Former ‘MasterChef’ Contestant Confirms Time Limits Aren’t ‘Fudged for TV’

Few cooking reality TV shows tap into the human drama of being in a pressure-packed kitchen quite like MasterChef. The Fox network show pits hungry chefs against one another in a no-holds-barred cooking battle to see who can emerge as the best cook in the kitchen.

Sometimes, the show can be so exciting that it seems as though parts of it can’t possibly be real. But one contestant said that the limits on the show’s timed-challenges are absolutely legitimate. 

Who is the star of ‘MasterChef?’ 

Gordon Ramsay
Gordon Ramsay | FOX Image Collection via Getty Images

While the contestants make MasterChef compelling and there are multiple celebrity chef judges, the main draw of the show is UK chef Gordon Ramsay. Ramsay has made quite a career for himself as a foul-mouthed, often temperamental celebrity chef. Ramsay has starred in countless TV shows, including: 

  • Hell’s Kitchen
  • Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares
  • MasterChef
  • MasterChef Junior
  • The F Word

Ramsay isn’t just the star of MasterChef: he’s also the lead chef on MasterChef Junior. That’s a show with a similar format, with the major difference being the contestants are all young children. 

Ramsay is known for being especially demanding of chefs in his kitchen. It leads to his kitchen resembling a real high-pressure environment. Because of this, many of his cooking shows feature plenty of tension, as well as cooks making mistakes and getting roasted by Ramsay for it.

He certainly has quite an intimidating presence, and that’s led to some people appearing on his shows to mess up. But on MasterChef, there’s another reason why some chefs make mistakes: they’re often being timed on their performance. 

The format of ‘MasterChef’

RELATED: ‘MasterChef’: 7 People Who Despise Gordon Ramsay

MasterChef showcases many talented chefs when the show begins. They’re then put through a series of challenges. Sometimes they compete as teams, other times they compete as individuals. During each round, one or multiple contestants are eliminated based on their performance on the show. 

One of the show’s most enduring aspects is its timed competitions. In multiple rounds, the hosts will give the contestants a challenge they hadn’t previously heard. They’ll then have to complete the challenge in the allotted time frame. This forces the contestants to do the best job they can in a rush. 

The timed competitions make for great television. But as with scripted TV, reality TV often has outlines or narratives put in place to help create drama where it may not have existed. So was that the case for MasterChef? One former contestant says: not at all. 

A former ‘MasterChef’ contestant confirms time limits aren’t ‘fudged for TV’

The chefs’ ability (or inability) to meet time limits may seem like some sort of manufactured, made for TV event.

According to former contestant Elise Mayfield, the time limits were 100% real and enforced.  In an interview with the AV Club, Mayfield provided some background information on the process. There were no shortcuts. Contestants were given a certain amount of time to complete a challenge and suffered the consequences if they did not. 

“Once you get into the kitchen, and you’re at your station and they start giving you information, the cameras just disappear. There’s so much else at stake and those time limits are 100 percent real. They are not fudged for TV. They’re real, and when they say the clock started, the clock started.”

That’s probably what makes MasterChef such a successful show. The excitement and dread on the chef’s faces as they come down to the wire in the closing minutes and seconds of a challenge are real. They don’t get any extensions or other help from the judges. The show doesn’t require added drama – the competition itself gives them more than enough.