'MasterChef' Judges Talk Chop About Season 4: 'We Took a Page Out of 'The Voice' Book'
There's no better time for a cook-off than summer, and the heat is on when Fox's culinary competition "MasterChef" returns May 22. Yahoo! TV sat down with the trio of top tasters — chef Gordon Ramsay, chef Graham Elliot, and Joe Bastianich, a restaurateur and winemaker and son of Italian cuisine queen Lidia — who mentor, host, and judge the show to see what's being served in Season 4.
We've heard the challenges really raise the bar this season. Can you tease a few?
Joe Bastianich: We've got a huge "Glee" crossover. Surfers.
Gordon Ramsay: Firefighters.
Graham Elliot: I loved the woods one. Dropped in the woods is going to be the coolest ever. It is like an episode of "Lost." They are almost eating themselves by the time we're done with them, like the soccer team in the Andes.
Ramsay: They have to choose whether they maintain the dish for us to judge or take a little off for their own dinner because we don't give them food for 24 hours.
Bastianich: It's "MasterChef" meets "Survivor."
Ramsay: We threw them in the deep end and gave them a live wedding. And unknown to the bride and groom, Graham and I also decided to cook to make it more special. We needed the contestants' dishes to match ours. There's no way on earth we'd allow theirs to look substandard because Graham and I would look stupid. We took a page out of "The Voice" book. We were far more hands-on this year than in the past three seasons. We rolled up our sleeves to show them that we are judges for a reason and that we aren't just saying things to hear ourselves talk. We are trying to help them grow.
Elliot: It was put up or shut up time.
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the new season:
And you shoot an episode in Las Vegas.
Bastianich: What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. We have nothing to say.
Ramsay: No, we do. That's one of the most competitive culinary cities in the world and every chef wants to play there. (Alain) Ducasse, (Joël) Robuchon, (Hubert) Keller, Mario (Batali) — you name it, they are all there. Our chefs took over one of my spaces in town and literally had the pressure of Vegas on their shoulders. It was almost crack point for them because they didn't fully understand that this is what real life is like if you want to go full time as a pro chef.
Bastianich: We dare to ask, "What kind of a burger does a stripper really want to eat?" You will find out the answer this season.
Why do you think there such a proliferation of cooking competitions on TV?
Ramsay: Cooking has become the new stay-in activity. The economy has had a lot to do with it in terms of what disposable income we haven't had to spend in restaurants.
Elliot: I think you're seeing the hipster-ization of food. If you don't have the photo, it didn't happen.
Bastianich: Is that a good thing or bad?
Elliot: It can be both. Through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and so on, everyone is taking shots of food, talking about it, writing about it. It's helping others discover the most incredible dim sum in Chinatown in the middle of nowhere. People are sharing their great meal experiences like when they got 20 courses that blew their mind at Gordon Ramsay's. It makes cooks at home start expressing themselves and experimenting more. There is such an exchange of ideas. It's almost a challenge.