Summer TV preview: ‘MasterChef,’ Gordon Ramsay ready to cook again

Did they cook up something new?

When “MasterChef” first premiered in 2010, it was a bit of a culinary disappointment. The challenges were contrived and unfair, the contestants dull, and it really didn’t take advantage of being the only cooking competition on network TV featuring amateur cooks.

Then, season 2 turned it all around with some great characters, smart challenges, and a run on Fox that was actually long enough to invest in the competition. It may be controversial to say this, but we actually enjoyed it more than “Hell’s Kitchen” — even with a few challenges (chopping apples) that were not an adequate test of someone’s full cooking ability. Will this forward momentum continue? That’s what we are going to look at in the new edition of our summer TV preview.

The pros – We’ll say this time and time again — Gordon Ramsay lifts any show he is on. While he’s not the only judge that oversees the contestants (as Graham Elliot and Joe Bastianich are also involved), he’s easily the most famous, and his praise is the one that home cooks wait to hear.

While at times some shows can make their stories a little too sappy, “MasterChef” did a great job in season 2 of balancing out who the cooks are with how they actually perform on the stage. Sometimes, the unlikable people (see Christian from last season) make it far, but you at least know the person enough to know you don’t want to root for them.

There is also a pretty nice showcase of cuisine on this show — everyone has their own style, is from a different part of the country, and they are often forced to take on all sorts of genres to go along with it.

The cons – We mostly worry about the pressure tests that make up half of the show’s eliminations. Some of them just feel arbitrary, and narrow down what a cook can do to such an extent that someone always has an unfair advantage. For example, last year the contestants had to make a cake — and a great chef who doesn’t work with pastries could be at a great disadvantage against a poor chef with pastry experience.

Really, the only other things “MasterChef” needs to work on for this coming season is finding a way to get out of the kitchen. More time is spent in one room than probably any other cooking competition on TV, and we want to see more of these people on the road.

The verdict – If you love summer TV, you have to ignore “MasterChef’s” flaws and still find a way to enjoy this series. It’s really just that compelling. It’s inspirational in the sense of watching people make their dreams come true, and it’s something that they can have a legitimate career in even if it just means working in a restaurant. It’s more obtainable than “American Idol,” a show where we see a few superstars and then a bunch of struggling artists after the fact.

Could things take a turn for the worst? Sure, but based on the success of last season we’re optimistic about what Ramsay up his sleeve this time.

Are you excited for the show this season?

Photo: Fox

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