It’s a new year and new MasterChef, as judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace tell TV Times magazine about what we can expect in the new series of the cookery show…
What’s the standard of contestants like this year?
John: “Well, they start off in pretty good shape, then we beat them down and build them up again!”
Gregg: “I panicked to start with. I thought they weren’t as good as previous years, but John told me to hang on in and sure enough, after working in a few smart restaurants, they came out pretty impressive.”
It’s the eighth series – hasn’t everything been done?
John: “You could think that but people are getting better and better as cooks and improving the way they create things. There’s always something new in food as people continue to push the boundaries.”
Gregg: “Food ebbs and flows too: things that once looked unfashionable suddenly become retro and find a new audience. Trust me, you’re not going to be disappointed.”
You had a new swish kitchen and audition process last year. What’s new this series?
Gregg: “Last year, we watched 132 people audition to find the best 20; this time it’s all about blind tastings. From thousands of applicants, 70 were invited to cook for us – without us watching – and we then tasted their 70 dishes over two days. John’s body took three days to recover!”
John: “It was eating blueberry soufflé, followed by fish, followed by venison, followed by noodles, followed by fish again… enough!”
Is the food cold by the time you judge it?
John: “Yeah, room temperature. But a great cook can make their food taste great whether it’s hot, cold or indifferent.”
Gregg: “Apart from ice cream or soufflé, heat doesn’t affect taste or texture.”
John: “That’s why I like cold pizza. For breakfast!”
Has anyone served up anything awful?
John: “No. If you’re one of the MasterChef finalists you’re not going to produce anything terrible.”
Gregg: “Saying that, just as some people are tone-deaf, some are palate-deaf. The cooks who just come on to show off clever techniques never win, as their food doesn’t taste as good.”
John: “Agreed. There has to be something emotional in you to make food flow.”
Is MasterChef responsible for our huge interest in cooking these days?
Gregg: “I’d say it’s inspired people to cook more recreationally and less day-to-day.”
John: “I actually think the popularity of dinner parties has stemmed from Come Dine With Me, which has bought fun back to the table.”
Bet your wives dread cooking for you when you get home…
Gregg: “Actually, my wife, Heidi, says I’m the easiest man to please. After a day of elaborate dishes I’m happy with a chilli, spag’ bol’ or sardines on toast. Along with a glass of red wine, the kids, dogs and listening to music by dead people.”
John: “You’re setting a lovely scene there, Gregg! No, we don’t want to eat haute cuisine all the time. I’d rather make pizza round the kitchen table with my kids.”
Gregg: “People on Twitter annoy me. Whenever I tweet that I’ve been to a Nando’s or Harvester they’re surprised by that. But why does the love of a roast quail exclude the love of a fish finger sandwich? It’s just snobbery!”
With four versions of MasterChef (amateur, professional, junior and celebrity) do you ever worry about overkill?
John: “No, because they’re stand-alone shows and very different in what they do.”
Gregg: “In fact, I’m sure we can squeeze another in. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Musical MasterChef On Ice!”
MasterChef returns on Tuesday January 17 at 9pm on BBC1