MasterChef, episode 1 review: overegged and melodramatic – this cooking contest is looking tired

Michael Hogan
Judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace - Heat 2

There’s always an “It-ingredient” on MasterChef (BBC One). In previous years, it’s been celeriac, polenta, chorizo, fennel, star anise and squid ink. As the new series – the 15th, frighteningly – began, the ingredient du jour was most definitely samphire, which popped up in every other dish. Micro-herbs ran it a close second – good luck foraging for those at your local grocery. 

Judges Gregg Wallace and John Torode began their annual search for Britain’s best amateur cook by sending seven hopefuls to “the MasterChef Market” – actually a studio larder stocked with produce – from which they had to create, as Torode put it, “one great plade-a-food”.

Melodrama ensued. “It was a massive challenge but I cooked my heart out,” said Frank about his cheese and chive soufflé. “I’ll live and die by that sword.” Steady on, it’s only a soufflé. Don’t over-egg it. 

Maria was repeatedly, patronisingly described as a “mum-of-two”. It wasn’t specified how many children the male contestants had. Clumpy noodles, a collapsed tarte Tatin and greasy courgettes saw three hopefuls sent home. 

The remaining quartet whipped up two courses to be tasted by reigning champion Kenny Tutt and his fellow finalists. They were blandly complimentary about everything except Tim’s “koldskål” – a cold Danish buttermilk soup which was essentially a bowl of chalky, watery yogurt. 

Nawamin Pinpathomrat, David Crichton and Kenny Tutt Credit: BBC

The classic cooking of Middlesbrough youngster Annabel and the impressive skills of Guernsey lawyer Lisa saw them sail through. Nordic Tim pipped Soufflé Frank to the last quarter-final place. He died by the soufflé sword after all.

Narrator India Fisher breathily described dishes in the manner of an M&S ad. The clock counted down as trembling fingers applied finishing touches (usually involving micro-herbs). Wallace gurned and goofed around like a hyperactive boiled egg. 

Even Torode seemed to have wearied of his shouty sidekick, since the pair were rarely in the same shot together – although they had developed a new catchphrase, wishing contestants luck with “Cook well!” Though it’s always slick and watchable, MasterChef’s shtick is beginning to look as tired as Wallace’s.