Q & A


Geelong Advertiser - TV Guide - - Q & A -

Af­ter the amaz­ing suc­cess of Ten’s cook­ing chal­lenge MasterChef Aus­tralia, the net­work is go­ing back for sec­onds with Celebrity MasterChef, which puts a di­verse line-up of 18 high-profi le Aus­tralian per­son­al­i­ties in the MCK ( that’s MasterChef Kitchen for the unini­ti­ated) for a se­ries of culi­nary com­pe­ti­tions.

As with the orig­i­nal se­ries, the eff orts of the con­tes­tants will be overseen by chefs Gary Me­hi­gan and Ge­orge Calom­baris and food critic Matt Pre­ston.

With his ob­vi­ous en­thu­si­asm for the con­tes­tants’ dishes ( and his col­lec­tion of eye-catch­ing cra­vats), Pre­ston quickly be­came an au­di­ence favourite, and he joined us to dis­cuss the celeb-cen­tric MasterChef spin-off . You’ve as­sem­bled a tidy line-up of celebri­ties for this show, Matt, but given the suc­cess of MasterChef Aus­tralia you, Gary Me­hi­gan and Ge­orge Calom­baris may be more well-known than any of them. It was a bit of a big joke be­fore we an­nounced who was tak­ing part: who can we get who’s big­ger than Gary and Ge­orge? They’re watched by mil­lions of peo­ple ev­ery week! They’re huge stars! But be­cause the three of us have known each other for such a long time, we don’t see any of that. We see the same chubby trio that’s al­ways been there. How have the celebs you’ve en­coun­tered so far taken to the chal­lenges? Be­ing a jour­nal­ist and hav­ing in­ter­viewed so many celebri­ties over the years, you come to see that they can be very guarded and me­dia-savvy. What’s been in­ter­est­ing about this process is putting them in a sit­u­a­tion they’re not comfortable with. They’re do­ing some­thing they love but they’re put out of their com­fort zone while they’re do­ing it, so you get to see the real per­son. They turn into con­tes­tants – there’s a sub­tle change that over­comes them about a quar­ter of the way through. And be­cause the MasterChef kitchen is so huge – un­like a lot of tele­vi­sion sets, it’s twice as big as it ap­pears! – they can feel quite ex­posed, es­pe­cially when there are only three cook­ing sta­tions. How did you source celebs with cook­ing skills? Some put their hands up, some we tracked down by talk­ing to chefs and other sources. The process is sim­ple: The fi rst ques­tion we asked was ‘ Are you avail­able?’ We missed out on a lot of peo­ple be­cause they weren’t. And the sec­ond ques­tion was ‘ Can you cook?’ If the an­swer was no, the con­ver­sa­tion ended there and then. Be­cause the whole point of MasterChef is that it’s built around peo­ple who can cook. If you can’t, you don’t move for­ward in the com­pe­ti­tion. It was im­por­tant for us to stay true to that. What’s been great is that we’ve seen some re­ally good cook­ing. The last thing you want is to give them a chal­lenge where they all crash and burn – it’d make ter­ri­ble tele­vi­sion. You want to see th­ese peo­ple take on chal­lenges and tri­umph. Given that th­ese are peo­ple used to be­ing in the pub­lic eye, are you see­ing a bit more show­man­ship, a bit more fl air? Yeah. Oh, yeah. ( Laughs) Some­one like ( au­thor, broad­caster and for­mer rugby player) Peter FitzSi­mons is very in­ter­est­ing – he’s a big man, an in­tel­li­gent man, some­one very used to be top dog or al­pha male. And when he walks in, he’s got three other al­pha males fac­ing him! They all han­dle it in diff er­ent ways: some get cocky, some get shy, some get ner­vous, some over­com­pen­sate. But the re­ally nice thing about do­ing this is that they’ve all ap­proached it with a good heart. In the sec­ond episode, Peter’s up against The Big­gest Loser’s Michelle Bridges, who was very, very com­pet­i­tive, and Hi-5’ s Kath­leen de Leon, who was very quiet but also fi ercely com­pet­i­tive and a re­ally good cook. So it’s a pretty heady stew when mixed to­gether. I men­tioned ear­lier about you be­com­ing a bit of a celebrity your­self – how have you taken to that? I did a show four years ago called My Restau­rant Rules and I quickly learnt not to read any pub­lic­ity – if it’s good, your ego be­comes gi­gan­tic and if it’s bad, you get de­pressed or an­gry. But MasterChef Aus­tralia was quite pos­i­tive and peo­ple in­ter­acted with it in a way that went be­yond view­ing. They’d fi nish watch­ing the show and then they’d go cook. We like the idea that we’re con­vinc­ing peo­ple that cook­ing is a cool thing to do, and when we meet th­ese peo­ple 99.9 per cent of them are charm­ing and gen­uinely nice to meet, so it’s been great. While we’re talk­ing about MasterChef Aus­tralia, it’s been re­ported that Sarah Wil­son’s role as host has been phased out for next sea­son. I un­der­stand the orig­i­nal MasterChef didn’t have a host. It didn’t have a host, that’s cor­rect. It didn’t have a critic ei­ther, so I’m feel­ing ner­vous! ( Laughs) Sarah is lovely and whip-smart and it be­came ob­vi­ous as the show pro­gressed that she wasn’t be­ing used to the best of her abil­i­ties. So in a sit­u­a­tion like that, you take the ex­pe­ri­ence and go on to do other bril­liant stuff . We ob­vi­ously miss not hav­ing her be­cause she’s a gem to have around but we know that Sarah’s also got a big an­nounce­ment com­ing up.

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