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Reality TV Interview

'MasterChef' Gregg Wallace, John Torode Q&A: 'Auditions made us sick'

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Dig out your spatula and dust off your ramekins - MasterChef is almost back! Yes, everyone's favourite cooking challenge returns next week for more culinary catastrophes and divine dining.

To celebrate, we had to catch up with everyone's favourite judges Gregg Wallace and John Torode! Read on to find out what they had to say about Mary Berry, feeling sick during the audition stages and why they want to visit the BBC Live Lounge...


Gregg Wallace from MasterChef
Gregg Wallace

So, MasterChef is coming back! Can it get any bigger and better than last year?
"That's a good question! A really, really good question. I think it can be equally good - I'm not sure it can get better."

But you think you'll be able to keep that high standard and keep people tuning in?
"Oh, I don't know about making telly! I only know about the food that's being produced."

MasterChef was criticised a bit for its X Factor-style auditions last year - what do you think about that?
"I don't really know about making telly - I just turn up and taste things. I really don't know. I mean, it seemed the same to me - there I was in a room tasting things, telling people whether they were going home or staying in the competition. It just didn't seem any different.

"What we've done this year though that I really like - I really, really like - is we did a blind tasting of 70 plates over two days and decided therein. And I really like that because we didn't see the contestants and you got to taste everybody's food over two days so it was very easy to make a decision on which 20 should stay."

That way you're making your decisions based solely on the food, then.
"Absolutely. Yeah, you can't be swayed by any other factors at all - it simply is the plate. Yeah, absolutely."

You said you ate 70 dishes over two days - did you feel a little bit sick?
"Actually, John did. John said it took him three days to recover. I just remember rolling out of there. I was just an enormous belly with arms and legs sticking out."

Do you miss John when you're not working together?
"We regularly meet up for dinner when we're not working together. I do, yeah. We're properly good mates, yeah, we are."

So what challenges are in store for the contestants this series?
"We're not allowed to tell you! No, we're not allowed to tell you."

Okay... are they going to be difficult?
"There are going to be some really tricky tests. In some very smart places."

And some very discerning people to cook for?
"Always!"

The show's been going for such a long time now - what can cooks do to blow you away in the first round?
"It's always the same - you just have to do something delicious. The best food is food that delivers a surprise. You look at it, it looks pretty, but you think you know what it's going to taste like and actually they take you to a level that you didn't expect. That, I think, is food at its best."

What did you think of that 'Buttery Biscuit Base' single making it in to the top 40?
"I thought it was absolutely amazing. I love it, I really, really love it. In fact, I want to go and do an acoustic version in the BBC Live Lounge."

So you're feeling like a bit of a pop culture icon now then?
"Yeah! Gregg Wallace, John Torode, top 40 recording artists. Who would ever have believed it? Fantastic."

You're on Twitter - do you read comments about yourself and the show?
"Yeah! I try to reply to as many people as I can. I spend between an hour and two hours a day on Twitter."

So interacting with fans is important to you?
"Yeah. Yeah, interacting with fans actually ended up with me meeting my wife! I met my wife on Twitter."


John Torode
John Torode on Junior MasterChef


Do you think MasterChef can get any bigger and better than last year?
"I think MasterChef will continue to evolve and will always surprise and will always get better and always be exciting and the day it stops being exciting, the day it doesn't get better, it's not bigger, is, I suppose, the day that you know that's it then. We go into the MasterChef world of... I don't know what!"

Gregg was telling us that you ate 70 dishes over two days... and felt a bit ill.
"Well, yeah! I mean, I don't know if you've ever done 70 dishes in two days..."

Erm, no!
"No! I felt a little bit... yeah, a bit woozy, a bit queasy, a bit ooh, a bit ahh."

Was it getting hard to judge by dish 70?
"No, not at all. As far as palate's concerned, it's not an issue whatsoever. It really wasn't me - it was my digestive system. It was the speed in which it could actually digest the food and actually get through so that was the hard part."

Do you watch international MasterChefs, like the ones from Australia or the USA?
"I watch a little bit of Australia's stuff but I haven't watched any of the US stuff because I don't have any of those box things!"

Is the British version better?
"I think every single country for which it's been done is individual in its own way. Israel, they actually film the final live. Indonesia, I don't know if I'd be able to understand what's really going on! I've just done the final in Holland and that was quite good fun.

"I think every single version has its own nuances for the region that's playing to its audience. America is big and brash and so is Australia, but they're all doing one thing, and that is finding great cooks. So yeah, they're great. They're bloody brilliant. But of course Gregg and I are the best. Don't forget we are the originals. We are the originals and we are the best!"

What are your pet hates if you're eating out in a restaurant?
"I don't really have pet hates. If I go to a restaurant the last thing I want to do is sit with somebody I don't like because then the food always tastes awful. If you go to a restaurant and you go with people you like, your food will always taste really good.

"I think restaurants and family homes and stuff are about conversation and about chatting. Food is there because you want to enjoy it and have fun with it but I'm not there to study it - I'm there to spend time with my friends."

So you're one of the best judges of cooking - who do you think is the best celebrity chef? Jamie? Gordon? Nigella?
"Oh, I can't comment on that. I can't comment on that, it's not fair. It really isn't fair. There are various people over time that have come and gone and done various things, but they do the whole spectrum. If there's anyone on television right now I have absolute utter respect for as far as cooking's concerned, it's...
[Gregg calls over: "Gregg Wallace!"]
"One is Gregg Wallace. Bloody amazing. The other one is Mary Berry. I mean, what an absolute legend. There is a woman with a soft voice, a lovely nature, teaching people how to do something with real, real pride. I think the Great British Bake-Off is great."

Will we see your catchphrases again?
"'Cooking doesn't get tougher than this' is Gregg's catchphrase. Mine is, 'Whoever wins, it will change their life'. And that will continue. Whoever wins MasterChef, it will change their life."

Do you keep in touch with former contestants?
"Well, we see them because of the live shows. We see them because they come every single year to have a lunch or dinner with us. We get to see them and have a talk with them. Absolutely. You're not going to have somebody who's been with you that long suddenly disappear."

We tried to get some information out of Gregg - can you tell us what sort of challenges the contestants will face this year?
"If I told you what sort of challenges the contestants were going to go through this year I'd literally have both my legs chopped off and then they would take my feet and they would insert each foot into one nostril until such a time as all the legs were straight down inside my head, like something from a Monty Python song. I can't tell you. All I can tell you is it's going to be unbelievably fantastic."

MasterChef returns on Tuesday (January 17) at 9pm on BBC One.

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