MasterChef started out as a singular show, but it’s now a worldwide phenomenon. With so many seasons of episodes to look back on, there’s so much to talk about. Fans of the show have been watching avidly for years, but there’s more to the series than meets the eye. Join us as we take a look at Behind The Scenes Secrets Of MasterChef. We’ll hear what the producers, judges, and contestants all have to say about one of the greatest culinary shows of all time.
Contestants Are Given Cooking Classes
While you have to have the culinary talent to get on the show, some contestants in the US were given classes during the competition. According to the Daily Mail, one runner-up revealed everything on their blog.
“[We were given] baking component classes including how to make pastry cream, sponge cake, cobbler, shortbread and pie crusts, etc. The entire show is not at all how it seems. Each home cook is given professional training before the challenges to ensure they can cook something decent when they start recording.” The claims caused quite the scandal, but let’s face it, Gordon Ramsay has been in the tabloids for far worse.
Judges Often Eat Cold Food
You would think that judges would be served the dishes when they’re piping hot, but according to Australian MasterChef judge George Calombaris, that’s not the case.
“It has always been cold and it always will be cold, but we taste everything hot off camera,” said Calombaris. “So at the end of the cook, viewers don’t see that… we will go around the room and the three of us will taste everything hot out of the pots. 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.”
When The Clock Stops, It’s Never The End
Even though the challenges only last a set amount of time, contestants don’t stop working once the clock runs down. To viewers at home, it looks like everyone is done for the day, but it’s never that simple in show business.
The judges taste-test and deliver their verdicts, but there may be more filming left to do. Contestants can expect to spend around 12 hours a day on set before heading back to the hotel to get some shuteye. Who said that becoming a superstar chef was easy? Gordon Ramsay has all those wrinkles for a reason…
Judges Starve Themselves On Filming Days
Calombaris also bared all about his eating habits during the filming schedule, telling the Daily Mail that he doesn’t eat if he’s shooting that day.
“I plan myself. So if I know I’m going to taste 20 dishes in a day, I’m not going to eat breakfast, lunch or dinner – it’s about understanding that. I’m there to do my job. My job is to give the first contestant the same opportunities as the last, regardless of how much I’ve eaten or what I’ve eaten. I’m very strategic and very disciplined in how I taste and the timings of when I taste it as well.”
The Audition Process Takes Forever
Auditioning for any TV gig is a long-winded process that takes an eternity, but MasterChef takes the biscuit. Season 5 contestant Elsie Mayfield told A.V Club about her experience.
“I didn’t hear official word for many, many months. The audition process is many months long. There’s communication throughout that whole process but it’s also months and months and months of different steps and waiting to hear from people and waiting to submit things and deadlines for me to submit things and deadlines to hear back from them, but, ultimately, I didn’t hear back until four months later about going to L.A.”
Auditioning Contestants Can’t Heat Up Their Food
Here’s an interesting bit of information that Elsie Mayfield divulged. When you arrive at the open call to audition, you have to bring a dish or two with you, but they don’t provide heating or cooling facilities. It’s up to the contestants to keep their food hot.
On contestant confessed: “I came in with two insulated lunch bags. One of them was an aluminum foil takeout container and I had a sock—a clean sock!—full of rice that I had heated up in the microwave, along with these glove warmer things so I had that and a heated bag of rice in the insulated lunch bag. For the slaw, I had that in a cold one with a couple of little ice packs.”
There’s Only One Dishwasher
Have you ever wondered how these guys are able to cook so many dishes without having to deal with any of the mess? Contestants are way too busy to handle the dishes as well as the cooking, so the responsibility falls to one man, and one alone.
That’s a lot of stuff for one individual, but according to one executive producer he loves it. "He’s the happiest guy on the team," says Margaret Bashfield. "Even when he gets pots that are horribly burnt on the bottom." Couldn’t they spring for a dishwasher, considering how popular the show is and give the guy a break?
MasterChef Junior Contestants Have Their Own Medic
Reality TV shows are stressful for anyone, regardless of age, but producers have to be extra careful when it comes to kids. Showrunner Robin Ashbrook told Huffington Post that they go to great lengths to make sure the kids are okay, mentally and physically.
“Every one of the rows has a medic right at the end of it that you rarely see. He has his or her eyes on one kid at all time. There’s no such thing as rubber knives and pretend boiling water on this show. If it’s real, it’s real. If we’re saying to America that these kids can cook these incredible dishes, there’s no reason to stand down and swap out water with trickery.”
Kids Cut Themselves Less Than Adults
Kids aren’t always as accident prone as they might lead you to believe. In fact, producer Sandee Birdsong says children cut themselves less than the adults do.
Talking to Salon, she said, “These kids were so amazing that they… you know, they didn’t cut themselves. They cut themselves far less than the adults did. Just watching them take on this task was amazing, and they took it on better than most adults do. How are they going to carry these mixers? Oh, they’re going to carry them together. Go get a friend, you can do this. It was unbelievable.”
Contestants Are Firmly Banned From Talking About Their Treatment On The Show
The contestants are kept on a tight leash by the production companies and have to sign NDA agreements as part of their contracts. They’re firmly banned from talking about anything sensitive to do with their treatment on the show, which seems a little shady.
