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'MasterChef' returns looking for best home cook in America

by jmaloni
Sat, May 24th 2014 04:20 pm

Behind the Screens with Joshua Maloni

When you think of past "MasterChef" contestants -- amazing blind chef Christina, budding restaurateur Luca, pastry whiz Whitney -- it's hard to believe they were unknown in the culinary world before starring in the FOX cooking competition.

But's that what makes this show fun: discovering these chefs, and their stories, and watching as they become masters.

"I think the biggest thing is that they already have existing careers and lifestyles that they're a part of, whether it's families, fathers, mothers," co-host and judge Graham Elliot said. "This season, we have everything from a stay-at-home dad to an advertising executive; an aerial dancer; people that are committed to what they do, and true to this creative outlet for them. It's cathartic to cook, and we're bringing them in and, I think, really showing much of the country what they're made of."

Of course, it's also fun to watch the "MasterChef" challenges, which always have delicious twists and turns. This season, "We can expect that the food quality continues to excel year after year, thanks to the work of the judges," Exec. Producer Robin Ashbrook said. "I would say you can expect, this season, that we celebrate even more great American food, great tradition of American food. Obviously, you can tell I'm not from here (he's English), but still happy to celebrate that you have the best food cultures in the world. And then little surprises along the way; there are many.

"You'll see Graham and Gordon (Ramsay) cooking as we go, and we'll all learn a lot from those guys. There are, obviously, plenty of twists and turns with the home cooks themselves, but there'll be also special appearances. There might be a point when the home cooks have the pressure of cooking a romantic dinner for Gordon and his wife, which is a particularly -- you can image the stress of that for these home cooks, at some stage cooking for Gordon and his wife.

"Our challenges out in the field are bigger than ever before. There's one where we have to feed the Army -- over 500. We do big, huge, relatable challenges that I hope all the audience in all of America can relate to. We do weddings; there's one in conjunction with the NFL, a football challenge; a diner; the restaurant takeover. We've taken all of the great things that we've learned about 'MasterChef,' and gone, hopefully, one step further -- bigger, bolder and brighter, once again."

While American audiences are inundated with cooking shows, "MasterChef" has remained the top-rated culinary program. Ashbrook said the secret to success lies with the co-hosts and judges: Gordon, Graham and Joe Bastianich.

"I know (a) key part of our success here, which makes us the No. 1 show here, is because of the commitment, enthusiasm and real -- the fact that our judges care -- and care about the future of every single one of these home cooks -- I think maxes out above not just any other iteration or any other food show, but any other show on television, because Gordon, Graham and Joe really care about making these home cooks better, and about setting them up to achieve their dreams long after the credits have rolled," he said.

"MasterChef" debuts Memorial Day and airs each Monday at 8 p.m. on FOX. Fans can "Like" "MasterChef" on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MasterChef. Follow the series on Twitter @MASTERCHEFonFOX and join the discussion with #masterchef.

•Joshua Maloni writes about television shows such as "MasterChef," "The Voice," "The Blacklist," "24" and "Grimm." Follow him on Twitter @joshuamaloni.

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