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Masterchef Australia Is Back And It Has Gone Retro

Masterchef Australia has turned back the clock and has started the new season with the auditions to select the top 50.

This was much different from last year where it started with the top 50 already picked and a helicopter flying in a huge box onto an island in Sydney Harbour. So as they said they are going back to basics.

After only seeing one hour of the new series I am not going to make any grand pronouncements on whether Masterchef has got its mojo back,  this will be revealed in the coming weeks when we see the casting, the challenges, and what the judges are doing.

Here is what we know already about season four:

  • The show has changed production companies and is with Shine, however the personnel were the ones that started the show at Fremantle Media;
  • It is going to be all about the cooking,
  • The Top 50 was filmed in Melbourne;
  • The overseas guests are Jamie Oliver, Rick Stein, and Buddy from Cake Boss;
  • I had heard rumours that Anthony Bourdain also filmed a guest spot, but then he is probably more classified as writer and media personality these days rather than chef;
  • The immunity challenges have been tweaked with;
  • The cooking challenges are more achievable in particular giving the contestants realistic time frames to complete them; and
  • The top 12 are going to Italy.

All the people who had gotten through the first Australia wide auditions were now in Melbourne to cook for the judges. They had an hour to prep and then five minutes to finish off in front of the judges.

Personally I think the strategy here is to not cook something that hinges on cooking it exactly to perfection. We saw a lot of over cooked salmon, and undercooked chicken and pork.

Also three trends I noticed was the return of the sun-dried tomato, which even though the eighties are back this ingredient could have stayed there,  teachers applying for the show and food being served on wooden boards.

Bianca a teacher was the first person we saw cooking and she made Ricotta and Spinach Gnocchi. She knew how to get on the judges good side to by saying she used full fat ricotta and did not believe using low fat products, and also she drizzled olive oil over the finished dish. She received the Masterchef apron.

Fresh faced eighteen year old Rick was flown down from Brisbane saying even though he was at Uni he wanted a career in food.

George asked the obvious question “Rick you are 18 years old, why don’t you do an apprenticeship?” I was hoping that Rick would come out with a speech about the award conditions of apprentice chefs but he didn’t he shuffled his feet and looked caught out.

His pork was raw  and the judges could not eat it. Matt Preston told him if you want to go and cook go and sign up for a course.

Amina who had the unusual heritage of Egyptian and South Korean parents showed even though she doesn’t eat pork she could go far in the competition. She knows how to use a knife and her dish of Kofta With Spicy Sauce, Vermicelli Rice and Fatoush looked fantastic. Matt Preston tried to create some drama around the fact that she would not be able to eat pork, however Gary did not think it was an issue. There have been vegetarians put through to the top 50 previously so she has a wider palate then them. She was through.

Kath who runs an art gallery in Western Sydney made Singapore Black Pepper Crab. It looked delicious, however I could not work out whether I liked her or she irritated me, but she deserved to get through.

The producers have decided to make the female viewer happy by pushing Ben a good looking teacher from Tassie through even though his seafood curry did not look fabulous and the prawns were barely cooked. Let’s hope he can find his cooking legs and he stays on the show for awhile.

Tegan a youth work who plays roller derby made Ricotta and Parsley ravioli was also in.

Yukio who made some sort of salad was over wrought with emotion when he was given his apron.

The policeman from Cairns who interrupted his honeymoon to be there undercooked his chicken and even with George’s help could not make it to top 50 with his stuffed chicken breast. However they did tell him to come back next year.

Mario a 40 year old automotive detailer from Melbourne had better luck with his stuffed chicken breast with sun-dried tomato. His personality and enthusiasm appeared to get him over the line. But Matt Preston did look like he was over hearing people say they wanted to open their own restaurant, and probably was even more underwhelmed when he heard he wanted to call it ‘Rendezvous’. He was given an apron but was told he would have to lift his cooking.

Is the show going to be all about the cooking? I doubt it but let’s not forget the drama was what made it such a success in the first place. The issue for the producers is to find a nice balance between the two.


