‘MasterChef’ interview: Luca Manfe, Natasha Crnjac, and executive producer Robin Ashbrook

The finale is here -Next week, the final showdown will be here on “MasterChef” between Luca Manfe and Natasha Crnjac, two home cooks who have traveled quite a long way since the beginning of this competition. While Natasha has been a favorite for most of the competition, to the extent that she has been perceived as a major threat throughout by various competitors, Luca has been more of the underdog. He was not universally-praised upon entering the competition, and he even had to go so far as to fight in a rigorous showdown atop a building in Las Vegas.

One thing we were interested to hear from the two finalists was almost what their coming-down period was like after the show. How do you go back to real life after cooking in this environment for weeks, often 12-14 hours a day? As you would expect, adjusting to real life again is not an easy process.

Luca – “At the beginning, the atmosphere on the set was very nerve-wrecking for me. As you get used to all those camera, it took a few weeks. But then I got in a comfortable mode, because you start to learn how everything works. I gotta say that when I came back home the first two weeks, I actually missed it so much. It was probably the adrenaline from being on the show, but I was waking up in the morning and think ‘I wish I could go to set now and have a challenge and cook something.'”

Natasha – “It’s kind of the same way. You adapt to a certain way, and adapting to being on ‘MasterChef,’ and getting the glory of getting to use the ingredients that we got to work with. We really were spoiled. It’s hard to go from being in that environment and thriving under those conditions and doing mystery boxes and pressure tests … and then going back to your real life. It’s funny because I think all of the contestants are like ‘gosh, I wonder what it would be like to be back home.’ But realistically, we miss being in the ‘MasterChef’ kitchen and being in that atmosphere. It really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

LucaWe also had the opportunity to ask Robin Ashbrook what the pressure is like on his end at this point in the show’s run, given that there are so many challenges that have been played out. How do you balance the old with the new? It’s a pretty insightful take on what the future of the series could be:

“Having four seasons brings plenty of positives, but it does set the bar higher and higher every season. We have an archive that we can draw on, great things that we call our ‘MasterChef’ classics from souffles to eggs benedict, things that we think people can try at home. We can draw on those, but we’re already thinking about what amazing challenges and things we can do in the kitchen and in the field for [seasons] five and six.

“Challenge-wise, it’s in some ways the easy part because we’re always going to walk the line. With the finale [Wednesday], the problem is that the level of these home cooks is incredibly high. Each year it improves, and as you see on Wednesday night when Luca and Natasha go head to head, you won’t believe [the quality of dishes from home cooks]. The challenge is how do we push these people on and improve them. Luca and Natasha have hit a point where their dishes can’t go beyond what you see on Wednesday night, so our challenge is how do we keep pushing that bar, and it’s a steady approach. You can’t do it in episode one; you have to walk them through.

“I think to sum it up, next season you’ll see even bigger challenges, but if everyone can come into our show with the dedication and the passion of Natasha and Luca … That will take us through many more seasons to come.”

Who are you rooting for in the finale? We want to hear from you in the comments below! Also, be sure to click here if you want to read some more “MasterChef” news, including our review of the most-recent episode.

Photo: Fox

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