EXCLUSIVE: MasterChef's Michael Weldon reveals how the new judges' "fresher and more modern" take on flavour changed the game

''They don't have the experience of depth of knowledge that the other three had.''

By Faye Couros
When Michael Weldon arrived on MasterChef Fans and Favourites set, it was worlds away from the one he entered in 2011.
But he tells TV WEEK that even though it was "harder this time" because of the pressure of going through the competition for a second time, its new focus made for a more even playing field.
"It was cool to experience both ways of it. Obviously, the old judges [George Calombaris, Gary Mehigan, and Matt Preston] had their own way of doing things, and they were very about the techniques of good and the right balancing of flavours, whereas the new judges have a very different outlook.
"I think they're fresher and have a more modern take on it," he shares.
Michael left on Monday night after serving over cooked fish. (Image: Ten)
Michael believes that Melissa Leong and Andy Allen's lack of culinary experience compared to the former trio who had decades under their belt helped the Fans.
"They don't have the experience of depth of knowledge that the other three had. So for them, it's all about bold flavours," says Michael.
"You know they don't have the skills that especially George and Gary had in the kitchen, well Jock [Zonfrillo] does, but you know that's only one of the judges. Andy's done very well since his season, but he doesn't have the experience, all the technique-based skills that Gary had built over 20 years in the kitchen.
"So, I think it really evened the playing field, which is a good thing. I felt for the fans sometimes along the way because it's hard to catch up on all of us having so much experience."
"You know they don't have the skills that especially George and Gary had in the kitchen." (Image: Ten)
However, it wasn't just the focus on flavour over techniques that Michael enjoyed about the series.
He was also impressed with the production that felt "Smoother and slicker" and took six rather than nine months to film.
Another plus was Michael made more life friends this time around now that social media is in the picture.
"I just feel so blessed to have seen both sides and done it with two different productions," he gushes. "I'd say I've probably got more good friends this time around because I've lost touch with a lot of people last time. It's a lot easier this time around with social media."
One of the few castmates he grew close to was Julie Goodwin who won the first ever season back in 2009.
"We would swim three times a week before filming. I mean just half an hour, 45 minutes [swim] just to get ready for the day. That was really nice. So, Julie became a very very close friend, and we were neighbours, so we'd have dinner, which was great.
"We would swim three times a week before filming." (Image: Ten)
Even though Michael wasn't quite ready to leave MasterChef on Monday night, he was quickly kept busy by his already vibrant foodie career.
He is about to start filming the next season of his Network 10 show Farm to Fork and continuing his work developing products and being an ambassador for Coles.
In response to the rising cost of food, Michael is dedicating the next six months to helping people cook on a budget through Coles.
When asked by TV WEEK his first call to action for affordable grocery shopping, he reveals his key word is "flexibility".
"It's almost like walking into that bloody pantry. You let what's in the pantry guide you rather than going in with preconceived ideas, which probably stuffed me up a few times.
"I think it's about seeing what's available and what's in season, what's an affordable price for you and then cooking with that rather than picking what you want to have for dinner and then going there and trying to find ingredients," shares Michael.

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