1 starleopard71 { 05.07.12 at 7:09 am }

Being a part time cake show watcher, I think Buddy is the Cake Boss not Ace of Cakes (Chef Duff)? Was hoping it will be Duff but hey a spectacular cake is a spectacular cake 😀

2 sue N { 05.07.12 at 7:15 am }

I was gobsmacked when Bianca, the 1st one to be given an apron, got through. I watched it twice and she definitely had a tomato based sauce that went over the “full fat” gnocchi, which she “made” from a jar!! Could our expert judges not tell she hadn’t made it????

& based on what they were letting go through, I did think Mr Honeymoon Cop should have received an apron… :(

& I did like Amina :)

Overall, I think it was a better start than last year, but I am already annoyed with Matt’s bloody expressions- can somebody please tell the man:
a) he can’t act
b) this is not an audition for a soap opera with the requisite over-acted scenes!

3 Kaz { 05.07.12 at 7:23 am }

The main thing that annoy me last night was the “Tasters” within the add’s they were just plain silly!

4 sue N { 05.07.12 at 7:41 am }

yes Kaz, they were confusing and annoying for us “record and ff through ads” freaks- plus they made the ad breaks waaaaay longer!

5 Rocky { 05.07.12 at 7:49 am }

It was scary because it started out just like the U.S version, which is all about theater and not cooking. Please stay like the Aussie version. This is coming from an American. Ours is on Fix (what we call Fox)and is silly with Gordon Ramsey haming it up and the other 2 judges just as bad. We viewers in America get 1 show a week and are lucky if we get as good as a mac and cheese challenge. That’s how low the expectations are in the cooking. (though no fault of the people who try out) They are more interested in casting “characters” then really good home cooks. Just sloppily produced by Shine which is Murdoch’s daughters company.

6 librarygirl { 05.07.12 at 7:59 am }

I thought it was a good start, apart from the ads. Hand on heart, I will NEVER buy ANY of the products promoted in the ad breaks. Especially the one where the couple have sex during the cake-making – hope he washed his hands when he came back to cook!!! And I am sick of that old ad with the soppy Italian bloke, again and already.

7 Reality Raver { 05.07.12 at 8:18 am }

LibraryGirl – i must have had my head buried in the computer screen but what is that ad where they have sex? I liked that the show actually started on time.

I am making no judgements on the show for a few weeks, need to settle in with it.

8 librarygirl { 05.07.12 at 8:24 am }

I blocked out the product -as normal – but I think it was for a brand that makes some sort of Kitchen-Aid looking thing? mix-master?

9 roland { 05.07.12 at 8:27 am }

If you ask me, nothing can beat the format of Masterchef UK, which really IS all about the food. Can’t stand the three judges on the Australian version, and what the eff is with everything being served on wooden boards? Guess it’s meant to be trendy, but give me a plate anyday. Btw starleopard (above) – what exactly is a ‘part time cake show watcher’? Is that an occupation? .

10 JaniceG { 05.07.12 at 8:33 am }

I was very glad the first show was less gimmicky than last year. However, they clearly have not listened to the complaints about false drama as they’re still using the fireball break at key moments, and they spent a lot of time on the honeymooning contestant to fake us out that he probably made it.

Also, if they really, truly were concerned about putting through only people who they thought had the potential to go all the way, they made some really bizarre choices. First bad choice: putting through the sooky Asian guy who admitted himself that he doesn’t have a very good cooking background *and* who demonstrably is extremely unlikely to be able to handle pressure. Next bad choice: Ben the Tassie teacher – he said that in order to be on the show he would have to quit his job, but they put him through anyway despite a really lacklustre dish. Seemed really cruel to me as he is unlikely to make it through based on his audition and he’ll be out of a job on top of that.

OTOH, glad they put through the Egyptian woman, and I think the Rendezvous guy might be better than he seems. And I was really, *really* glad they knocked back the 18-year-old and told him if he were serious he should get an apprenticeship.

