Monday Must Watch: MASTERCHEF on FOX

Tonight on FOX, season 2 of my surprise favorite show of the late spring / early summer 2010, MASTERCHEF, premieres at 8/7c. Gordon Ramsay, Joe Bastianich, and Graham Elliot return as the judges as the premiere tonight starts the audition process.

For those of you unfamiliar with the show, here are the details from FOX:

Famed chef Gordon Ramsay is back for Round Two of his culinary smash hit and last summer’s highest-rated new series, MASTERCHEF. Along with returning judges Joe Bastianich and Graham Elliot, the trio will put the contestants through a series of exciting elimination rounds and turn one amateur cook into a culinary master.  After conducting a nationwide search for the best amateur cooks in America, the judges will reduce the number of hopefuls to 100. Those lucky 100 will be flown to Los Angeles to start cooking and present their signature dishes to the judges. With only 38 contestants earning the coveted MASTERCHEF apron, they will be asked to demonstrate their knife skills by slicing and dicing a truckload of apples. Those who successfully complete that challenge will be given one hour to make the most amazing and delicious chicken dish possible. Then – and only then – will the best of the best be welcomed into the MASTERCHEF kitchen.

The Top 18 amateur cooks will be put through their paces in a series of challenges designed to test their palate, food knowledge, passion and culinary skills. As they’re whittled down, they’ll face increasing pressure and be tasked with creating incredible gourmet dishes from mystery boxes full of random ingredients to taking over a Michelin-starred Los Angeles restaurant, cooking for 100 hungry bikers and preparing an incredible three-course meal for some of the toughest critics of them all – the three judges’ mothers. The series will feature people from all walks of life – including a police officer, an oil rig engineer, an interior designer, a forklift operator, a professional poker player, a classical pianist and a tattoo shop owner – who want to follow their dream of becoming a culinary legend. As a surprise for the amateur cooks, the first-ever MASTERCHEF winner, Whitney Miller, will return to show off her skills and let the contestants in on the secret to winning the title and walking away with the $250,000 grand prize.

I love shows about cooking, because I need to live vicariously through people that have more imagination than I do. I make a mean spaghetti sauce, don’t get me wrong, but there’s just no way I’d be able to compete among the best of the best home cooks. Maybe by the time MASTERCHEF Season 3 comes around?

Compared to other Ramsay-starring shows, this one is instantly more likeable. In the other series, you typically see him yelling and screaming at contestants or restauranteurs, using the “get loud; they’ll work harder” mentality that annoys me about reality show competitors or “stars” in general. With MASTERCHEF, Ramsay takes on the calm, collected cheerleader role, as he still puts people in their place, without screaming louder than is absolutely necessary. Returning judges Bastianich and Elliot do what they do best – Elliot is supportive and gives a people more of a chance than they maybe should get, while Bastianich tries to be a BAMF, while often judging people on their appearance alone before being surprised by how much he enjoys what people are cooking for him!  Ultimately, they’re three of the smartest food-show-judges out there (and rival my favorites over on TOP CHEF) and enjoy their take on what they’re eating!

Check out clips from tonight’s premiere:

Check it out tonight and let us know what you think – MASTERCHEF airs Mondays at 8/7c on FOX.