The Master returns to cook up ratings
Danielle McGrane | AAP | April 29 2017
Matt Preston reckons he knows why MasterChef has been so popular with the Australian public.
It involves a comparison, an unlikely comparison but one he thinks makes sense for the undeniably popular cooking program.
"I think we've turned into NRL or AFL," Preston said.
"We've turned into something people enjoy watching, they pick a favourite team and away they go. I think at the heart of the show there's a very simple principle which is; take cooks and make them into great cooks, and pick people who can cook and who generally have a desire to make their life in food, who have a dream. That's why we like it."
If anyone knows what the special ingredient is that makes this one of the most loved shows on Australian TV it would be Preston who has been a judge on the show from its beginning, alongside George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan.
This season the show continues to bring in some big names in the world of food with guest chefs including British chef Yotam Ottolenghi, Vue de monde's Shannon Bennett, Maggie Beer, Curtis Stone and celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal.
"I've always been a real fan of us bringing in inspirational cooks who come from the same background as the contestants," Preston said.
"Heston was a photocopier salesman, he's not professionally trained and he ended up opening The Fat Duck. Yotam was a journalist in Tel Aviv and then he decided, like our contestants, that he'd really love to make his life in baking he knocked on the door of a baker's and said 'I want to learn how to bake, please can I come in and just help you out'."
While the show is coming into its ninth season, Preston says the talent on display is still excellent, and says every one of the Top 24 cooks deserves to be there.
And in order to stretch their imaginations further, a Sweet Week has been introduced - dedicated solely to desserts.
"That's me and Gary, we decided regardless of what George thought, we needed a bit more chocolate and sweetie goodness," he said.
This season there's some precocious talent on display with young contestants, 18-year-old Callan and Michelle, who is 19 and, like every other season, they're mixed in with older cooks.
"The younger chef is going to ask 'why can't I do that? I'm just going to do it?' and that makes that great moment of whether it's bonkers or brilliant. Sometimes it's both and those are great moments," Preston said.
Those moments have already brought forward some incredible stand outs this season, according to the judge.
"We're really excited for it to start, we think it's pretty special this year," he said.
"There's a real satisfaction in watching talented amateurs turn into something pretty special and that's what we're seeing this season which is fantastic."
*MasterChef returns to Network Ten on Monday May 1 at 7.30pm (AEST)
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