MasterChef (U.S. TV series)
Series logo and wordmark
|Created by||Franc Roddam|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||5|
|No. of episodes||78|
|Running time||42 minutes|
|Production company(s)||One Potato Two Potato
Reveille Productions (2010–2012)
Shine America (2012–)
|Picture format||480i (SDTV)
|Audio format||Dolby Digital 5.1|
|Original run||July 27, 2010– present|
Master Chef is a U.S. competitive cooking reality show, open to amateur and home chefs. Produced by Shine America and One Potato Two Potato, it debuted on July 27, 2010 at 9 pm ET/PT on the Fox Television Network, following one of Ramsay's other series, Hell's Kitchen.
The show has been first-run as a summer series, with the fourth season concluding in September 2013. On May 10, 2013, Fox renewed MasterChef for an additional two seasons, which will extend the show through at least a sixth season.
MasterChef is based on the British BBC series MasterChef. Chef, television personality and restaurateur Gordon Ramsay together with restaurateur and vineyard owner Joe Bastianich and chef Graham Elliot are the judges in the US version of MasterChef. The competition takes place in the MasterChef warehouse which includes a large area with several cooking stations which is overlooked by a balcony, a well-stocked pantry, and a fine-dining seating area used for certain challenges.
In the first 4 seasons, amateur chefs were initially selected through nationwide auditions, selecting a total of one hundred competitors to the start of the televised competition. In the preliminary rounds, each of these had an opportunity to prepare a signature dish for the trio of judges. They were given a limited amount of time to prep their dish, and then given five minutes before the judges to complete the cooking and assembly of the dish, during which the judges ask about their background. The three judges taste the dish, and vote "yes" or "no" to keeping the chef in the competition; two "yes" votes are required for the chef to move on and receive a MasterChef apron, while those that fail to do so leave the competition. This process weans the field to about one-third of the original size.
One or more rounds are then used to trim the number of remaining chefs to about 16 or 18. One type of challenge has the chefs performing a routine task such as dicing onions, during which the judges will observe their technique. Judges can advance a chef to the next round or eliminate them at any time during the challenge by taking their apron. A second type of challenge is to have the chefs invent a new dish around a staple ingredient or a theme, with the judges advancing or eliminating players based on the taste of their dishes.
In the fifth season, auditions were dropped, and 30 competitors challenged directly in the MasterChef kitchen to get an apron.
Subsequently, the formal competition begins typically following a four-event cycle that takes place over two episodes, with a chef eliminated after the second and fourth event. The events typically are:
- Mystery Box Challenge: Chefs are each given a box with the same ingredients and must use only those ingredients to create a dish within a fixed amount of time. The judges will select three dishes based on visual appearance and technique alone to taste, and from these three select one winner that will gain an advantage in the Elimination Test.
- Elimination Test: The judges take the Mystery Box Challenge winner to the pantry and explain the theme of the Elimination Test in private. This chef is told of their advantages, which can include automatic advancement to the next round, selecting the specific theme of the test, or assigning certain ingredients to specific chefs as to challenge their competition. The rest of the chefs are then informed of the decision, and given five minutes to collect any ingredients from the pantry they need and a fixed amount of time to complete the dish. Judges evaluate all dishes based on taste and visual appeal (although only some of them are featured, at least in the first episodes of a season), and select two dishes as the winners of the competition to become captains in the Team Challenge. The bottom three (or more) dishes are criticized, and the judges select one of those chefs to leave the competition; those that are eliminated must remove their apron and place them on their station before they leave.
- Team Challenge: The cooks are taken to an off-site location where they are split into two teams by the team captains, typically through a schoolyard pick. The teams (colored red and blue similar to another Gordon Ramsay competition show, Hell's Kitchen) will typically have to prepare a meal for an odd number of diners (in case of a tie) in a limited amount of time. Diners will sample meals from both teams and will later vote as to which meal they preferred; if a diner does not get a meal from a team due to food not being ready on time, that team automatically forfeits the vote. The losing team will participate in the Pressure Test once they return to the MasterChef kitchen. One such challenge involves a "restaurant takeover" which involves the cooks taking the place of the staff of a particular restaurant.
