Masterchef Goes Large

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India Fisher
Sean Pertwee (MasterChef: The Professionals, 2011-)
Sharon Horgan (Junior MasterChef, 2012 & 2014)
Callie Cooke (Young MasterChef, 2023)
Aimée Kelly (Young MasterChef, 2024)


John Torode
Gregg Wallace

Masterchef: The Professionals:
Gregg Wallace (all series)
Michel Roux Jr (2008-13)
Marcus Wareing (2014-)
Monica Galetti (first round 2009-2012, throughout 2013-21, 2023-)
Anna Haugh (2022)

Junior/Young MasterChef:
John Torode (2010-2014)
Nadia Sawalha (2010)
Donal Skehan (2012 & 2014)
Poppy O'Toole (2023-)
Kerth Gumbs (2023)
Big Has (2024)

Regular food critics include: Jay Rayner, William Sitwell, Tracy McLeod, Amol Rajan, Tom Parker-Bowles, Fay Maschler, Grace Dent, Jimi Famurewa, Kate Spicer, Charles Campion.


Shine and Ziji Productions for BBC Two, 21 February 2005 to 26 February 2009 (173 episodes in 5 series + 1 special; 2008-present as MasterChef)

Shine and Ziji Productions for BBC One, 18 February 2010 to present

Celebrity MasterChef:

Shine and Ziji Productions for BBC One, 11 September 2006 to present

Masterchef: The Professionals:

Shine and Ziji Productions for BBC Two, 25 August 2008 to 23 December 2019 (282 episodes in 12 series + 8 specials)

Shine and Ziji Productions for BBC One, 10 November 2020 to present

Junior/Young MasterChef:

Shine and Ziji Productions for BBC One, 14 November 2008 (as part of Children In Need)

Shine and Ziji Productions for CBBC, 10 May 2010 to 21 November 2014 (38 episodes in 3 series)

Shine and Ziji Productions for BBC Three, 2 January 2023 to present


Reality remake of Masterchef. Until the 2011 revamp, the stripped-across-a-week format saw six cooks each day battle it out over a series of culinary challenges whilst under the added pressure of zoo-style camerawork and thumping dance beats. The six are whittled down to three in a Ready Steady Cook use-these-ingredients-and-make-something-quickly style challenge ("The Invention Test"). Whichever three (or sometimes four) the two judges deem the worst go home; the winners stay overnight for two more challenges - working a shift in a professional kitchen ("The Pressure Test") and preparing their best two-course meal ("The (er) Final Test").

Judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace, not quite mastering the art of camouflage

The winner (or sometimes winners) of each heat goes through to the Friday quarter-final. Originally, the four would-be chefs would face a name-the-ingredients quiz and must deliver a speech to the judges outlining why they deserve to win, after which one contestant was sent home without having cooked anything. In 2010, this was replaced with a solo cookery test along similar lines to the Professionals series "Elimination Test" (but this time with a choice between cooking meat or fish, along with a sauce), with plenty of interesting facial expressions from Torode and Wallace, although not quite matching the quality and variety of expressions displayed by Monica Galetti in said "Professionals" series (see below), and with the speech turned into a more informal affair tacked on the end, still leading up to one or more of the contestants being eliminated before the final cook-off. The remaining three (or whatever) must then cook their very best two-course meal — yes, even better than that two-course meal in the heat that was their very best - or, in fact, only one course in more than one case, due to the fact that there were more than four contestants in the relevant quarter-finals and therefore only time for one course to be made and judged. (Before 2010, i.e. when it was on BBC Two, it was a three-course meal in the quarter-finals. Why they changed it, we just don't know. At least having a "very best" two-course and "very best" three-course meal made some kind of sense. It's probably due to the extra contestants they now tend to have in the quarter-finals, all of whom have to be fitted into the normal half-hour timeslot, leaving time for only either one or two courses to be made). The winners of this go through to the semi-finals and then hopefully the grand final, with the chance of being taken on as a proper chef.

File:Masterchef goes large presenters.jpgLove me some veggies.

From the second series onwards, the last week of the heats is a "comeback" week in which knocked-out contestants from the previous year return for another shot at the title. The format is slightly different during this week, lacking the invention test but with the contestants facing a longer pressure test consisting of both a breakfast and dinner service on the same day. In the final stages, the contestants must cook under various (some would say novelty) conditions - to name but a few, in a ship's galley, for a wedding party, in the jungles of Belize, in a catering-van for the cast and crew of "Waterloo Road" or "Ashes To Ashes", at a Michelin-starred restaurant, backstage for The Corrs, on the Orient Express (with Wallace as the self-styled 'Fat Controller') - and, perhaps most significantly, for the Maharajah of Jodhpur, India and his family and entourage. The 2010 finallists, who had already done the latter, even got to run their own restaurant in London for one night only, complete with waiting staff and with Torode and Wallace acting as the maitre d's. One of the very last tasks is to cook for a roomful of Michelin-starred chefs, who tend to include the likes of Michel Roux Sr. and Michael Caines. Michel Roux Jr. also frequently appeared during these latter stages of the regular and celebrity series, in addition to his then-regular role on the 'Professionals' series, and his successor on the latter show, Marcus Wareing, now does so too, seemingly also replacing Roux at the 'Chefs' Table'. For the absolutely final bit of the final, it's back to "Masterchef HQ" and a straight three-course cook-off. The winner is crowned The Winner, and goes off to enjoy their new-found job.

2008 finalists James Nathan, Jonny Stevenson and Emily Ludolf feel the heat (and other clichés) while cooking lunch for the whole cast and crew of "Waterloo Road"

For a cookery show in which nine dishes are made every day, there's surprisingly little emphasis placed on the cooking, the producers evidently preferring the judges' deliberations, cogitations and digestion, and shots of the winners calling their friends and family on their mobiles. Nevertheless, it's a pretty entertaining half-hour, and let's face it: what's the alternative? Hollyoaks?

Changing the recipe

They dropped the "Goes Large" from the title in 2008, possibly because they finally noticed how silly India Fisher sounded when trying to make it sound portentous in the opening titles. 2008 also saw the series promoted from its original 6:30pm slot to a mid-evening 8:30 berth, where it performed so well that it transferred to BBC One in 2010. The interstitial captions ("The Pressure Test", etc.) seem to have been lost in the move, as (thankfully) have some of Torode and Wallace's annoyingly shouted catchphrases, but otherwise the show appears largely unchanged. One rather more noticeable change, however, has been the fact that the judges have now tended more towards putting two contestants through to both the quarter finals and the semi-finals if it was very hard to separate them - and they have also sent four instead of three contestants home after the Invention Test on at least two occasions. There was also one edition in which none of the three contestants involved were allowed to progress to the quarter-finals, as they were not considered to be up to the required standard. Although this came to the fore much more in the 2010 series, it actually started in the 2009 'Professionals' series, when Roux and Wallace found themselves unable to choose between two contestants (namely the eventual winner, Steve Groves, and another chef, Daniel), so they put them both through to the semi-finals - and their decision was confirmed still further when both Steve and Daniel made it through to the finals, along with a female chef, Marianne (see under the 'Professionals' section).

2010 finallists Dr Tim Kinnaird, Dhruv Baker and Alex Rushmer flanked by Puddingface and John Torode

One element which has changed quite significantly in the 2010 series is the "comeback" week: now the programme takes advantage of its hour-long slot (which is usually just two half-hour heats grafted together) by breaking the 16 comeback contestants into two groups of eight, one for each of the week's two 60-minute episodes. The pro kitchen task is cut back from a double shift to the usual lunchtime service, and there is now a "skill test" (a close relative of the classic recipe test, but the contestants are given a choice of two quite basic meals to prepare, such as spaghetti carbonara or beefburger and chips) and a "palate test" (Torode cooks! Oh yes! And then the contestants troop in one at a time to see if they can identify the ingredients and processes that have gone into the food). The final round is still the traditional "best two-course meal".

2011: Changing the recipe even more

While all the above was going on, Shine was busy marketing the MasterChef brand around the world, chopping and changing the format as it went. The huge success story was the Australian version, which was a phenomenon of Britain's Got Talent proportions - and very different to the British format, with a Pop Idol-type series structure in which auditions produced a field which was then whittled down over several weeks.

