MasterChef celebrates its 20th anniversary! The cooking competition just keeps getting better | Chef

A.Recently at a friend’s house I was given the remote and told to “put something on”. It’s a big responsibility and the pressure from sweaty palms might explain how I ended up on a channel they didn’t know existed, with no idea what button combination I’d pressed to get there. More importantly, it’s how we all ended up watching multiple episodes of a series of MasterChef from at least five years ago. Note “several episodes”: we may have arrived there by chance, but we stayed there by choice.

MasterChef is about to begin its 20th season and the BBC is, rightly, in a celebratory mood. In 2005, the format was relaunched, revitalized and modernized. Loyd Grossman’s era, from 1990 to 2000, was more eventful and much more formal. In 2005, Gregg Wallace and John Torode arrived. During nearly two decades at the helm, they made the “butter biscuit base” possible and brought the joy of competitive cooking back to television. I say fun. I’m not sure how much fun the contestants are having when they serve up a sloppy meltdown meant to pay homage to their mother’s cherished recipe to three tight-lipped former champions, but if they’re not having fun, at least the viewers are. The tension is palpable. Give me a scrappy, raw talent who can’t make caramel but makes exceptional tasting food and I’m all for it.

At 20 years old, MasterChef has become that rare television institution that shows no signs of boiling over. On the contrary, it has only grown, like a perfect and mythical soufflé. The fallout is awesome. I love the Celebrity version because they feature famous people without necessarily being competent cooks, which lets you see real disasters. I don’t feel as bad about enjoying this as I do when poor old Tim from Kettering fails to produce his much vaunted “famous moussaka”. I like The Professionals for different reasons, because it’s more serious and more technical and the stakes are higher, although I feel bad when a pro mistakes his venison for his veal.

Inbetweeners star James Buckley on Celebrity MasterChef. Photography: Production/BBC/Shine TV

But the original MasterChef still leads the way. It lasts because it sticks to the formula. It’s as familiar as a reliable Victoria sponge recipe. Although they occasionally add new elements or ideas, they are usually adjustments rather than redesigns. There are two new ones promised for season 20: “Basic to Brilliant” will see the cooks transforming an everyday ingredient, while “Think on Their Feet” sounds like another test of invention with a slight sparkle. There’s something so comforting about its familiarity. Previous winners and contestants from the rebooted Wallace and Torode show, such as Thomasina Miers (who won series one), Mat Follas (series five) and Kenny Tutt (series 14) regularly return to judge, so there’s a strong sense of continuity, as well as a real indication of what winning the show can do for culinary ambitions.

That’s not to say MasterChef is in a rut. Watch any old series and you’ll get an idea of ​​what was popular at that time. There were the days of scallops and pea puree, served for virtually every entrée, offering the very particular risk of knowing whether a scallop was undercooked or overcooked. The era of triple-cooked crisps has all but disappeared, although dedicated pub grub peddlers still like to pull out some on occasion. There have been foams and emulsions, gels and beads. I really like the taco era, which I guess is in vogue now. And lately, street food-themed tours have become more and more frequent.

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What really makes it work, however, is the reality TV staple “The Journey.” Someone always rises from the back of the pack to an unlikely superstar, picking up the skills they learned at various fancy restaurants and chefs along the way. By the time you get to the finale, when three contestants have overcome what appears to be a series of arduous challenges, we finally see behind their white leader. Family and friends talk about what this means to them, and often, it means a lot. Not surprising. MasterChef is a titan of television and it always creates culinary stars. Sign me up for another 20 years of chocolate fudge drama.

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