Whether you're an aspiring chef or a total amateur who barely knows what a whisk is, there's no denying that cooking competition shows are massively popular. Audiences around the world love seeing chefs face off against each other on shows like Chopped and Top Chef, but there's something about seeing home cooks making restaurant-quality dishes that has mass appeal. After all, who doesn't want to imagine that they too could don an apron and make a dish that impresses a chef? Masterchef has become a massively popular show that continues season after season because there's just something about it that people love.
We love seeing the interactions between the contestants, and the interactions between the judges. We love the crazy challenges where they're whipping up ice cream on the beach or feeding a crowd of 500. And, everyone loves a good Mystery Box challenge, where you can speculate on what you would make if given a box with that peculiar blend of ingredients. Sure, not many of the winners go on to become international superstars, but it's still fun to see who makes it to the finale and where their careers end up taking them.
However, as is the case with just about all reality television shows, what you see isn't always the truth. There's a lot that goes into making an entertaining show, after all. So, if you're a true fan of Masterchef, you probably want to get the inside scoop on these 20 behind the scenes secrets that you may not have even known about.
20 Dishes Are Usually Cold By The Time They Get to The Judges
You may have found yourself wondering at some point — how do the judges manage to taste so many dishes, and have them all stay hot?
Well, the quick answer is, they don't — many of the dishes are actually cold by the time they get to the judges to be taste tested on camera.
However, they do frequently sneak bites at various stages of the cooking process, and have an opportunity to try the dish hot off camera. It just looks better on television to have all the contestants bringing up plates to the judges one at a time to get their opinions.
19 The Entire Audition Process Can Take Months
On television, the audition process seems relatively straightforward. You go in to the audition, you cook a dish, and by the end of the day you know whether or not you made the show, right? Well, not exactly. A former contestant on America's version spilled the beans, saying that after that in-person audition that we all see, there are several steps that the producers take to decide who exactly will make the show — and the contestant actually waited for a staggering four months before she was told she'd make it! Different versions may be slightly different, but the point is, the process is likely more involved than you would assume.
18 For The Juniors, There Are Medics At The End Of Every Row
If you've ever watched a Juniors version of the show, chances are you've worried about how the contestants will handle dangerous elements in the kitchen. Sure, they're skilled cooks — but still, they're children handling knives and stovetops and flaming pans! However, rest assured that the producers take their safety very seriously. While there is usually a medic somewhere close by on reality shows, on the Juniors editions, each row of contestants has an individual medic to make sure that all the contestants are safe if anything happens. Phew! Although, admittedly, they seem to cut themselves a whole lot less than the adults!
17 It Can Take Hours For Challenges To Even Start
Challenges on the show always seem so exciting — there are big swells of music, the judges pop up, and the contestants are told exactly what they'll be doing. Then, they get started! Right? Well, not exactly. Judge Christina Tosi spilled some secrets in an interview with now defunct foodie mag Lucky Peach, saying that it can often take hours to get everyone situated in the space they're filming, introduce what the challenge is, make sure everyone knows the rules and understands them thoroughly, etc. On the one hand, it must be frustrating to wait so long, but it's good that they're making sure it's a fair fight!
16 They Often Get A Little Extra Time To Make Their Plates Gorgeous
If you've ever watched the show, you know that plating is an important part of any dish. Obviously it needs to taste amazing, but it also needs to look amazing. However, it turns out that the contestants have a little extra time after they're required to throw their hands up and step away from their work stations. Christina Tosi mentioned that in between when they have to stop working on their dishes and when the judges actually taste the dishes, there's a bit of time to make a few tweaks. They obviously can't cook anything else or add any additional components to their dish, but they can spruce things up a little.
15 They're Able To Take Cooking Classes To Learn New Techniques
Anyone who has ever seen a season from start to finish knows that the contestants often grow leaps and bounds in their culinary abilities.
