Masterchef: In Two Parts.

Right.

So where were we?

Oh yeah, I was on time… Well, three hours early for the audition in question.

Pretty punctual.

Here. Have some evidence.

And so began… The waiting game.

Yeah, you know the one–

In the words of the late, great Dr. Seuss:

Headed I fear to the most useless place…THE WAITING PLACE…

…For people just waiting.

Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.

Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.

Everyone is just waiting…


Waiting is hard. Any which way you dice it. I find it really hard.

And yet… I seem to do an awful lot of it.

This waiting business.

Though I have, over the years, gotten much better an looking neither inconvenienced nor bored– by waiting. Which is a hell of a lot more than I could say about everyone else at the audition.

People were fucking nervous– One woman in particular kept plating up her dish, then packing it away, then plating it up again, staring over at mine and then packing it away again… Great for the ratings I thought… a bit of the ‘ol mental illness never goes astray– particularly when we’re talking free to air TV. Channel 10 no less. She was pretty funny.

I sat next to a man from Gunnedah. His hands were shaking so badly he asked if I’d be so kind as to help him sift some icing sugar on his desert.

“Sure!” I said. “You’re a bit of a desert man are you?”

“No actually. I never eat desert. I’m a farmer. I usually cook with my own meats but transporting an entire cow down from up north proved difficult.”

“Wow.” I was impressed. I was also trying really hard not to eye everyone elses plates off, which is a curious component of this sort of audition. No ones checking you out– they’re checking out your plate. I quite liked this.

A photographer came round and photographed us, asked us a few questions and reminded us each, individually, to be patient as it was going to be a long day.

And it was. It was some five hours after the plating up that we all got out of there. An eight hour audition in total. I actually thought this was a bit rich. Anyway…

We were divided in to two groups and my group went last. We were all seated in front of a panel of three. A producer, a food writer and a casting agent. As soon as they introduced themselves I knew I was going to have problems with the casting agent. He was very clean and very gay. These sorts of very clean and very gay men tend not to warm to me. They tend to prefer pretty little things– or blokes. Of which I’m neither, let’s just be honest. And if I’ve learned nothing else from my time trying to convince panels of my worth it is this: They either like you. Or they don’t.

Most people had prepared deserts, which I didn’t really understand. I guess it’s easier to plate up a desert but no one really seemed to have a story to attach to their desert.

“I like chocolate.”

“There wasn’t going to be an oven…”

“I dunno. It just came to me!”

Please.

There were actually a number of people auditioning that morning that I could not fucking stand. Just twits. Idiots. Bimbos. Giggling. Shifting their weight. Not really standing up straight. Looking at the floor as they spoke. One girl fidgeted with her bra the entire time and somehow managed a call-back. Go figure.

As each person was called up we were required to answer a number of questions posed by the panel– and in front of everyone else. This was kind of nerve-wrecking but clearly the easiest way to plough through the numbers and to emulate some sense of what it would actually be like to be on the show.

I sat next to a pretty interesting girl– deliberately, of course. She looked like the smartest person in the room and was sexy as all hell. Buxom, big eyed, polite, funny… She was cool. Her concept was pretty simple. She wanted to run a catering business for upper-class dinner parties in the western suburbs. She too was in it for the love. I liked this about her. She also mentioned that she kept needing to pee which I suggested could work to her advantage in the event she felt compelled to be remembered. She laughed and I think maybe she did do a little wee.

So one by one our names were called. We each took turns standing in front of the panel and the group, spruiking our wares, talking about food and tasting a lot of food–

This particularly clean gay guy kept glaring over at me throughout the course of the audition. I kept reminding myself that this was not entirely a bad thing. He’s either going to like you or he’s not Lex… Not a lot you can do about it, either way… I reminded myself. He’s either going to like you, or he’s not.

He then stood up to speak.

“Right so that’s it… We’ll take a few moments now and deliberate… does anyone have any questions?”

I raised my hand.

“Umm… Do I get to audition?”

“I’m sorry. What was your name?”

Right.

He doesn’t like me.

“Ar, Alexandra Coffey is my name.”

“Is it?”

“Well… yes… Yes it is.”

“And you’re meant to be in this group?”

Fucking hell…

“Well… Yes. I believe I am.”

