The producers of MasterChef are feeling the heat after a leading Maori academic slammed the decision to let contestants sit on a table which is also used to present food to the judges.
In the Masterclass episodes of the show, screened on Fridays, some contestants are regularly shown sitting on a table that is normally used to show off the food they have prepared during cooking challenges.
But Dr Ranginui Walker told the Sunday Star-Times that this was a “cultural no-no”.
“Putting your bum where food is, that’s not appropriate.
“It really is strange, putting the place where you excrete from onto the place where you serve food.”
Walker said this was a social taboo for Maori.
Despite significant Pakeha awareness of Maori protocol, ignorance persisted. “People who produce programmes for public consumption should know better.”
Professor of history at Auckland’s AUT, Paul Moon, said that from a traditional and a contemporary Maori point of view, tables were for food only.
“Every piece of furniture has a specific purpose and you don’t cross them, so if a table is for eating on, that’s it.
“You don’t put your feet on it or anything else.
“More specifically though, putting your bottom on a place where food is eaten or prepared has all sorts of other connotations and most Maori households would be clear you don’t sit on tables.”
Dr Moon said he assumed the state broadcaster would not be aware of the cultural implications.
“Most Europeans won’t be aware of it, you see Europeans sitting on tables all the time on television programmes, it’s just taken for granted but in Maori communities they will be very aware that something just isn’t right and it’s just something you wouldn’t want to see.”
A TVNZ spokeswoman said it was not an issue that had been brought to the broadcaster’s attention until now.
“The bench that the contestants sit on is kept separately for storing props and is not used for food preparation.
“But we will certainly bear the concerns in mind for any future series.
“Unfortunately the rest of the series has been filmed so we are unable to change remaining episodes at this stage.”
One of the show’s judges, Simon Gault, said he hoped that no one was upset or offended.
“But I also wonder if it’s even the same bench, they have so many benches in the studio that it could be any one of them that is being used.
“It’s not like they’re cooking on them.”