Well, now you know why — it turns out that they get cooking lessons behind the scenes!
They get some instruction in different techniques, and that knowledge can definitely come in handy when it comes time to face some of the challenges that they must conquer. So, if you've ever wondered how someone can figure out how to make a souffle when they've never actually made one before, now you know — they've likely practiced a little bit in one of the classes.
14 The Lucky Crew Gets The Chance To Eat Any Leftovers
Particularly towards the beginning of the competition when there are a lot of contestants still in the running, there's a ton of food being made on set. And, though the judges taste some of the dishes, they obviously can't eat the entire plate of every contestant — they'd absolutely burst! So, what happens with all the extra food? Well, according to the host of the UK version, the lucky crew gets the chance to feast on the dishes prepared by the hopeful home cooks. Hey, free meals all day while you're working? Seems like a pretty sweet perk of the job.
13 Contestants Sometimes Get Totally Stuck On What To Make
Have you ever wondered how exactly the contestants manage to figure out the perfect dishes, time and time again? Well, according to judge Christina Tosi, it isn't always smooth sailing. She mentioned in an interview that plenty of contestants get absolutely stuck and unable to think of what to create — or, they get started on a dish and realize partway through that it just isn't going to work out. However, most of them are pretty resourceful and end up formulating a plan B (or springing into action when inspiration finally strikes), so the viewers don't always see those moments of indecision
12 They're Not Allowed To Reference Any Recipes In The Kitchen
You can fairly easily make adjustments to savoury dishes, adding in an extra pinch of this or that, keeping it in the pan for a little bit longer to ensure it's properly cooked through. However, baking is an entirely different ball game — it's all about precise measurements.
So, contestants surely have access to some kind of recipe archive where they can get the basics, right? Nope.
Apparently, they aren't allowed to use any kind of reference recipes in the kitchen, which means that if you plan on baking anything, you kind of have to memorize the basic recipe beforehand, as previous contestants have. Crazy!
11 The UK Version Has Been Going Since 1990
Many versions of Masterchef are getting up there in years, going into their fifth, sixth, or tenth seasons. However, there's one that has them all beat — the UK version.
It turns out, Masterchef first premiered on the BBC in 1990, nearly 30 years ago!
It ran for a little over a decade, then was revamped in 2005 and called Masterchef Goes Large. Then, in 2008, the title returned to plain old Masterchef and the show began to look like the one that most people know and love today. Still, it's insane to think that it's been on the air for nearly 30 years in the UK!
10 The Kids Handle Losing Way Better Than The Adults
One thing that many people likely worry about when it comes to the Juniors versions is how the kids will handle losing. After all, they're just kids, right? Surely they'll be upset? Well, while it's obviously no fun to get cut from the competition, an executive producer who has worked on both the adult and junior versions says that the kids actually handle losing a whole lot better than the adults do. Part of the reason is that many of the adults have had their dream to enter the culinary world for longer than most of the kids have, but still — who would have guessed?
9 A Large Percentage Don't Return To Their Previous Jobs — They Chase Their Culinary Dreams
Winning a reality television show is definitely great, but most winners don't quite get set up for life. Even if you're on a version of the show where you win a sizeable cash prize, you likely have to return to work at some point. So, do the contestants go back to their previous jobs? Not exactly. It turns out that 70% of the finalists end up switching to some kind of career in the culinary world after they're on the show. Obviously, many of the people who get cut in the earlier rounds end up going back to their normal jobs, but many seem to find that being in the finale is just enough of a foot in the door to get a start in the culinary world.
8 Contestants On The Australian Version Get A Weekly Stipend
If you want to make a little extra cash, it turns out that the Aussie version of the show is the best version to be on, because they actually get a stipend!
Contestants get an allowance of approximately $500 a week in order to cover expenses, which is pretty great.
