) and making a success of it displayed that being older went against Kumar?

There are many examples of ‘late bloomers’ and to assume that success peaks in a young adult and wanes with increasing age can be a very simplistic way to look at things. Like others Kumar was blindfolded and had to guess the ingredients while his mind blanked out the others tried every trick in the book in order to detect the elements. One of them, Peter Vickery decided to jot down just about every kind of meat and condiment believing that some of them would be correct! Kumar’s presentation looked like a full meal with a ‘protein’, like the judges kept harping about, while Michael’s came across as a good looking appetizer at the best.

Kumar’s calm composure was visible right from the first episode; he was never rushed and always made the most of the situation. Is that something that a ‘master chef’ shouldn’t be like? Could it be that had Kumar gone the whole hog and by some wild stretch of imagination won the series, would his restaurant look ‘good’ enough? Or was he simply too old to be a master chef?

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