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Masterchef: 'Sometimes we're even giving them hugs... it's a brutal test'

MasterChef: The Professionals is back - and with 48 chefs vying for the title, the competition is tougher than ever, writes Gemma Dunn

Marcus Wareing, Gregg Wallace and Monica Galetti in Masterchef: The Professionals
Marcus Wareing, Gregg Wallace and Monica Galetti in Masterchef: The Professionals

By Gemma Dunn

Marcus Wareing and Monica Galetti are discussing the perils of the modern-day chef. The reputable duo, reunited for the return of MasterChef: The Professionals, are in agreement that the world of social media and beyond is far from an envy-inducing path.

"God, no. It's harder to stand out from the crowd," begins Wareing (49). "Social media can damage chefs because they're not learning their trade.

"If you're going to stand out, you have to find your inner self, your inner belief, your reasoning.

"If you're constantly looking at what everyone is doing, you're going to be using it as your inspiration.

"If you're a really good cook, that should come from inside you, or there's a possibility everyone could, or will, become the same."

"There is a massive upside to social media but, as a cook, I would say there's a far bigger downside," says Galetti (44).

"It's great to promote yourself, but you've got to be able to back it up once your customers walk through the door."

This duo can certainly vouch for that. British-born Wareing's one Michelin-starred restaurant, Marcus, set within The Berkeley, is deemed one of London's finest restaurants, while Samoan-born New Zealand chef Galetti has turned industry heads as chef proprietor of her first solo restaurant, Mere, also in the capital.

It stands to reason then that they're deemed fit to preside over the UK's most revered cooking competition, the Bafta-winning hit MasterChef: The Professionals. Back on BBC Two for its 12th series, the pair - along with regular presenter Gregg Wallace - will watch 48 expert chefs, hailing from pubs and pop-ups, Michelin-starred kitchens and catering in the armed forces, battle it out to be crowned this year's champion.

Launching the season are the heats, where over four weeks 12 chefs compete in the first two programmes each week, with the aim of making the quarter final.

The chefs up to quarter-final standard will then face two more demanding challenges by the way of an invention test, followed by an intimidating round cooking for the UK's most discerning food critics.

It's a daunting seven-week process from start to finish for the chefs and the judges.

"There's very high levels of anxiety for us, but a lot of excitement, too," says Galetti.

"We always expect the best to come through and, of course, invariably there's bound to be some disappointment.

"Marcus and I, at certain points, we tend to get upset. That's just our sheer disappointment because we're expecting great chefs and we're wanting them to do well.

"If they make it to the final three, the world is their oyster. I'm very anxious for them. It is the professional series, it is what we do for a living, and we don't want it to be a mockery."

"It's a really weird environment for them," Wareing adds. "It's not a kitchen. It's a studio and they're making a TV show that's based around cookery.

"A lot of our younger generations may not have stepped into that particular world because kitchens have moved on. If they can get over that hurdle, then the other stuff comes into play.

"I find the youth quite interesting. They're great because they're just so naive to what they're walking into but yet get through it are better than anyone else. Like Teflon, it just slides off them.

"It's sort of a 'They've got nothing to lose' attitude, which makes them stand out. For me, I see some people come through the door and I'm thinking, 'They're like 18, or 19'. I picture my own children standing in front of me, doing exactly the same thing and I think, 'How I would feel as a father, watching my son or daughter on television?'

"What an intimidating place to go to for a young person to showcase their skill at that age, so I feel really quite proud about what they're doing and feel part of their experience."

Have the judges softened?

"You could say I'm getting a little bit lighter as I get older," Wareing teases. "They've broken us down - they've worn us out," Galetti adds with a smile.

"Sometimes, we're even giving them hugs. I mean, that's a really bad day."

"It's such an in-depth competition with so many turns," Wareing says. "I feel at the beginning that we are on the start of a very long, hard, tough journey - not just for the guys in front of us, but for us as well.

"It's a brutal test and we have to deliver it every step of the way."

MasterChef: The Professionals, BBC Two, Tuesday, 8pm

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