The MasterChef Australia judges were prepared to walk away after the show strayed from its much-loved formula

“We almost quit!”

Long-time MasterChef Australia judges George Calombaris, Matt Preston and Gary Mehigan understand the saying "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" only too well.
Following the show's fifth season, which aired in 2013, the trio admit they almost quit the reality cooking show after what they call "curveballs" were thrown into the formula to create more drama.
The move backfired. Overnight, thousands of viewers switched off.
By the finale, they'd lost more than a million regular watchers of the show.
"We get to pick who gets an apron, but that year, we didn't," Matt, 57, explains. "We felt that maybe we didn't have the best possible cooks we could have had.
"It turned out that some great cooks came out of that series, but it didn't feel like the show we'd signed up for."
Gary Mehigan, Matt Preston and George Calombaris almost walked away from the series (Image: Network 10).
Gary adds that he felt the show's focus shifted too.
"We changed the format and it became about the contestants' personalities, like most reality shows," he says. "We quickly realised it wasn't what the audience wanted. It was a big mistake."
Matt says the tried-and-true formula that their fans know and love is the key to the show's success.
"People have a real sense of what the show is," he says. "They want their MasterChef the way they like.
"That support is vital in keeping the show the way it is, and bringing the show back to where it is now. It's about love, support and great food."
George, 40, agrees. Rather than creating a show that tends to focus more on the drama around the dining table, he says MasterChef is all about "real human beings who have a dream".
"If you want drama, go and become an actor," he says. "I love drama in movies and dramas on TV, but for us, we want human beings who have a dream to change their lives through our industry."
Matt adds, "The drama in MasterChef comes from putting amateur cooks into a kitchen with sharp knives, whirling blades and the pressure of wanting to make the top 10. The drama comes from their fear of losing."
Gary declares MasterChef "swims in its own lane".
"We had a glitch in the matrix, but we fixed it and soldiered on," he says of the 2013 season. "People almost hold our show to a higher standard and we like that."
MasterChef Australia airs Monday to Thursday, and Sunday, 7.30pm, on 10.

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