I’m usually not one to get annoyed about what goes down on reality TV shows because, let’s be real, they’re meant to be ridiculous. But the June 10 episode of MasterChef pissed. Me. Off.
And the thing is, I love MasterChef. Obsessed is a perfectly appropriate word to use when describing my affinity for the show, especially now that Christina Tosi is a judge. It’s so innocent and relatable (except when it’s the kids, that’s just not fair).
But I hated last week’s episode. All because of those goddamn baskets.
Don’t get me wrong, I am totally aware that this show can be super cheeky. So when they had the winner of the mystery box challenge, Jesse, choose which of his competitors had to make a savory or sweet dish with an unknown ingredient (corn), I wasn’t surprised. It was typical to make the challenge winner seem like an asshole.
What got me was how the show had Jesse choose who was going to cook a savory dish or a sweet dish. Ramsay and Graham Elliot, one of the other judges, brought out two sets of grocery store baskets: a normal basket and a basket that was wrapped in pink ribbon and a white bow, designating savory and pastry respectively.
Are you kidding me?
Besides being blatantly gender stereotypical, it was downright insulting. Not just to women, but to pastry chefs as well. And especially to Tosi.
By associating pink bows with pastry plates, Fox was supporting the notion that baking is feminine in nature. Tough, burly men like Derrick should beg to receive a savory basket, because god forbid they have to make something that’s not masculine.
But the thing is, men have dominated all aspects of professional kitchens until pretty recently. It wasn’t until women like Julia Child, Alice Waters and even Christina Tosi broke through that glass ceiling for women to be taken seriously in all areas of a kitchen.
However, this pink bow wasn’t just offensive to women because it ties us to these cultural and societal standards that have been bound to us for centuries. It also offends the many men that have made careers as pastry chefs.
Let’s name drop a few: Dominique Ansel, Ron Ben-Israel, Duff Goldman and Pierre Hermé.
And as a pastry cook myself, this ribbon makes me mad. Working in a pastry kitchen isn’t some walk in the park – we don’t frolic in flour, we don’t bake cupcakes all day long with our faces caked in makeup, and we definitely don’t wear cutesy little aprons with flowers on them.
We lift 50 lbs bags of sugar, we brand ourselves in burns and scars, we wear ugly Crocs that mold to our feet after standing for 12 hours, five or six days a week.
We fall in line amongst the hierarchy that is ever present in a kitchen. Sometimes we have piercings and tattoos, and after a long week’s work we like to throw back beers in the kitchen–sweaty, tired and euphoric–because we earned it.
And of all people to associate girlish tendencies, Christina Tosi is not your girl. Having worked at Milk Bar, I know she’s a wonderful human being. She’s nice, personable, and welcomes you into her empire with open arms.
But she’s not some little girl with ribbons in her hair. She considers herself (and her predominantly female cooks) hardbodies: a person who goes above and beyond for the greater good of the team–no complaining, no excuses, and always with passion.
And yeah, honestly I was surprised to watch her darker side on MasterChef. I admit I expected her to be the Paula Abdul of the show, brought on to soften Gordon Ramsay’s soul-crushing blows. But her pointed critiques and brutal honesty was remarkably refreshing: she was just being a chef.
Why associate a well-respected, revered profession to stereotypical, girlish behavior?
The ribbons just weren’t necessary. Their presence only undermined the progress women have made while simultaneously equating the finesse, creativity and intellect needed to create a beautiful pastry plate to something that men should be ashamed of.
Next time, Fox, maybe think twice before doing something so idiotic. #byefelicia