Crossing fingers for a better season this time…

(PS Roland: I’m with you on MC UK being the superior show because it’s all about the food)

11 Maz { 05.07.12 at 8:56 am }

Didn’t get the impression it was ALL about the food as the amount of sob stories and montage of family shots irritated me.

Since it is all about the personality, I am waiting for the misanthrope who doesn’t cook from the heart and is just there to flog their cookbook ‘One’. Recipes for people who live alone- the most marginalise group when it comes to handouts for ‘working familes’.

Agree hysterical Asian Guy should not have got through. Thought the teacher got through not so much for the cooking but because he is from Tasmania. Still waiting for a contestant from the the Northern Territory.

Thinks this sums it up:

Will Matt the Strategist be back this year?

12 Amy { 05.07.12 at 9:02 am }

Well one thing is for sure – I still love Gary! :)

I enjoyed the ep, I missed not seeing before the top 50 last year.

13 Maryann { 05.07.12 at 9:42 am }

I found this episode a bit boring with far too many ads. I just want them to get on with the cooking. I am not keen on the 7pm to 8.10pm time slot on weekdays either.

14 Culinary Boner { 05.07.12 at 9:47 am }

So far, a much better start than last year imo…. well apart from the close ups of George, Gary and Matt chowing down. Made me regret the TV upgrade I got recently…talk about in yer face Discovery channel like footage…nom nom nom…mmm… fresh kill. Hope they never, ever put this show in 3D.

As I’m partial to a bit of Italian, I thought the dish Bianca stumped up looked great. Also I have absolutely no problem with the use of canned tomatoes or bottle passata for such dishes. A quality Italian-made pantry product like that goes much better a lot of the time than freshly-made sauces using the entirely tasteless & virtually indestructible excuses for tomatoes that Coles and Woolies normally stock.

The serving on wooden board thing is a major pretension that is outta hand in eateries in the same way that skyscraper like stacking of dishes was in the earlier 90s. It pisses me off when the tasty juices/dressing part of a dish gets soaked up to left behind as an oily smear on the board. And how the hell do they clean these ‘plates’ properly?

So glad this show is back on and I can get a break from pop caterwauling or try-hard celebs. Speaking of the latter, how bad did that crap Lara Bingle show look in the preview ad, especially the part where she described her nude photos as “voluptuous”.

15 Rosie { 05.07.12 at 10:24 am }

I agree it seems to be better than last year so far. But why do they bother with the drawn out crap?
For those of us with this month’s Masterchef magazine, several contestants (including the lovely and very interesting Amina) had their recipes and pictures right there. So despite the nonsensical “suspense” of making us wait and see to know if Ben the teacher would get through – his recipe would hardly make the magazine if he hadn’t made it through…

I was SO glad to hear George virtually tell that young kid to just get an apprenticeship already! Going on Masterchef does not a chef make!

16 brain dead dave { 05.07.12 at 10:41 am }

Let’s not forget the elephant in the room…..the pompous,over acting super moon like boffin in the lilac suit. I thought I’d seem it all ,then Jowl$y literally materialises during an ad in a red tartan suit.

Yes ,the number of ads was criminal but Ch Ten at least got their show off on time and even finished before time…..Eat Ch 10’s dust, The Voice.

Agree with RR ,it’s too early to call if Ma$terchef has lost it’s mojo but there were moments of disturbing lameness ie the guy bawling his eyes out as if he’d had a stay of execution when he got through. The policeman had the smell of desperation about him ,too. Looked like he needed a good tasering to calm him down.

Only one ep of The Voice this week? ‘Fraid of the big ,bad Ma$terchef?

17 Amy { 05.07.12 at 10:47 am }

Oh yeah when that cop didn’t get through I said “Now go back to your job as a cop, after you’ve cried over a cooking show on national television!” Toughest cop around, fo shiz!

18 Miss Piggy { 05.07.12 at 10:54 am }

I actually didn’t notice the advs – too busy reading everyone’s tweets on the show. I totally agree with Gary when he asked the 18 why he isn’t doing an apprentice…if a young person REALLY wants a food career they’ll do it the hard (& proper) way. To go on Masterchef just means you want your 15 minutes of fame and the “fun” life that comes after it’s all done & dusted.

