The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - SALLY COATES

You’ve prob­a­bly seen the ads for MasterChef flood­ing your TV screens. Se­ries three con­tes­tant Hay­den Quinn pops up and says, with the cur­rent cal­i­bre of cooks, he’s not sure if he’d stack up had he been on this sea­son.

So is that the case? Would ear­lier sea­son cooks strug­gle now? Judge Matt Pre­ston thinks so.

“I think on the face (of it), ab­so­lutely,” he says.

“We were jok­ing not long ago that in this sea­son we had the Anna Polyviou fire­cracker – it looks al­most like a car­toon road­run­ner stick of dy­na­mite – then we looked at sea­son one where we had sticky date pud­ding with but­ter­scotch sauce. That’s a dra­matic change.

“We’ve had really good cooks, but a lot of changes in the past few years.”

But it’s no co­in­ci­dence that the ante is con­tin­u­ally upped. Matt says the show it­self in­spired a whole gen­er­a­tion of cooks – some of whom are now on the show.

“From sea­son six we put a lot more ef­fort into the cast­ing,” he says.

“We ac­tu­ally chased peo­ple down at farm­ers’ mar­kets and cook­ing schools, we looked for peo­ple who were tal­ented and that’s paid off.

“This year a big thing is that, nine sea­sons in, two of the best con­tes­tants both started cook­ing after watch­ing MasterChef – they’re only 18 years old.

“So we’re really reap­ing what we sow.

“Kids are no longer daggy in the kitchen, they want to cook stuff they see in Masterclass.”

Matt says, if peo­ple’s in­ten­tions are pure, their lives can and will be changed by tak­ing part in MasterChef – and that doesn’t mean a host­ing gig on a lo­cal ra­dio show. “The real chal­lenge on TV these days is what it’s about,” he says.

“Is re­al­ity TV about chang­ing your life or is it about be­ing on telly to trans­late into a me­dia ca­reer?

“The great thing about MasterChef is so many con­tes­tants just want to cook.

“You see so many alumni post show – whether it’s run­ning a web­site or writ­ing a book or open­ing a cafe or man­ag­ing a restau­rant.

“You don’t have to win for the whole thing to be a win.”

But, of course, you want your favourite to win, and sit­ting at home watch­ing on tele­vi­sion we all de­velop our favourites.

So do the judges, Matt says, but they’ll never let that af­fect their de­ci­sions.

“As judges we have the most sim­ple of judg­ing cri­te­ria: best dish wins,” he says.

“No mat­ter how you feel about a cook you’ve got to be true to who you are. We like to re­fer to our­selves as Game of Thrones – you hon­estly do not know who’s go­ing to go.

“You think ev­ery­thing is all fine but then you’ve got a red wed­ding on your hands.

“The Hol­ly­wood for­mula is re­as­sur­ing as a cup of tea but you’re cer­tainly not on the edge of your seat.”

MasterChef sea­son nine, Sun­day 7pm, Mon­day to Thurs­day 7.30pm, Chan­nel 10

MasterChef judges Matt Pre­ston, Ge­orge Calombaris and Gary Me­hi­gan are savour­ing the re­al­ity TV show’s lat­est sea­son.

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