Forget the yards of Jaffa Cakes and twinkly lights appearing everywhere. The true sign that winter (and, with it, Christmas) is approaching is the return of MasterChef: The Professionals to our screens – a long range culinary advent calendar, if you will. Whether you love it for the insight into British culinary trends, demonstration of new skills or simply the startling juxtaposition of bombastic soundtrack against shots of shaky hands delicately arranging edible flowers, from the tantalising glimpses given to us so far by the BBC there’s plenty to be excited about. Here are some predictions for what we might expect to see this series.
1. The reaction shots will be priceless
I like to think that Gregg Wallace shoots all of his reaction shots several months before the series begins, and is ushered into a booth at the BBC to waggle his eyebrows, gasp and shake his jowls disapprovingly solidly for twelve hours. Monica Galetti, too, has a fantastically expressive face, which is put to particularly good use when observing stupidity. Look out for it when, inevitably, a slightly-wet-behind-the-ears chef unwittingly massacres a highly expensive ingredient during one of the early challenges.
2. The chefs all forget how to cook
Not since the pages of an Arthur Miller play have we seen such scenes of mass hysteria as the MasterChef kitchen, and as the show rumbles on the pressure mounts with each passing season. With such an environment to work in it’s no surprise that the contestants lose it occasionally, often all at once and in the face of a seemingly simple challenge. Expect a simple request for Eton mess or Steak au poivre to result in zoomed in shaking hands, rapid blinking and pans of abandoned, split mixture as the competing chefs scuttle around the kitchen without the faintest idea what they’re doing.
3. The obvious is stated by everyone, constantly
This one is less of a prediction and more a dead cert, as the trailer alone features Gregg Wallace declaring a dish on a competitive cookery show for professional chefs ‘not as simple as it first appears’ and Marcus Wareing noting that it would take ‘a very skilled chef’ to pull off a particular challenge (on a cookery show for professional chefs). We’re guaranteed several hundred talking head shots of the contestants observing that they ‘can’t afford to mess this one up’ and a few ‘this is the quarter/semi/final, they need to step things up’ from the judges.
4. Ingredients won’t behave like they should
Rumour has it the producers have shipped in another big delivery of Special BBC Gelatine (cf. the Great British Bake Off) just in time for the new series. These leaves are designed to either set stronger than diamond on the Mohs scale or not set in the slightest, the latter being preferable as it provides us with plenty of shots of chefs in grubby aprons running from work station to fridge/freezer/blast chiller carrying trays of sloppy mousse and jelly.
See also: frozen things not freezing.
5. The judges will contradict themselves (or each other) and hope we won’t notice
‘This is awful!’ says Marcus Wareing. ‘The flavours just don’t work,’ says Monica Galetti.’ ‘I quite like it,’ mumbles Gregg Wallace. Yes, Wallace has been blessed with a strange and fairly optimistic palate which seems to sometimes process dishes in an entirely different way to the other judges (bless ‘im) so keep an eye out for him cheerfully shoveling up a dish that Monica and Marcus turned their noses up at. Also on the subject of contradiction, be on the lookout for one of the judges performing a complete volte-face within the space of one episode, snootily dismissing over-reliance on equipment (known in TV chef speak as ‘bells and whistles cooking’) one minute before gleefully praising a plate of sous vide duck with yuzu espuma, compressed cucumber and still smoking nitrogen sorbet the next.