Poh! Jamie! Adriano! Paramount ANZ reveals its tasty plans for this year’s MasterChef

Poh! Jamie! Adriano! Paramount ANZ reveals its tasty plans for this year’s MasterChef

Here is your fan’s guide to this year’s MasterChef! More than 500 contestants have been whittled down to 22 for this season, which introduces food critic Sofia Levin as a new judge. There are plenty of culinary superstars making guest appearances including Clare Smyth and Jamie Oliver, but the real stars are the budding chefs.

Lead image: Masterchef judges Sofia Levin, Andy Allen, Poh Ling-Yeow and Jean-Christophe Novelli.

How do you keep a popular reality TV format tasty after 15 years? That is the question that MasterChef producers Endemol Shine Australia and Paramount ANZ had to grapple with when coming up with another season of the popular cooking show.

Season 16, which begins on Channel 10 and 10 Play on Monday 22 April, will feature 22 contestants and four judges with the addition of food critic and journalist Sofia Levin, Poh Ling-Yeow and Michelin-starred Jean-Christophe Novelli joining Andy Allen in a new look line-up.  

Michelin starred chef Clare Smyth and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver head the line up of guest chefs in this year’s season, supported by Aussie culinary royalty in Curtis Stone, Adriano Zumbo, Josh Niland and Darren Purchase.

There is another famous British chef that will make an appearance to run contestants through their paces that B&T could not reveal at the time this article was being published.

It’s not just celebrity chefs that make an appearance this season; MasterChef is showcasing influential online cooks, including Nagi, the founder of the excellent food recipe website Recipe Tin Eats.

A new addition this season is a “viral week”, where cooks on social media apps like TikTok “share their tricks” with contestants. 

Paramount ANZ’s head of non-scripted Sarah Thornton said that although Masterchef is “all about the food”, the show needs to constantly evolve to keep it fresh and relevant.

“Thanks to social media the world of food is changing and while the show is about classic food and home cooking at its core, it is evolving based on how we all think about and engage with food,” she said.

The MasterChef casting process is laborious and thorough. Endemol Shine, which produces the show, invites around 500 contestants across the country, who have to cook a meal before a selection is seen again for a second cook off. Those that pass muster after a second meal are then interviewed.

Endemol Shine Australia director of content Marty Benson said the four-week casting roadshow is “the biggest privilege of my year”. 

“There’s a team of about 10 of us who travel and I get to be a judge without being filmed,” he added.

It may sound like a dream job for most foodies, but it’s not always as appetising as you might expect.

“A lot of the dishes you taste are not nice. It sounds like an amazing job but you sometimes don’t want to eat at night time after tasting so many bad dishes,” Benson said. “I always say on the tour that the bad cooks make the good cooks look really good.”

It’s not just cooking technique and talent that matters. Contestants need to be able to perform under pressure and in the heat of the kitchen within challenging timeframes.

“Most people don’t cook against the clock…we need people that will be able to cope with the pressures of MasterChef,” Benson said.

For Levin, what impressed her most in her first season as a MasterChef judge was how comfortable she felt from the get go in the MasterChef kitchen.

“It’s such a well-oiled machine. So many people in the production team have been doing it for years and years, and even though it’s such a massive undertaking, I didn’t necessarily expect to feel as comfortable as I did straight away,” she told B&T.

“The best part of the job is getting to mentor and be part of the contestants’ individual development; not not just in terms of the dishes they produce and their technique, but also how people grow personally.”

Last year Brent Draper won the series at his second attempt. This year, there are six contestants each representing NSW and Victoria, five from Queensland, three from Western Australia, and a contestant from Tasmania and South Australia.

They include a pharmacologist, a primary school teacher, a butcher, a lettering artist, a carpenter and a coffee roaster among others who will don the Masterchef apron.

MasterChef begins on Channel 10 and 10 Play at 7.30pm on Monday, 22 April and will run until Thursday in the first week. Afterwards, it will run four nights a week from Sunday to Wednesday in primetime.

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