A box on the counter contains three mystery ingredients. Apron on, I lift up the lid to discover a whole lemon sole, spinach and mushrooms. After a panicked 40 minutes — which involves filleting a fish for the first time ever — I manage to rustle up something that vaguely resembles a dish.
When presenters Gregg Wallace and John Torode grab a fork and dig in, I get a taste of the tension the real contestants feel under those lights. They declare my ideas were good, but the execution didn’t go to plan; there’s way too much garlic in the sauteed veg, and the pan-fried fish is overcooked, without that coveted crispy skin.
I was enjoying — or should that be enduring? — my own stab at life in Masterchef ahead of the latest series of the hit show starting on BBC1 on Monday at 9pm.
My food may not have impressed, but the judges insist that, 16 series in, they’re still left amazed by the skills of the real contestants in the contest, which sees amateur cooks pitted against each other.
“I want to have their backgrounds checked, to see that they’re not professional chefs,” quips London-born Wallace, 55. “I think, ‘Is that honestly what you do on a Wednesday night? You honestly cook like that?’ I find it incredible.”
“The MasterChef firsts this year were extraordinary... It was the first time we saw something from Hawaii,” reveals 54-year-old Torode.
That’s not to say there aren’t things the dynamic duo are bored of seeing, having fronted the show together since 2005.
“It’s not the dishes, it’s the stupid excuses,” Wallace notes exasperatedly. “Like, you’ve under-cooked it, and regularly we get, ‘Well, I didn’t want to over-cook it’. Well, no — I didn’t want you to do that either. Are they are only options?”
“I have to tell you, I am so bored of raw scallops,” sighs Torode.