“Ok. Well, come up and do your thing…”

I smiled.

Hmm.

This was going to be tricky.

Don’t think about it Alex. Do not think about it. Just do it. He’s 1/3 of the panel. He’s not the whole shabang. Get the other two to like you and you’re in with a chance. Go get ’em tiger.

I stood up and took my place by the table where my dish was positioned. I executed my best yogi stance. I was ready. I was ready for the bastard.

“So who are you, what you do and why are you here?” He said in a low drown, as if I was somehow inconveniencing him.

I smiled broadly.

Then answered his questions. I introduced myself. I said that I was a writer and that I was primarily interested in writing about food. Books ideally. That I wasn’t lost or aimless or roaming career-wise– I just needed a hand. A leg up. A break. I said that I’d love to someday run a B&B in Europe somewhere. That I’d cooked as long as I could remember. I relayed the specifics of my historic culinary disasters a a child– Peanut butter pie, to name a few. I made mention of the fact that as a child I was always allowed to do whatever I wanted in the kitchen as long as I cleaned up. That I never cooked with recipes though I researched wildly and loved knowing everything about everything. That I’d been raised to believe it was an offense to not discuss the meal someone had labored over– To care. To ask questions. I laughed and then said, “I really, really think I could do a good job of this…” When he cut me off.

“That’s enough. Show us your dish.”

Again, I tried not to focus on it– but he was definitely being ruder to me than he had been to anyone else. And I was trying, by this stage, to figure out why.

He was either trying to break me, soften me some, get me to cry. Or he was just hell bent on spoiling my day.

The food writer asked who’d I’d written for.

The producer asked me to describe a typical dinner party at my place.

And then everyone at my dish.

The producer then asked me about my time in Japan. How my experiences there had shaped my culinary pursuits. I detailed to her how all the kitchens in Tokyo are open-planned, so you have the advantage of a birds eye view. I’d written restaurant reviews mainly for my internship with Metropolis Magazine in Japan and was convinced by the end of my spiel that I’d really done the best job I knew how… I really was.

“Ok Alex. You can sit down now” my dear, dear clean gay friend announced.

Which I did.

I tried to feel positive about the experience as the girl next to me whispered, “He was a bit harsh, I thought…”

He, the harsh one, then stood up again and walked us through a little ‘house-keeping.”

He detailed the specifics of the contract we had signed and mentioned that the series would begin shooting in a fortnights time– from there on in a seven month commitment would be required and that naturally, none of us were to discuss the specifics of the audition to anyone at any stage until the season finale.

Yeah, right.

He then asked if any of us had any questions.

I had heard, through the grapevine, that channel 10 were notorious for pretending to have a much bigger budget then they really did. So again, I raised my hand.

He stared at me like I was some sort of plant. The great time waster. A real nuisance.

“Yes… Alex…” He grunted.

“Um, well… I’m just wondering how this all works. I mean, how does one pack up ones life in the space of 14 sleeps and not make any money for seven months? Ar we to be on a retainer or…”

Again, of course, he cut me off.

“The specifics of how this series will work fiscally will be covered at a later date.”

Which, in my opinion, was the stupidest thing he’d said all day. Why wait? Everyone in this room may well be wasting your time. There was no way I was in a position to give up my flat, not work for seven months, or commit to that time and then be oused say, within the first week– it was proposterous.

The girl next to me, again whispered, “It’s going to take me longer than a fortnight to figure out who’s going to raise my two toddlers for seven months. I mean… My partner works full time…”

I nodded.

I looked around the room.

I looked at the lawyer. The accountant. And figured they’d both be able to manage.

I looked at all the asian students, ripe for the picking, inarticulate, aimless and still living at home and found it somewhat ironic that they would be better positioned to pursue this undertaking than I.

I then looked at the gorgeous little cowboy from Tamworth who had always had a penchant for making pizza and decided, drunkenly one night to convert his ute in to a mobile pizza oven and do something productive with his weekends as a way of dealing with the loss of his mother.

I really wanted him to get in.

He was such a dude–

And the farmer.

And the girl next to me.

I thought I could sit and watch you lot on TV every night of the week for seven months. No problem.

But none of them got a call-back.

And neither did I.

