With viewers tuning in for fun food and nostalgia while staying home, ‘MasterChef Australia’ became a champion of reality television during the COVID-19 lockdown last year.
The next season of the cooking show is in production in Melbourne, with producers saying there is a “keener focus” on safety measures amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“MasterChef Australia has always employed the highest standards of food safety and hygiene, and we now have an even keener focus on that. All recommendations outlined by Federal and State government health authorities are being followed,” producer Endemol Shine said in a statement to HuffPost Australia.
The production company behind the show said safety measures that were introduced during filming last year will continue, including “social distancing measures across every facet of the production” as well as “additional hand sanitising stations positioned around the set and offices”.
“On the set, changes have been made to the spacing of cooking benches and additional sinks have been added as dedicated hand washing stations,” the statement added. “Crew and contestants have limited physical interaction with each other, temperatures are checked daily, and masks are worn at all times when not on camera.”
After joining ‘MasterChef’ last year, judges Jock Zonfrillo, Melissa Leong and Andy Allen will return to the franchise in 2021 and will “taste individually portioned meals” with no sharing of plates or cutlery.
Endemol Shine Australia’s statement:
“MasterChef Australia has always employed the highest standards of food safety and hygiene, and we now have an even keener focus on that. All recommendations outlined by Federal and State government health authorities are being followed.
Safety measures introduced during Season 12 remain in place as we continue to film Season 13. These include, but are not limited to social distancing measures across every facet of the production and additional hand sanitising stations positioned around the set and offices.
On the set, changes have been made to the spacing of cooking benches and additional sinks have been added as dedicated hand washing stations. Crew and contestants have limited physical interaction with each other, temperatures are checked daily, and masks are worn at all times when not on camera.
Judges taste individually portioned meals, and no cutlery or plates are shared.”
The Australian television industry faced new challenges in 2020 when it navigated shooting and production while adhering to COVID-19 safety measures.
While programs such as ‘Home and Away’, ‘Neighbours’, ‘The Bachelor’ and ‘The Real Housewives of Melbourne’ briefly paused production during the pandemic, the cooking show managed to continue filming with the safety measures in place.
The all-star season, ‘MasterChef Australia: Back To Win’, proved to be a hit last year, especially amongst viewers who had met the contestants in previous seasons.
— masterchefau (@masterchefau) January 31, 2021
However, in 2021, the show will return to featuring home cooks new to the fame game. That doesn’t mean the cooking standards will be any lower. One of the judges has promised the dishes will be even better than last year’s.
“I think it’s going to be the best food. Even with ‘Back to Win’,” judge Andy told Who magazine at the AACTA Awards in December after filming had just begun.
“They’re raw, they’re very passionate, they’re very willing to learn, and I think that’s what I think excites us the most. It’s going to be a really good season,” he said of the new contestants.
In an interview with TV Tonight, Andy again praised the cast, saying it was rewarding to watch these “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed” people develop “their style” of cooking that the ‘Back to Win’ stars had already established.
Fellow judge Melissa agreed, saying that “there’s some tremendous talent, and it sets us up for a brilliant year”.
The 2020 season was just as much about the contestants’ touching life stories as it was about the food, and judge Jock hinted there’ll be more nostalgia and heartfelt moments for audiences to connect with.
“All I’m going to say is, I thought we had some beautiful humans last year. But 2021 is unbelievable,” he said.
The all-star season was followed by ‘Junior MasterChef Australia’, where 11-year-old Georgia took the winning title.
Channel 10 is yet to announce a premiere date for ‘MasterChef Australia’ 2021.
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost Australia and has been updated.