Chefs turn up the heat
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.
favourites Gary Mehigan, Matt Preston and George Calombaris.