• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

SPRING FUNDRAISER

Is it time for our Spring fundraiser already? If you enjoy what we offer, and have the means, please consider donating. The sooner we reach our modest goal, the faster we can get back to business as (un)usual. Please, stay safe and we’ll see you down the road.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Contractual Disputes: Replacing Monster Chefs on MasterChef

The show is pompous, condescending and shallow. It was designed to mock the lowly non-cook, the ignorant, and, from high culinary summitry, grace the winner after munching, gratis, what was promoted. The winner would then be nurtured, cared for in an entrepreneurial way.  Little master chefs would, in turn, become big ones, owning restaurants, starting a line of cookery books and wind up with face, cooking implements and all, on television.

The MasterChef idea, unsurprisingly born in a country where grub takes precedence over cuisine, was always an obscene way of stirring the lowly heart. The plebs want their fare and fun, so let us give it to them via a Pygmalion effect. Inspire “the ordinary Briton”, or “the ordinary Australian”; cultivate the ignorant, encourage the confused mangler in the kitchen, and let’s have a damn good laugh about it.

 

Now, the last gastro laugh is being had on the Australian version of the program and its cocksure hosts.  The fattened, smug trio of George Colombaris, Matt Preston and Gary Mehigan, are no more – at least in terms of being judges on the program. For a decade, these Monster Chefs have not so much graced the screens as saturated them with judgments.

The Monster Chef trio had become so confident they made the only cardinal error that matters: presuming their own immortality. Accordingly, they saw themselves as irreplaceable, able to continue reigning in broadcasting heaven for a twelfth season.  In doing so, the inner brat was enlivened.  They could negotiate hard – and harder – over their contract of renewal. They could push terms, and get rewarded. But it was not to be.

The question on every food boffin’s lips is: What did they want?  More pay, more entitlements, came the response, to the tune of a 40 percent increase. (All three receive over $1 million in salaries.)  In the words of Chief Executive Officer Paul Anderson, “Despite months of negotiation, [Network] 10 has not been able to reach a commercial agreement that was satisfactory to Matt, Gary and George.”

This fact left a certain stench in the air, given the payment problems of one of the judges, who works in an industry seemingly incapable of understanding the merits of a fair wage.  MAdE Establishment, which steers the Colombaris restaurants, was found by the Fair Work Ombudsman to have been derelict in its payment obligations to staff to the tune of $7.83 million.  The 515 current and former employees involved in the dispute duly received a backpay order and a mild “contrition payment” of $200,000.

In a bland, unconvincing statement, Colombaris insisted that the company was “committed to acting as a force for change in the industry and leading by example when it comes to building and promoting supportive, healthy and compliant hospitality workplaces.”

The response from fellow Monster Chef Preston on ABC Radio Melbourne was less humble than apologia spiced with bitchiness. “George genuinely loves the staff, that’s why he wants to pay them back.”  He was in agreement with the principle that staff had to be paid what was owed to them (astonishingly novel); besides, Australia’s national broadcaster, the ABC, was also in the soup regarding underpayments to casual staff.  To each his not so gallant own.

Even the network producing MasterChef Australia was happy to offer Colombaris their backing, despite a petition seeking his sacking from the program garnering over 20,000 votes.  According to an untroubled spokeswoman from Network 10, “George and MAdE Establishment have reached an agreement with the Fair Work Ombudsman in relation to this matter.” The chef had “the support of Network 10.”

The hospitality industry can be a truly unhospitable one, and Colombaris exemplifies this.  His group was also responsible or underpaying 162 employees in 2017, coughing up backpay totalling $2.6 million. Other hefty names in the chef business are also tainted by a seeming inability to understand, let alone measure the concept of fair pay.  Big egos make for bad payers.

Heston Blumenthal, another beast of the chef’s television circuit, has also established an imperium that underpays its workers even as it maximises profit through offshore tax havens. The means of doing so are delightful: the Caribbean island of Nevis features, less for the scenery than its zero tax rate.  The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists was particularly scathing of Nevis in their Paradise Papers trove.  Tipsy Cake Pty Ltd, the entity behind Blumenthal’s Australian restaurant, is registered and incorporated via an office suite and post office box on the island.

Blumenthal, as with many of his fellow chefs, likes doing things the small portioned, indiscernible way, and that includes proper payments to staff.  Dinner by Heston found itself in a spot of bother in 2018 when the Fair Work Ombudsman received information from two chefs alleging unremunerated overtime.  The figures were far from negligible.  One submitted estimates showing underpayments up to $25,000; the other, $35,000.