“That surprises…” The girl next to me said. “I thought you were great.”

I smiled and said, “I think you peed your pants.”

She laughed.

The rejects among us packed up our dishes, collected our things and were summoned out by one of the crew.

I asked him how it was all going, the whole audition thing.

“Oh it’s a fucking nightmare,” he said.

I laughed. “And why’s that?”

“Oh you know, the usual, everyone wants something. Our catering, ironically is really shit for this shoot– Say, can I eat that?”

“My dish?”

“Yeah. Looks yummy.”

I smiled and handed him the tupperware container as he walked me outside the premises. We shared a cigarette and he asked me if I was ok.

“Yeah, yeah… All in a days work.”

“Can I say something?”

“I’m not giving you any of my cigarettes…” I joked.

And he laughed.

“No, I wanted to say something to you. That’s why I walked you out.”

It was then that I realised how beautiful this man was. I’d been too nervous to notice before. He really was quite beautiful. And funny. Ask me out. Go on. Ask me out. I thought. But he didn’t.

“I think you’re special,” he said, stubbing his cigarette out– and walking away.

I stood at the entrance to The Ryde TAFE for some time, staring out over nothing, processing what had just happened. And what had not just happened. I tried to feel good about it all. You know. The usual audition stuff. I checked my phone. My inbox was full. The first message I read was from my mate who’d taken me to dinner at Fratelli Fresh a couple of nights prior. It read:

“Are you out of the jungle yet? Champagne and cigarettes await your return. Call me.”

And then I burst in to tears.

Big tears.

I walked all the way home from Ryde to Darlinghurst that day, crying most of the way. I really hadn’t expected to feel so bad.

It had been my first audition since my treatment and I suppose, slowly, but surely, I was really coming to terms with how long it really does take to get back up on the horse.

I’d done it. Sure. Good for me. I’d had a crack. But now I was entirely incapable of processing any of it. I just wanted to crawl in to bed for a very long time and never watch TV ever again. I was utterly gutted.

Sure enough, my friend was waiting for me as I arrived home with champagne and as promised, loads of cigarettes–

“Aww mate…”

He took one look at me and wrapped me up in his arms and said, “Really? That bad!? Aww come now…” He hugged me for a time as I tried really hard to cry anymore.

He walked me in to my apartment building, up the stairs and sat me down– he poured me a big, bubbly glass of plonk, lit me a cigarette and said,

“Right. Talk.”

He listened intently for the next few hours as I detailed to him the specifics of the day and what I thought I should do with my life now. He didn’t say much. He just listened. And listened. And listened.

And when I was done talking he said,

“Right. So where’s this fucking paella? Is there any left?”

“Yeah, it’s in the fridge. Shall I heat some up for us?”

He nodded.

He devoured two bowls of the stuff and kept saying, “Oh mate… this is shit… I don’t know why you bother…”

We drank well in to the evening as I slowly came to the conclusion that I really needed to do something with my life creatively that was not dependent on what other people thought of me. Something that was entirely mine. Something that I could do every day as offering of sorts– a contribution to the field. It was this evening, in fact, that this whole Year With Leonard Cohen concept began to take shape. Something that was mine. No one elses. Neither subject to change nor the opinion of some ubher clean narcissistic gay either– Something entirely mine.

I went to bed that night feeling like my time would come. Eventually.

And so as I sat through the entire season of the Australian series of Masterchef I will not deny that fact that I was both jealous and a little bored. It didn’t have to be me but I did keep thinking about the pizza oven ute guy. And the girl with the big eyes sitting next me. And the farmer. And that beautiful crew guy with the cigarette– Wishing I was watching them on TV rather than, well, you know… You saw it. It’s an exciting show. And an incredible platform to launch a career from.

Really.

It is.

None of the cats I auditioned with made the final cut which is probably more interesting to me than you– but we all took a chance, you know?

We bought the ticket, we took the ride…

And my time will come.

I know it.

x.

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Comments
2 Responses to “Masterchef: In Two Parts.”
  1. Hedley Galt says:

    you are an amazing writer my dear… your time has already come.. it’s right now! Enjoy and love you xx

  2. SI.BORG says:

    don’t you mean Masterchef 2 ways… hehehe!!

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