11 years after coming in second place on season three of MasterChef, Michael Weldon was invited back to the competition for Fans & Favourites.
And although he narrowly missed out on the Top 10, being sent home during Sunday night’s pressure test with Rick Stein, the TV host says it was an “honour” getting to return to the show.
“I just felt very privileged to get the chance to do MasterChef again,” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle following his elimination.
“I said no to Back To Win in 2020 because of work commitments, and then the work commitments didn't eventuate because of COVID.
“So I actually felt like the ship had sailed and I wouldn’t get another chance at MasterChef, but they came knocking a couple of years later and I jumped at it.”
Speaking about competing for a second time, Michael admits that his two experiences in the MasterChef kitchen couldn’t be any more different.
“The first time around I didn't know what I was doing,” he laughs. “It was just a fun way to get away from uni and I didn’t have any expectations or ideas of what would happen.
“Whereas this time, having been through it and knowing what to expect, I probably put a lot of pressure on myself. I think all the returning contestants did just to do really well.”
‘Very different to the old judges’
Michael went on to say that it took him a while to get used to some of the changes on the show, especially the fact that Jock Zonfrillo, Melissa Leong and Andy Allen are now the judges.
“They’ve got a new perspective on things and they're very different to the old judges,” he details.
“The old judges were really hard on technique and tradition and food knowledge, whereas for these judges, it just has to taste good in the end. But I think that’s a great way to do it, especially in a season where you’re combining people that have done MasterChef before and people that haven’t.
“I mean, I can’t see how it’s fair for everyone involved, but that’s the reality of the show because you’ve got people who are experienced and people who aren’t. And unfortunately, no matter how hard you try, you can’t make up the experience that people have working in restaurants and kitchens for so many years in a short window of a reality TV show.”
As for who he thinks will win season 14, Michael is hopeful that Billie McKay will become the series’ first two-time champion.
“I think if all is fair and good, Billie’s probably the standout cook still left in the competition,” he remarks.
“The way she handles pressure tests, she’s just built for them and she doesn't seem to feel the pressure. And her cooking knowledge and experience is just exceptional. I thought she was my biggest competition and if it’s the best cook that wins, Billie should take out the title.”
While his second time in the MasterChef kitchen ended earlier than he had hoped, Michael has plenty of opportunities lined up as a TV host and senior development chef for Coles.
“I was very lucky, I had a pretty set up career before going on this season,” he details.
“I'm already back in the Coles office and I’ll start working on some new products, and soon we’ll start filming Farm to Fork, which is a TV show I do for Channel Ten that will start airing in November. So the timing just lined up really well.
“The great thing about MasterChef is it just opens up these doors that you don't often expect sometimes, so I’ll be putting myself out there and we’ll see what happens.”
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