2011 saw the UK version move significantly closer to the international format. Essentially, the entire "heats" phase that previously made up the bulk of the series has been dropped, replaced by a short "auditions" phase (which doesn't feel like proper MasterChef at all - it's maybe better to think of it as a sort of short spin-off series called something like So You Want To Be On MasterChef?) producing a field of 20 competitors, rapidly reduced to 12 and then more slowly reduced over the weeks that follow. Most of the series is now taken up by what is basically an elongated version of the old semi-final phase, with a bit of a twist in that each episode usually starts with one or two tasks that everybody does, and only the competitors deemed the weakest have to face the elimination test (which is generally some sort of Invention Test). There is also a new MasterChef kitchen (not an "HQ", we notice), a general lack of catchphrases, and a new closing theme with no actual tune to speak of. After the first couple of weeks, the scheduling dropped to one episode per week, which - in stark contrast to the Australian format - somewhat robbed the show of its "event" status, and (notwithstanding the overexposure created by all the various spinoffs) felt weirdly like a demotion.

New year, new kitchen, same old faces

Evidently the 2011 series didn't go down very well, as 2012 saw the audition shows dropped and the reintroduction of separate heats, and 2013 saw the show returned to something close enough to the original Goes Large format that Franc Roddam even got his creator credit back.

Celebrity Masterchef

Inevitably, BBC1 gets the all-star variant. First broadcast in September 2006, the celeb version features 24 participants, most of whom we've heard of, at least vaguely, and one (yes, as many as one) of whom is actually famous enough to be listed in Who's Who. Take that, Love Island! The second celebrity series actually managed to attract an earth-shattering three Who's Who entrants (Gunnell, Rippon and Quirke), which we're guessing may be some sort of record.

Unusually for a celeb show, it's all pre-recorded, with no telephone voting, not even a Great British Menu-type poll at the end. The format is basically the same as the regular show, except that only three celebs begin each heat and there is no elimination after the first test. Also, in the quarter finals, the four celebs do not have to do the ingredients test or make a case for staying in the contest to John and Gregg. Instead, they all have to cook the same classic dish (Chicken Kiev or steak and chips or sponge pudding and custard, to give but three examples) and the celeb who produces the least successful version is eliminated. (The 'Classic Recipe' test is also frequently used during the final stages of the regular series and during the early stages of the Professionals version).

2010 celeb finalists Dick Strawbridge, Lisa Faulkner and Christine Hamilton

In 2010, there was a 'Sport Relief' Celebrity Special, whereby three Match of the Day regulars, namely host Gary Lineker and pundits Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson, who were all apparently decidedly lacking in cooking-ability, competed in a single-round edition of the show, each cooking his own chosen main course dish. Lineker cooked steak and chips, Hansen sausage and mash and Lawrenson pasta carbonara - none of the dishes were fault-free (Lawrenson, by the way, made basil bread instead of garlic bread), but Torode and Wallace did, for the most part, enjoy said dishes - and Hansen was the winner. The other two said afterwards that he'd never let them hear the last of it - no doubt that point has since been proved or disproved on 'Match Of The Day'. 2011 saw a Comic Relief version featuring Claudia Winkleman, Miranda Hart and Ruby Wax, all of whom (Hart in particular) were also apparently lacking in relevant experience. The trio actually cooked lunch in 10 Downing Street, no less, for Prime Minister David Cameron, regular judges Wallace and Galetti and reigning champions Dhruv Baker and Claire Lara, while Torode and Roux oversaw the cooking. All three celebrities caused a good deal of havoc in the kitchen, especially Wax, who was hacking very dangerously at a crab in order to get the shell off (Roux wished he'd brought a crash helmet). Anyway, notwithstanding all that, Wax served up a crab salad starter, Winkleman a chilli con carne with jacket potatoes for the main (which proved popular, although, according to the PM, not quite as good as the best chilli ever, ie his wife Samantha's version) and Hart made a meringue trifle (topped with Gummi Bears) for dessert - and the food proved, like the proverbial curate's egg, at least good in parts. Hart was the eventual winner.

2010 saw some tweaks to the Celebrity format: instead of being two three-person heats stuck together, the hour-long episodes start with five contestants. An Invention Test with a very generous range of ingredients produces one person who gets "fast tracked" to the Professional Kitchen round (this idea of allowing one contestant to bypass an elimination challenge is an import from the quite different Australian MasterChef format), while the others face a Palate Test and Skill Test after which two are eliminated. The remaining contestants then do the Pro Kitchen and Two Course Meal as usual, and one is eliminated, leaving two to go through to the weekly semi-final. Also, the set is now orange instead of the traditional red (which is presumably now reserved for the main MasterChef series). Furthermore, the semi-final procedure has now changed: instead of the 'Classic Recipe Test' and cooking their best two-course meal, the four celebrities each have to cook two courses for three food-experts from the WI (much the same as cooking for the food critics) and the least-successful contestant is eliminated.

Masterchef: The Professionals

Back on BBC Two, a further spin-off saw young professionals take on the Masterchef challenge. No John Torode in this one, for he has no Michelin stars so what does he know? Instead Michel Roux Jr (what, just the two stars?) joined Gregg Wallace in the studio. Three contestants featured in each heat, facing two rounds: the Versatility Test (create two different dishes using the same principal ingredient) and the Classic Recipe Test (make two courses based on recipes provided, but do it in your own style). The weekly finals were cook-for-the-critics rounds, with two from four advancing to the final phase.

Notably, and in stark contrast to the amateur and celebrity series, the realities of the industry are reflected in the gender balance of the contestants, with very few female chefs taking part - in the 2009 series, there were only 4 female contestants in the entire series, though one of them, Marianne, who frequently cooked for celebrities, made it to the final. The balance was improved somewhat in the 2010 and 2011 series: although still heavily outnumbered in the initial stages, women accounted for three of the last eight, including the eventual champion, in 2010. Without the ability to characterise the contestants with lazy monickers such as "experimental cook Judy" or "classic cook Kevin", the programme spends a lot of time profiling each contestant, since they all have the same wet-look haircut, northern accent, trendy roll-up set of fierce looking knives and determination to burn exactly three sides of a crouton. As such, there's only the two rounds, the breath of fresh air that was the Pro Kitchen round being sadly missing.

Michel and Gregg fix us with one of their very special hard stares

Otherwise, the show is as entertaining as ever, and Roux Jr certainly has his moments. His manner may be considerably quieter and less in-your-face than either John or Gregg (which, frankly, can't be difficult), but his criticisms are, if anything, even more cutting - and, much of the time, his expression of disappointment and/or horror while watching what the chefs are doing is more than enough to tell us that he's not impressed with them. As well as picking up on minor details such as the wrong choice of plate and removing tiny sprigs of mint leaf atop a dish, his reactions vary from "That's good enough to be served in my restaurant" and "I could eat a whole plateful of this - no, I could eat two platefuls!" to "Have you considered doing something other than cooking food?" He also likened the sauce on one dish to something he might see on the pavement outside a pub - and he gave two other contestants short shrift, the first for 'chatting back', the second for saying that he didn't have the correct knife for removing the bones from a fish. ("A bad workman always blames his tools", declared Roux severely). Even the 2008 champion, Derek Johnstone, did not entirely escape criticism from Roux, especially when the shortbread biscuits that he presented as part of one dessert were not up to scratch. "You're Scottish, so you should know how to produce proper shortbread biscuits!" was Roux's opinion. Bottom lips have trembled on more than one occasion.

We note that Gregg and Michel only ever refer to the programme as "Professional Masterchef", suggesting that the title (an obvious crib from the successful University Challenge spin-off) may have been changed at a late stage, i.e. after the show was in the can. Probably the change was to make it "EPG friendly", so that Sky viewers would see "Masterchef: Th...", not "Professional M..."

