MasterChef is an American competitive cooking reality TV show based on the original British series of the same name, open to amateur and home chefs. Produced by Shine America and One Potato Two Potato, it debuted on July 27, 2010 on the Fox network, following the professional cooking competition series, Hell's Kitchen.
For the first 5 seasons, the series starred celebrity chefs Gordon Ramsay (the co-creator of the series and Hell's Kitchen), Graham Elliot and restaurateur Joe Bastianich. From Seasons 6-8, pastry chef Christina Tosi temporarily replaced Bastianich. On Season 7, Graham departed as a judge, and in place of a third judge, there were a series of guest judges, one of which was Aarón Sanchez. Since Season 8, Sanchez joined as a regular judge. In Season 9, Bastianich returned as a regular judge, replacing Tosi. On September 19, 2018, it was announced that the series had been renewed for a tenth season, which premiered on May 29, 2019 with Ramsay, Sanchez, and Bastianich reprising their roles as judges/hosts respectively.
MasterChef is based on the British BBC series MasterChef. Celebrity chef, TV personality and restaurateur Gordon Ramsay, together with restaurateur and vineyard owner Joe Bastianich (temporarily replaced by pastry chef Christina Tosi from Seasons 6–8, although Bastianich eventually returned as the third judge starting Season 9 onwards, after previously guest-starring on the Season 8 finale), and chef Graham Elliot (later replaced by Aarón Sanchez from Season 8 onwards). The competition takes place in the MasterChef warehouse/soundstage located in Los Angeles, CA which includes a large kitchen area with several cooking stations which is overlooked by a balcony, a well-stocked pantry, a freezer/fridge area and a fine-dining restaurant/seating dining area room used for certain challenges.
At least one round was then used to trim the number of remaining chefs to about sixteen to eighteen. One type of challenge has the chefs performing a routine task like 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 theme, with the judges advancing or eliminating players based on the taste of their dishes.
In Season 5, auditions were dropped, and thirty competitors were challenged directly in the MasterChef kitchen to get an apron. In Season 6, twenty semi-finalists were surprised when they were told they had to go into head-to-head competition with another competitor cooking a dish with the same main ingredient; the winner received an apron. There was then a final last-chance cook-off where each judge selected 2 non-winners to compete for the final 2 aprons. From season 7-8 the top 40 home cooks battle it out into group of two or four where they will cook steak to scallops to cupcakes and 1 or two of them move on into the top 20. There was no last-chance-cook off. Starting from season 9 the top 43 home cooks battle it in groups of 2, 3, and 4 from a category of their signature dishes to get a spot in the top 24. Each judge will have only 8 aprons to give out and then will mentor those cooks throughout the competition.
Subsequently, the formal competition begins typically following a 4-event cycle that takes place over 2-4 episodes, with two chefs eliminated after the second and fourth event. The events typically are:
- Mystery Box: Cooks are all 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 3 dishes based on visual appearance and technique alone to taste, and from these 3 select one winner who will gain an advantage in the elimination test. Starting from season 6, some winning dishes will be featured in Blue Apron or Family Circle Magazine.
- Elimination Test: The judges take the mystery box winner to the pantry, privately explain the theme of the elimination test, and tell of at least one advantage. The most typical one is selecting the specific ingredient to use or dish to recreate, but can also include automatic advancement to the next round, assigning certain ingredients to specific chefs, saving competitors, or being allowed to assign pairs in "tag-team challenges". The rest of the chefs are then informed and given 5 minutes to collect any ingredients from the pantry (excluding the tag-team challenge) they need and a fixed amount of time to complete the dish. Judges evaluate all dishes based on taste and visual appeal. The cooks with the top 2 dishes become captains in the following team challenge. The judges nominate the worst 2 to four dishes for elimination and criticize them before telling at least one of the home cooks to place their apron on their station and "leave the MasterChef kitchen", eliminating them.
- Team Challenge: The cooks are taken to an off-site location and are split into 2 teams by the team captains (typically through a schoolyard pick), with the cook with the best dish in the elimination test getting first pick. The teams wore blue or red aprons and will typically have to prepare a meal for a number of diners in a limited amount of time or engage in a "restaurant takeover or pop-up restaurant" taking the place of the staff of a particular restaurant. Diners taste both meals and vote for their favourite, causing a team to forfeit a vote if a diner does not end receiving their meal. The winning team advances, while the losing team will participate in the pressure test upon returning to the MasterChef kitchen.
- Pressure Test: The losing team members wore black aprons and compete against each other to make a standard dish within a very limited amount of time that requires a great degree of cooking finesse. Not all of the losing team members may have to participate, upon receiving exemption from either the judges, the team captain, or the winning team. The team challenge winners and those exempt watch the test from the balcony. Each dish is judged on taste, visual appeal and technique, and the losing chef is eliminated.
