Fun foodies

Fun foodies

The hosts of MasterChef's new season have plenty of delicious surprises in store

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Judges Gregg Wallace (left) and John Torode host "MasterChef Goes Large" Series 5, a cooking show that is more than just how to boil an egg: it's also great television entertainment
Judges Gregg Wallace (left) and John Torode host "MasterChef Goes Large" Series 5, a cooking show that is more than just how to boil an egg: it's also great television entertainment
Photo: Des Willie
Most cooking shows are no longer just about cooking. Once cooking shows were bland instructional how-tos with quick tips and easy recipe. These days, it's all about the entertainment factor, the human interest story that reality television is so great at providing.

MasterChef has been around in one form or other since 1990. It has spawned many versions and international adaptations, most notably the American programme hosted by Gordon Ramsay.

This month, the fifth series of MasterChef Goes Large kicks off, bringing back co-presenters and judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace. The former is a renowned chef and restaurateur; the latter is known as a lifelong vegetable guru.

The pair shared their foodie thoughts with Sunday Young Post.

Sunday Young Post: How did you two become part of the show?

Gregg Wallace: I heard a rumour that this programme was being made so I got in touch with Shine [Shine TV Production produces MasterChef] and went to meet [executive producer] Karen Ross at their offices ... She put a camera on me and told me to talk about food. I spoke without a break for 45 minutes. We went outside for a [break] and she said, 'I've got a job for you. By the way, the other judge is going to be John Torode. Do you know him?' And I replied, 'Only for the last 15 years!'

John Torode: I was initially approached to do a show about people cooking in shopping centres, which became MasterChef. For a screen test, someone cooked a pork chop, and Gregg and I had to talk about it. We had a row about the fat, and so a beautiful relationship was born. But don't tell our wives!

SYP: What would be your advice to the competitors?

JT: Know as many of the basics as possible before you come here. And be confident in your own abilities.

GW: As soon as you know you're coming onto the show, cook in every spare breathing moment. You have to put the groundwork in beforehand or you'll never get anywhere. You can't wing it. You have to put in some serious time in advance so that when we suddenly chuck stuff at you, you're not fazed by it.

SYP: What was the most interesting challenge in series five?

JT: It has to be the invention test. The contestants are faced with a set of ingredients which they don't know in advance, and we want them to produce a dish in just 20 minutes. That's really tough.

GW: One of the most physically demanding is where they have to work in the catering van on a film set. They come out on their hands and knees. Wait till you see the episode where they have to cater on the set of [British television series] Merlin. It's magic!

SYP: As a judge, what do you look for most in a dish?

JT: It has to have a balance of everything: flavour, texture, aroma, aesthetics.

GW: I like an element of surprise in a dish. It's great when you think you've worked out a dish beforehand and it delivers far more than you expected. You stick it in your mouth and think, 'Oh my God!' This week, I tried a contestant's twice-baked sole cooked on kale. The moment I tasted it, I went, 'Wow!' It contained hints of all the ingredients, but it was so subtle.

SYP: What is your most important kitchen utensil?

GW: A decent electric knife sharpener. I've now got this wonderfully sharp new set of kitchen knives.

JT: If you're going to cut yourself ...

GW: ... cut yourself with a sharp knife because it heals more quickly. Also, I invested in these marvellous cooking pots. They weigh a ton, but they look so good and professional.

SYP: Do you have cooking tips for a kitchen newbie or for young people learning to cook?

JT: Be very careful when handling a knife! I'd also recommend learning how to cook a roast and a stew - from those two dishes, you can do anything.

GW: They should get a copy of Nigel Slater's Real Fast Food and work through that from front to back. I'd make it part of the curriculum!

MasterChef Goes Large Series 5 (UK) is on BBC Lifestyle weeknights at 7.35pm from April 5 to 29

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