MasterChef raises ante

JUDGE Matt Preston says MasterChef: The Professionals will expose how restaurants handle huge numbers - a valuable resource for a dinner party host.

Preston and three-star Michelin chef Marco Pierre-White (pictured, right) stand in judgment of 18 hand-picked professionals for the series, which starts on Sunday night on Network Ten.

The collection of white hats is diverse - each with a vastly different life experience and set of cooking skills. Among the group is a Sudanese refugee, a severely hearing-impaired 23-year-old chef, and a former homeless one-time small-time criminal, who is now a life skills coach - and as ocker as Les Patterson. The youngest contestant is ambitious 19-year-old Cassie Delves while the eldest is 47-year-old Tracey Holderness, who was one of the first female chefs on the luxury ocean liner Queen Elizabeth II.

"You are going to get a sense of what it takes to run a restaurant with this show," Preston said.

"It's about breaking things down into small tasks and having a menu that does not overfill your fridge. It's more than just the straight cooking. If you are going to do a menu for 10 people for a dinner party or 60 people for a banquet, you learn to pick a meat that can only be cooked one way."

One of the reasons MasterChef is considered to be such a big hit around the world is that the challenges and the dishes it proposes are within the skill-set of passionate home cooks.

Preston said that even though MasterChef: The Professionals appeared elite on the surface, the show would still resonate with amateur cooks.

He said the more difficult a task was, the simpler the professional chef had to keep it. That's where Preston draws parallels with the show and how it will assist kitchen amateurs.

"You get the image that because it's professionals, it's going to be very tricky," Preston said.

"A lot of the messages that come through are like 'cook your meat on the bone'. Small things are going to cook faster than big things and there is a fair amount of take-home like that.

"By its very nature, you have four contestants feeding three-course meals for 60 people - the food has to be a bit simpler."

Unlike the regular series, MasterChef: The Professionals cuts straight to the chase. There's no weeding-out process to find the best 18 professional chefs. The series starts with an introduction of the 18 chefs, the appearance of Pierre White followed by a cooking task and an elimination.

"It's a much more intense and robust experience than the usual format," Preston said.

"It's like moving from [watching] Friends to Homeland." AAP

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