The Colombaris payment scandal, and the troubles with MasterChef, go to the same problem.  The celebrity chef believes himself divine, a gastro deity unaccountable and egomaniacal.  The food is less important than the figure; the show, more significant than the substance. Those studying the food industry have done a disservice in their encouragements of the Big Chef-turned-judge phenomenon, formulating such empty terms as “culinary cultural capital”, a body of skills and knowledge supposedly attributable to MasterChef.

Food should be eaten and savoured, not contrived and made the stuff of a blood sport.  The great food texts are themselves poetic guides of mystery urging us to consume in the freest of ways.  The celebrity chef as television judge performs a different function.  In the MasterChef model, the judge plays social worker and helpful instructor, supposedly encouraging creativity in a competitive setting.  But what the format has done is drag the monster out of the kitchen and restaurant business and place him in a position of judgment.  Be done with them to lunch in grotesque, small portioned luxury.

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

May 26, 2020
Melvin Goodman
Trump Administration and the Washington Post: Picking Fights Together
John Kendall Hawkins
The Gods of Small Things
Patrick Cockburn
Governments are Using COVID-19 Crisis to Crush Free Speech
George Wuerthner
Greatest Good is to Preserve Forest Carbon
Thomas Klikauer – Nadine Campbell
The Covid-19 Conspiracies of German Neo-Nazis
Henry Giroux
Criminogenic Politics as a Form of Psychosis in the Age of Trump
John G. Russell
TRUMP-20: The Other Pandemic
John Feffer
Trump’s “Uncreative Destruction” of the US/China Relationship
John Laforge
First US Citizen Convicted for Protests at Nuclear Weapons Base in Germany
Ralph Nader
Donald Trump, Resign Now for America’s Sake: This is No Time for a Dangerous, Law-breaking, Bungling, Ignorant Ship Captain
James Fortin – Jeff Mackler
Killer Capitalism’s COVID-19 Back-to-Work Imperative
Binoy Kampmark
Patterns of Compromise: The EasyJet Data Breach
Howard Lisnoff
If a Covid-19 Vaccine is Discovered, It Will be a Boon to Military Recruiters
David Mattson
Grizzly Bears are Dying and That’s a Fact
Thomas Knapp
The Banality of Evil, COVID-19 Edition
May 25, 2020
Marshall Auerback
If the Federal Government Won’t Fund the States’ Emergency Needs, There is Another Solution
Michael Uhl
A Memory Fragment of the Vietnam War
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
Make a Resilient, Localized Food System Part of the Next Stimulus
Barrie Gilbert
The Mismanagement of Wildlife in Utah Continues to be Irrational and a National Embarrassment.
Dean Baker
The Sure Way to End Concerns About China’s “Theft” of a Vaccine: Make it Open
Thom Hartmann
The Next Death Wave from Coronavirus Will Be the Poor, Rural and White
Phil Knight
Killer Impact
Paul Cantor
Memorial Day 2020 and the Coronavirus
Laura Flanders
A Memorial Day For Lies?
Gary Macfarlane – Mike Garrity
Grizzlies, Lynx, Bull Trout and Elk on the Chopping Block for Trump’s Idaho Clearcuts
Cesar Chelala
Challenges of the Evolving Coronavirus Pandemic
Luciana Tellez-Chavez
This Year’s Forest Fire Season Could Be Even Deadlier
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Beijing Acts on Hong Kong
George Wuerthner
Saving the Lionhead Wilderness
Elliot Sperber
Holy Beaver
Weekend Edition
May 22, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Hugh Iglarsh
Aiming Missiles at Viruses: a Plea for Sanity in a Time of Plague
Paul Street
How Obama Could Find Some Redemption
Marc Levy
On Meeting Bao Ninh: “These Good Men Meant as Much to Me as Yours Did to You”
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Shallò: 120 Days of COVID
Joan Roelofs
Greening the Old New Deal
Rob Urie
Why Russiagate Still Matters
Charles Pierson
Is the US-Saudi Alliance Headed Off a Cliff?
Robert Hunziker
10C Above Baseline
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
The Fed’s Chair and Vice Chair Got Rich at Carlyle Group, a Private Equity Fund With a String of Bankruptcies and Job Losses
Eve Ottenberg
Factory Farming on Hold
Andrew Levine
If Nancy Pelosi Is So Great, How Come Donald Trump Still Isn’t Dead in the Water?
Ishmael Reed
Alex Azar Knows About Diabetes
Joseph Natoli
Will Things Fall Apart Now or in November?
Richard D. Wolff
An Old Story Again: Capitalism vs. Health and Safety
Louis Proyect
What Stanford University and Fox News Have in Common
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail