One-third of the popular trio of MasterChef Australia — judge Gary Mehigan — vividly remembers our encounter at a supermarket on his visit to Mumbai last year. Now, speaking to us over the phone about the latest season of the show — which currently airs on Star World he discusses the multiple changes brought about in the format, the quality of contestants and why a malpua may bring him to India next month.
Are you planning to return to India any time soon?
I’m hoping to come in October. We’re talking to the high commissioner here to do a couple of events and just explore the country further. In Australia, Indian food is under-represented. Under that generic term, there’s such diverse food. In Delhi, I’d eaten at Manish Mehrotra’s restaurant, Indian Accent. I think his modern interpretations would work very well in Australia. I also want to meet young Indian chefs and see what they’re up to.After I returned from my trip last year, I’ve been making more trips to the local Indian market and buying different masalas and spices. I’ve made some appams and curries. I got all the ingredients for a malpua and even got Chef Ajay Chopra on the phone, but I failed at making it. I’m going to have to come and learn it now (laughs).
There seem to be plenty of changes on the show this season.
Yes, it’s a lot more fun and we’re very kicked about it. We started off with Boys vs Girls (a challenge), which everyone enjoyed. This time, we have a lot of special weeks — Italian Week, Wild West Week in Western Australia, Barossa Valley Week, Kids Week and more. Even the formats like Invention Test and Mystery Box have been modified. Another big difference is that we have Matt Preston cooking during master class this season. This season started just after MasterChef Professionals, which I loved. On the other hand, my daughter prefers MasterChef Australia simply for the stories of these guys, and to watch them grow as chefs with such passion.
The Boys vs Girls challenge reportedly attracted a bit of flak in Australia. Is that true?
Yes, I saw a bunch of youngsters take to social media and rubbish the concept, but that was all before the episode aired. I think they were expecting some kind of stereotyping, when in reality, I think MasterChef blows all stereotypes out of the water. It wasn’t about who was better; we were just having fun.
Has the quality of contestants improved with every season?
Interestingly, I found the contestants in season four to be the most efficient. Girls like Kylie, Julia, Mindy and Audra were just incredible and I think we as judges got spoilt with that lot. This season, there are more home cooks and amateurs participating on the show. They’re a bit wet behind the ears but they learn very quickly. They’ve just surrendered to the process.