- Pressure Test: Members of the losing team compete against each other to make a standard dish within a limited amount of time that requires a great degree of cooking finesse, such as a souffle. Some of the losing team members may not have to participate determined by the judges or the team captain, and they are sent to watch the challenge from the balcony along with the winning team members. Each dish is judged on taste, visual appeal, and technique, and the losing chef is eliminated from the challenge; that chef must remove their apron and place it on their station before they leave the competition.
This cycle continues until only four chefs remain, upon which the judges eliminate two chefs to select the final two competitors. In season 1, 2 cooks would face off against each other to cook 3 dishes, with the one cooking the better dishes advancing to the final. However, starting in season 2, the four cooks remaining split into 2 teams of 2. The best team automatically advances to the top 3, with the losing team facing off against each other. In the top 3, the winner of the mystery box gets first choice in choosing one of three ingredients, while the 2nd best dish gets second choice, and the loser gets whatever is remaining. The two best dishes advance to the final. These two face off in preparing a complete three course meal (appetizer, main course, and dessert) in a fixed amount of time, in which both the individual dishes and the overall meal's composition are evaluated by the judges. The judges then select the winner of MasterChef, who wins $250,000, their own cookbook, and a MasterChef trophy.
The first season aired as a summer series initially on Tuesday nights at 9:00pm ET/PT, debuting on July 27, 2010; it later moved to Wednesday nights at 8:00pm ET/PT on August 18.
On September 7, 2010, MasterChef was renewed for a second season, which started with a two-night premiere on June 6, 2011.
On May 10, 2013, Fox renewed MasterChef for an additional two seasons, which will extend the show to at least six seasons.
|Season||Season Premiere Date||Season Finale Date||No. of Finalists||Winner||First Runner-up||Second Runner-up||Judges|
|1||July 27, 2010||September 15, 2010||14||Whitney Miller||David Miller||Lee Knaz||Gordon Ramsay
|2||June 6, 2011||August 16, 2011||18||Jennifer Behm||Adrien Nieto||Christian Collins|
|3||June 4, 2012||September 10, 2012||Christine Ha||Josh Marks||Becky Reams|
|4||May 22, 2013||September 11, 2013||19||Luca Manfé||Natasha Crnjac||Jessie Lysiak|
|5||May 26, 2014||September 15, 2014||22||Courtney Lapresi||Elizabeth Cauvel||Leslie Gilliams|
The premiere episode received mixed reviews from major newspapers and online review websites, with reviews commenting that it was entertaining, but criticized the emotional aspect. The Los Angeles Times claimed the contestants' back stories were "blown up," which referred to their dramatization. A Reuters reviewer explained the show "manages to be hugely entertaining and involving thanks mainly to the judges’ personalities and the ability of the producers to spot emotionally charged stories." The Globe and Mail said "the contrived sentimentality of it is, frankly, vomitous" referring to the emotion in contestants' reactions.
The program also attracted negative attention in the second season when Agence France-Presse journalist Alex Ogle discovered that the producers doctored a crowd scene said to be of "thousands upon thousands lined up" to audition for the program. In post-production, portions of the scene were replicated so as to make the crowd look larger than it actually was, as evidenced by multiple appearances by particularly noticeable individuals in the scene.
The series' premiere episode was the highest-rated debut for summer 2010. Though it had 5.75 million viewers and the highest rating in that time-slot, the episode did not surpass its time-slot competitors' viewers figures with the exception of The CW's repeat of Life Unexpected. The second episode held up from the previous installment with 5.90 million viewers and continued to have the highest time-slot share, despite placing third against the major commercial networks.
The third episode on August 10, 2010 earned the highest viewing figures of the series to date with 6.12 million viewers, which was third amongst the five major networks; that night's episode followed the season finale of Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen.
Following the success of the first Italian season, Cielo broadcast the first two seasons of the show in 2012. In 2013, Sky Uno broadcast the third season and, shortly after the victory of Luca Manfè, the fourth season as well.
Cosmopolitan Television, in Spain, has broadcast all seasons of the show so far. STAR World India broadcasts the show in India.
Earlier American adaptation
An earlier American adaptation, MasterChef USA, was produced from 2000 to 2001 by West 175 Productions and was broadcast on PBS. That version was based directly from the BBC series and which lasted 28 episodes over two seasons. It was hosted by British chef Gary Rhodes.
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- Official website
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