Oh and that Lilac suit…Matt looked like a faded Ribena Berry who’d borrowed Ray Martin’s hair for the evening. Shocker!

19 Kugelhopf { 05.07.12 at 10:54 am }

I see that this Wednesday there is a Masterchef: where are they now? special hosted by Marion. Shouldn’t it be “who are they now”? Interesting to see who they DON’T feature.

20 brain dead dave { 05.07.12 at 11:01 am }

Yes ,Kugelhopf.

“Ma$terchef – Who Cares Where The **** They Are Now?”

Claire Winton Burn will have The Hearth up and running, no doubt.

21 Injera { 05.07.12 at 1:44 pm }

Like Miss Piggy, I was busy reading twitter during the ads, but the Lara Bingle promos seeped into my subconscious. I wasn’t even able to complete an “easy” Sudoku this morning. *sigh*

I was pleased to see the return of blame the appliances – “the stove wasn’t switched on!”

I’m also guessing that the advancement of the Rendezvous guy was a troll. Surely the prods would know that pedants on couches would be saying “but they said it was all about the food this year! Putting him through for commitment? WTFITC etc”. (At least, that’s what happened on this pedant’s couch…)

22 PollyB { 05.07.12 at 2:05 pm }

Well, I said I wouldn’t watch, but I did. Ffwd as usual. I’m mostly quoting other lovelies on here because you say it all for me! If I continue to comment this season I hope it is only to compliment a dish I’ve liked. We’ll see ☺

Jowl$y was on one of my local radio stations last week, lying as usual that it is all about the food, getting back to basics, using what is in the pantry at home, what can we make with the mince, etc etc etc. A preview last night showed at least 20 cooks (I reckon, I’ll be glad if someone can say I’m wrong) and, lo and bloody behold, in waltzes Shannon Bennett, then unveiling what looked like a white chocolate ball cage thingy with other yummy bits. Gaaaaawd this show will be the end of me. And of course a preview showed us contestants through that we haven’t seen yet. Where do they get these bozo producer/editor people?

Roland – I agree with you and jump on my soap box AGAIN, UK MC is THE best because it is about the food. Those contestants end up actually training/working with Michelin chefs sometimes. However, our beginning last night is how UK MC tweaked last season to be more like our overblown pantomime.

JaniceG – ‘I was very glad the first show was less gimmicky than last year. However, they clearly have not listened to the complaints about false drama as they’re still using the fireball break at key moments…’ and
Roseie – ‘But why do they bother with the drawn out crap?’
Yes, 21 minutes and the fireball for dramatic effect, geez Ms Murdoch’s team is treating us the way daddy treats mankind in it’s entirety – with complete & utter contempt.

Amy – ‘Well one thing is for sure – I still love Gary!’ You watch him Amy. As the series progresses his eyes shrink the fatter his head becomes. It’s true, it’s creepy.

And, a dedication to that pompous panto prince, Jowl$y
bdd – Let’s not forget the elephant in the room…..the pompous,over acting super moon like boffin in the lilac suit.
Miss Piggy – Oh and that Lilac suit…Matt looked like a faded Ribena Berry who’d borrowed Ray Martin’s hair for the evening. Shocker
Sue N – but I am already annoyed with Matt’s bloody expressions- can somebody please tell the man:
a) he can’t act
b) this is not an audition for a soap opera with the requisite over-acted scenes!

And I wish it was Duff, Buddy over does the Italian mob boss bizzo.

Thanks everyone.

23 brain dead dave { 05.07.12 at 2:07 pm }

It’s a new selection process, Injera, quaintly called by Jowl$y, “sorting the goose from the chickens”. A committed goose can thus make the culinary cut. I’ve never heard this phrase before and suspect it’s from Jowl$y’s favourite era…the 1890’s. Googling it didn’t throw much light on Jowl$y’s gibbering,either.

