Change is in the air this season on Seven's hit cooking show My Kitchen Rules and that's not just a reference to Manu Feildel's fresh haircut and Pete Evans' newly svelte figure.
Returning for a fourth season, there's more on the menu this time round than State versus State, plate against plate, as 12 teams of two attempt to out-dine each other.
"We're going to have gatecrashers being introduced at an early stage of the competition that are going to ruffle some feathers and really turn the competition on its head," executive producer Rikkie Proost says over the phone from Sydney.
"We're also going to have blind tastings this year. This will be at the judges' table and it will involve our judges not knowing which team has cooked which dish."
Irish chef Colin Fassnidge replaces Tobie Puttock on the guest judge table alongside returning foodies Guy Grossi, Karen Martini and Liz Egan.
"He plays a really impressive new role on the production and that will all be revealed over the series," Proost explains.
My Kitchen Rules - which has aired overseas in Russia and Canada and had its format sold to other countries - will again see teams vying for $250,000 prize money.
Last year, almost three million viewers tuned in to see South Australia's Leigh Sexton and Jennifer Evans take out the title.
"I'd have to say after last year, we knew we'd have to extend ourselves moving into a new series and I think we've achieved a cast that is as good, if not better, than the brilliant cast of last season," Proost says.
"You look for a memorable cast producing 101 is 80 per cent of the success of a show is casting.
"We have in the past begun casting the next series halfway through the current series on air, which gives us six months before we start shooting."
Advertisements showcasing some of the colourful 2013 cast have been tantalising viewers throughout January.
Little Miss Cupcake Jenna and her best friend Joanna have set tongues wagging, while brother and sister Jake and Elle have already set themselves up as the season villains.
While there is no New Zealand team this year, there are two teams flying the flag for each State (ACT and NT excluded) in the instant restaurant rounds.
Among them is the first father/son team, the youngest team ever and some strong WA representation with couple Andi Thomas and Josh Maldenis and mother and daughter duo Lisa and Candice Clarke.
"There's some stand-out characters from the western seaboard. Both teams are memorable for different reasons," Proost says.
"There's talkability factor attached to both teams and they both have massive surprises revealed along the way."
Chatting on the set of My Kitchen Rules last year, Evans and Feildel, left, also stressed the importance of a strong batch of contestants with a passion for food.
"We are not the stars of the show, Manu and I - it is the food, it is the contestants . . . we let that drive the show," Evans said.
"We judge on the food and the food only. We don't judge on the characters and the personalities, for us it's just the food on the plate. For us that's refreshing and that's what keeps us energised about the show and wanting to work on it and make it a success because the focus for us and the teams is the food.
"We're just ourselves. We don't pull any punches, we don't hold back."
Feildel added: "We're not pretentious and we get on with it, we love it, we keep it real."
However My Kitchen Rules fans will be glad to know that as well as platefuls of fantastic food, they can expect a hefty serving of drama.
"This time round we have our first ever full-on argument between two teams at a dinner table," Proost says.
"We have a love interest, a pregnancy. We have some of the best cooking we've ever seen on the show come forward and one of the worst disasters ever in My Kitchen Rules history."
'We have a love interest, a pregnancy. We have some of the best cooking we've ever seen on the show come forward and one of the worst disasters ever in My Kitchen Rules history.' EXECUTIVE PRODUCER RIKKIE PROOST
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