How to master MasterChef – the judges share the recipe for success

Eight new hopefuls try to impress John Torode and Gregg Wallace, with some ambitious food from the very start.
(Image credit: BBC/Shine TV)

Gregg Wallace and John Torode have explained how to win MasterChef, ahead of the hit culinary series' return to BBC1 on Wednesday

MasterChef is back for a 13th series on the BBC, but what does it take to be crowned champion?

We caught up with judges Gregg Wallace and John Torode to find out what they’re looking for.

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To win over Gregg…

Sometimes, simple is better

"One of my favourite things is minced lamb, boiled potatoes and tinned peas with gravy, because I just don’t get a chance to eat it. You just don’t get the chance to eat the food I was brought up with, like mashed potatoes and tins of beans."

Don’t just grab any old bit of chicken and think you can make it Michelin star-worthy

"What worries me, what makes me nervous? It’s when someone automatically just grabs for a protein and then takes it away and hasn’t really thought about what’s going to go with it, that’s the kind of British meat and two veg philosophy. That makes me nervous, for them, not to eat it, just for them because I don’t think it’s going to be a particularly great dish."

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Don’t answer back on how undercooked or overcooked something is

"You say ‘That’s undercooked’ and what really frustrates me is when contestants say, ‘Well, I didn’t want to overcook it’. Well, I didn’t want you to overcook it either!"

You’d better not mess up noodles, because everyone can do them now

"Asian style food has become as normal to us in the UK as European. Everybody seems to be quite a dab hand at some noodles and some Asian spices."

Serve him anything that has chocolate in it

"Chocolate, I love chocolate, I’m very happy [if someone gives me chocolate], it’s a very versatile thing and they can be really creative with it."

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Don’t smarm up to the cameras and judges

"Some of the contestants act up in front of me and John, they’ll start sniffing things in a semi-professional kind of manner. It’s all right, you don’t have to sniff that carrot, just put it down, it’ll be fine to grate!"

If you get to the professional kitchen round, remember that even Gregg is nervous for you

"Trying to recreate the food of a truly great chef I still think is very, very nerve-wracking, because at any point that chef could absolutely explode – just go nuts. These are driven, driven people, so for an amateur trying to recreate dishes from people bordering genius, is a huge challenge."

And to win over John…

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Don’t even think about serving couscous – or mashed potato

"The word couscous usually fills me with dread because so often it’s gluggy and under seasoned and just this soggy mash of stuff, and the other one is mashed potato. ‘I’m doing something with mashed potato.’ Right, OK, so how many lumps will it have and will it be really gluey and sticky? It’s simple things like that that I’ll think, ‘No, please don’t do it’."

Cook with aubergine as much as you like

"We’ve seen more things done with an aubergine than we’ve ever seen before [this series], and the aubergine is an extremely adaptable vegetable."

Same goes for any wild creatures you can shoot in the British countryside

"British game is right up there, which is fantastic. We saw more quail this year, partridge, pheasant and grouse than we’ve ever seen before, which is brilliant."

Do your research, get through the first round and you’ll be fine

"Nothing will be harder than the first challenge, because of your nerves. You are properly, very, very nervous, and the great cooks are the ones who have lots of information stuffed up their sleeve and they know what they’re doing and they’ve been watching, researching, they’re the ones and you can really see it."

Terrified? Get a grip, and try and enjoy it. It’s just pots and pans after all

"Guys, it’s OK, you’re here to cook, you love to cook, just chill out a bit and go enjoy yourself, have a nice time."

MasterChef returns to BBC One on Wednesday, March 29 at 8pm.

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