MASTERCHEF JUDGES SAVOUR GETTING BACK TO BASICS ON HIT SHOW
Let’s face it, last year’s MasterChef Australia was a dud. It began with a whimper – the very first challenge was cracking eggs – and never recovered.
The show’s chief fault was that most of the contestants weren’t good cooks. Judges Matt Preston, George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan looked bored, no doubt because they realised most of the competitors didn’t cut the mustard.
MasterChef Australia 2014 is a different story. On-air promotions suggest this year’s contestants are going to roll out some stunning dishes. No wonder Preston has the fire back in his belly.
“This show has to be about good cooks and this top 24 are the best cooks we’ve seen,” Preston enthuses. “Maybe (last year) we (Preston, Calombaris, Mehigan) weren’t as engaged as in previous years.
“There were too many team challenges and not enough individual challenges. In team challenges you see personality and tragedy, but in individual challenges it’s real cooking.
“We’ve had to look at what can we do to make it better. We want to be dazzled (by cooks).
“The audience’s involvement is crucial. You want challenges that produce food that’s clever but not totally unachievable to home cooks.”
Ten has plenty riding on the sixth season. It needs a ratings hit and MasterChef, along with Offspring, could do the trick.
The network has dumped spin-offs this year in the hope viewers would be extra hungry for the main event. The producers also have gone back to basics. The mystery box and invention test return, then it is pressure test time. Team challenges will remain and contestants will vie for immunity before weekly elimination challenges.
The top 24 are a diverse bunch, ranging from 18 to 55, and include a bobcat driver, deckhand, winemaker, dentist and bartender. “The whole challenge this year was to go out and find the best cooks,” Preston says. “When a show’s in its sixth season, you can’t rely on written applications. The casting team went to cooking schools and farmer’s markets and found cooks who are mildly obsessive and cook a lot. I think we’ve got the two best pastry cooks we’ve ever seen in the competition.”
One is 22-year-old NSW law student Nick Doyle, who shed 50kg in eight months and put his studies on hold to appear on MasterChef Australia.
So the stage is set for a memorable series, but can it ever get back to its glory days? Almost four million Aussies watched the finale of series two.
My Kitchen Rules is our most popular cooking show, with more than three million viewers watching last week’s grand final.
“When good shows are on, people find them,” Preston says.