MasterChef Made A Major Formatting Change This Season, And You’re Gonna Want To Open This Mystery Box

 Gordon Ramsay on Masterchef Junior.

Before I get into this article, I need to make a confession. I really like MasterChef, but I only started watching the new season last night. I’m not super into the audition episodes, and I’m going back through and watching The Good Wife again. Add in House Of The Dragon, which just came back, the Euros and all the other stuff I typically watch each week, and MasterChef has been on the backburner. I figured I’d plow through the audition episodes and catch up in time for the regular ones. No big deal. Well, it turns out that was a mistake because MasterChef made a major formatting change this season, and it’s immediately shot up near the top of my must-watch list.

Rather than contestants competing as individuals, this year the hopefuls are being divided along generational lines. That’s right. The format is Baby Boomers vs Gen X vs Millennials vs Gen Z. Is it kinda hokey and forced in the exact network television way you’d expect? Absolutely. But am I loving seeing so many people from different age brackets try to live out their dreams and process the highs and lows in a combination of different and extremely similar ways? Absolutely.

With the exception of a lost Covid year, MasterChef has aired every summer since 2010 as part of Gordon Ramsay's arsenal of cooking shows. During most seasons, the format has been relatively consistent. One week the contestants would split into two teams, compete in some kind of challenge where they’d feed a mass of people (think making steaks for firefighters), and the worst players on the losing team, as determined by the judges would be put into a pressure test (think making a poached egg or a souffle). The next week the homecooks would compete as individuals, usually with some kind of mystery box, where they’d be forced to cook using a particular ingredient or set of ingredients with the loser usually going home. Then it would be back to a team challenge and so on.

Last year, the show switched up its format and had the contestants grouped into those from various regions of the country. The basic structure was largely the same, except a winning dish from a particular region sometimes guaranteed everyone else in that region immunity. Based on social media, fans seemed a bit mixed on whether they liked the alteration, but I think the dividing lines this season are way more interesting. Age is a much better binding factor than being from the West Coast.

While there are no doubt still MasterChef superfans, I suspect there are a lot of people in the same camp as me. Maybe they’ve dropped off watching at some point. Maybe they still DVR the episodes and get to them when they get to them. I obviously get it, but this format makes me excited to jump back in a big way. This is probably the most pumped I’ve been for a season in 5 or 6 years, and if you’re on the fence, take my advice and open the mystery box again. It looks like it’s going to be a ton of fun.