Finalists feeling the heat
Who will win tonight's MasterChef battle?LUCY CORRY
Who will win Masterchef 2012?
OPINION: After religiously watching every single episode of MasterChef season three, I was hoping that I would walk away from the series with a collection of new cooking skills.
Instead, I'm left with the strong conviction that MasterChef is as much about cooking as The Sopranos was about waste management.
In other words, cooking is incidental to the real action. The punters don't want to see how to fillet a fish or fricassee a chicken or even how to get dinner on the table in 30 minutes, they want to see some hapless amateur cook wilt like spinach under Ray McVinnie's withering glare.
Product placement, slick marketing and clever editing aside, the thing that really gets me about MasterChef is that it does little to encourage ordinary people at home to cook.
Based on the MasterChef experience, cooking is hard, stressful and will possibly reduce you to tears (or at least leave you with a strong desire to stab Simon Gault).
I know a TV programme showcasing the basics of cooking might not hit the ratings heights, but in a country where food technology teachers are an endangered species in schools, it might end up being just the show we need.
Perhaps that would be a better prize for the winner of tonight's show, in which remaining finalists Chelsea Winter and Ana Schwarz must endure a two-hour cookoff.
The pair have seen off 14 other pretenders to this year's crown through a series of challenges judged by chefs Simon Gault, Ray McVinnie and Josh Emmett.
They have cooked at Huka Lodge, at a naval cocktail party and in the middle of a Singapore rainstorm.
There have been tears of joy and of disappoinment; smiles of satisfaction and defeat.
But tonight, as the programme's voiceover is fond of reminding us, there can be only one winner.
Winter is the contest's ice queen. The Auckland marketing executive is a cool, composed blonde with an impressively swishy ponytail that flicks around as she dashes from one end of her workstation to the other.
Schwarz, on the other hand, looks perpetually close to meltdown. The Waiheke mother-of-three has performed well throughout the competition, but she has worked hard for it, looking like each challenge will be her last.
Tonight one of them will walk away with the MasterChef title and all it entails - a car, a cookbook deal and the promise of untold riches in the form of ingredients sponsored by a major supermarket chain and some fancy kitchenware.
In a year or two they may find themselves demonstrating at The Food Show or endorsing a particular brand. A year or so after that, they'll be wheeled out at school galas.
But will they really have done anything to share their proclaimed love of food with others?