MasterChef 2021 start date | contestants, judges

Long-running BBC cooking competition MasterChef returns on Monday, with judges Gregg Wallace and John Torode putting 40 hopeful chefs through their paces in the pressure-cooker kitchen.

Back for its 17th series this year, MasterChef is back with a socially-distanced series and a new set of challenges for these wannabe-chefs to take on in a bid to make it to the 2021 final.

Here’s everything we know so far about MasterChef 2021, when it starts and who’ll be competing.

MasterChef 2021 release date

MasterChef 2021 begins on Monday 1st March at 9pm on BBC One. 

Fans will be getting three doses of MasterChef each week, with new episodes airing on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

MasterChef 2021 contestants

While we don’t know much about the amateur cooks who’re taking to the MasterChef kitchen this year, BBC One has revealed that 40 hopefuls will be battling it out in this year’s competition.

Speaking to ahead of the upcoming series, judge Gregg Wallace said this year’s line-up is a particularly strong batch of contestants.

“What we realised, me and John, was that the standard was incredible even at the early stages,” he said.

“What we suspect has happened is because so many people are working from home, we think they’ve had a lot more time to practice, because we couldn’t believe the standard of the cooks in the early rounds. We normally get a mixed bag. This time we were getting good cook off after good cook after good cook.”

Who are the judges on MasterChef?

John Torode and Gregg Wallace BBC

Long-running judges Gregg Wallace and John Torode are returning to host series 17.

Wallace is best known for co-presenting Celebrity MasterChef, MasterChef: The Professionals and Saturday Kitchen, having originally started his food career as a greengrocer.

Torode is an Australian chef who regularly appears on This Morning and presents Celebrity MasterChef, John Torode’s Australia and John and Lisa’s Weekend Kitchen.

Who narrates MasterChef?

British actress India Fisher has narrated MasterChef since 2005, when the show was rebooted by BBC One.

Aside from MasterChef, Fisher has appeared in a number of audio dramas, including BBC Radio 4’s Elephants to Catch Eels, Ghosts of Albion, Doctor Who, while on-screen, she’s appeared in the series Dead Ringers and CBBC’s The Dumping Ground.

Who are the critics on MasterChef?

John Torode and Gregg Wallace with Grace Dent BBC

While the BBC has not yet announced the full line-up of guest critics for MasterChef’s 2021 series, we know that former champions Thomas Frake (2020), Ping Coombes (2014), Saliha Mahmoud Ahmed (2017) and Kenny Tutt (2018) will be stopping by the judge the contestants’ cooking – as will professional food critic Grace Dent.

How long does MasterChef run for?

This series of MasterChef is expected to air across six weeks, with season 17 consisting of 18 episodes.

The final is therefore likely to air on Friday 9th April 2021.

Who won MasterChef last year?

London-based 32-year-old Thomas Frake won MasterChef 2020, becoming the show’s 16th winner.

Frake beat runner-ups David Rickett and Sandy Tang last year, securing the championship with monkfish scampi, followed by an ox main cheek and a salted caramel custard tart dessert.

Has MasterChef been affected by COVID-19?

The upcoming series of MasterChef was filmed during under coronavirus restrictions, which meant that contestants and judges weren’t allowed to physically interact on set.

However, Gregg Wallace recently told PA Media (via The Irish News) that there was one upside to making the show in a pandemic.

“One of the differences was really positive, that John and I got a dish each, rather than trying to elbow each other away for the choicest bits. That was a positive.

“Of course, the negative is we didn’t get to go travelling around the world,” he added. “But the negative I found odd is that I couldn’t shake hands with people in the morning, or give people a hug, people that we’ve worked with for 20 years. There was no physical interaction. I found that a little strange.”

Meanwhile, fellow judge John Torode said that the upcoming series features contestants of a higher quality than usual as the line-up have been able to improve their cooking skills whilst in lockdown.

“What I really enjoyed was the fact that the contestants had obviously spent so much time, whilst they were in the first lockdown, practicing and working at what they wanted to do, and becoming really good at it.

“And that meant we ate really, really well. There was only a few dodgy dishes along the way, which is really saying something for MasterChef; well, I say a few, probably more than a few.

“There’s the odd bit of raw lamb and a bit of chicken here and there and a few odd concoctions. But otherwise it was a really, really great series.”

MasterChef airs at 9pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Looking for something to watch? Visit our TV Guide.

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