reality tv

"Contestants are given a heads-up on challenges": 9 MasterChef behind-the-scenes secrets.

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We can all agree MasterChef Australia is the wholesome TV show getting us through isolation. The new season is giving us exactly what we need right now: our favourite contestants are back, the competition is fierce and the food creations somehow looks a lot tastier (and even more unachievable for us home cooks.)

But like all reality TV shows, a lot happens behind the scenes that we don’t get to see. And it turns out the filming process isn’t always that enjoyable.

What an honest reality TV job interview would look like. Post continues below video.

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From cold food to strict rules here are nine MasterChef behind-the-scenes secrets.

Contestants are told about the challenges ahead of time.

From mystery boxes to immunity challenges, MasterChef is all about putting contestants under pressure. But it turns out contestants are actually told about the challenges beforehand.

“Contestants are given the heads-up on the challenges, themes [and] recipes the night before filming, so they can research techniques and recipes,” an unnamed source told New Idea.

The source also claims that producers choose which contestants to tell in advance so they can plan the content before the cameras start rolling.

“In particular, Poh was told about the 90-minute Gordon Ramsay challenge.”

“Poh and the producers sat down to plot how it would play out on air, plus promos and publicity if she did the 90-minute cake. It worked out perfectly,” the source told the publication.

Former MasterChef contestant Dani Venn confirmed to Mamamia that contestants are given time to think about their dishes before the timer starts.

“There is a little bit more time in between when the judges tell you the challenge and when the challenge actually starts because obviously we have to reset the cameras so you do get maybe a little bit of extra time to think about what you are going to cook,” she said on Mamamia’s The Quicky podcast.

The kitchen and pantry aren’t as impressive as they seem. 

The MasterChef pantry looks pretty impressive to us watching at home, but in reality, the food and water can easily run out on set.

“The kitchen isn’t really a kitchen as such, it’s a set. So things that you wouldn’t really think happen, happen. So for instance, the water in the taps is limited so it runs out quite quickly,” Dani told Mamamia. 

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“The ingredients will run out that’s another thing. They’ll only put one fish in the pantry but if you want the fish you can get it but you’ve got to ask for it. That might take 10 minutes for the food team to actually deliver you what you want.”

“Things run out quite quickly because they can’t fit everything in there… the dry stuff is fine it’s more just like the fresh stuff,” she added.

The days are very long.

While MasterChef may only consume around an hour or so of our lives each night, the filming process can often take over 12 long hours. And contestants are there the whole time.

“They are some of the longest days you’ll ever experience because of the logistics involved,” former MasterChef contestant Lynton Tapp previously told Mamamia. 

MasterChef is one of the biggest productions in Australia. There are 120 crew running around, plus contestants. If you have one department that runs out or one contestant who is late, which does happen, then that has a cascade effect on the day,” he continued.

“As you can imagine, especially in the first week, having 24 tastings – that time alone is hours and hours of just going through the dishes. They’re very long days and it’s tough.”

Producers will create drama. 

Like all reality TV, MasterChef is all about entertainment. So producers will often do or say certain things to evoke an emotional response from contestants.

According to 2017 MasterChef winner Diana Chan, producers would ask contestants about their families on camera.

“[I didn’t like] when you were asked about whether you missed your family. I get it, it’s showbiz, they do what they need to do [to] get a tear out of you, but the emotions are real. I can’t tell you anyone who didn’t miss their family,” she recently told New Idea.

Ben Ungermann, who came second to Diana in 2017, previously told news.com.au: “The producers kind of stitch you up by saying you have one hour exactly but they don’t tell you where anything is, so you could spend 15 minutes looking for your equipment and have only 45 minutes to cook.”

“The drama you see on screen — none of it is fabricated — but they put you in these high-pressure situations because they want to see you crack,” he added.

More than one ending is filmed.

It goes without saying the MasterChef finale is a very big night. For us watching at home, we finally get to see one of our favourite cooks get showered with colourful confetti and take home the Masterchef title. But it turns out, contestants are also waiting in anticipation to find out who won.

