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'Never thought MasterChef Australia would become so popular'

September 10, 2013 09:28 IST

'Never thought MasterChef Australia would become so popular'

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Rajul Hegde in Mumbai

Gary Mehigan will put the next batch of amateur cooks through their paces in MasterChef Australia, beginning September 10.

In the popular cookery-based show, now in its fifth season, Gary and his two co-judges push the contestants to be the best they can be and give them the benefit of their cooking experience via the weekly master classes.

Before MasterChef, Gary was teaching Australians to cook through the lifestyle channel Boy’s Weekend. He has authored a number of best-selling cookbooks and runs several restaurants.

Five years ago, did you imagine that MasterChef Australia would become the most popular cooking show in the world?

The answer is no. It’s amazing. It’s got a huge fan following in Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Venezuela, Mexico, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

We went to Dubai for a holiday and people are like, ‘Hi, how are you... I like watching your show.’ It’s fabulous.


Image: Gary Mehigan


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'MasterChef is more than just a reality show'

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Rajul Hegde

Why do you think it’s more popular than its US and UK counterparts?

Yeah, that’s interesting, isn’t it? I think it’s because for people watching from Europe and Asia, it’s like a window into how Australians live, their lifestyle.

I think maybe also because it’s more than just a reality show. It’s about mentoring, giving advice and the feedback.

It’s got some sense of humour; a bit of fun... I think it’s a good, wholesome show.

What new and exciting things can we expect from the new season 5?

We’re going to kick off with boys versus girls. We got Italian versus Australian week, we’ll do heaven and hell... We have a live audience, which is awesome and very different from what it was.


Image: Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris with a contestant
Photographs: MasterChef Australia
Tags: Europe , UK , Asia , US

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'We were hoping to include India as one of foreign cooking locations'

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Rajul Hegde

Last time you took the contestants to Italy. Any exciting foreign cooking locations this time?

We know it’s Dubai this year. Also, the show’s moved to Victoria, and it’s also going to be in and around Melbourne.

We are also going to Western Australia and lots of very exciting challenges…

I was hoping you’d say India…

In the beginning of the year I was hoping India, but they chose otherwise. We keep saying please can we go... so, hopefully, a quick trip, just Mumbai maybe.


Image: Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris with a contestant
Photographs: MasterChef Australia

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'Matt, George and I tend not to disagree very often'

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Rajul Hegde

How different are you, Matt and George as judges?

We tend not to disagree very often. I think I am hard but fair. To tell the truth, I am fairly straight.

George (Calombaris) is the one who can be a little creative, double meaning. Whatever Matt (Preston) says, is true.

How do the three of you resolve a major difference of opinion about a dish or a contestant?

It’s always Matt and I who disagree. So when that happens, we go straight to George and agree with him. But Matt will never give in!


Image: Matt Preston, George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan
Photographs: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

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'MasterChef Australia version sets a benchmark'

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Rajul Hegde

Since MasterChef Australia is massively popular in India, will you introduce more Indian dishes in season 5 since there are two Indian contestants?

In Australia we have a lot of Indian immigrants. Rishi and Neha are in the show.

Rishi is trying to bring a new touch to Indian cuisine, which is going to be interesting.

We want Indian food, Italian food, all kinds of food. That’s what makes it more interesting.

This is the first time that an Indian contestant has reached the top 10. What are the limitations that the Indian contestants face?

I don’t think there are any limitations. You need to show you are growing as things are changing.

You have to see the change, the growth. The ones that do that are the ones that reach the top five.

So, you need to change and adapt.

Have you watched MasterChef India? What do you think about it?

Yes. I have met a couple of judges too the last time I was in India. I think one of the judges is not on the show now, Ajay Chopra.

Somehow I think the Australian version sets a benchmark. I can’t do anything about it. There are a lot of different versions, but I think the magic comes from the judges.


Image: Gary Mehigan
Photographs: MasterChef Australia

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