Fans of MasterChef Singapore will find the judging panel familiar when the show returns for Season 2.
Season 1 judges Audra Morrice, Damian D’Silva, and Bjorn Shen all will be back for the culinary series’ next cycle, Mediacorp announced Thursday.
There are some new notable changes, though: MasterChef Singapore Season 2 will be expanded to 10 episodes, up from last season’s eight. Oh, this being the COVID-19 era, the show is produced using safe-distancing measures on set.
The safety protocols has somewhat affected the show's spontaneity. “You just can’t go hug somebody straight up anymore,” laments the Singapore-born, Sydney-based Audra Morrice, one-time MasterChef Australia contestant and MasterChef Asia judge.
“It’s rough, I love hugging,” Bjorn Shen chimes in. The chef-owner of Middle-Eastern restaurant Artichoke and the newly-opened pizza joint Small says, “It’s hard when the contestants win something but they can’t celebrate, can’t hug each other, can’t high five.” Gone too are the days he can shake the contestant’s hand or taste food with his bare hands. “I just have to be careful.”
In the lieu of the lack of physical contact, Damian D’Silva, the executive chef of Kin at the Straits Clan, says “The only way to get around this is for the three of us to gesticulate and show the happiness, the sadness, the excitement on our faces.”
Casting call for Season 2 — which ran from August 17 to October 4 — attracted hundreds of applicants from all walks of life, including, a singer, an athlete, and a puppeteer. The youngest is 19, and the oldest, 79. From this pool, only 24 home cooks will make it to the show. That number will then be whittled down to 12.
Filming has just started and is expected to conclude early next month. At time of the interview, the judges are done with the first episode. Have they spotted any high-flyers?
"I'm impressed by this seasons's contestants," says Audra. "What I saw people who were quite passionate about their food."
“There are some very clear stand-outs,” says Bjorn. “I’m feeling, “Where do we go from here? How do we eliminate any of these contestants in the next coming rounds?’
He continues, “That said, the first round was sorta the audition and they had a lot of time to prepare a dish [they’re familiar with]. They could’ve prepared it 50 times at home. But moving into the competition, where they don’t have that time to prepare and you throw an off-the-cuff challenge, they might not do as well.”
“The thing about MasterChef is that you have to be able to think on your feet without preparation,” says Audra. "[The contestants] have to be broad-minded about dishing and flavour profiles and having the ability to look at the Mystery Box of ingredients, ‘Okay, how do I work this in? What’s my overall concept?’ That’s when the difficulty comes in.”
Damian hopes the contestants would elevate and re-imagine classic Singaporean dishes. "I always felt that someone should do a new Singapore dish. It’s about time, don’t you think so?," says Damian.
“Why can’t we do a new char keow teow, Hokkien mee, chicken Rice? Or a new way of cooking biryani?," he adds. "It’s not the same particular dish but something that is very Singaporean that no one has ever tried before? A dish that’s going to slap people in the face — why didn’t someone think of this? That’s what I look for in this MasterChef. ”
MasterChef Singapore Season 2 is slated to premiere on meWATCH, Channel 5 and YouTube in February 2021.
Photos: Alvin Teo/8days.sg