With MasterChef season 8 premiering Wednesday night (8:00 p.m. Eastern on Fox), there is one thing that is going to stand out as different right away: Aarón Sánchez. After a season of the flagship show and a season of MasterChef Junior as a guest judge, the Johnny Sánchez restaurateur is going to be coming on full-time.
So what is he bringing to the show this season? You can see a sneak peek (first posted yesterday) at the bottom of this article for a quick taste; meanwhile, we also recently spoke with Sánchez via email about some of what he is bringing to this season.
CarterMatt – When did you first decide that being a full-time MasterChef judge was something that you’d be interested in doing?
Aarón Sánchez – The second I walked on set, I knew this was a pretty awesome opportunity. Between the amazing crew, stage, fellow judges and the enthusiasm of the contestants, I was blown away. It was really a surreal moment realizing this was all becoming a reality standing up there with Christina [Tosi] and Gordon [Ramsay]
Did having a built-in rapport with Gordon and Christina aid in that decision?
Absolutely, you have to like the people you work with. They are so inspiring, loving and welcoming so that made a huge difference to me. It already feels like we’re a family and we have so much fun together.
Does having a background judging on reality TV help you when it comes to understanding what the home cooks are going through?
Definitely, I mean, I’ve judged a lot of people over the years with different skill levels, so that helps me to be fair with them. I also hold them to a very high standard, even though they are home cooks. We give them all the tools necessary to really succeed so I don’t take that lightly.
As a judge, what is the biggest thing you are looking to see in a contestant’s food?
I would say a deep understanding of flavor profiles, the use of fresh ingredients that are manipulated the least and finesse or skill level are the main things I critique them on. Sometimes they overcomplicate things or don’t really know the products well enough and that shows.
How did doing the show full-time compare to some of your guest appearances on MasterChef and MasterChef Junior?
Well it’s really cool to be able to take the entire journey with the contestants from start to end, you get to really know them and see their triumphs and failures. With the guest appearances, I didn’t know the contestants, so I could only judge them on what they brought to the competition that day. As a full time judge I can reference their whole body of work or past performances when giving them praise or constructive criticism.
Is there anything you can say about the sort of challenges that are coming up this season?
Well, it’s always really intense, I’m nervous and I’m not even competing. The stakes are super high for every challenge and they have to learn to replicate dishes and techniques that we as the judges show them and they have to work as teams, they also have to be strategic. All of those are really hard when under immense pressure and there are a lot of emotions involved since there is so much on the line for these folks.
What did you enjoy the most about the overall experience?
I have to say that getting to know everyone was my favorite part of the whole filming process. Spending time with Gordon and Christina and learning from them was really amazing and then being able to impart knowledge, skills and discipline on the contestants felt awesome. Getting to know them and their backgrounds, what drives them, what they are passionate about, it’s really heart-warming.
What advice would you pass along to anyone out there who wants to be on MasterChef someday?
Work hard, stay informed, practice your craft every day, stay hungry and curious, keep finding inspiration and passion for yourself everywhere you go and you’ll get there.
Further MasterChef coverage
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