The second series (2009) saw a slight tweak to the heats, with four contestants starting each heat, one being eliminated after the, er, "Elimination Test". This sees each contestant in turn having ten minutes to complete two tasks: a preparation task (spatchcock a chicken, trim an artichoke) and a simple (ha!) cooking task, usually making a sauce of some kind, or possibly something definitely simpler (in theory, anyway), like making scrambled eggs or an omelette. For this test, Michel is absent and his sous chef Monica Galetti joins Gregg to intimidate and judge the contestants. This is sold to the viewer as the contestants having to earn the right to cook for Michel, though it looks suspiciously as if Shine are looking to pitch a Monica Galetti series a few months down the line (amazingly, despite Galetti being a clear hit with viewers, this never actually happened). It's actually quite amazing to see how many supposedly professional contestants make a complete hash of this test, often failing even to complete it. As Gregg once put it, "I'm not gonna put anybody through to cook for Michel who can't cook a squid [and] doesn't know what a sauce vierge is — unless there's somebody worse than them." We think he was trying to make Monica laugh (and she almost did!) but it does often come down to that sort of judgement. (One unfortunate contestant made the simple but fatal error of cutting up butter to make scrambled eggs using the same knife and chopping board that she had previously used to cut up rabbit - and, naturally, Monica was far from impressed - "Do I want to taste it? No!" she declared brusquely. Gregg was more sympathetic, but equally unwilling to taste it. Unfortunately, that problem reared its ugly head again at least twice in the 2017 series, whereby the judges had to prompt the contestants concerned to turn the board over). The addition of this test means each episode expands to 45 minutes, which fits rather awkwardly into the BBC Two schedules. In fact they had to resort to lopping 15 minutes off the end of the first heat each week and sticking it at the start of the second to make up a half-hour and an hour respectively. And filling up 15-minute gaps with extracts from Coast. Honestly, we've seen them all already. The 2010 series reduced each heat to a more sensible 30 minutes, comprising a Skills Test with Monica and a technically challenging Classic Recipe Test with Michel (see below). Another blessed relief is the fact that they've changed the sequence showing Michel and Monica at work in the former's kitchen: in the 2009 series, the constant sight of Michel polishing a shot glass and Monica barking out, "Move it - get that garnish on the plate NOW!!!" rapidly became tiresome. In the 2010 series, we had a longer sequence showing Michel and his team at work, which at least showed us a fairly interesting variety of things going on, enough so that the sequence never wore thin.

File:Monica galetti concerned.jpgMonica Galetti

Like Michel, Monica invariably comes out with some memorably cutting comments regarding the chefs' prowess (or lack of it), such as, "If you were in my kitchen, you'd be wearing that fish by now!" "If you presented that to Michel, he'd lose the plot completely!" "You deserve that bowl of egg-whites over your head!" "You've failed that completely!" and, to a chef who was struggling to extract the livers from a chicken, "Come on, Rob, it's not a heart transplant!" In addition, she curtly informed one chef who had only scraped through because one his opponents had made the above-mentioned scrambled egg-error, "You're only still here because another contestant nearly poisoned me - you really need to up your game!" She's also the doyenne of facial expressions, which helps the editing no end as it means the progress of the tasks can more or less be reduced to a series of cuts between what the contestant is doing, and reaction shots of Monica displaying surprise, apprehension, delight, dismay, concern, amusement, bemusement, encouragement, discouragement, sheer terror, or any of a million other possible emotions. They tried the same thing with the skills test in the 2009 celebrity series, but John and Gregg just can't do it (except perhaps for one occasion, when John despairingly buried his head in Gregg's shoulder - sorry, chaps!). Forgive us the cliché, but how else can we put it? Monica's facial expressions rock. Reaction on the interwebs would seem to suggest that Monica is a real star of the show for many viewers (see also 'Key Moments, below), and in 2010 she and Michel got to judge one show - the whittling eight down to six "semi final" - together, making it the first episode of the revival or any of its spin-offs to feature neither John nor Gregg. She also returned to co-judge the same edition in the 2011 series: however, Gregg was included in this one.

The 2010 'Professionals' series has also been tweaked somewhat - we now see both Galetti and Roux demonstrating the skills test and classic recipe respectively, which is only right, given that Torode and Sawalha do so in the other series. As in the last series, one of the four chefs is knocked out after the skills and palate tests, then the remaining three go through the classic recipe test, at the end of which another chef is eliminated. The six surviving contestants then go through to the quarter-final, in which they cook their own food, before another two are eliminated and the remaining four cook for the critics: two more chefs are knocked out after this last test.

Michel and Monica: yes, they do laugh.

The 2011 series has seen a further change, whereby 10 chefs appear in the first edition of the week, cooking one dish from the 'mystery box' of ingredients for Wallace and Galetti. No one is eliminated at this stage: the chefs then return in groups of 5 to face the skills test, after which one is eliminated, then the surviving 4 get to cook for Roux (both the Classic Recipe Test and their own food) and a further 2 contestants are eliminated after that. The 2012 series saw yet another change, whereby, after the skills test, the chefs do the Classic Recipe Test only for Roux, then Wallace joins him for the next round, with Roux normally telling the contestants, "You've had to impress me, the chef - now you have to impress the diner as well".

2013 saw Wallace further sidelined, no longer joining Roux for the chefs' free choice round, not appearing in the "quarter finals" (i.e. weekly finals), which now feature Galetti alongside Roux, and taking no part in deciding the eliminations. Given Galetti's credentials and popularity, it feels like a natural progression, and with Sean Pertwee's narration already subtly nudging The Professionals away from the parent show, it wouldn't come as a shock to see Wallace drop out of the spin-off entirely. Actually, this shouldn't happen, given that Wallace has been included in most of the rounds from the 2017 series onwards, certainly more than in the previous few series, which is pleasing.

2014 saw an even more significant change to the programme, namely that Roux was replaced by fellow-2-Michelin-starred chef Marcus Wareing. If there were any initial concerns that the latter would be a poor substitute for Roux, they were soon more than disproved, with Wareing proving similar in some ways, while also building up his own style. We've seen how feisty he can be in his own restaurant kitchen when previous 'Professionals' contestants have cooked there - his eyes can be especially scary, a fact well exploited in some of the later opening sequences - but as a 'Masterchef' judge, he's generally very polite to the contestants, yet also more than capable of delivering cutting comments where necessary. Another good change is his excellent rapport with Galetti - you always feel that they're talking to each other as equals, which had seemed far less the case with Roux and Galetti, given that the former was the latter's boss, even though they had undoubtedly worked well together. Also, unlike Roux, Wareing takes part in the initial test with Galetti and Wallace, and contestants are split into 2 groups - 3 of them have to carry out a test set by Wareing and the other 3 a test set by Galetti.

Galetti stepped back temporarily in 2022, announcing at the time that it was to concentrate on her restaurant (she later revealed that it was also because of a family member's illness). Replacement judge Anna Haugh fitted in as though she'd been there for years and we're pleased to report that she too had excellent rapport with Wareing and with the contestants. And with Wallace of course, we mustn't forget Wallace. Galetti returned in 2023.

MasterChef: The Professionals Rematch Specials

Since 2018, there have been one-off specials in which five finalists and semi-finalists from previous 'Professionals' series return to the MasterChef kitchen in order to cook one dish to impress the judges and win a trophy, almost as if to make up for the one that they didn't quite manage to win in their original series. The programme always starts with the contestants being visited at the successful restaurants (some of them overseas) that they are now running by one of the judges, Wareing, Galetti or Wallace. In each case, the judge talks to the contestant about his/her culinary success following their original appearance on the show and the contestant cooks one of their signature dishes: in some cases, the judge is also taken on a trip to catch fish or forage for ingredients or similar beforehand. The five chefs then all return to the studio and are tasked with cooking their one best dish to present to the judges, and, of course, the winner is presented with the trophy. Some of the contestants are hitherto unknown to Wareing, as they originally featured during the Roux-years, and at least one has been from 2008 and therefore unknown even to Galetti. These shows are always screened just after the regular Professionals series and therefore shown around Christmas. A very appropriate and enjoyable addition to the regular series.

