Back to basics ... the MasterChef judges. Photo: Wayne Taylor
MasterChef judge Gary Mehigan says they have done their best not to overcook the fourth series of the reality show, to keep the dishes within inspirational reach of amateurs.
Mehigan said they have been down the path of having the best chefs on the show, including Denmark's Rene Redzepi whose restaurant was voted the best in the world in 2010 and 2011, but that was possibly taking MasterChef in the wrong direction.
He said after listening to feedback and discussing the format with fellow judges Matt Preston and George Calombaris, they decided a simpler, viewer-friendly show, which also appeals to children, was the best recipe for their continued success.
"Last year we had Renee Redzepi, who is the number one chef on the planet but no kid is ever going to say 'I want to make the snowman' because they don't have a vacuum sealer, a water bath, a spray gun or liquid nitrogen," Mehigan said.
"No one since that series has ever come up and said they loved the finale with Renee Redzepi, because they can't relate to it.
"So for me it's got to be relatable and everything we are doing we are questioning 'is it relatable?'"
MasterChef returns to Network Ten on May 6 and for the first time the journey starts in Melbourne, before heading back to its roots in Sydney for the remainder of the series.
The initial 50 contestants will have just an hour to prepare their best dish and impress the judges enough to be chosen for the final 24.
Mehigan said he has noticed a vast difference in contenders' starting skills from the first series in 2009 when the contestants possessed the basics of cooking.
"In year one, we were teaching how to caramelise meat when they make a stew," Mehigan said.
"In year four these contestants already know that, which reflects what a lot of people tell you in the street, and that's they now know terms they never did three years ago."
While there may be less emphasis on having the likes of Redzepi's skills and fame on the show, MasterChef's producers did score a huge coup in obtaining Naked Chef Jamie Oliver for one of the episodes.
Mehigan said Oliver was the perfect celebrity chef on many levels, not least because he has endeared himself to working class people all over the world.
Oliver taped an episode in Sydney during a promotional tour in early March for his mobile Australian Ministry of Food centres.
"He gets the biggest reaction for anyone we have had as a guest. When he walked on set, they were emotional," Mehigan said.
"He has had an incredible impact on an incredible number of people and they are the sort of people who have auditioned for our show."
Of the 50 people who will attempt to make it to the final two dozen, Mehigan said there's enough personalities within the group for viewers to latch on to a 'character'.
During the first week for the final 24 they contend with a 'mystery box' (of ingredients) challenge, run two famous Sydney restaurants and one of them will compete for immunity against Dan Hong who runs Ms G's Asian restaurant in Sydney.
* MasterChef premieres on Network Ten on May 6 at 7.30pm and will then screen on weeknights at 7pm.