Masterchef returns and the heat is definitely on

Gregg Wallace and John Torode are back in the kitchen as Masterchef returns for an 11th series. Below, the competitiors in Tuesday's first heat
Gregg Wallace and John Torode are back in the kitchen as Masterchef returns for an 11th series. Below, the competitiors in Tuesday's first heat
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Cooking may get tougher than this, but trying telling that to John Torode and Gregg Wallace

John Torode and Gregg Wallace like to remind us that “cooking doesn’t get any tougher than” their culinary masterclass, MasterChef.

Every year the contestants just get better and better, which means that the judging becomes a lot more exciting

However we reckon that if you looked hard enough – for instance by tracking down the chefs who served the troops in Helmand province – you might be able to find the odd cook who’s used to working under greater pressure than even Wallace’s steely gaze can offer.

Mind you, we won’t deny for a second that the series, which has just entered its 11th year, is a rough ride for any competitors. No matter, we’re sure that, by this point, most people know what they’re letting themselves in for – and if there’s anyone who can’t stand the heat, they should step outside the kitchen.

For this year’s series, hundreds of hopefuls volunteered, so for the 40 who made it through, it’s safe to say their work is well and truly cut out. Firstly, the first group of five contestants are given just one hour and 15 minutes to dazzle the judges when they are asked to cook their ‘Calling Card’ – a well-rehearsed dish which represents exactly who they are as a cook, and demonstrates where their individual talent lies.

After tasting all of the dishes, John and Gregg, without telling each other, each pick their favourite one. If they both choose the same dish then they will select their second preference. The two lucky cooks will be safe – for now – and sail straight through to the third test.

The remaining three contestants must cook again in a twist on the infamous Invention Test – this series dubbed the ‘Reinvention Test’. The hopefuls are given the main ingredient from their Calling Card Dish, as well as access to the MasterChef larder. Using that same ingredient they must entirely reinvent the recipe which they know so well, to create a brand new dish which they hope will sway the judges and earn them a place in the next round. They have one hour and 15 minutes to rustle up something good enough to keep them in the competition.

The steaks – sorry, stakes – are high: after this cook-off, one of the amateurs will be sent home, while the others will breathe a sigh of relief.

The four remaining cooks now have one more challenge standing between them and a quarter-final place. To earn their place they have to cook a menu that will excite not just John and Gregg, but also some special guests: three MasterChef Champions who are back to give their verdict.

And it will be by no means clear-cut – as John says, “Every year the contestants just get better and better, which means that the judging becomes a lot more exciting”.

So does the viewing, John.

Masterchef

tuesday, BBC1, 9pm