It’s time to see a new batch of amateur chefs battling it out in the kitchen as MasterChef returns for a 17th series this March.
For the new series, judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace will be introduced to 40 new chefs , who will each show off their cooking skills in a bid to first bag a spot in the semi-finals and go on to win.
So, when is it back? Who are this year’s contestants? And are there any changes to the new series given the current pandemic?
Here’s everything we know so far about MasterChef 2021, when it starts and who’ll be competing.
MasterChef 2021 release date
MasterChef 2021 begins on Monday 1st March at 9pm on BBC One.
Episode two will then air on Wednesday 3rd March at 8pm and Episode three will follow on Friday 5th March at 8:05pm.
MasterChef 2021 contestants
While not much has been revealed about the amateur chefs taking part this year, we do know that there’ll be 40 MasterChef 2021 contestants, who will compete on the show in heats of five members.
And according to Gregg, this year’s contestants could give some of the previous MasterChef winners a serious run for their money.
Speaking to RadioTimes.com ahead of the upcoming series, judge Gregg Wallace said this year’s line-up is a particularly strong batch of contestants.
“What we realised, me and John, was that the standard was incredible even at the early stages,” he said.
“What we suspect has happened is because so many people are working from home, we think they’ve had a lot more time to practice, because we couldn’t believe the standard of the cooks in the early rounds. We normally get a mixed bag. This time we were getting good cook off after good cook after good cook.”
In reference to series one winner Thomasina Miers, he added: “I think it was Thomasina, our first ever winner, who said, ‘My god, nowadays, I wouldn’t even make it past a quarter final.’ I do think it’s because it’s been on for so long and whoever is signing up for the show must have watched the show so they’re fully aware of how high the standard is. So they’re putting in a lot of homework before they come on.”
And John Torode agreed, saying in a recent interview: “What I really enjoyed was the fact that the contestants had obviously spent so much time, whilst they were in the first lockdown, practicing and working at what they wanted to do, and becoming really good at it.
“And that meant we ate really, really well. There was only a few dodgy dishes along the way, which is really saying something for MasterChef; well, I say a few, probably more than a few.”
He added: “There’s the odd bit of raw lamb and a bit of chicken here and there and a few odd concoctions. But otherwise it was a really, really great series.”
Who are the judges on MasterChef?
Long-running judges Gregg Wallace and John Torode are returning to host series 17.
Wallace is best known for co-presenting Celebrity MasterChef, MasterChef: The Professionals and Saturday Kitchen, having originally started his food career as a greengrocer.
Torode is an Australian chef who regularly appears on This Morning and presents Celebrity MasterChef, John Torode’s Australia and John and Lisa’s Weekend Kitchen.
Who narrates MasterChef?
British actress India Fisher has narrated MasterChef since 2005, when the show was rebooted by BBC One.
Aside from MasterChef, Fisher has appeared in a number of audio dramas, including BBC Radio 4’s Elephants to Catch Eels, Ghosts of Albion, Doctor Who, while on-screen, she’s appeared in the series Dead Ringers and CBBC’s The Dumping Ground.
Who are the critics on MasterChef?
While the BBC has not yet announced the full line-up of guest critics for MasterChef’s 2021 series, we know that former champions Thomas Frake (2020), Ping Coombes (2014), Saliha Mahmoud Ahmed (2017) and Kenny Tutt (2018) will be stopping by the judge the contestants’ cooking – as will professional food critic Grace Dent.
How long does MasterChef run for?
This series of MasterChef is expected to air across six weeks, with season 17 consisting of 18 episodes.
The final is therefore likely to air on Friday 9th April 2021.
Who won MasterChef last year?
London-based 32-year-old Thomas Frake won MasterChef 2020, becoming the show’s 16th winner.
Frake beat runner-ups David Rickett and Sandy Tang last year, securing the championship with monkfish scampi, followed by an ox main cheek and a salted caramel custard tart dessert.
Has MasterChef been affected by COVID-19?
The upcoming series of MasterChef was filmed during under coronavirus restrictions, which meant that contestants and judges weren’t allowed to physically interact on set.
Nevertheless Gregg Wallace told us there wasn’t much difference when it came to filming MasterChef 2021 in a pandemic.
He explained: “There’s not a great deal of difference,” Wallace tells me when we sit down for a virtual chat ahead of the new series. It doesn’t look a lot different in the studio because cooking does not offer the group activity anyway and they all have their own stations.”
He added: “We can’t do the big foreign trips, and usually there’re many outside locations. We can’t do that, but we can bring great chefs into the studio. The difference for me, isn’t so much a filming thing as a social thing. I couldn’t shake hands or put my arm around people that I’ve been working with for nearly 20 years so the camera guys you can’t pat them on the shoulder.”
He recently told PA Media (via The Irish News) that there was one upside to making the show in a pandemic.
“One of the differences was really positive, that John and I got a dish each, rather than trying to elbow each other away for the choicest bits. That was a positive, ” he gushed.
“Of course, the negative is we didn’t get to go travelling around the world,” he added. “But the negative I found odd is that I couldn’t shake hands with people in the morning, or give people a hug, people that we’ve worked with for 20 years. There was no physical interaction. I found that a little strange.”