MasterChef Australia judge George Calombaris regards the sixth series of the reality cooking show as an old favourite that doesn’t need tricking up.
Despite only managing an average of 800,000 viewers last year even in finals week, there won’t be any changes to the format of MasterChef, which returns on Monday to Network Ten.
Sydney chef Kylie Kwong will be on board as a guest mentor but the invention tests, mystery boxes, pressure tests and team challenges remain the same.
“MasterChef is like a beautiful, old pair of jeans that you want to put on and feel comfortable about,” Calombaris says.
“Let’s not mess around with it, it’s a beautiful show.
“It’s about polishing, it’s not about changing.”
Instead of advertising for contestants through only traditional means, the team behind MasterChef actively scouted for talented home cooks.
“We have actually gone out to farmers markets, literally guerilla-style, (and) found amazing cooks that will seriously blow your mind,” Calombaris promises.
“We’ve enrolled them into MasterChef for their cooking abilities, not for their drama abilities.”
Team challenges range from catering at an event with 40,000 people to an uber-exclusive fine dining establishment.
Calombaris is pleased there will only be one MasterChef series in 2014 after the network dumped professional, all-stars, kids and celebrity versions.
“It’s just time to just focus, rein it all in and create one beautiful MasterChef series every year,” he says.
Contestants include a model, bobcat driver and a dentist.
Calombaris says he is inspired by the dishes contestants create but won’t be offering any at his own restaurants.
“It’s my name on the door and it has to be my food and my food is very George in many ways,” he says.
“It’s modern Greek and not many people do cook that way.”
Calombaris says he has been moved by how their passion for food has affected the contestants’ lives.
“I have had many moments where I’ve got to pinch the inside of my thumb to stop crying because you just go, `oh my gosh, I can’t believe how much food has done this to a person’.
“The gap is getting closer from amateur to professional.”
* The sixth season of MasterChef Australia begins on the Ten Network on Monday, May 5