MasterChef gets spicy
The boys fire up with a whole new menu
As the original contestant cooking show MasterChef now has everything to prove with its latest series.
The culinary competition, which set records in the past with its viewing figures, arguably gave birth to the genre of reality TV chefs.
Now with rivals to its crown, including My Kitchen Rules, no one is more acutely aware of the challenge that lies ahead than the judges themselves.
However, despite the pressure being on to deliver with season five, George Calombaris says he and fellow hosts Gary Mehigan and Matt Preston still believe the old favourite will ultimately come out on top.
“The weight of pressure in terms of its success is of course something we think about,” Calombaris says.
“But I am quite proud of what we have achieved and we’ve made so far in terms of television.”
It’s very multicultural for sure, and that’s what
makes Oz beautiful
MasterChef captured a staggering 3.96 million viewers who tuned in to watch Adam Liaw whisk his way towards victory in 2010.
The previous year was also impressive, with 3.7 million tuning in to watch Julie Goodwin and Poh Ling Yeow fight it out in the finale.
With figures for last year not reaching such heights, Calombaris says the show has taken a new look at how to encourage viewers.
This season sees 22 “very interesting amateur cooks” taking part in the Channel Ten show.
“What is different in terms of format is we have really shaken it up,” Calombaris says.
“The show has integrity and that is what we are proud of. We are trying to losen it up a tad this time, and get rid of all of those post- cooking vox pops that they do.
“( We are) doing things in the moment. It doesn’t matter if it’s not shot really sexy, it’s all about the raw emotion – that’s what MasterChef is all about.”
Calombaris believes the show reflects the diversity of Australia.
“We have some very interesting and diverse characters, personalities and backgrounds.
“It’s very multi- cultural that’s for sure, and that’s what makes Oz beautiful.”
The twist in this series is there will be boys against girls – something the chef says has not been without controversy.
“When you watch it you will get a true understanding – it’s a bit fun – a few people have made remarks about it being sexist. My opinion is: give me a break,” Calombaris says. “I remember at primary school we used to play boys versus girls. It was fun, and that’s the whole point, it’s just a bit of fun.
“There are bigger issues in life than worrying about that. It’s always been pretty much half girls and boys in most of the series in the past. This year we are highlighting it. In the past we haven’t.”
For Calombaris the more important side to this season is the show taking on hot potato topics We have Italian week, kids’ week, fast food week, and in between we question things,” he says.
“We ask ourselves questions such as what do we think about palm oil? What do we think about fast food? In the beginning it got people talking and it’s going to do that again.
“Palm oil is a big one. I am an ambassador for the zoo (Zoo’s Victoria), the problems palm oil causes in Borneo, and for the orangutans, are terrible.
“We will be reading the back of labels and fast food – what’s good and what’s bad. We are pushing people to realise what are they eating and putting in their supermarket trollies.”
The Friday night shows of this series – MasterClass – also have a new look and are filmed before a live audience.
“Matt is in there as well shaking the pans,” says Calombaris.
The chef, who now has seven restaurants to his name ( he recently opened his latest, Gazi, in Melbourne) says despite spending years together presenting, all the judges still get on.
“There’s no rivalry,” he says. “We know Matt Preston is the ultimate wordsmith, so I’m not going to compete. I have my ‘Georgisms’ and I won’t change. Gary is the ultimate when it comes to making sure what’s going on. If I am explaining what the challenge is all about, and including the scores, I’m a disaster.
“I worked with Gary for seven years and I’ve known Matt for 15. We are all mates and our families know each other.”
He admits that every now and again there may be a few cross words.
“But when one of us is upset the other one knows what to do to make them happy again. We understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”
Ultimately, Calombaris believes MasterChef will succeed because it is quintessentially a reflection of Australia today and that is why people love it.
“We have different nationalities and religions and we accept all – that’s what makes us Australian MasterChef.
“That’s also why we are loved by not just Australians, but by more than 50 countries in the world.
“We’re dubbed in almost 50 languages. You have to hear Gary dubbed in Arabic. It’s hilarious!”
Sunday 7.30pm, Ten