One insider supposedly said “They don’t want contestants talking about the show because people are under the impression that it’s totally spontaneous, but this is absolutely untrue. They are cooking up a lie.” It’s not uncommon for reality TV shows to have strict rules when it comes to post-show interviews, so maybe it’s all part and parcel of the entertainment business.
A Lot Goes On Before The Cooking Starts
Contestants are there for one primary reason: to show judges how great they are in the kitchen. While they might want to dive straight into it, it’s not always that simple. Before they even pick up a whisk, there’s a safety briefing and the task is gone over in great detail.
It’s a much longer process than what we see on TV, full of waiting around and double checking everyone knows what they’re doing. Showrunners also want to give contestants the best chance possible, so give them a little extra time to absorb what’s expected of them. Of course, you can’t fit that all into the TV show.
Contestants Are Sometimes Required To Slaughter Animals
The show is about cooking in all its forms, but some viewers think it goes a little too far on occasion. In 2010, a practicing Hindu went against her faith when she was required to kill a crab, but it goes way beyond that.
In fact, the issue spreads across nearly all MasterChef platforms. In 2014, a contestant on the Vietnam version beat a turtle with a spoon before chopping its head off. MasterChef Ukraine and the UK have also come under fire for showing the slaying of live animals. Vegan protesters boycotted MasterChef Australia in 2017, holding signs that read, “I am not an ingredient. I am someone.”
The Criteria For MasterChef Junior Is Pretty Basic
Executive producer Sandee Birdsong looks for key things when casting for MasterChef Junior, and they’re surprisingly simple.
"What I’m looking for is someone who just has a good basic knowledge of how to go about preparing a dish — a truly composed dish," she said. "When we talk to the kids, we figure out if they have some basic skill set, which they usually do. Some a little bit better than others, obviously. But a basic skill set: how to measure, how to cut, can you fry an egg? The simple, basic stuff. But then as you get to talking to them, you want to know their food knowledge. Do you know what basil looks like?"
Major Injuries Aren’t Uncommon
As we’ve already touched upon, the kids have one medic each watching over them at all times. Medics are also present in the adult shows too, thankfully. Back in 2016, one contestant badly burned her hand after touching hot caramel fresh out the oven.
Australian contestant Andrew Prior ended up getting stress fractures in both knees after contestants were told to run out onto the field of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Injuries don’t always happen in the kitchen, or even directly on the show. Addison Olsa Smith was training with a cooking coach before appearing on the show, and almost cut her finger clean off after an incident with the blender.
MasterChef Australia Contestants Get Weekly Allowance
As if living in a mansion and pursuing your dreams while becoming a TV star isn’t enough, contestants on MasterChef Australia are given money each week. Apparently, this is to cover everyday expenses that they might incur outside of the house.
Their food is provided, so we can only assume this is to cover that morning Chai Latte from Starbucks or a drink or two after filming has ended for the day. It’s not clear how much each lucky individual gets, but it’s better than a slap in the face, right? How do we sign up for this? Because it sounds like a dream.
There’s Extra Time Allocated To Making Dishes Look Pretty
MasterChef judge Christina Tosi spilled the beans on the time restraints during an interview with Lucky Peach. The skilled chef admitted that things are not always as they seem. Viewers at home see the time run down and contestants immediately serve their dishes.
In reality, they’re given a few extra minutes to make sure everything looks exactly like they want it to before they present it to the judges. It might look like a hard 60-minutes, but it’s not. A lot goes into making TV gold that we don’t see, including extra time slotted in here and there to make everything look A+.
There Have Been Allegations Of Sexual Harassment
Former contestant Marie Porter made some big allegations back in 2013 with the following statement:
“Two of my MasterChef friends have had suicidal thoughts since coming back, as a result of the treatment out there. One friend was sexually harassed by the judges to the point that she had her lawyers get her edited out of the show completely. (As part of it, one of the judges told her that the only way he’d have an appreciation for her is if he was looking at her naked body!) Two of my friends were physically assaulted – one by production, one by a judge.” The show denied everything, saying the allegations were “completely without merit.”
The Crew Finish The Food
On a show like this, there’s tons of food leftover. The judges only take a few bites of each dish, so there’s still plenty left. It’s okay though – the crew takes care of it.
MasterChef UK host Greg Wallace told The Sun, “What a lot of people want to know is what happens to all the food. The raw food gets divided up by the youngsters in the crew — talented young people who’ve just begun their careers and aren’t necessarily earning very much. The cooked food is devoured by the filming crew. A lot of them carry their own cutlery!”
Contestants Usually Don’t Get Their Old Jobs Back
In order to be on the show, MasterChef contestants have to drop everything in their lives and go to LA to film. That means leaving behind whatever profession they held before. In five seasons of filming MasterChef, 70 percent of the show’s finalists switch careers to work in the food industry, according to News.com.au.
No doubt that stat can be attributed to the recognition finalists receive while competing on the show, and the amount of business deals that are thrown their way after.
Producer Sandee Birdsong Was A Contestant On Top Chef
You know what they say, those that can’t do, teach. In this case, it’s those that can’t do, produce. Sandee Birdsong was a contestant on the third season of Top Chef, but she, unfortunately, didn’t get very far. After her skills were judged sub-par, she was the second contestant to be voted off.
The experience wasn’t a waste of time though, as she spent the rest of the season behind the scenes. From there, she learned that what she really wanted to do was produce cooking shows and not be in the glare of the limelight herself. She’s now a producer on MasterChef.