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MasterChef Australia
Logo masterchef.gif
Genre Cooking
Game show
Presented by Sarah Wilson (2009)
George Calombaris
Gary Mehigan
Judges George Calombaris
Gary Mehigan
Matt Preston
Opening theme "Hot N Cold" by Katy Perry
Country of origin Australia
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 72 (as of 19 July 2009)
Executive producer(s) Paul Franklin
Running time 30–90 mins (inc. commercials)
Original channel Network Ten
Original run 27 April 2009 – present
Related shows Masterchef
Celebrity MasterChef Australia
External links
Official website

MasterChef Australia is an Australian competitive cooking game show based on the original British version of MasterChef. It is produced by FremantleMedia Australia and screens on Network Ten. Food critic Matt Preston, chef George Calombaris, and restaurateur and chef Gary Mehigan serve as the show's hosts and judges.[1] The first season was presented by journalist Sarah Wilson; her role was dropped in subsequent seasons.[2]

The first episode aired on 27 April 2009, and the season one finale was broadcast on 19 July 2009.[3][4] The first Australian MasterChef was Julie Goodwin, a 38 year old I.T. office manager.[4]

A second season of the show is expected to air from April 2010. A celebrity spin-off, Celebrity MasterChef Australia, began airing from 30 September 2009.[5] Another spin-off, Junior MasterChef Australia, is also expected to air in 2010.[6]



MasterChef Australia features a different format to that of the original British MasterChef and MasterChef Goes Large formats. Initial rounds consist of a large number of hopeful contestants from across Australia individually "auditioning" by presenting a food dish before the three judges in order to gain one of 50 semi-final places. Contestants must be at least 18 years or over at time of audition, and their main source of income cannot come from preparing and cooking fresh food in a professional environment (such as in restaurants, hotels or canteens).[7]

The semi-finalists then compete in several challenges which test their food knowledge and preparation skills, cutting the number to 20 finalists. These 20 will then be whittled down through a number of individual and team-based cooking challenges and weekly elimination rounds until a winning MasterChef is crowned. The winner plays for a prize that includes chef training from leading professional chefs, the chance to have their own cookbook published, and AUD$100,000 in cash.



MasterChef Australia airs six nights a week from Sunday to Friday. Typically, each night features a different episode format:

Sunday is the Challenge night. This features two challenges. The first is the Mystery Box challenge, where each contestant is given the same mystery box of ingredients and are to create a dish using as many, or as few of the ingredients as they like. The judges move around observing and questioning during the challenge, and when it's completed, choose the three that interest them the most. These three are then tasted, and a winner chosen.

Immediately after the Mystery Box challenge is the Invention Test. A theme is given to the contestants, and they are to create a dish relevant to this theme. The winner of the Mystery Box challenge is taken into the pantry and given a choice of three feature ingredients. Whichever ingredient is chosen is the main ingredient all contestants will cook with. This contestant is then given extra time in the pantry to choose his or her ingredients, before the other contestants "shop" with less time. Once the dishes are cooked, they are all presented to the judges for tasting. The top three are selected, from which a winner is chosen. After this the bottom three are chosen, who will face off in an elimination challenge the next night.

Monday is the Pressure Test Elimination. The bottom three from the previous night's challenge are given a recipe for a particular dish they are to emulate in an allocated time. Once completed they are taken in to the judges to be tasted, before all three contestants are seated in front of the judges for critiquing. The judges then eliminate the contestant that didn't adequately complete the task.

Tuesday is the Celebrity Chef Challenge, where the winner of the Invention Test on Sunday night competes against a celebrity chef. The invited chef gives the recipe for his or her signature dish to the contestant, which the contestant is to emulate. The contestant gets additional time to complete the dish before the celebrity chef starts cooking, and after the allotted time for both is finished the dishes (unidentified as to whose dish is whose) are presented to the judges for tasting and scoring out of ten. If the contestant's score is higher than the celebrity chef's, they are crowned the winner and get a free pass to the finals week of the competition and can go home.

Wednesday is Team Elimination Challenge. The contestants are split into teams of two (Red and Blue) and are given a task, a shopping budget and a set amount of time to complete the challenge. This task is often a complete three-course meal, and has so far included presenting this meal to a celebrity guest (such as chef Curtis Stone) or to three of the top food critics in the country. Once completed and judged the teams are given the results, with the losing team going to elimination the next night. Sometimes, this is replaced with an individual challenge where contestants have to avoid being voted the least favourite dish to avoid a possibility of getting eliminated on Elimination night. Also, all contestants that are safe from elimination experience a reward instead.

Thursday is the Elimination night from the team challenge. The contestants from the losing team are to choose a contestant that they each feel did not perform to their best and may have cost them the challenge. After choosing their nomination the team are called in together to announce their nominations, with the contestant with the most nomination being eliminated from the competition. If the previous challenge was an individual challenge, the bottom two contestants must do a head to head taste test where one contestant at a time, they must name one ingredient correctly. If the contestant names an incorrect ingredient, they are eliminated from the competition.

