That Chef!!

chefIf you are on Facebook and a Masterchef fan you will be in no doubt that the current Masterchef series has a deaf competitor on it. You would have received, at last count, 5432 notifications letting you know that Bonny is deaf and will be on the show. You would have received any number of articles that have highlighted the fact that Bonny is on the show. These articles, up until the launch of the show yesterday, have been at pains to point out that although Bonny is deaf that they had not made any allowances for her. She was one of the guys and gals and had to compete just like anyone else. She is such a good lip-reader, apparently, that the shows producers even had to cover their mouths when talking secret Masterchef business that competitors were not supposed to be savvy to.

Cynicism aside it’s great that Bonny is on the show. It’s great because being deaf, and a chef in a busy restaurant kitchen is no mean feat. Anyone that is an avid watcher of celebrity chef type shows will know that a kitchen is all about communication. Everything seems to be done at a frantic pace with chefs and kitchen staff yelling out to each other at the top of their voices. It usually goes something like this;

“TWO BURGERS, FOUR BANGERS AND MASH, 17 SNAPPER, TWO SALADS, FIFTEEN GARLIC BREAD AND BE SHARP WITH IT …”

“YES CHEF!!!!”

“HOW LONG FOR THE SNAPPER”

“35 SECONDS CHEF…”

“YOU *&%$## MORON THE SNAPPERS UNDERCOOKED…”

“SORRY CHEF”

All of this happens in the midst of a cacophony of banging pots, screaming voices and the occasional smashing of plates and glasses. The chefs must be on their toes. If an order is missed or messed up there is hell to pay. It is a tough place for a deaf person to be so kudos to Bonny and several other deaf chefs that I know for working in such a cut-throat industry.

I took the liberty to Google workplace adjustments for the deaf chef. There is a not a lot of information on the topic but there was an interesting article about a deaf chef from Indonesia and how he had adapted to working in a busy five star hotel kitchen. It seems the chefs develop their own form of communication as can be seen from the following passage from the article, “When Malfatti needs to get Lioe’s attention, he’ll take one of the restaurant’s heat lamps and shine it toward Lioe. Then comes a series of hand gestures: an open hand across the abdomen stands for a slab of ribs, flapping his arms means chicken wings, and tickling the palm of his left hand with the fingers on his right hand replicates a crab, for crab cakes”[1] I am sure each deaf chef has their own unique system but clearly innovative forms of communication need to be and are developed.

But Bonny does not have the time to do this. She has been thrown into a competitive environment where it is every chef for themselves. She has had to adapt, and fast. I am sure as the show goes on there will be some rogue chefs, wanting to win the big prize for themselves, who will make things hard for Bonny. In the world of reality TV it is a dog eat dog.

And of course there are the TV critics. At best Masterchef is corny. It can be riveting entertainment but it is full of cliché and fabricated situations.  Anybody on the show is fair game for journalists and for any Joe/Jane Blow that wants to make cynical and nasty remarks. If it is not in the newspaper it will be done through social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Indeed it has started already and our deaf Bonny has not been spared.

Journalist, Ben Pobjie, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald[2], was scathing. Pobjie is well known for his cutting satire. He did not have many kind things to say about the new Masterchef.  Of Cassie, who last night won immunity, he said, “ … is only 19 and clearly too big for her britches” Next in the firing was Matty who Pobjie disparagingly introduces as having, “ …an early bid to be this season’s Designated Idiotic Hat Wearer.”  He introduces Rhett, “…whose eye was particularly caught by his own dish, a delectable-looking arrangement of colourful paper strips in a glass.

You get the gist? Pobjie has nothing kind to say about anyone. It is very clear that Pobjioe has no time whatsoever for fabricated reality shows such as Masterchef. Each to their own I guess. But Pobjie, it seems, went one step too far. He even had a go at deaf Bonny. Oh dear!

