'20 years on, MasterChef remains a winning recipe thanks to its hosts'

John Torode and Gregg Wallace crowned Brin as the winner of MasterChef 2024. (BBC/Shine TV)
John Torode and Gregg Wallace crowned Brin as the winner of MasterChef 2024. (BBC/Shine TV) (BBC/Shine TV)

A hearty well done to Brin Pirathapan for winning the tense and tasty final of the latest tense and tasty series of BBC One’s MasterChef. For once, I even believed judges Gregg Wallace and John Torode when they trotted out the old “it’s the closest final ever” line.

All three finalists were amazing. I still can’t work out how the two shouty blokes in charge decided that one was better than the other two.

If I’d been playing a game of Look, Nibble, Devour? (yes, it is a real game) with their final dishes I would definitely have gone Chris/Brin/Louise — although I refuse to believe rumours that Chris called his spectacular dessert The Clown in tribute to Wallace.

Now the dust has settled, the real congratulations must go to Wallace & Nom-it, and the BBC, for reaching the 20th series landmark in such fine style. Completing a 20-stretch of any primetime TV programme in this day and age is a remarkable achievement.

Read more: Where are the MasterChef winners now?

Strictly Come Dancing breezed past that number a couple of years ago, while Ant & Dec got there with Saturday Night Takeaway (just!) and I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!

The X Factor failed though, and, if the latest ratings are anything to go by, Britain’s Got Talent shouldn’t count its chickens — even if the chickens can juggle while clucking the National Anthem. MasterChef shows no sign of losing its appeal, no matter where the BBC’s schedulers push and pull it.

MasterChef's delayed final has been confirmed to air on Wednesday. (BBC/Shine TV)
John Torode and Gregg Wallace have been the mainstays of MasterChef since 2006. (BBC/Shine TV)

It can be on as early as February or as late as June. It still pulls in a steady 3 million for each regular episode and another million or so for the final. It’s also one of the few TV formats that has survived and thrived in the face of a celebrity version.

We’ve had 18 series of Celebrity MasterChef, and even though, increasingly, each new run begins with me looking at least one contestant and saying “Who’s that?” or “I’m sure they’ve already done this show before” (sometimes both), it still keeps coming back as strong as ever.

What’s the secret of the main show's success? Simple. It’s a straightforward format and, aside from a few small tweaks here and there (please, let’s not even mention those X Factor-style auditions rounds in 2011), it is fundamentally the same as it was when the refresh first arrived in February 2005. (Incidentally, I bet no one even remembers that the first three series of the revamp were actually called MasterChef Goes Large — although that's probably for the best.)

Read more: John Torode shares bizarre early vision for MasterChef reboot

The other big factor in its longevity is, of course, its hosts/judges. And that still surprises me at times. To borrow Wallace’s tribute to Brin in the final, 20 years ago the BBC took a combination that didn’t sound like it belonged together, but it actually worked. To be honest, if the BBC was casting for a new show in 2024, I doubt Torode and Wallace would even get a sniff.

MasterChef's John Torode and Gregg Wallace in 2009. (Shutterstock)
MasterChef's John Torode and Gregg Wallace in 2009. (Shutterstock) (Shutterstock)

Well, Torode with his chefing background might squeeze through. Wallace though? He’s a white, working-class, heterosexual bloke of a certain age. Those guys are more rare these days than a Tory MP with a chance of keeping their seat.

Wallace’s 2005 culinary credentials would also no doubt raise a few eyebrows if the show was being made afresh now. His background was in fruit and veg sales and distribution, rather than cooking. I’m sure his tasting expertise has improved over the years, but back then If you’d asked him what a “superior palate” was he’d probably have answered “that’s what we stack the posh fruit and veg on at the warehouse.”

Nevertheless, Wallace and Torode’s on screen chemistry was immediate and their big (in other words, really loud) personalities made a similarly speedy impact. The bizarre thing is that, unlike Ant & Dec, they barely see each other when they are not working together.

Then again, given how busy Wallace’s weekends famously are these days, that’s perhaps not too much of a surprise. Gregg also has a pretty full work diary. If you’d have said to him in 2005 that he’d one day be presenting a top-rated documentary series for the BBC (Inside The Factory), taking part in Strictly Come Dancing (let’s gloss over his rapid exit) and hosting numerous travel programmes for Channel 5, he’d have told you to have a lie down.

Inside the Factory S7,18-04-2023,Crumpets,3,Gregg Wallace,Gregg Wallace at a crumpet factory in Burnley.,Voltage TV,Voltage TV
Gregg Wallace also hosted Inside The Factory for the BBC before recently exiting the show. (BBC) (BBC/Voltage TV)

Wallace has much to be grateful to MasterChef for — as do we the viewers. Just try to recall what life was like for your average food-minded TV watcher before MasterChef was reheated.

Before Torode and Wallace showed up, few people had even heard of jus, chorizo, tuiles* or quinoa, never mind anyone actually knowing what they were or what to do with them.

And back then, if someone asked you how long they had left to complete something you’d probably have just quietly told them, instead of yelling, “YOU’VE GOT FIVE MINUTES!!!” I mean, how boring an existence was that?

In terms of programme content, while there were plenty of celebrity chefs around in the early 2000s, if you'd wanted to see mere mortals cooking on primetime British TV you’d have been hard-pressed. I wouldn’t say MasterChef changed the face of British TV completely, but I would argue that its success gave the BBC the confidence to try The Great British Bake Off.

John Torode and Gregg Wallace's friendship is strictly professional. (BBC)
John Torode and Gregg Wallace's TV friendship is strictly professional. (BBC) (BBC/Shine TV)

And if the BBC hadn’t given GBBO a go then all those excellent programmes that are basically GBBO but with a different skill would probably not exist. Yes, I mean you, The Great British Sewing Bee, and you, The Great Pottery Throw Down.

Who knows, without MasterChef and GBBO, Simon Cowell would perhaps never have even dreamed of launching his ITV mash-up Food Glorious Food in 2013.

Hey, I never said MasterChef had a perfect legacy.

*They're baked French wafers. Obviously.

MasterChef is streaming on BBC iPlayer.

This article originally appeared on Yahoo TV UK at https://uk.news.yahoo.com/masterchef-final-winning-recipe-hosts-101518608.html