Junior/Young MasterChef

After the regular, celebrity and professional versions, a children's version was pretty much inevitable, and following a one-shot tryout for Children In Need 2008, a full series finally hit our screens in May 2010, stripped across the week like the other versions, but broadcast on the CBBC Channel and also simulcast as part of the afternoon children's programming block on BBC One - complete with some rather bizarre series mascots (see below left and right), with the sofas in the 'waiting' area replaced by beanbags and with the kids all being given differently-coloured checked trousers to wear with their chefs' white tunics. We've even seen one or two of the contestants travelling to the studio by bike or by skateboard, something you never see in the adult versions, except once, when the food critic William Sitwell arrived on a bike. It was arguably surprising that we never saw a scooter in this context.

They were the roughest, toughest, most feared chefs in the old West, the Toad-in-the-Hole Gang, and it was bad news for anyone who got on the wrong end of THEIR spatula.

The heats normally involve four contestants (though as only 31 took part - the 32nd presumably dropping out at the last moment - one edition featured only three, without explanation), who have to do what is, essentially, the Classic Recipe Test (though with John Torode demonstrating the recipe first, ably assisted by Nadia Sawalha, or occasionally vice versa), followed by a two-course meal. Quarter-finals comprise a Taste Test (same as the regular series' Palate Test) and another two-course meal.

Sadly there's no Gregg Wallace in this one (they'd have problems telling him apart from the kids), with Celebrity MasterChef winner Sawalha stepping in instead in the 2010 series. (Maybe it's because Torode is absent from the 'Professionals' version, meaning that the producers have decided that Wallace, in his turn, should sit out the 'Junior' series). Sawalha seems a little patronising to us, certainly pretty gushy (as she also used to be on It's Not the Answer), but maybe we're just oversensitive to that sort of thing. Torode, meanwhile, seems to have toned his act down suitably for the occasion: while he still gives criticism where necessary, he's definitely less acerbic than usual - in fact, we could go so far as to say that he's showing a much more jovial side to his nature. (Several of the kids have stated that they greatly admire famous chefs such as Jamie Oliver, then they usually add hastily, "Oh - and you as well", much to Torode's delight and amusement in virtually equal measure). One very notable point regarding the series is that the kids' standard of cooking in all the tests has been very high indeed (the "masterclass" recipes are perhaps a little too easy for cooks of this ability), which constantly leaves Torode and Sawalha with a very difficult decision to make regarding who should go through to the next stage. It's also notable that the series has featured more girls than boys overall - and what a pleasure it's been to see such talented young cooks at work. The judges are certainly always saying so, both to the contestants' faces and while making the decisions. It's also very nice to see the kids all very supportive of one another and genuinely happy to enjoy the experience, with the 'winning's a bonus' attitude - and when they lose, they take it on the chin and are all more than happy to keep on cooking, especially as the judges are very keen to encourage them to do so. It certainly goes to show that the bad press that many kids and young people tend to get nowadays is often unfair and undeserved.

Nadia, enthusing about a great dessert (really).

Possibly a sign that MasterChef has passed its peak, in 2011 the children's version was effectively replaced by Junior Bake Off, though Junior Masterchef returned in 2012, with Donal Skehan replacing Nadia Sawalha, and Sharon Horgan on voiceover duties. Thankfully, Skehan is neither patronising nor gushy in his approach, simply pleasant and matey, more in the style of Aaron Craze on 'Junior Bake Off', but far less gung-ho. Luckily one thing they didn't change was those weird multicoloured mascot things, which are now featured even more prominently in the opening titles - yes, we want a set too. Throughout this series, the standard of cooking has remained very high, the judges have once again frequently had difficult decisions to make regarding who should stay and who should go and the kids have been as delightful and enthusiastic as ever. As with the previous series, slightly more girls than boys have featured overall, but, whereas in the 2010 series the four finallists comprised three girls and one boy, the 2012 finallists were three boys and one girl. The 2010 finallists, incidentally, appeared memorably in one edition as the food critics, judging dishes cooked by their 2012 counterparts. There was another series in 2014, still with Torode and Skehan as judges, and with the latter demonstrating his cookery-skills just as much as his Australian colleague, but there have been no further series since, which is a real shame. Still, at least it ran for three series, which was respectable.

BBC Three ran a series in 2023 with Poppy O'Toole from YouTube and Kerth Gumbs from Great British Menu. It went down well enough for a second helping, with series one guest judge Big Has replacing Gumbs.

Key moments

When someone puts a risotto with a piece of meat. Especially people on the second series who presumably saw it happen every week in the first run. Altogether now: "risotto is a dish in itself!"

Gregg Wallace is a major pudding fan (hence his Twitter account, @PuddingFace) and has come out with some memorable comments relating to some of the dishes that he's been served, such as when he likened one contestant's dessert to "a Jammie Dodger that's been run over by a steamroller" and at least one other occasion when he so loved the dessert that he declared, "I'd just like to take me shirt off and dive in there!" - not perhaps an image that many of us would like to contemplate. In addition, John and Gregg have often made their judgements in relation to how well they would receive the food if it were served to them in a restaurant. John once told a contestant, "If I were served this in a restaurant, I wouldn't send it back, but I'd probably ask for the service charge to be taken off," while one of Gregg's comments was, "If I were served this in a restaurant, I'd eat it quite happily, but I wouldn't come back tomorrow and order it again."

So now we know what happens to the leftovers.
(No, you didn't miss this episode - this pic came from a
Radio Times photoshoot.)

The food critics have also come out with some memorable comments: these have included Jay Rayner's judgement on a dessert produced by a 2008 finallist: "It looks like a fancy display in a garden centre - I'd rather barbecue my own tongue than eat that!" Rayner also criticised a 2010 semi-finallist's main course by exclaiming in horror, "Where's my five-year-old? - it's a smiley face on a plate!" He said a similar thing in a 2010 edition of the 'Professionals' series, this time describing the food as looking like 'Mr Potato Head'. The late Charles Campion, meanwhile, had been known to describe food as being "like baby food" - and he and Rayner notably disagreed about a piece of jelly that was served on pork belly in the aforementioned edition of the 'Professionals' series. Rayner disliked it, but Campion said, "It has a sharpness to it that I find a blessed relief as everything else on the plate is sweet." "Charles - I'm startled - it's the sort of thing you'd find in a burns unit!" exclaimed Rayner, somewhat theatrically, but Campion was undeterred and replied calmly, "No - I think he's done something different and I applaud it". Kate Spicer described one fish dish in a 2011 edition as being like "something a mother seagull would put into its baby's mouth": however, in the 2008 Celebrity series, Andi Peters earned praise from Spicer when he made white chocolate mousse for the critics - the latter described it as "really quite sexy."

Gregg Wallace's masterclass in contradicting your own hyperbole:
"Cooking does not get tougher than this!" - opening titles to Celebrity Masterchef, 2006
"This competition just gets tougher!" - opening titles to Masterchef Goes Large, 2007

For the 2008 series he went back to a differently-stressed version, "Cooking doesn't get tougher than this!" with a heavy emphasis on the "doesn't". The same clip was used for the 2009 series. For The Professionals series India Fisher, whose scriptwriter must surely be goading us by this point, squeezed out one extra level of superlative with "Cooking doesn't get better than this!". Unfortunately, the editor seems to have a penchant for preceding this line with clips of Michel complaining that a dish is inedible, making "cooking doesn't get better than this" less a promise, more a threat. Thankfully, they seem to have ironed this 'little' problem out in the 2010 series. The opening titles to the 2012 Celebrity series had Gregg deliver the line and follow it up with an exaggerated wink, much to John's amusement (and much cringing from these quarters).

In the 'Professionals' series, Galetti and Wallace rarely disagree significantly (Galetti usually has the final say on who goes through), but a surprising disagreement occurred between the pair during a 2010 edition. One contestant, Arun, had made Hollandaise sauce that Wallace considered too salty, but Galetti felt that the seasoning was just right - "We can differ in opinion", she stated. "You can get it wrong", was Wallace's response, but Galetti was having none of it - "You can get it very wrong!" she retorted - albeit with a smile on her face. Wallace's final comment was, "Arun - you've started a fight between me and Monica!" (Maybe, but at least they agreed on their decision to put Arun through to the next round). Oh, and let's not forget the occasion later in the series when Wallace was really quite startled by Galetti's secret ingredient when making a steak tartare - tomato ketchup - not that we, the viewers, would ever doubt either the ability or the tastebuds of a sous-chef in a 2-Michelin-starred restaurant, would we? Either way, the ketchup would certainly have added some extra flavour to the dish, even if it did seem a bit random.

