With Greg Wallace a little sidelined, this series of Masterchef: The Professionals has belonged to Monica Galetti and Marcus Waering.
They are not perhaps the obvious choice for a TV double act, both are intensely serious in the kitchen and Galetti rarely breaks into a smile until at least episode four.
However, they have lent a bit of gravitas to proceedings and Waering, who made the odd cameo on previous series, still doesn’t mince his words, he has shown a slightly softer, more human side. He took over on the show from Michel Roux, but insists there is no animosity between the two.
“He was the first person on the phone to congratulate me,” said Waering. “I’m a graduate of the Roux School: I was working for his father Albert when I was 19 and I feel like part of the family. For me, it’s a privilege. It’s the one show I always wanted to do.
“I’ve worked in professional kitchens since I was 14 and run them since I was 25. When you come into an environment like MasterChef, you say it as it is. I don’t say it with a smile on my face all the time because I take my job very seriously.”
The series has seen the young chefs experience service in some of the most respected restaurants in London, but for the final, the three hopefuls return to the Masterchef kitchen to put everything they have learned to the test.
For Galetti this series has also been a bit of a test. Establishing an on-air relationship with Roux was easy, given she had spent 15 years working for him at La Gavroche where she is now senior sous chef. Suddenly her old boss had been replaced and she has admitted that it felt like starting all over again.
“It wasn’t easy – I won’t lie. Marcus and I have never worked together, and Michel I’ve known for years, so I’m more natural with him. I know exactly what he likes, what he doesn’t like and we can joke around and know we aren’t going to offend each other. Marcus and I had to learn about each other through the process of filming and eventually he settled into it quite well.”
While some of the chefs have been forced to refine their presentations, others have been encouraged to push the boundaries of their cooking with new techniques and flavours, but the final three look set to be one of the closest races for the title yet.
“My favourite thing about being a chef is being in the throes of being in the kitchen – it’s a wonderful place to be,” says Gelatti. “To win MasterChef you’ve got to be the full package.
“You’ve not just got to be able to talk the talk, but you have to be able to carry it through. That’s what we do, we whittle through and separate the wheat from the chaff. It’s about presentation, a natural palette and the way they work.”
Masterchef: The Professionals, December 23, BBC2, 8pm