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"We're really going to do that?" A behind-the-scenes look at the new MasterChef Australia.

To catch up on all things MasterChef Australia 2020, make sure you check out our MasterChef hub. We’ve got you completely covered.

When I first stepped onto the MasterChef Australia set earlier this year, there were three things I noticed immediately.

That the set, an elaborate kitchen surrounded by an intricate labyrinth of supply rooms and pantries, was even more immense than it ever looks on TV.

That the contestants who were hurriedly stirring, chopping and sauteeing while a web of cameras swirled around them were not fresh faces to the game, instead, they were the biggest names from past seasons, skilled contestants who had just missed out on the MasterChef crown and were now secretly filming their second shot.

Lastly, that the new MasterChef judges Andy Allen, Jock Zonfrillo and Melissa Leong, who was calling out that time was nearly up while striding across the set in a pair of striking, glittering green high heels, had already found their groove in this newly revamped version of the hit show.

Of course, things on the 2020 MasterChef set have changed since those initial days of filming, with the introduction of COVID-19 restrictions

MasterChef Australia has always employed the highest standards of food safety and hygiene,” an Endemol Shine Australia spokesperson told Mamamia. “We now have an even keener focus on that. All recommendations outlined by Federal and State government health authorities are being followed.

“Under the current circumstances, we are introducing new measures for the foreseeable future. These include, but are not limited to social distancing measures across every facet of the production and additional hand sanitising stations positioned around the set and offices.

“On the set, changes will be made to the spacing of contestant cooking benches and gloves provided for team challenges where equipment may be shared, as well as when handling food in the pantry. Additional sinks have been added as dedicated handwashing stations, so as to separate from any food preparation.

“Judges will step up to taste individually portioned meals and no cutlery or plates will be shared.”

All eyes have been on the inner workings of MasterChef since July 2019, when a statement from Network Ten was distributed to media across Australia announced that founding MasterChef judges Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris had been “unable to reach an agreement” with the network, despite months of negotiation, and would be leaving the show after 11 seasons.

Weeks later, it was announced that MasterChef Australia season four winner Andy Allen, chef and restaurateur Jock Zonfrillo, and food writer and television presenter Melissa Leong, were being charged with helming this new season.

MasterChef judges Andy Allen, Melissa Leong and Jock Zonfrillo. Source: Network Ten.
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With new judges on set, coupled with the fact that MasterChef Australia has never aired an all-star style season before, it's plain to see that the show has carefully reinvented itself.

Even though the full extent of the show's changes are yet to be fully revealed.

"Things have been really mixed up this season, there’s a whole bunch of things you’ll see this season that are MasterChef firsts," Melissa confirmed to Mamamia from the Melbourne MasterChef set.

"It’s been a rollercoaster, every week we get a briefing which tells us what the filming plan is for that week and it’s truly exciting because so many times we just went ‘oh, ok, that’s happening... we’re really going to do that?”

Melissa and I are sitting in her trailer after one of the weekly challenges has just been wrapped. A trailer that, along with smelling like a 5-star foodie destination thanks to the dozens of contestants that have been furiously cooking next to it all day, also houses a large rack stacked with a slew of glittering high heels.

"I don’t think too much about fame and this is not my first rodeo, I’ve shot two seasons of food-related TV series before and it’s now on Netflix, but I know things will change, this is a huge show," she says, explaining that her choice to wear these signature heels during filming, along with picking outfits that showcase Australian designs and not holding back when it comes to discussing her own expertise, is a way of quietly yet firmly carving out her own unique presence on the show.

"We had to hold the news in for weeks before it was announced and it was nearly killing all three of us," she continued. "For me this is about a job, I know I can do this job and everything else is just a secondary consideration.

"We are deeply respectful of the legacy those three boys (Preston, Mehigan and Calombaris) created and without them we wouldn’t have this opportunity, but this is very much about us now. The format is tweaked enough to not be the same show.

"I’m not worried about comparisons, I’ve worked very hard to be comfortable in the skin I’m in and I will not give that up for anybody."

Watch the trailer for Masterchef Australia 2020 here. Post continues after video. 

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The inner-workings of the MasterChef Australia set has always been one of fascination for the viewers, who are always eager to know what goes on behind-the-scenes during the fast-paced cooking challenges.

While viewers only see around 60 minutes of footage per episode, the average filming day is much longer and between set up, cooking, the judges' taste-testing, and then the verdict being delivered, filming days can often run upwards of 12 hours.

“I mean, do you really want to see how the sausage is made? Because once you know, you really can’t unsee that stuff," Melissa replies with a laugh when I ask her to breakdown exactly how a day of filming plays out.

She then goes on to say that conditions are not as comfortable for the contestants behind-the-scenes as they might look on screen.

"They have to crank out food in a very alien environment, it’s like nowhere else in the world," she said. "It’s not like your home kitchen or one in a restaurant.

"We need to keep the relationships on set very much in that judge/contestant category, but obviously this year it’s a bit different because of who they are, as returning contestants.

"They’re also not in lockdown the way most contestants are, they still get to live their lives outside of the set. But we made a decision right from the get-go, that in order for us to do our jobs properly, we need to have some separation from them.

"I will also say that... honesty is not always well received. But the smartest way to deal with it is to step back and think about why this information is being delivered. When you send someone home that can be difficult, because you are breaking someone's heart.

"I wish I could tell you stories of great drama, people breaking things and storming off, but it’s not that kind of place here."

MasterChef Australia: Back To Win features 24 past contestants including season one runner up Poh Ling Yeow, season three contestant turned TV presenter Hayden Quinn, season 10 third place holder Khanh Ong, and season four fan-favourite Amina Elshafei.

MasterChef Australia Back To Win airs Sunday to Thursday at 7.30pm on Network 10.


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