Friday is the Masterclass. Here, judges George and Gary run a masterclass for the remaining contestants, which usually features some of the challenges from the previous week. For example, they may revisit the Mystery Box challenge and demonstrate some other dishes that could have been made or redo one of the contestants' dishes to give tips on how it could have been improved.

Season synopses

Season one

The first season of MasterChef Australia was broadcast between 27 April 2009 and 19 July 2009. Applications for contestants closed on 8 January 2009, with subsequent auditions held in Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney. Over 7000 people auditioned for the show.

The Top 50 portion of the series was filmed at the Australian Technology Park in Sydney. From the Top 20 onwards, filming was moved to a studio in Alexandria, Sydney. The season one finale was filmed on 2 July 2009, two and a half weeks before its actual television broadcast.[8]

The winner was I.T. office manager Julie Goodwin.

Celebrity MasterChef Australia

Celebrity MasterChef Australia, a spin-off featuring celebrities as contestants began production in early September 2009, and aired for ten weeks starting from 30 September 2009.[5] The celebrity version, which features a heats and semi-finals format similar to MasterChef Goes Large, is based around weekly episodes.[5][9]

Matt Preston, George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan returned as judges for this version of the franchise.[10] It was won by Olympic swimmer Eamon Sullivan, who took home $50,000 for charity Swim Survive Stay Alive.

In February 2010, executive producer Mark Fennessy stated that he doubted the spin-off will return for a second season.[11]

Season two

The second season of MasterChef Australia will air in 2010, with the initial call for contestants held in mid-2009. Presenter Sarah Wilson will not return to present the show. Ten states that she was dropped because "the appropriate role for Sarah was not achievable without dramatically changing the format".[2]

Junior MasterChef Australia

Production of a junior version of the show was initially suggested in October 2009.[6] In January 2010 it was reported that the show, to feature 8 to 12 year old contestants, would be filmed after the second series of MasterChef Australia for possible broadcast after the 2010 Commonwealth Games on Ten. In contrast to prior series, Junior MasterChef Australia will be produced by Shine Australia.[12]


Official MasterChef Cookbook Volume 1

The Official MasterChef Cookbook Volume 1 was published by Random House Australia in December 2009. It contains recipes from the Top Twenty contestants. These include Chris’s controversial roast pig head and his creamy ‘beeramisu’ – alongside Lucas’s Singapore chilli mud crab. There are also behind-the-scenes stories, culinary tips and tricks as well as recipes for Adriano Zumbo’s pressure-test desserts – the croquembouche, the pannacotta, and the mousse cake.

The book also includes recipes from top Australian and international chefs: Martin Boetz, Donovan Cooke, Pete Evans, Manu Feildel, Guy Grossi, Alex Herbert, Matt Moran and Andrew Honeysett, Ben O’Donoghue, Adrian Richardson, Frank Shek, Emmanuel Stroobant and Adriano Zumbo.[13]

Our Family Table

As the winner of MasterChef Julie Goodwin won the chance to have her own cookbook published. Her first cookbook is called Our Family Table and is published by Random House Australia, April 2010.[14]


The one hour series premiere of MasterChef Australia attracted an average of 1.42 million viewers, making it the most watched show in its timeslot.[15] Ratings steadily grew throughout the first season, with the show dominating Australian ratings as it entered finals week, averaging around or above 2 million viewers an episode, and on daily rankings placing ahead of other high rating shows such as the Seven Network's Packed to the Rafters and Nine's Rugby League State of Origin broadcast.[16][17] Its success is despite initial belief from critics that the series would be a dud based on the performance of previous prime time cooking shows, as well as general cynicism against a new reality show format.[18][19]

The first season finale of MasterChef Australia attracted an average of 3,745,000 viewers, and peaked at 4.11 million viewers. This figure was for the last half hour of the show, titled MasterChef Australia: The Winner Announced, while the first 90 minutes of the finale averaged 3,313,000 viewers. The figure also eclipsed the show's previous high, set on the last elimination episode, of 2.36 million viewers and also surpassed the previous high for a non-sporting event (Australian Idol's 2004 finale, which averaged in 3.35 million) since OzTAM ratings started in 2001. It is currently the 3rd highest rating television program in Australia since 2001, behind the 2005 Australian Open final between Lleyton Hewitt and Marat Safin, and the 2003 Rugby World Cup Final, where Australia was beaten by England. Ten's share for the night was 41.3%, almost 20% ahead of its nearest rival.[20] The first season finale was the most watched television program of 2009.[21]

Despite success in the ratings, the series initially received mixed reviews from some viewers, with fans of the original British version describing the Australian show to be incomparable to that version in terms of quality, structure, judgment and skill of the contestants.[22] Other commentators have also criticised the show for using a competition format similar to other reality shows such as Australian Idol, So You Think You Can Dance and Project Runway Australia that focuses more on the elimination of contestants than the food and cooking itself.[23][24] Ten's programming chief David Mott admitted that using the new format was "a huge risk",[18] while FremantleMedia's Paul Franklin has asserted that "for a commercial audience we needed to pump it up and make it bigger, a little over the top, with more drama and storytelling and a sense of theatre".[8]