Later in the same series, during the previously-mentioned test that was judged by Roux and Galetti, the pair spoke to one of the surviving female chefs, Alice, who revealed that Galetti was her idol and she was determined to live up to the latter's high standards. "They're big boots to fill", declared Roux humorously. "Size 7, to be precise", added Galetti, once again showing her wry sense of humour, which has been increasingly coming to the fore from that series onwards.

Another contestant who managed to prove his dedication to the competition, this time in a rather unusual way, was a 2011 regular series contestant named James. After he had had his food for one test tasted by Torode, Wallace and the guest judge, a certain Monsieur Roux, the latter asked James how committed he was. James's response was to pull down his t-shirt to reveal a tattoo in the form of the 'Masterchef' logo. "That's a lot of pain to have to go through to prove your point", declared Roux, with an almost equal combination of admiration and amusement. James did indeed go a long way in the contest, but unfortunately failed to impress the food critics and thus did not get into the last four. Similarly, the 2016 celebrity finalist, journalist Louise Minchin, had made up an edible version of said logo in the dessert that she presented to the judges in the final, and they were suitably impressed and amused, but Minchin was nonetheless narrowly beaten by Alexis Conran.

One memorably bizarre moment in the Junior series saw John Torode respond to a contestant's statement that she would like to be a chef and a singer by bursting into a few bars of "White Christmas". Though strictly speaking, that's not a key moment - more an off-key moment! (Sawalha certainly appeared to be of that opinion).

Even better was a scene later in that series, when the four finallists were informed by the judges that their first challenge outside the 'Masterchef' kitchen was to cook lunch in a catering van for the then-Doctor Who, Matt Smith, and his companion, Karen Gillan, and that their transport awaited them outside - the TARDIS, of course. The four duly got in and were 'transported off' to the Doctor Who shoot in Cardiff, then Torode and Sawalha came rushing outside, exclaiming in (mock)-horror, "They've gone without us - how could they do that?!" and, "How are we going to get there?" Three hours later (apparently), the judges caught up with the contestants and, after berating them (mildly) for leaving them behind ("We had to take the coach") they set the kids their task. Despite some problems and last-minute flaps, the food proved a great hit with the two actors, then the kids returned to the TARDIS to be taken back to base - leaving Torode and Sawalha behind as before. ("Not again!" exclaimed the pair). Although this was a bit jarring in the context of a cookery competition, we have to admit that Torode handled this spot of comic "business" surprisingly well.

In the first edition of the 2010 'Celebrity' series, Torode and Wallace were talking to Tessa Sanderson about the dishes that she was cooking and then Torode said, "Well, if you don't like the food, at least you'll be able to throw it a long way". Sanderson's response? "Yes - I'll throw it at you!" She didn't, of course, but she might as well have done, given that virtually all the food that she cooked proved fairly disastrous, especially her first dish, in which her chicken, potatoes and carrots were severely undercooked.

Oh, and let's not forget (although he'd probably rather we did) the occasion during the 2020 Celebrity series when Dom Littlewood managed to cook a kitchen timer, of all things. This occurred during the pro-kitchen round, in which Littlewood was trying, with much difficulty, to cook naan breads in a tandoor oven and the chef suddenly informed him, with a good deal of amusement, that he (Littlewood) had dropped said timer into the tandoor. Littlewood's response was a combination of amusement and mortification, moreso the latter.

It's probably worth mentioning the show's "signature edit" here: at least once each episode, there'll be a cooking montage set to driving techno, during which the music cuts out for one beat, as we see and hear a knife making contact with a chopping board, or a spoon clanking in a bowl, or a food processor starting up or somesuch utensil-based sonic minutiae. It could, at a push, be considered akin to the famously brilliant Morecambe and Wise 'Breakfast' sketch, in which the dynamic duo prepared said meal to the strains of 'The Stripper'. In Masterchef's case, it's quite a smart edit, but it wouldn't hurt to use it a bit more sparingly.


India Fisher (after the Pro Kitchen round): "The contestants have now been on their feet for six hours, but there's no let-up..." (or "respite").

(After the Invention Test, up to and including the 2009 regular series): "For the moment, they can relax, but tomorrow, they face two even tougher tests..."

(In the 2010 'Professionals' series): "Only an elite group of chefs hold two Michelin Stars - Michel Roux Junior is one of them" (followed by Roux ordering his kitchen staff, "Ca marche - two St Jacques on pass - now!" and a cheer from said staff), then Fisher adds, "Now he and Masterchef judge Gregg Wallace are on the hunt for Britain's next culinary superstar - a professional with the talent to cut it in the world's top kitchens".

(After the Elimination Test): "Culinary accolades are hard-won - Michel Roux Junior knows what it takes to cook at this level and how to test those who aspire to it".

John Torode: "Ladies and gentlemen - let's cook!"

"...Now, you're gonna have to cook for your 'Masterchef' lives..."

"We're looking for a great amateur cook, who can make it as a professional!"

"This is one tough competition!"

"Whoever wins, it'll chaaange theeeir life!"

"These celebrities are all passionate about cooking". (This phrase has been taken over and adapted slightly by Gregg from the 2010 series onwards: "20 celebrities who all claim to be passionate about cooking - but can they cook?")

"Step away from your benches, please - your time is up!"

"And our winner - our quarter-finallist (or whatever) is..."

"And the contestant leaving us is...."

"Decision time - who's it gonna be, Mr Wallace?"

(In the Junior series): "...So if you're going to do this at home, make sure that you've got a responsible adult with you..."

Gregg Wallace: "Someone who can turn out exceptional food!" (For the Celebrity version, it's: "Someone who's more than just a good home cook.")

As mentioned above, "Cooking doesn't get tougher than this!" and, "This competition just gets tougher!"

"You've got twooooooo minutes!"

(On occasion): "That, my friend, is a triumph", "That is truly yummy" and, "You have absolutely nailed that".

Both judges: "Get it on the plates!"

Michel Roux Junior, in the 2012 series: "You've had to impress me, the chef - now you've got to impress the diner as well..." (Wallace, of course).

Monica Galetti:

"Move it - get that garnish on the plate NOW!!!" (this was filmed as part of the opening titles of the 2009 Professionals series and frankly, the phrase became pretty tiresome after a few editions).

"And the chef leaving us today is...."

(To the surviving three chefs): "Tomorrow, you will be cooking for my boss, Michel Roux Junior," followed by either "Don't let me down!" "Don't disappoint me!" or simply, "Good luck". (Galetti once revealed in an interview that she herself would invariably take the flak from Roux if he was unimpressed with anyone she'd put through, so one can imagine that she'd have been anxious for those chefs to perform well. It's certainly tough at the top).

Torode and Sawalha in the Junior series: "Remember - wash your hands and be careful of the knives and the oven..."

Torode, also in the Junior series: "...So if you're going to do this at home, make sure that you've got a responsible adult with you..."

India Fisher, also in the Junior series: "These are experienced cooks, but this is the first time that John and Nadia will see them cook..."

"...But if you ever want to cook at home, do please remember to ask an adult to help you..."

"The cooking's over - now it's a nervous wait while John and Nadia decide whose cooking is the best" (or "who's good enough to go through to the quarter-final".)


Adapted by Karen Ross and John Silver from the original Masterchef format by Franc Roddam.


Due to the need for lots of close-ups of the food, it's often cold by the time the judges get to taste it. John Torode says that this doesn't matter because if the flavours are right it will still work.

Asked "Have you ever picked the wrong winner?" in a Guardian interview in March 2008, Gregg Wallace replied "Yeah. Celebrity Masterchef. The case of Hardeep Singh Kohli and Matt Dawson. Hardeep is the greatest Masterchef winner that never was." Gregg's repeated this in other interviews since, though John Torode stands by the original decision.

One notable point is that contestants are never eliminated after off-piste challenges, only after studio rounds. We assume that their performances in the professional kitchens and mass-catering challenges are taken into account during the judging-process, but it mostly seems to come down to how they perform in the Masterchef kitchen, with the rule 'you're only ever as good as your last dish' very much in force.

