MasterChef gets spicy

The boys fire up with a whole new menu

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - TV Guide - - Front Page - – Zoe Nau­man

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!”

MasterChef

Sun­day 7.30pm, Ten

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