MasterChef returns for 16th series

Cooking competition ‘MasterChef’ returns to BBC One for its 16th series on Monday February 24, Wednesday February 26 and Friday February 28 at 9pm.

Over eight weeks, judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace will once again be primed to discover the UK’s best amateur cook. The 60 contestants range from a cattle farmer and hairdresser to a music festival producer and an architect – all with the common goal: to prove their worth in the ‘MasterChef’ kitchen and take home the prized trophy.

Kicking off the competition, the cooks will face two brand new challenges in the heat rounds. Their first test is the Signature Dish round – in which the six contestants bring from home the ingredients they need to put their best culinary foot forward. They have an hour and 15 minutes to deliver an impressive plate of food. The best two cooks, who wow John and Gregg from the start, earn themselves a ‘MasterChef’ apron and go straight through to the third round cooking for past MasterChef winners and finalists. The remaining four get a second chance to prove themselves in another new test: the Three Ingredients Challenge. They must think on their feet and create a dish that includes all three of the ingredients included in the mystery box in front of them. It’s crucial they make an impression because at the end of this challenge, two more cooks earn themselves a ‘MasterChef’ apron and two are sent home.

The remaining four contestants must produce their own two-course menu to impress not only John and Gregg, but three ‘MasterChef’ finalists and winners, who have all gone on to work professionally in food.

The six best cooks from the heats return for the quarter final – where they come face to face with five food critics: Jay Rayner, Grace Dent, William Sitwell, Tom Parker Bowles and Jimi Famurewa. Each critic sets the home cooks a challenging brief that they have 90 minutes to deliver. Only the best contestants will be judged worthy by the critic and the ‘MasterChef’ judges of continuing in the competition.

After the five heat weeks, it’s knockout week, where the strongest 16 cooks from the competition return. Split into two groups of eight, over two episodes, the cooks are tasked with creating a dish that they would put on their own restaurant menu or feature in their own cookbook. It’s a high stakes cook off – three go home and the remaining five survivors of each round go on to experience working in a professional kitchen for the first time. They will be cooking in a restaurant service, delivering dishes to paying diners. The first group will cook at Da Terra in East London, which was awarded a Michelin star just eight months after opening, and the second at Wood in Manchester under the watchful gaze of ‘MasterChef’ Champion 2015 Simon Wood.

Rounding off knockout week, the remaining 10 contestants come together for a cook-off, aiming to secure a place in the semi-finals, and one cook’s journey ends.

The pressure is ramped up for the nine semi-finalists. First, they are split into three teams cooking for a special Trafalgar Night dinner. Each team must cook a fine-dining course in the galley of HMS Diamond for over 100 of the ship’s company. Then it’s back to the MasterChef kitchen for a cook-off centred around John and Gregg’s favourite ingredients, after which, two contestants must go home.

In the second semi-final, the seven remaining hopefuls are challenged with cooking at an entirely new level – recreating the dishes of Michelin-starred guest chef Tom Kitchin. For two cooks, their ‘MasterChef’ journey will come to an end.

The finals are in sight, but not before one last nail-biting semi-final test – the Critic’s Table. The five cooks must produce a fine-dining dish for the judges and exacting critics, William Sitwell, Grace Dent, Jay Rayner and Jimi Famurewa. Holding their nerve or cracking under the pressure decides their fate – only four can make the finals.

After seven demanding weeks, the four ‘MasterChef’ finalists must give their all for the ultimate drive to culinary glory.

The finalists’ first daunting culinary challenge is on the island of Mauritius – a gastronomic melting pot that fuses the cuisines of Africa, Europe, China and India. The finalists have to keep their culinary wits together as they are challenged to recreate both high-end Mauritian fine-dining dishes and traditional street food, tutored by the island’s leading chefs. Cooking with ingredients and techniques they have never seen takes them totally out of their comfort zone.

Back in the UK, the second finals programme stretches the contenders to their limit as they are given an extraordinary opportunity to learn from one of the world’s greatest living chefs – Albert Adria. Widely recognised as the world’s best pastry chef, Albert – the former creative director and pastry chef at El Bulli – has won Michelin accolades for restaurants in his native Barcelona. In the last 18 months he has opened in Cakes and Bubbles in London’s Café Royal – a restaurant dedicated to his pastry creations. The four ‘MasterChef’ finalists must learn and recreate his sweet creations for a chef’s table of the country’s leading pastry chefs. It’s their chance to learn from a master because back in the ‘MasterChef’ kitchen, they then have to cook their interpretation of a classic dessert. Only three can go to through to the ‘MasterChef’ final.

At the end of this journey, the mother of ‘MasterChef’ cook-offs awaits the final three. The hopefuls must bring everything to the table – from their honed techniques and stamina developed through weeks of challenges, to inspiration from locations and chefs they have worked with. These amateur cooks deliver the best three-course menu of their lives for John and Gregg, in the final bid to claim the prestigious title of ‘MasterChef’ Champion 2020.


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