Calling a restaurant Rendezvous,what a stroke of genius and passion.

24 brain dead dave { 05.07.12 at 2:17 pm }

Poor Jowl$y -he looked like Barney The Dinosaur wearing a cravat last night.

25 Culinary Boner { 05.07.12 at 2:25 pm }

Good point about the entirely contradictory putting through of Mario (the car polisher dude), Injera.

His tube of mildly stuffed Soylent Green seemed only a tad better than the Culinary Copper’s* more stuffed tepid water version, based mainly on the fact that Mario browned the outside of the tube a bit and knew enough about asparagus to know it’s way tastier when grilled. Still nowhere near good enough, if this is to be as promised: “all about the cooking”.

If I were Mario I’d be spending me downtime on set polishing the mysterious Harley that is always shown outside MCA Kitchen Stadium to a mirror finish – presuming this is either the producer’s or George’s. Oh, and it’s survived the management change from Freemantle to Shine to still be shown at every re-entry after the riveting ad break. One can never get too much Curtis, can they?

* The Cairns Crying Squad’s finest.

26 Culinary Boner { 05.07.12 at 2:44 pm }

Speaking of this show’s ‘alumni’, I just love the phrase coined in this reportage from a few years ag0 –
“MASTERCHEF HARDWOMAN Clare Winton Burn tests her culinary limits”
Superb tongue-in-cheek.
The most simpering of previous MCA contestants, a HARDWOMAN.

27 littlepetal { 05.07.12 at 5:20 pm }

I also said I won’t be watching the show if the format is like last season. I did watch last night but thought they still play out the drama. What is with that guy that was crying like there is no tomorrow? I hope he is not going to cry every time he goes to the next round.

The acting from the 3 judges were appalling.

28 Anonymous { 05.07.12 at 6:42 pm }

I liked how they mixed it up a bit so we saw the contestants who got through and those who did not get through. That kind of maintained an element of surprise for me at least.

I didn’t like the acting from the judges and constant fire balls on every important moment. Also the Asian guy really annoyed me none of the women displayed their emotions like he did. And its usually the woman who cry. I doubt he will be able to work under pressure

29 starleopard71 { 05.07.12 at 9:15 pm }

@Roland: sadly part time cake show watcher is not a profession but a reflection of the fact I only get to see cake shows when I visit friends who have Foxtel 😀

30 roland { 05.07.12 at 11:13 pm }

jowl$y has proven that you do not need a long neck to be a goose. He wouldnt know what to do with basic pantry ingredients if it was the last food on earth. As for masterchef ‘where are they now?’ i would rather watch repeats of celebrity apprentice which by god is saying something.

31 AnonyMousse { 05.08.12 at 7:58 am }

Looks like I called it when I said they’d probably go to either Japan or Italy this year (although I laid more money on Japan), since they’re the two big food countries they’ve yet to visit.

32 littlepetal { 05.08.12 at 8:07 am }

You are almost right. They are going to Italy

33 AnonyMousse { 05.09.12 at 9:48 pm }

Well I did use an ‘or’, allowing me to claim either destination if it was chosen. :)

34 littlepetal { 05.09.12 at 10:02 pm }

If there is another series next year, they will be going to Japan

35 brain dead dave { 05.09.12 at 10:08 pm }

I thought Italy had enough economic problems right now without Jowl$y arriving and eating everything in sight.

Jowl$i Fun Tutti in Tuscany.

36 littlepetal { 05.09.12 at 10:16 pm }

Did you notice Marions’s Kitchen ad just below this box?

37 brain dead dave { 05.09.12 at 10:23 pm }

No, littlepetal .It’s not there now. There was an ad for Reece Mastin’s single the other day.

I saw Marion on TV earlier. No Claire Winton Burns on Ma$terchef, Where Are They Now? ,tonight, either.

38 littlepetal { 05.09.12 at 10:29 pm }

Marion’s Kitchen ad has gone. Yeah, no Claire. Maybe she has gone back to be a lawyer and has to keep a low profile.