After all, the contestants all have to leave their homes and lives for quite some time to compete, so it's a nice gesture that they're compensated for their time, even if they don't end up winning. We wonder if most of them end up spending their entire stipend on food, either eating out at fine restaurants or buying fine ingredients at the store — after all, that's all research!
7 Filming Days Can Be Absolutely Brutal
There are many reality shows where filming days are, well, just days — the cameras are there around the clock, so you don't really even register them. Masterchef is a little bit different. The contestants are sometimes filmed at the house they're in to get a little behind the scenes peek, but they're primarily filmed when they're competing in challenges. That can't take too long, right? Wrong. It turns out that, particularly in the semi-final and final rounds, filming days can often last for hours and hours. We're talking starting bright and early at 7 am and not wrapping until 11 pm. Talk about commitment!
6 The Application Process Itself Is Gruelling
If you ever thought that the in-person cooking audition was basically the only important part of the application process, you'd be wrong. According to Buzzfeed, the UK version actually requires contestants to fill out a super detailed application form where they have to list everything from their name to the moment they fell in love with food. No pressure! I mean, on the one hand, it's a good way to weed out anyone who isn't truly interested, because someone who isn't passionate won't put that much time and effort into applying. On the other hand, what an exhausting process! They must be tired before they even step foot in the kitchen.
5 Winners From The UK Don't Get Any Cash Prizes — Just A Title And A Trophy
The title and sweet deals like getting your own cookbook are definitely amazing, but one of the biggest perks of winning the show is the cash prize, right? After all, with cold hard cash, you can do everything from fund a culinary school degree to open your own food truck. However, you shouldn't bank on any kind of funding if you're on the UK version — it turns out that they don't actually get any kind of cash prize, just the title and the trophy. Now, they can obviously use their title to try to get book deals or speaking engagements that can all bring in money, but still — what a bummer!
4 Contestants Shouting Encouragement And Advice From The Balcony Really Can Get Annoying
Every fan of the show knows those scenes. A few contestants are cooking away in the kitchen, feeling the pressure as they stare elimination in the face, and the contestants who are safe are upstairs on the balcony, shouting advice and encouragement while the contestants cooking are trying to focus. It seems like it could get irritating, right? Well, while the show probably would never air a contestant actually getting grumpy and snapping at his or her fellow competitors, apparently sometimes the balcony peanut gallery gets a bit too much and they're told by one of the contestants on the floor to keep it down.
3 Sometimes, Comments From The Contestants Are Entirely Pieced Together — And False
Talk about a confession! A former contestant on the show, Ben Starr, spilled the beans in an interview with Radar Online, saying that "comments you see a contestant make are often pieced together from sound bytes and tangents recorded throughout the entire season...they even did it to me... strung together a sentence from three separate sound bytes scattered from my interviews at various points during filming. I never said what aired on TV. They created it out of thin air." Crazy!
Talk about the power of editing.
Obviously they can't actually make a contestant say any words he or she doesn't, but they really do have the power to combine them in whatever way brings the most drama.
2 There's Often Very Little Notice Once You Actually Make It — You Have To Pack Up And Head Off
Given that most of the contestants have to get vacation time from their regular jobs, or even potentially give two weeks notice to their employer, and handle everything at home with their families to make sure things run smoothly while they're gone, you'd think that contestants get a ton of notice when they make the show. It turns out, that's definitely not the case. A former contestant spills that she got about ten days of notice to pack her stuff, figure out what she'd do while she was away to care for her apartment and car and all that, and head to Los Angeles.
1 The Show Has Versions In Over 40 Countries Now
Most audiences only watch the version of the country they're in, but true Masterchef devotees don't let national borders get in their way. They watch all the versions, from America to Australia, from the UK to China. All in, there are versions of the show in a whopping 40 countries. Obviously, not all of them are easily accessible to international audiences, but if you do a little digging you can definitely get a few different versions. It's interesting to see both the similarities and subtle differences between the different versions. However, one thing is at the core of each country's version — amazing food and passionate contestants.