The only person to date to have won both Masterchef and The Great British Bake Off (celebrity versions in both cases) is Ade Edmondson: he won the former in 2013 and the latter in 2016.

A notable point about the food critics is that several of them have, or had, famous relatives. Jay Rayner, for example, is the younger son of the late agony aunt Claire Rayner. William Sitwell is the great-nephew of the late poet and critic Edith Sitwell. In addition, Tom Parker-Bowles, as you'll no doubt have worked out from his surname, is the son of Queen Camilla.

Speaking of monarchs, the programme's twice been bumped for deaths of members of the Royal Family. Prince Philip's death on 9 April 2021 meant viewers had to wait five days to see Tom Rhodes be crowned champion, while the 2022 Celebrity series had to be rested with five episodes remaining after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, and episodes 14 to 18 aired seven, six, three, five and six days late, respectively. By an unfortunate coincidence, the first episode back required the chefs to create a dish for the then-upcoming Platinum Jubilee. King Charles III was stricken with cancer by the time of the 2024 civilian run; possibly to futureproof against any further buggering about with the schedules, said run premiered on iPlayer, three episodes at a time.

The fact that John always comes across as rather more acerbic and cutting towards the contestants than Gregg (not that the latter's incapable of making cutting comments) seemed to be confirmed by a remark made by Jan Leeming to her two opponents during the 2009 'Celebrity' series, "Gregg's all right, but John makes you feel like you're going to the executioners!"

Alas Gregg and John

One contestant in the 2008 regular series presented John and Gregg with pork accompanied by something very unusual - chocolate sauce. Although the combination was not a good one - surprise, surprise! - John and Gregg so admired his offbeat approach that they put him through to the next stage of the contest. (However, he did not progress any further than that.) Another regular series contestant to produce offbeat dishes was the 2010 finalist Alex Rushmer. One of his efforts, in the latter stages, was blue cheese ice cream, but this did not prove a great hit with the judges. Wallace's main comment was, "I still have faith in you, but you really can't afford to keep on doing things like this". Unfortunately, some of Rushmer's courses in the grand final also proved a bit too unusual for the pair and he lost to Dhruv Baker: however, he (Rushmer) has since opened his own restaurant, where some later contestants have cooked, so he clearly still did well as a result of his experience.

Another contestant who produced some very memorably unusual dishes was the 2009 'Professionals' series winner, Steve Groves. Of particular note was a dessert he made, based on a sweet shop - this included sherbet, rhubarb-and-custard sweets and basil-flavoured lollipops. Roux and Wallace were very impressed by the taste and inventiveness of the food, but rather less so with the presentation, especially as Groves had put the sherbet in a paper bag. "I can't tell whether you're trying to create fine dining or win the Turner Prize", was Wallace's main comment. Another notably interesting effort was during the semi-finals, when Groves produced boiled eggs and toast for a group of local restaurateurs dining at the 'Masterchef' studio. Roux and Wallace were initially far from impressed with the idea, thinking it far too simple, but Groves's twist was to use a smoke-gun to give the food a nicely smoky flavour - and it proved a hit with judges and guests alike. However, one other 'Professionals' contestant was far less successful when he tried serving a slice of chocolate cake as part of a savoury dish - chef Roux's main comment was, "If I have a slice of chocolate cake, I want a cup of tea with it, not a cabbage sauce".

Series 1 winner Thomasina Miers went on to co-star in the (slightly bonkers) Channel 4 series The Wild Gourmets, and now runs Wahaca in Covent Garden which serves up Mexican street food. [1] (The contestants in one of the editions of the 2009 regular series had to go through their Pressure Test in her restaurant - she assured them at the start that she didn't envy them one bit, as she'd been through it herself, but that certainly didn't stop her demanding the exacting standards that all the professional chefs demand). 2007 champion Steven Wallis has been spotted working as a "home economist" (or "dogsbody") in the background of Great British Menu. In addition, the 2008 winner, James Nathan, is now working as a chef in Rick Stein's famous Seafood Restaurant in Padstow, while the 2009 champion, Mat Follas, is now running his own restaurant in Dorset, no doubt serving up excellent food made from ingredients for which he has foraged and/or fished (see below).

The naturally talented Liz McClarnon

Liz McClarnon won the 2008 Celebrity Masterchef series, despite having apparently hardly ever cooked before - she barely even knew how to use an oven. John and Gregg recognised that she had a natural talent for it - which of course got better and better. Indeed, she was not the only celebrity lacking cooking-experience in that series - Spoony revealed to John and Gregg that his mother had not allowed him to cook when he was a kid, since he was very left-handed. In spite of this, he managed to cook some decent dishes, although unlike Liz, he did not progress beyond the first round. Michael Buerk also had little experience of cooking: he wrote a very damning article on the programme, saying how much he had hated the experience and how he was - unlike most other Masterchef contestants - determined not to win his heat. (He needn't have worried, though - he was up against a certain Ms McClarnon!) Buerk's former newsreading colleague, Jennie Bond, who competed in the 2010 series (and who also had rather more cooking-experience than him) was another contestant who failed to enjoy the experience. She said so in her final piece to camera, adding that she could find no positives to take away with her - and this without having to go through the pro kitchen round. In addition, Iwan Thomas reached the 2009 final despite having only limited cooking-experience: he was clearly another contestant who had a natural ability, even if he didn't win the series. He said afterwards that, while he might still cook himself beans on toast in the future, it would definitely be the exception rather than the rule, because he now knew that he could cook much more sophisticated meals. Fellow-athlete Dean Macey took part in the 2010 series, having apparently only started cooking about a week before the contest and he made it into the quarter-finals, due to his natural ability: however, he unfortunately went out after failing to impress the WI food critics.

The 2009 regular series winner, Mat Follas, told John and Gregg how he loved foraging for food and was always out and about in the Dorset countryside, where he lived, searching for plants and mushrooms - and fishing as well. He was filmed doing so with his wife and children in the latter stages of the contest. In the final cookery test of all, his dessert included a stick of hokey-pokey - apparently, hokey-pokey is a name for honeycomb in New Zealand, where he grew up. Hokey-pokey also featured in the final stages of the 2019 celebrity series: on this occasion, it was a very decadent chocolate and honeycomb dessert that the champion-to-be, Greg Rutherford, was cooking for the Chefs' Table under the direction of another New Zealander, Monica Galetti. (Incidentally, judge Wallace managed to cause Rutherford a temporary problem by joking, "Come on, Greg - do the hokey pokey!" at which point Rutherford complained, "He's making me laugh and it's putting me off." The ever-professional Galetti simply smiled knowingly and told him, "Come on, Greg, just ignore him and focus on what you're doing" - and, sure enough, Rutherford ultimately made a success of the dish). With regard to foraging, the aforementioned Follas was by no means the only chef to forage for ingredients - the three finallists in the 2010 'Professionals' series were taken to Copenhagen to cook in the world-renowned restaurant, Noma, whereby the chef foraged for his ingredients every day. Said finallists were taken on one of those trips, before being asked to recreate the award-winning dishes in the restaurant.

Another notable point is the surprisingly large proportion of contestants on the regular series who are in very high-powered jobs, yet want to give those jobs up in order to become chefs. Of particular note are the 2008 champion, James Nathan, who was originally a barrister, the 2017 champion, Saliha Mahmood-Ahmed, who was a doctor, the 2010 finallist Dr Tim Kinnaird, who was a paediatrician and another 2010 contestant, Connor, who was a heart surgeon. Still, plenty of people fancy a change of direction at one time or another, and it would seem that breaking into the world of fine dining is an appealing option to many, especially if they already do it as a hobby.

