Chefs turn up the heat

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - TELEVISION -

CHAN­NEL 10’s TV cook­ing com­pe­ti­tion Masterchef Australia faces its big­gest chal­lenge when a new sea­son de­buts on Sun­day night.

The block­buster at­tracts about a mil­lion view­ers each week­night, more on Sun­days and four mil­lion for each grand final.

It doesn’t look like quite the same beast when com­pared with the three mil­lion plus view­ers who turn on for Chan­nel 9’s new TV tal­ent show, The Voice.

And more view­ers than ever watched Chan­nel 7’s TV cook­ing show My Kitchen Rules this year.

Masterchef’s in­ter­na­tional food critic and judge Matt Pre­ston doesn’t think about the num­bers.

‘‘It’s funny. I’ve known ( MKR’S) Pete (Evans) for years and ( Masterchef’s) Gary (Me­hi­gan), and ( MKR’S) Manu (Feildel) go way back. If they’re suc­cess­ful, it’s like, ‘yay, an­other win for food’.

‘‘I think we ( Masterchef hosts Pre­ston, Me­hi­gan and Ge­orge Calom­baris) re­alised long ago, prob­a­bly af­ter the shock that that first sea­son was so mas­sively pop­u­lar, that all we can do is fo­cus on what we do – that all we can do is do the best we can and hope peo­ple like it.

‘‘I’m proud of Masterchef. Yes it’s an evolv­ing mar­ket out there so I have no idea how we’ll rate.’’

The new sea­son of Masterchef opens for the first time in Melbourne, with its top 50 con­tes­tants – se­lected from thou­sands who au­di­tioned around Australia – thrust into the first of a se­ries of chal­lenges at var­i­ous lo­ca­tions, such as the Royal Ex­hi­bi­tion Build­ing, the South Melbourne Mar­ket, Red Hill on the Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula, the Lake House in Dayles­ford and Montsal­vat in Eltham be­fore the show re­turns to Syd­ney.

Guest chefs in the new se­ries in­clude Brit Jamie Oliver, who filmed his in­stal­ment dur­ing his re­cent visit to Australia.

‘‘It was quite a coup for us to get him,’’ Pre­ston says.

‘‘Jamie hasn’t ap­peared on Masterchef – not in the US, the UK or any­where else. That he’s on our show is just fan­tas­tic. It means he likes what we do.’’

Tweaks in­clude the re­turn of the mys­tery box in­ven­tion tests to Sun­day nights when fam­i­lies sit down to­gether to watch TV.

‘‘There was the game el­e­ment – the ‘what would you do with those in­gre­di­ents?’ that peo­ple miss,’’ he says.

Pre­ston says this year’s con­tes­tants are all well versed in foun­da­tion skills.

‘‘It’s one thing to be able to pro­duce a fid­dly dish, but can you bake bread, make but­ter? It’s go­ing to be more about the knife, the pan and the wooden spoon rather than the blast chiller and the im­mer­sion cir­cu­la­tor,’’ he says.

The show’s suc­cess, he says, lies in hard work by the team to keep it fresh.

‘‘The ques­tion is not how do you top your­self, but how to take things in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion?’’ he says.

‘‘Last year’s con­tes­tants cooked for the Dalai Lama; so the ques­tion be­comes how do we make things dif­fer­ent. Do you try to bring (for­mer Spice Girl) Posh and (her hus­band David) Becks (Beck­ham) to the ta­ble – or go the other way and try for (Bri­tish roy­als) Wil­liam and Kate or (Dan­ish roy­als) Mary and Fred­er­ick?

Pre­ston laughs when asked if he’s re­vealed a se­cret. None ap­pear on the show, he says, though ‘‘they’re cer­tainly among names that have been tossed about for con­sid­er­a­tion.’’

Next year then?

to Fri­days, Ten, Ten SC.

Sun­days

favourites Gary Me­hi­gan, Matt Pre­ston and Ge­orge Calom­baris.

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