He described Bonny as being, “Disgustingly rude” Why? Because she confronted the esteemed Matt Preston and she, “insolently dares to speak to the great man without being spoken to, with the pathetically thin excuse that she is “deaf” and needs to hook him up with a special microphone…..”

Of course Pobjie is being entirely tongue in cheek with this article but with his remarks about deaf Bonny he has offended many in the Deaf sector. Aussie Deaf Kids put up a question about the article asking if Bonny was being rude or just asserting her needs. Several responses indicate that the reader took great offence to Pobjie’s remarks.

This is best demonstrated by the remarks of David Brady, President of Deafness Forum who said, The comment was grossly insulting and I was shocked to read of it this morning. The writer clearly do not understand that this is what hundreds of thousands of deaf/HI Australians face everyday” He was not the only one miffed either.  Kelly protested the fact that the writer of the article singled out Bonny’s deafness, It wasn’t a great article for anyone, but to pick out someone with a disability is wrong.”

I actually interpreted the writer’s intentions as more having a go at Matt Preston. Mr Preston can sometimes come across as haughty and flamboyant. His loud clothing and plummy voice make he seem aloof, which he is not. But by singling out the one incident where Bonny was disclosing her needs Pobjie hit a raw nerve.

Let’s be honest. The whole article was nasty. He did not have a kind word to say about anyone. He clearly is very cynical about reality shows. By writing about Bonny in the way he did perhaps he was showing us all that he felt Bonny was the equal of all of them. Perhaps by not shying away from including Bonny in his nasty diatribe he was demonstrating that he thought Bonny was made of stern stuff. In short he did not discriminate.

I have no doubt that Bonny can stand up for herself. The fact that she has survived as a chef in a top restaurant in Australia tells me she is not easily intimidated. The fact that she is taking part in Masterchef shows she wants to get out there and show the world what she is made of.

We, on the other hand, in being offended by Pobjie’s comments are being a tad hypocritical. We have spent the last month issuing 5432 notifications on Facebook to let people know there will be a deaf chef on Masterchef. When someone else points this out in a not to pleasant article aimed at putting down the entire show we take umbrage.  People in glass houses and all that.

Bonny has crossed that white line and decided to take part in this high profile show. Unfortunately she is going to be the focus of both the good comments and the bad. But don’t worry the girl is clearly tough and talented. Not because she is deaf, just because she is! GO BONNY!

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6 thoughts on “That Chef!!

  1. Good article but with all due respect beg to differ as to how it was written. We (deaf) who know what is best can take a Mickey but when it is written to the public – it has high potential to be misconstrued leaving us ‘labelled’ and to ‘defend’ oneself on false information. A test I’ve already done on a couple of hearing people today. Adam Hills knows how to do it right. A lesson the author (not you Gary)could well learn from. 😉

  2. Don’t disagree … It was ill thought out but maintain the author intended not to discriminate … All were fair game … And Bonny doesn’t need our defence she is tough enough already 😀 … I still think he was having a a pop at Preston not Bonny … (Remember Keating … Don’t touch the queen) … MY GOD SHE HAD THE NERVE TO TOUCH MATT WITHOUT PERMISSION …. 😀 … But in our rush to condemn and protect we missed the point.

  3. I can see the point. Can see how it was taking a mockery of the show and contestant. However Im sure you would have written it better because you are more ‘socially conscious’. But to use the line ‘..the thin excuse she is deaf..? Playing the ‘poor deaf me’ card crosses the line.

    Remember public may well be voting/determining the outcome of best chef in future? Bonny’s future and credibility.

    Remains if he would have mentioned anything critical about the chef who’s daughter just had brain surgery week prior and use the daughter as a ‘…thin excuse..’ Public outrage no doubt. 😉 yes he did make a small reference to Coop but not in the way Bonny was described. 😉

    And yes Bonny will rise above all this but we are often left to fix the misconceptions / stigma created by a certain incompetent journalist.

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