Masterchef: The Professionals 2020 premieres on BBC One tonight, Tuesday 10 November, at 9 p.m. Renowned London chefs Monica Galetti and Marcus Wareing and judge Gregg Wallace filmed the thirteenth Masterchef-adjacent series during the first national coronavirus lockdown, and all the signs are there in the trailer: Monica watches a challenge on headphones; the judges perch the requisite two metres apart; and Marcus Wareing sports an absolutely elite fantasy-novel-wizard lockdown barnet. The Lord of the Red Rings.
48 chefs are on deck for the new series, which begins, as always, with the dreaded skills test, in which they are expected to do something many of them have done tens, if not hundreds of times before — make fresh pasta; cook a cut of meat; fillet a fish. Invariably, the TV camera pressure tells, and there are a few disasters among the diamonds — the strangeness of filming under COVID-19 precautions may exacerbate this even further.
The most interesting thing about this edition of Masterchef, as with every series, is what it says, and doesn’t say, about restaurant food in the U.K. There’s a kind of signature dish bingo that emerges as dominant, and it’s almost always the same: prime cut of protein cooked hot and fast; bonbon or pasta made from slow-cooked cut of same protein; French potato dish; either four different vegetables or the same vegetable four different ways; and a DEEP, RICH, LUXURIOUS sauce, which is, frequently, all that Marcus Wareing cares about on the plate.
Deviations from that formula are few and far between, and the judging often follows suit: simple dishes, however elegant, are usually criticised for lacking elements even if they’re good; cooks that aren’t white are invariably expected to cook Spicy Food From Their Homeland (that one of Gregg and Marcus will say is Far Too Spicy) and if they don’t they will be criticised. Masterchef The Professionals is, in short, as influential as it is staid, but perhaps this year’s “extraordinary times,” per Wareing in the trailer, see it change things up.