The landmark 10th season of Fox's MasterChef debuted on May 29, and it's shaping up to be the show's biggest year yet.
After kicking things off with fireworks and helicopter entrances, judges Gordon Ramsay, Joe Bastianich and Aarón Sánchez are conquering broader horizons in this anniversary year. TV Insider caught up with chef Bastianich to discuss what's next, the anniversary, what he'd prepare for his signature dish and more. Below, Bastianich quenches our appetite for information.
When the show premiered 10 years ago, could you have imagined it would be this big?
Joe Bastianich: Well, I mean, you know, the show has had such an evolution, I think that cooking in America has also had an evolution and it remains contemporary. It kind of chronicles the trends of what's happening in American cooking and people's action for food and action for ingredients. So it is nice to stay relevant. It's important in a TV format.
The premiere episode included helicopters and pyrotechnics, and you'll be traveling abroad this season. What else should fans expect?
Well, I mean, I think some of the field challenges are dynamic and bigger than ever before. The level of cooking is as high as ever. We've mixed up a lot of what people thought were the rules of how things go. We've changed the rules to keep them guessing. So, in a lot of ways this show is reinventing itself, also, within the context of the format. So it's always MasterChef, but you never know what to expect.
Like those Battle Passes?
Yes. Those were fun.
Can we expect anymore twists like that?
Yes... wedding bells will be ringing in the MasterChef kitchen as well. So there's a lot of interesting things that are happening.
Contestants are often intimidated by you. Is there a pressure to maintain that reputation each season?
No. I mean, I treat these contestants like I would treat any people in my professional life, you know? There's high expectations. And they become your students and you have to challenge them but you also have to tutor them so there's the element of investing in someone and then sometimes they disappoint you.
You've tasted so many dishes throughout your time with MasterChef whether they've been good, bad or downright inedible. Is there one in particular dish that you'll remember forever?
I mean there's some memorably bad ones from Season 1 ten years ago [Laughs] that I'll never forget. I've thrown a lot of dishes in the garbage through the years.
Are there any competitors that we should keep an eye out for?
Yeah, a couple of them. You've got this young kid, Nick [DiGiovanni] — Harvard undergraduate, 21 years-old, a lot of potential. Oh my god, there's so many.
What's the biggest mistake contestants make in this competition?
When they don't listen. You have to listen and evolve to win... The biggest mistake they make is when they try to think that they're going to outsmart us, that we're giving them information just for the sake of giving it, when we're actually trying to help them. When they think they've got that figured out better than we are, that's usually where it goes wrong.
Is there a dish that you'd tell contestants to avoid making?
Risotto. Risotto is always very tricky. Everyone wants to make risotto but the only person who can really make it is my mom.
How has this experience inspired other areas of your career outside of the show?
I think it allows you to keep in touch with what people are cooking in America. I mean we have restaurants all over the place, so that communication, that knowledge of all American regional cooking, what's happening, is an important part of my professional life as well.
Has there ever been a time when you've learned something from a contestant?
Very difficult for that to happen... No, I'm kidding [Laughs]. Of course, I learn all the time.
MasterChef competitors all have to prepare a signature dish, what would yours be and why?
My signature dish would be spaghetti with white clam sauce. It's just for the perfection of simplicity. I'm a fan of simple food and sometimes simple dishes can be the most difficult to execute.
MasterChef, Wednesdays, 8/7c, Fox