This cycle continues until only 4 chefs remain, upon which the judges eliminate 2 chefs to select the final 2 competitors. In Season 1, 2 cooks would face off against each other to cook three dishes, with the one cooking the better dishes advancing to the finale. However, since Season 2, the 4 cooks remaining split into two teams of two. The best team automatically advances to the top 3, with the losing team facing off against each other. In the top 3, from Season 2 to 4, the winner of the mystery box gets first choice in choosing one of 3 ingredients, while the second best dish gets second choice, and the loser gets whatever is remaining. The 2 best dishes advance to the finale. From Season 5-6, the top 3 individually face each other to serve VIPs, and while the winner moves to the finale, the remaining 2 compete in a final pressure test for a spot in the finale. In season 7 the judges announce to the top 4 that 3 home cooks will be in the finale and they split into two teams for a team challenge. The losing team will face a pressure test where one will move on into the finale and one will go home. Starting from season 8 the top four home cooks compete in a series of 3 skills test in each one home cook moves on until 3 home cooks have gone into the finale and 1 home cook goes home. The final 2 or 3 face off in preparing a complete three course menu in a fixed amount of time (2 hours overall in the first 3 seasons, one hour per dish since Season 4) in which the judges evaluate both the individual dishes and the overall meal's composition. The judges then select the winner of MasterChef, who wins $250,000, their own cookbook from season 1, 3-8, a MasterChef Trophy and the title of Masterchef, from season 7-8 the winning home cook get to be a celebrity guest on the Masterchef Cruise, and a MasterChef trophy. From season 2 and 9 the winner gets $250,000 and the MasterChef trophy.
Season 1 aired as a summer series initially on Tuesday nights at 9:00 PM ET/PT, debuting on July 27, 2010; it later moved to Wednesday nights at 8:00 PM ET/PT on August 18.
On September 7, 2010, MasterChef was renewed for a second season, which started with a 2-night premiere on June 6, 2011.
On October 6, 2011, MasterChef was renewed for a third season, which started with a 2-night premiere on June 4, 2012, following Hell's Kitchen.
On July 23, 2012, MasterChef was renewed for a fourth season, which premiered on May 22, 2013, in its new Wednesday at 8:00 PM ET/PT time slot.
On May 10, 2013, Fox renewed MasterChef for an additional 2 seasons, which will extend the show to at least 6 seasons.
On July 22, 2015, Fox renewed MasterChef for a seventh season.
|Season||Episodes||Premiere Date||Finale Date||No. of Finalists||Winner||Runner(s)-up||Judge 1||Judge 2||Judge 3|
|1||13||July 27, 2010||September 15, 2010||14||Whitney Miller||David Miller||Gordon Ramsay||Graham Elliot||Joe Bastianich|
|2||20||June 6, 2011||August 16, 2011||18||Jennifer Behm||Adrien Nieto|
|3||20||June 4, 2012||September 10, 2012||Christine Hà||Joshua Marks†|
|4||25||May 22, 2013||September 11, 2013||19||Luca Manfé||Natasha Crnjac|
|5||19||May 26, 2014||September 15, 2014||22||Courtney Lapresi||Elizabeth Cauvel|
|6||20||May 20, 2015||September 16, 2015||Claudia Sandoval||Derrick Peltz||Christina Tosi|
|7||19||June 1, 2016||September 14, 2016||20||Shaun O'Neale||David Williams
& Brandi Mudd}}
|8||21||May 31, 2017||September 20, 2017||Dino Angelo Luciano||Eboni Henry
& Jason Wang
|9||23||May 30, 2018||September 19, 2018||24||Gerron Hurt||Ashley Mincey
& Cesar Cano
|10||May 29, 2019||2019||20|
|Season||Episodes||Premiered||Ended||TV season||Time slot (ET)||Season averages (Live + SD)|
|Viewers (millions)||18-49 rating|
|1||13||July 27, 2010||5.75||September 15, 2010||4.81||2010||Tuesday 9:00pm (1-3)
Wednesday 8:00pm (4-13)
|2||20||June 6, 2011||4.40||August 16, 2011||7.12||2011||Monday 9:00 pm||5.27||2.2|
|Tuesday 9:00 pm||5.35||2.2|
|3||June 4, 2012||5.10||September 10, 2012||6.52||2012||Monday 9:00 pm||5.84||2.5|
|Tuesday 9:00 pm||5.67||2.4|
|4||25||May 22, 2013||5.30||September 11, 2013||6.31||2013||Wednesday 8:00 pm||5.63||2.3|
|5||19||May 26, 2014||4.26||September 15, 2014||5.56||2014||Monday 8:00 pm||5.43||1.9|
|6||20||May 20, 2015||3.39||September 16, 2015||4.69||2015||Wednesday 8:00 pm||4.56||1.5|
|7||19||June 1, 2016||3.81||September 14, 2016||4.36||2016||4.03||1.3|
|8||21||May 31, 2017||3.67||September 20, 2017||4.14||2017||3.62||1.1|
|9||23||May 30, 2018||3.52||September 19, 2018||3.56||2018||3.52||1.0|
|10||TBA||May 29, 2019||3.14||TBA||2019||Wednesday 8:00pm
Thursday 8:00pm (from June 20)
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 stores 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 Season 2 when Agence France-Presse journalist Alex Ogle discovered that the producers doctored a crowd scene 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 especially noticeable people in the scene.
In February 2018, Salon published "I Am A MasterChef Survivor" by former contestant Jessie Glenn outlining the abusive practices MasterChef used with contestants, provoking reactions from many in the food industry including New Yorker food correspondent, Helen Rosen.