Fox Network’s reality show MasterChef just kicked off its 11th season, with a twist. Featuring a full menu of legendary chefs to pitch in on judging, this season is turning up the heat on 15 home cooks. Renowned chef and MasterChef judge Aarón Sánchez recently spoke with Showbiz Cheat Sheet to spill on some details of this round of the culinary competition.
‘MasterChef: Legends’ recruits some famous foodies
Teaming up once again with Joe Bastianich and MasterChef executive producer, judge, and host Gordon Ramsay, Sánchez noted that they needed to up their game to keep in line with the past show-stopping ten seasons.
“We have a full ten seasons of really unbelievable life stories and game-changing career moves and really special moments,” the world-renowned chef told Showbiz Cheat Sheet. “We thought, after we finish one season, there’s a big process of figuring out how we could be bolder, better, more creative, raise the stakes. The idea was to bring in this pantheon of culinary giants and pillars of our industry to come in and essentially be a fourth judge with us along the process.”
With appearances by culinary gurus including Roy Choi, Nancy Silverton, Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, Emeril Lagasse, and Paula Deen, the 11th season offers the participating home cooks a wide range of expertise throughout the competition.
“Every episode, there will be a different legend joining us to add their culinary experience,” Sánchez explained, “to add their point of view with food and hopefully inspire and make these amateurs better.”
Less aprons, stiffer competition on ‘MasterChef: Legends’
While the reality show often bestows the prize of a white apron on 20 home cooks to compete, just 15 contestants are granted the opportunity to exercise their culinary muscles on season 11 of MasterChef.
“We wanted to raise the stakes and we felt that we wanted to have the same amount of legends with the same amount of contestants, or close to that,” Sánchez remarked. “Having less contestants, the white aprons are a lot more coveted and harder to come by. The 15 that we chose were extremely well prepared for this unprecedented season. So that’s the thought process behind choosing 15. We want it to be more intense, we want it to be more accelerated and keep the energy high and the intensity level high as well.”
The MasterChef star explained the safety protocols incorporated due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and noted how the contestants were unfazed by the restrictions and remained focused on their cooking. For the judges, the elimination process still remains a challenge when it comes to sending a contestant home.
“I think the most difficult part is not ending somebody’s culinary dreams but maybe halting it in that competition, that’s the toughest part,” Sánchez said of judging the contestants. “I try to be very impartial when it comes to personalities. I judge food, I don’t judge people. If you judge people, you’ll never do it fairly. So if something’s good and the person maybe has an off-putting personality, that person still wins, even though he or she might not be your cup of tea. But the food stands for itself. That’s how to keep it fair.”
‘MasterChef’ judges are ‘bros’
Ramsay, Bastianich, and Sánchez have teamed up for several seasons of MasterChef. While Ramsay has a lot of say in the show as executive producer, Sánchez pointed out that all three judges are on a level playing field.
“I mean, Gordon is our fearless leader,” the Chopped star said. “We all have an even opinion – we’re constantly learning off of each other.”
Working side by side for years, the three judges have fun on and off camera. While Sánchez was the most recent to join the MasterChef lineup, he feels a true kinship with his co-hosts.
“We’re bros, you know, because we’ve known each other for a long time and we have a very strong admiration for each other,” Sánchez told Showbiz. “And, you know, I’m kind of the new kid on the block, even though this is my fifth season. But they like busting my chops a little bit. I finally graduated from not being the new guy. So now I’m accepted and well loved. So it’s fun – we have a good time.”
MasterChef: Legends airs on Wednesday nights on Fox Network.