“We filmed two endings and so that really plays on your mind – whether you’ve won or you didn’t. We had to wait for three months and only found out on the day itself. So that mentally really … unless you’re a strong person or like you can handle that, it really does affect people,” Diana told New Idea.

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Mamamia’s daily news podcast, The Quicky, goes behind the scenes of MasterChef to find out how filming is going with social distancing rules in place. Post continues below. 

Contestants don’t always get along.

MasterChef brings together the best up and coming cooks from all around the country. But sometimes they don’t always get along.

“There were a few little arguments here and there, but nothing massive, and that’s normal – because every friendship, every relationship, has arguments. But as a group, in my year my group seemingly all got along,” Diana told the publication.

Ben Ungermann agrees, previously telling news.com.au:  “When you’re put into a house with 24 strangers not everyone is going to get along – that’s just the way it is.”

“Sometimes cookbooks went missing, and there were some pretty nasty arguments.

“But as time went on, we became a family. When you see contestants on the show hugging each other, it’s all real, there’s no acting involved.”

The competition is tough.

As we’ve seen throughout the show’s 12 seasons the competition can be fierce. And this season, Lynton said it was even tougher.

“That’s one of the elements that’s not talked about much with MasterChef. For someone to make it to the end, they’ve got to have the mental determination and grit that a lot of other people don’t,” he told Mamamia. 

“The calibre of the cooks and chefs that have returned this season is the best yet, as a whole,” he added.

“It’s a higher standard than any other season of MasterChef. A lot of people have come back extremely experienced and they have a lot of skill under their belt. It is anybody’s game. Any one of [the contestants] have unique attributes that could allow them to take out the title.”

The race to the finish is real.

Viewers often wonder whether contestants can still add to their dishes once the timer is up.

But according to Lynton, it’s virtually impossible.

“[After the dish is completed], it is minded by a professional food team so it’s kept in a safe food environment and to make sure you’re not touching your food before it’s judged,” he shared.

“When time is called, you have your producer and a food producer at your bench watching you. Once time is called, that’s it. There’s no touching your dish.”

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Judges eat cold food.

By the time the dishes are eventually presented to the judges for filming, the food is often cold.

“Some things do get reheated if it’s like a sauce,” former judge George Calombaris told Nova back in 2015, “but when we say, ‘Stop cooking’ we do a quick wander of the room and taste stuff out of their pot.”

George said the judges then have to fake it for the camera.

“It has always been cold and it always will be cold, but we taste everything hot off-camera,” he previously told the Daily Mail.

“So at the end of the cook, you (viewers) don’t see that – no one sees that apart from the three of us and the executive producer,” he added.

“We will go around the room and the three of us will taste everything hot out of their (contestants) pot first.”

The strict rules have been relaxed.

Like all reality TV contestants, everyone on MasterChef is forced to sign non-disclosure agreements so they don’t spill any information about the show.

“I had a bit of Stockholm syndrome, I think, when I left, because you pretty much leave the competition and you’re left to go and fend for yourself. You can’t talk about the competition because you’ve obviously signed NDAs so it’s tough. Mentally, it’s hard; it’s an emotional roller-coaster,” Diana told New Idea.

But according to executive producer Margaret Bashfield, the rules contestants have to follow on set have been more relaxed in recent seasons.

“The worst-case scenario is two 10-minute phone calls home a week, but there are exceptions,” she said, according to NowToLove.

“There’s also outings and contenders were allowed to leave the house more this year to go down the street because we’d finished filming before the show went to air.

“They also have access to social media as the show’s filming schedule allows for ‘everyone to be involved.”

You don’t always have to pass the audition to get through.

There’s no doubt the audition process for MasterChef is tough. But according to Margaret, many contestants still made it through in previous seasons even if they didn’t pass their first cook.

“A lot didn’t cook brilliantly in their audition, but we saw that they knew how to cook, and when we talked to them about what was supposed to happen, they could talk to us about it and explain why it didn’t,” she told NowToLove.

So there we go, there may be hope for many of us after all. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Feature Image: Instagram @andyallencooks/@danivenn

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