It would seem that no allowance is made if contestants are injured or unwell on any of the "Masterchef" series. In the 2009 regular series, one contestant cut himself so badly that John advised him to go to A & E, thereby knocking him out of the contest. This was a real shame, because the contestant seemed to have made a decent start up until that point - and even more of a shame that he didn't return as a comeback contestant in the 2010 series. Simon Shepherd also cut himself in the pro kitchen during the 2009 Celebrity series and had to retire early from that round, but he was at least able to do the Final Test. Later in the same series, one comeback contestant, Marie Helvin, was so unwell on the second day of filming that she was unable to go through either the Pressure Test or the Final Test. It was therefore a 50/50 match between Tony Hadley and Helen Lederer - and Tony won. In the 2010 Celebrity series, quarter-finallist Colin Jackson burnt his hand in the pro kitchen round and, like Shepherd, had to retire early from the round and was unable to cook the head chef's signature dish, although he did make it back for the final round. Another contestant in that series, Dick Strawbridge, fell ill one day and was thus unable to go through one of the challenges, namely cooking lunch for over 800 Harrow schoolboys and then cooking for a private party hosted by the Headmaster, but it didn't stop him getting to the Grand Final. One contestant in the 2010 regular series, Terry, made it through to the semi-finals despite cutting himself badly and having to be checked over by the programme's resident First Aider. Not surprisingly, the time Terry had lost affected the presentation of his dishes, especially his dessert, but John and Gregg were sufficiently impressed by the taste of both dishes to put him - along with another contestant, Matt - through to the semis. A certain amount of allowance was made for a 'Junior Masterchef' contestant who cut herself: Torode and Sawalha kept an eye on her food while she went to get a plaster and she was able to serve the dish on time, which pleased both judges no end. In addition, pleasingly, a contestant in the 2011 Professionals series, Ben, was allowed to return, having originally had to go to A & E due to a severe cut: he re-entered the contest on a later edition, but at the same stage where he had previously injured himself, ie when cooking for Roux for the first time.

The 2020 Celebrity Masterchef lost three episodes as a result of the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic; with the producers sensing lockdown was imminent, the penultimate episode saw the number of contestants reduced from seven to three in one day. As a result, this particular series is not directly comparable to previous series. In addition, Gethin Jones had to drop out after developing Covid-19 symptoms, meaning that the contestants were in fact whittled down first from seven to six and then six to three; Amar Latif, notably Masterchef's first visually-impaired contestant, had to spend some time in hospital with the virus the following month. He was partnered with sighted assistants during studio rounds, but seemingly not during off-piste challenges, in which he appeared to have been helped by either fellow contestants or sous-chefs. Latif impressively made it into the final six, and one of the challenges that he and his fellow-celebrities had to face was, rather aptly, cooking lunch for a party marking the 90th birthday of the charity Guide Dogs For the Blind. The final 3 contestants were the eventual champion, Riyadh Khalaf, along with Sir Matthew Pinsent and Sam Quek, while Judi Love, who was in the final 6, returned some 18 months later to win one of the 2021 Christmas specials.

One effect of the 2020 pandemic was that by the autumn, BBC One had fewer big shows on its shelf than usual, so Masterchef: The Professionals was shifted across to the main channel for the first time. There will certainly have been some viewers who didn't watch it on BBC Two and will have been surprised to hear Sean Pertwee instead of India Fisher on voiceover duties, but for the rest of us, the main changes were that four contestants featured in each heat instead of the traditional six (with the exception of the third week which had one of its contestants expunged), and in the opening Skills Test round, only Gregg and the chef who set the test remained in the room, the other chef watching via video link. It may not have been intentional, but the casual viewer would have benefitted from the fact that the so-belinked chef was free to give more of a commentary without giving anything away to the contestant, and post-pandemic this became the standard way of doing things (as did the four contestants per heat set-up). Other necessary changes were that two Michelin-starred chefs came to the studio to firstly give the contestants masterclasses in their cuisine and then to sample the contestants' efforts, and the Chefs' Table challenge was also confined to the studio. As a result, this series, in common with the 2020 Celebrity series, is not directly comparable with previous series. For the end-of-episode elimination, the contestants were rather awkwardly distanced - an obvious solution would have been to just have them stand behind their benches but they didn't do that. It was a shame that the contestants had to content themselves with virtual handshakes, hugs and high-fives, as it was clear that they would have loved to have been able to do the real thing, but it was still a good series and great that they were able to put it on amidst the pandemic, so credit to all concerned.

The original "Masterchef HQ" was located on Bastwick Street, Islington. In real life, the building is a halls of residence for City University.

In 2011 the show spawned a really annoying electro song, "MasterChef Synesthesia (Buttery Biscuit Bass)", compiled of assorted John and Gregg quotes, which peaked at number 37 on the UK Singles Chart; with COVID-19 still limiting the opportunities for outside challenges, the 2022 semi-final featured a task based on this track, with John and Gregg claiming it as a significant moment in MasterChef history that they were very proud of. This might have been more believable had they ever mentioned it on the show before.

At least twice, Gregg's been missing from episodes. One episode in Anna Haugh's first Professionals series lacked Gregg for no explained reason, and he wasn't missed - Wareing and Haugh proved quite capable of hosting on their own, thank you very much. However, when Gregg was missing from two episodes in Knockout Week of civilian Masterchef in 2023, Haugh covered one episode and Galetti covered the next.


2005: Thomasina "Tommi" Miers
2006: Peter Bayless
2007: Steven Wallis
2008: James Nathan
2009: Mat Follas
2010: Dhruv Baker
2011: Tim Anderson
2012: Shelina Permalloo
2013: Natalie Coleman
2014: Ping Coombes
2015: Simon Wood
2016: Jane Devonshire
2017: Dr Saliha Mahmood-Ahmed
2018: Kenny Tutt
2019: Irini Tzortzoglou
2020: Thomas Frake
2021: Tom Rhodes
2022: Eddie Scott
2023: Chariya Khattiyot
2024: Brin Pirathapan

Christmas Rematch 2021

Ping Coombes

Fifteen past finalists assemble at the new 2011 MasterChef HQ, including all six previous champions: James Nathan (far left in grey suit), Dhruv Baker (in front of Nathan), Mat Follas (behind John Torode), Tommi Miers (behind Follas), Steven Wallis (far right) and Peter Bayless (behind Wallis).

Celebrity Masterchef

2006: Matt Dawson
2007: Nadia Sawalha
2008: Liz McClarnon
2009: Jayne Middlemiss
2010: Lisa Faulkner
2011: Phil Vickery
2012: Emma Kennedy
2013: Ade Edmondson
2014: Sophie Thompson
2015: Kimberly Wyatt
2016: Alexis Conran
2017: Angellica Bell
2018: John Partridge
2019: Greg Rutherford
2020: Riyadh Khalaf
2021: Kadeena Cox
2022: Lisa Snowdon
2023: Wynne Evans

Celebrity Masterchef Christmas Specials

2020: Janet Street-Porter; Craig Revel Horwood
2021: The Reverend Richard Coles; Judi Love
2022: Iwan Thomas; Megan McKenna
2023: Duncan James; Jay Rayner

(Two separate episodes were made each year. The second 2023 episode was a Critics Cook-Off with five of the show's regular food critics.)

Masterchef: The Professionals

2008: Derek Johnstone
2009: Steve Groves
2010: Claire Lara
2011: Ash Mair
2012: Anton Piotrowski & Keri Moss (tie)
2013: Steven Edwards
2014: Jamie Scott
2015: Mark Stinchcombe
2016: Gary Maclean
2017: Craig Johnston
2018: Laurence Henry
2019: Stu Deeley
2020: Alex Webb
2021: Daniel Lee
2022: Nikita Pathakji
2023: Tom Hamblet

Professionals Rematch Specials

2018: Clare Burrows (2011 finalist)
2019: Sven Hanson-Britt (2014 finalist)
2020: Louisa Ellis (2019 finalist) and Oli Martin (2018 finalist)
2021: Santosh Shah (2020 finalist)

Junior/Young MasterChef

2010: Georgia Bradford
2012: Tom Barlow-Kay
2014: Phoebe Riley
2023: Keziah Whittaker
2024: Famara Kurang

Charity specials

2008 "Children in Need Junior MasterChef": Robin (surname not known)
2010 "Sport Relief does MasterChef": Alan Hansen
2011 "Comic Relief does MasterChef": Miranda Hart


All in Celebrity Masterchef:

2006: Richard Arnold, Linda Barker, Roger Black, Sarah Cawood, Matt Dawson, Kristian Digby, Charlie Dimmock, Sheila Ferguson, Jilly Goolden, David Grant, Simon Grant, Tony Hadley, Marie Helvin, Lady Isabella Hervey, Hardeep Singh Kohli, Helen Lederer, Graeme Le Saux, Fred MacAulay, Sue Perkins, Rowland Rivron, Arabella Weir, Toyah Willcox, Paul Young.

