Former judges Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston in new season MasterChef with a Victorian contestant. Picture: Supplied/Ten
Former judges Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston in new season MasterChef with a Victorian contestant. Picture: Supplied/Ten

What MasterChef doesn’t show you

This year's MasterChef has proved a ratings success, as more than a million Aussies bunker down and tune into the long-running cooking show.

And in upcoming episodes of the Channel 10 series we will start to see the impacts the coronavirus had on production, with MasterChef only halfway through filming when strict social distancing measures were introduced last month.

In the coming weeks we will not see celebrity guest judges on the show, while challenges involving large crowds or locations outside the studio were also banned.

Viewers will notice contestants wearing gloves and washing their hands regularly, and the judges will taste individually portioned meals. Normally, the judges share plates.

With that information, we thought it would be fun to dredge up some other secrets from behind the scenes of the series.

 

Gordon Ramsay was the guest judge for this week, alongside new MasterChef judges Andy Allen, Melissa Leong and Jock Zonfrillo. Picture: Channel 10
Gordon Ramsay was the guest judge for this week, alongside new MasterChef judges Andy Allen, Melissa Leong and Jock Zonfrillo. Picture: Channel 10

 

JUDGES EAT COLD FOOD

By the time it takes to move cameras around for each segment, most of the meals are cold when the judges taste it for filming.

"Some things do get reheated if it's like a sauce," ex-judge George Calombaris admitted to Nova radio in 2015, "but when we say, 'Stop cooking' we do a quick wander of the room and taste stuff out of their pot."

Elaborating to the Daily Mail Australia, Calombaris said the judges have to fake it for when the cameras start recording.

"It has always been cold and it always will be cold, but we taste everything hot off camera," Calombaris said.

This dish is defs cold. Picture: Supplied/Ten
This dish is defs cold. Picture: Supplied/Ten

"So at the end of the cook, you (viewers) don't see that - no one sees that apart from the three of us and the executive producer.

"We will go around the room and the three of us will taste everything hot out of their (contestants) pot first."

 

HOW MUCH STARS ARE PAID

The contestants are given an allowance to cover expenses they may have each week. Some reports put it at around $500 though this is unconfirmed.

While they may not be making a whole lot of cash, they certainly live a good life during filming.

The MasterChef home where contestants all live full-time throughout the competition is generally a multimillion-dollar mansion.

This is the home that was rented out for the 2013 season, a multi-million property in the affluent Melbourne bayside suburb of Brighton. It was put up for sale in 2014.

This Brighton house was home to the 2013 contestants on MasterChef.
This Brighton house was home to the 2013 contestants on MasterChef.

But Network 10 changed it up this season, with the contestants split into groups of two and each given an apartment to live in.

Despite being located right on the beach, contestants aren't actually allowed to leave the house during the competition.

"The hardest thing about being on MasterChef isn't the cooking, it's the living with strangers and not knowing what's coming next," Ben Macdonald told news.com.au after he was eliminated in the 2014 season.

"You've got to be able to stay positive in a strange environment."

The 2017 runner-up Ben Ungermann backed the claims, telling news.com.au there were some "nasty arguments" in the house.

"When you're put into a house with 24 strangers not everyone is going to get along - that's just the way it is," he said.

"Sometimes cookbooks went missing, and there were some pretty nasty arguments.

"But as time went on, we became a family. When you see contestants on the show hugging each other, it's all real, there's no acting involved.

"Think about it: You're living together for seven months, and you have no contact with the outside world, so even if you fight, it's like fighting with your brother or sister because you care for them and understand what they're going through."

 

JUDGES ALREADY KNOW WINNERS

Given the judges have to taste the food before they start filming their reactions, Calombaris said they already have their winner in mind in the version viewers see.

"It looks sexy on TV, but it takes time to film. So when you see us tasting at the end - it's cold, but I've already made the decision, I already know what it tastes like," he told the Daily Mail.

Season four contestant Alice Zaslavsky backed this up, telling Domain's Weekly Review in 2018: "The best early indicator that you had a winning dish was when the whole production crew came down and licked your plate clean."

 

HOW THE CONTESTANTS AUDITION

Ungermann said the practical audition process was much like an episode of MasterChef.

"The first step was filling out an application form online. It was about 30 pages long, and it took me a whole day," he said.

Ungermann appeared in the grand final in 2017.
Ungermann appeared in the grand final in 2017.

"From there the producers filtered out tens of thousands of applicants, and those who made the cut were invited to an audition in their state. "In my case, it was a big room at a TAFE where mystery boxes had been set up on tables and we were told to cook something with whatever was underneath.

"My box had barramundi, oranges, potatoes, chocolate and tomatoes. I made pan-fried barramundi with a really nice seafood broth and was lucky enough to go through."

 

PRODUCERS 'STITCH YOU UP'

Ungermann also revealed none of the drama you see is staged. So when it appears the contestants are running out of time with their cook, they actually are.

"The producers kind of stitch you up by saying you have one hour exactly but they don't tell you where anything is, so you could spend 15 minutes looking for your equipment and have only 45 minutes to cook," he revealed.

"The drama you see on screen - none of it is fabricated - but they put you in these high-pressure situations because they want to see you crack.

"I saw some really good cooks who were off their game that day and got booted out just like that."

 

17-HOUR FILMING DAYS

Zaslavsky said shooting days were generally very long. In particular, one challenge took her four days to film.

"A shooting day can be up to 17 hours, sometimes at least four of those hours are spent driving up and down, from the house, to the studio, up the driveway, out of the driveway, and at least another seven spent waiting around," she said.

"Some interviews can take like three hours. Sometimes more. And then one of those hours is spent cooking."

 

COOKS GET ANNOYED AT BALCONY SPECTATORS

Do you ever watch MasterChef and get annoyed at the "safe" people sitting up there on the balcony putting their two cents in?

Turns out the chefs do too.

In another titbit from Zaslavsky, she said there were moments that often don't make it to air where the cooks would get angry at those on the balcony.

Zaslavksy said contestants on the balcony were told to ‘shut up’ on occasion.
Zaslavksy said contestants on the balcony were told to ‘shut up’ on occasion.

"A couple of times, and it usually doesn't make it to TV, the contestants specifically looked up (at the balcony) and said: "Can you guys just shut up?"

 

TOUGHEST JUDGE ISN'T WHO YOU THINK

While some might think Calombaris was the tough judge, it turns out he's actually a big softie.

"George is a passionate person, and even when he's very hard on you, it's because he wants you to do better," Ungermann said.

"Matt may look scary because the guy is a giant. He's six-foot something and built like a horse. But he's a phenomenal person and more understanding than the others because he's not a chef; he's a food critic.

"But Gary, on the other hand, is 100 per cent the toughest judge, and if he doesn't like the taste of something, he can be brutal. He'll tell you exactly what he thinks. And I clearly wasn't his favourite."

MasterChef airs weeknights at 7.30pm and Sundays at 7pm on Channel 10

Originally published as What MasterChef doesn't show you


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