In counterpoint, the show has been described as "an antidote for cynicism" and a reflection of multicultural Australia,[19] while the show's success has been attributed to audiences "uncomfortable with the win-at-all-cost mould of reality shows of old" and a shift in values in the face of the recent financial crisis.[25]

Cooking schools have reported an increase in enrolments due to the success of the series.[26] The success of the show also led Ten to explore possible spin-offs such as the celebrity and junior versions, as well as one featuring professional chefs as contestants.[5] The success of the show has also led competing networks to commission their own competitive cooking programs, such as Seven's My Kitchen Rules and Nine's The Great Aussie Cook-Off.[27]

Allegations of vote rigging

Significant numbers of viewers have raised allegations that the voting on the season one finale of MasterChef was fraudulent after Julie Goodwin won the crown. After the airing of the finale talkback radio became inundated with calls, both for and against the verdict, and the finale also became a top trending topic on social networking site Twitter, where many users said they felt “deflated” and “ripped off” by the final episode of the hit show.[28][29] Similar allegations were raised when contestants were eliminated throughout the season.[30]

Judge Matt Preston has denied that eliminations were rigged or the result of a popularity contest,[30] and asserted that Julie had won the title because she was the better cook on the night.[28] Goodwin herself has also asserted that her victory was not the result of rigging, insisting that the professional integrity of the three judges would be damaged if it were.[31]

See also


  1. ^ Knox, David (11 January 2009). "Food critic becomes Masterchef host". Retrieved 12 January 2009. 
  2. ^ a b Knox, David (11 September 2009). "TEN drops Sarah Wilson from MasterChef 2". Retrieved 12 September 2009. 
  3. ^ Knox, David (15 April 2009). "Big week looms for Ten". Retrieved 27 April 2009. 
  4. ^ a b van Druten, Rebekah (2009-07-19). "Julie savours MasterChef victory". ABC Online. Retrieved 2009-07-19. 
  5. ^ a b c d Celebrity Masterchef will begin production in September
  6. ^ a b Now it's Junior MasterChef for Channel 10
  7. ^ Knox, David (9 December 2008). "Auditions: Masterchef". Retrieved 12 January 2009. 
  8. ^ a b MasterChef wraps
  9. ^ Biggest Loser trainer lined up for Celebrity MasterChef? – Yahoo!7 TV
  10. ^ Knox, David (26 July 2009). "Celebrity MasterChef chop-chops Sarah Wilson". Retrieved 2 August 2009. 
  11. ^ Future of Celebrity MasterChef uncertain
  12. ^ Shine Australia to produce Junior Masterchef
  13. ^ "MASTERCHEF AUSTRALIA THE COOKBOOK VOLUME 1". Retrieved 9 March 2010. 
  14. ^ "Our Family Table". Retrieved 9 March 2010. 
  15. ^ Knox, David (28 April 2009). "Biggest Loser tops 2m viewers". Retrieved 7 May 2009. 
  16. ^ MasterChef tops 2.1m
  17. ^ Masterchef thumps State of Origin, but Nine wins Wednesday
  18. ^ a b "Masterchef gets three chefs' hats for food lovers' hit". Herald Sun. 17 June 2009.,21985,25640222-5006022,00.html. Retrieved 17 June. 
  19. ^ a b MasterChef's appeal was its friends
  20. ^ "3.74m viewers powers MasterChef finale". 20 July 2009. Retrieved 20 July 2009. 
  21. ^ "2009: The Top 100". 6 December 2009. Retrieved 2 February 2010. 
  22. ^ "First taste of Masterchef draws mixed reaction". The Age. 28 April 2009. Retrieved 8 May 2009. 
  23. ^ "If you can't stand the heat...". The Blurb. Retrieved 18 May 2009. 
  24. ^ "Australian Masterchef – So You Think You Can Cook?". Macabre Melbourne. 29 April 2009. Retrieved 18 May 2009. 
  25. ^ Channel Ten show MasterChef secret recipe
  26. ^ "Cooking schools flooded with MasterChef fans". 17 June 2009.,28383,25642967-10229,00.html. Retrieved 17 June. 
  27. ^ MasterChef inspires imitators
  28. ^ a b "Was MasterChef Australia rigged?". 20 July 2009.,21598,25807502-5005382,00.html. Retrieved 20 July 2009. 
  29. ^ "Julie Beats Poh – Masterchef Australia Rigged?". 20 July 2009. Retrieved 20 July 2009. 
  30. ^ a b "MasterChef judge Matt Preston denies show is rigged". 22 June 2009.,28383,25670473-10388,00.html. Retrieved 20 July 2009. 
  31. ^ "MasterChef's Julie Goodwin says show wasn't rigged". 20 July 2009.,21985,25808205-5005961,00.html. Retrieved 20 July 2009. 

External links


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