2007: Gemma Atkinson, Darren Bennett, Chris Bisson, Sue Cook, Robbie Earle, Jeremy Edwards, Emma Forbes, Mark Foster, Jeff Green, Sally Gunnell, Martin Hancock, Sherrie Hewson, Chris Hollins, Craig Revel Horwood, Matt James, Rani Price, Pauline Quirke, Angela Rippon, Sunetra Sarker, Nadia Sawalha, Lorne Spicer, Phil Tufnell, Midge Ure, Matthew Wright.

2008: Kaye Adams, Ninia Benjamin, Julia Bradbury, Michael Buerk, Andrew Castle, Josie d'Arby, Louis Emerick, Clare Grogan, Denise Lewis, Liz McClarnon, Joe McGann, Vicki Michelle, Mark Moraghan, Christopher Parker, Andi Peters, Wendi Peters, Steven Pinder, Claire Richards, Linda Robson, Hywel Simons, DJ Spoony, Debra Stephenson, Noel Whelan, Sean Wilson.

2009: Stephen K Amos, Gemma Bissix, Ian Bleasdale, Rosie Boycott, Janet Ellis, Shobna Gulati, Saira Khan, Jan Leeming, Sian Lloyd, Paul Martin, Jayne Middlemiss, Brian Moore, Colin Murray, Tracy-Ann Oberman, Michael Obioro, Deena Payne, Shirley Robertson, Joel Ross, Simon Shepherd, Joe Swift, Dennis Taylor, Iwan Thomas, Pete Waterman, Rav Wilding.

2010: Nihal Arthanayake, Jennie Bond, Mark Chapman, Richard Farleigh, Lisa Faulkner, Alex Fletcher, Christine Hamilton, Colin Jackson, Mark Little, Danielle Lloyd, Dean Macey, Kym Mazelle, Marcus Patric, Tricia Penrose, Jenny Powell, Martin Roberts, Tessa Sanderson, Dick Strawbridge, Neil Stuke, Chris Walker.

2011: Darren Campbell, Margi Clarke, Danny Goffey, Ruth Goodman, Ricky Groves, Shobu Kapoor, Tim Lovejoy, Linda Lusardi, Colin McAllister, Aggie MacKenzie, Sharon Maughan, Michelle Mone, Nick Pickard, Justin Ryan, Phil Vickery, Kirsty Wark.

2012: Cheryl Baker, Anne Charleston, Jenny Eclair, Gareth Gates, Diarmuid Gavin, Javine Hylton, Emma Kennedy, George Layton, Richard McCourt, Danny Mills, Steve Parry, Rebecca Romero, Laila Rouass, Zoe Salmon, Jamie Theakston, Michael Underwood.

2013: Denise Black, Katy Brand, Joe Calzaghe, Brian Capron, Speech Debelle, Les Dennis, Ade Edmondson, Matthew Hoggard, Phillips Idowu, Shappi Khorsandi, Miranda Krestovnikoff, Shane Lynch, Heidi Range, Janet Street-Porter, John Thomson, Jo Wood.

2014: Leslie Ash, Emma Barton, Christopher Biggins, Charley Boorman, Tania Bryer, Amanda Burton, Todd Carty, Jason Connery, Susannah Constantine, Kiki Dee, Alex Ferns, JB Gill, Russell Grant, Alison Hammond, Tina Hobley, Jodie Kidd, Millie Mackintosh, Ken Morley, Wayne Sleep, Sophie Thompson.

2015: Samira Ahmed, Andy Akinwolere, Keith Chegwin, Rylan Clark, Danny Crates, Amanda Donohoe, Yvette Fielding, Craig Gazey, Sarah Harding, Chesney Hawkes, Syd Little, Natalie Lowe, Scott Maslen, Sheree Murphy, Sam Nixon, Mica Paris, Tom Parker, Arlene Phillips, Patricia Potter, Kimberly Wyatt.

2016: Donna Air, Neil Back, Amelle Berrabah, Marcus Butler, Tommy Cannon, Amy Childs, Richard Coles, Alexis Conran, David Harper, Audley Harrison, Cherry Healey, Liz Johnson, Tina Malone, Louise Minchin, Laila Morse, Jimmy Osmond, Sid Owen, Gleb Savchenko, Sinitta, Simon Webbe.

2017: Rebecca Adlington, Abdullah Afzal, Angellica Bell, Kate Bottley, Patti Boulaye, Brian Bovell, Tyger Drew-Honey, Lesley Garrett, Dev Griffin, Barney Harwood, Stephen Hendry, Jaymi Hensley, Ulrika Jonsson, Henri Leconte, Debbie McGee, Aasmah Mir, Jim Moir, Nick Moran, Julia Somerville, Rachel Stevens.

2018: Michelle Ackerley, Chizzy Akudolu, Keith Allen, Clara Amfo, Martin Bayfield, Jay Blades, Frankie Bridge, Gemma Collins, Josh Cuthbert, Carol Decker, Anita Harris, Jean Johansson, Zoe Lyons, Spencer Matthews, Lisa Maxwell, Monty Panesar, Stella Parton, John Partridge, AJ Pritchard, Stef Reid.

2019: Élizabeth Bourgine, Joey Essex, Alex George, Andy Grant, Rickie Haywood-Williams, Judge Jules, Josie Long, Oti Mabuse, Kellie Maloney, Dominic Parker, Vicky Pattison, Martha Reeves, Zandra Rhodes, Neil Ruddock, Greg Rutherford, Jenny Ryan, Tomasz Schafernaker, Mim Shaikh, Dillian Whyte, Adam Woodyatt.

2020: Shyko Amos, John Barnes, Jeff Brazier, Baga Chipz, Phil Daniels, Karen Gibson, Gethin Jones, Riyadh Khalaf, Amar Latif, Lady Leshurr, Dom Littlewood, Judi Love, Felicity Montagu, Judy Murray, Sir Matthew Pinsent, Sam Quek, Crissy Rock, Thomas Skinner, Myles Stephenson, Pete Wicks.

2021: Bez, Kem Cetinay, Munya Chawawa, Michelle Collins, Kadeena Cox, Dion Dublin, Gavin Esler, Patrick Grant, Duncan James, Melissa Johns, Penny Lancaster, Megan McKenna, Su Pollard, Katie Price, Johannes Radebe, Nabil Abdul Rashid, Rita Simons, Joe Swash, Melanie Sykes.

2022: Adam Pearson, Chris Eubank, Clarke Peters, Cliff Parisi, Danny Jones, Faye Winter, Gareth Malone, Jimmy Bullard, Kae Kurd, Katya Jones, Kirsty Gallacher, Kitty Scott-Claus, Lesley Joseph, Lisa Snowdon, Mel Blatt, Nancy Dell’Olio, Paul Chuckle, MoJo, Richard Blackwood, Ryan Thomas.

2023: Amy Walsh,, Cheryl Hole, Dani Dyer, Dave Benson Phillips, Dianne Buswell, Jamelia, James Buckley, Locksmith, Luca Bish, Marcus Brigstocke, Max George, Mica Ven, Michael Praed, Remi Burgz, Richie Anderson, Sam Fox, Shazia Mirza, Terry Christian, Wynne Evans.


Masterchef Goes Large book (revised 2006 edition) (also the original 2005 edition)

MasterChef Cookbook (2010 hardback book)

MasterChef at Home (2011 hardback book)

Web links

BBC programme pages: Masterchef Goes Large, Celebrity Masterchef, Masterchef: The Professionals, Junior Masterchef

Off The Telly review


Some images of the 2011 MasterChef kitchen
It's even got a dedicated dining room
Let battle commence! Still from the trailer for MasterChef 2011

See also


Britain's Best Bakery

How to apply

Applications are available online to become a contestant for future series. An alternative way to get an application form on paper is available via e-mail at

Application details are provided as a service to readers, but please note that all contestant enquiries should be directed to the named production company and not to Addresses can be found on our list of contact details for production companies.


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