Simon Toohey says the 12th season of MasterChef is like a big warm hug from an old friend you haven't seen for a long time - that's if we were allowed to hug each other.
"There are all these contestants from the 11 years of the show, coming back, people viewers have followed even after their season was over, it's like being back with old friends," he says.
Although Toohey is based in Melbourne, Canberra is happy to claim him.
He grew up in Canberra, attended Canberra Grammar, before heading to CIT for a course in hospitality management and the University of Canberra where he completed a Bachelor of tourism management.
He's worked at various Canberra bars and restaurants, most notably Parlour Wine Room, and his first job out of school was at the legendary Filthy McFaddens.
In 2019 he finished third in MasterChef behind eventual winner Larissa Takchi and Tess Boersma, who also returns for season 12.
When asked to name who the hottest competition might be he's reluctant to pick anyone.
"You have 24 people who not only have so much talent but they've been working in the industry that they wanted to work in forever," he says.
"They did MasterChef, dived straight into working in a kitchen, did television shows, wrote cookbooks, opened restaurants ... there are people with years and years of experience coming back and cooking all over again.
"The competition is seriously tough."
Fan favourites include season two runner up Callum Hann, Chris Badenoch from season one, Jess Liemantara from season 10, Khanh Ong who finished third in season 10, season six runner up Laura Sharrad and Sarah Tiong from season nine.
"And then there's Reynold, who's gone on to do such amazing things, and Poh of course, can you believe Poh is back competing."
And there just happens to be three new judges too. How's that going?
Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris quit after season 11 due to a dispute involving their pay.
The new judges are Jock Zonfrillo, Andy Allen and Melissa Leong.
"It's like a breath of fresh air," Toohey says.
"We all know it's going to ruffle some feathers, people don't like change, but Jock, Andy and Melissa are just genuinely beautiful people. Sure they had big shoes to fill, but they have and they're surpassing it."
Other faces you'll see in the kitchen include celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay who kicks off week one, dessert king Darren Purchese, and vegan queen Shannon Martinez to name a few.
Toohey agrees that MasterChef might just be the reality television show we need during the coronavirus.
"People are aching for a show that is focussed on the positivity in people," he says.
"On people who have a passion for something, who have something they really want to be good at.
"And people are at home, people do want to learn how to cook, learn new things, and to top it all off you have these contestants who people have followed for such a long time."
Since leaving MasterChef, Toohey opened a vegan smokehouse pop-up restaurant in Melbourne to rave reviews, featuring familiar ingredients cooked in creative ways.
He's also launched the Sustainable Earth Network, focussing on driving the idea of utilising whole ingredients and fighting food waste, as well as shifting people's thinking about food.
While he can understand why it's had to happen, he's disappointed to see the return of disposable coffee cups and throwaway containers being used to deliver food now people are no longer able to dine in.
"It usually seems like two steps forward, one step back, but we've taken four big steps back."
He hopes when the situation has passed it gives us all pause for thought about how we incorporate food, whether that be eating, cooking, growing and the like, into our new lives.
Until then, pick your favourite and settle in for the MasterChef ride.
- MasterChef Australia. Back To Win. Premieres Monday, April 13, at 7.30pm. On the WIN Network.