Though each season of MasterChef promises to deliver on the drama, for Season 11, the stakes have truly never been higher. The season has been dubbed MasterChef: Legends, and the 15 home cook contestants don't just have to impress Chefs Gordon Ramsay and Aarón Sánchez and restaurateur Joe Bastianich — they also have to dazzle guests Roy Choi, Emeril Lagasse, Paula Deen, Morimoto, and Nancy Silverton.
In addition to vying for the title of MasterChef, the cooks are hoping to win a Viking kitchen and accompanying tools, baking products from OXO, and a cool $250,000 prize.
As if the pressure wasn't already intense, the competitors and the expert judges had the added stress of filming part of MasterChef: Legends during the pandemic.
When was 'MasterChef: Legends' filmed?
In the opening scene of MasterChef: Legends, dozens of people — including the hopeful home chefs and their loved ones — gathered in the MasterChef kitchen for the audition phase. Before they got to cooking, some of the potential contestants discussed how they had traveled from across the country to get to the kitchen, which is located on a set in Los Angeles, Calif.
The large, maskless crowd in the Los Angeles space had many viewers wondering if the show taped before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The three-part audition phase of Season 11 did film before the pandemic shutdowns began, which explains why the kitchen was initially so packed. Production on MasterChef: Legends shut down in March of 2020, after more than half of the season had already been filmed.
The judges, the crew, and the remaining chefs returned to the set seven months later, in October of 2020. They were able to finish out the season, though changes had to be made for safety reasons.
"The safety of the entire cast and crew has and is the number one priority. Given the COVID-19 restrictions placed on production, we are creating new and innovative ways to produce the series, while honoring its creative spirit," the producers said in a statement, per Deadline.
"The behind-the-scenes culinary team, which has always followed all health department guidelines, is now taking additional precautions including wearing gloves, masks and face shields/goggles," the producers' statement continued. "While the pressures associated with the pandemic are immense, we are choosing to embrace these challenges as we start production."
The episodes that were taped following the shutdown have yet to air, and it's not yet evident what other changes were made.
Who are the contestants on 'MasterChef: Legends?'
While the judging panel is top notch for MasterChef: Legends, the final 15 contestants are some of the most talented home cooks that have appeared on the Fox series before.
The Season 11 apron holders are Abe Konick, Alejandro Valdivia, Annai Gonzalez, Anne Hicks, Autumn Moretti, Eyce Wooten, Joseph Manglicmot, Kelsey Murphy, Lexy Rogers, Mary Jayne Buckingham, Matt Gagnon, Michael Newman, Miles Gateff, Suu Khin, and Tay Westberry.
Only one of the aforementioned competitors will be victorious, and viewers will have to tune in to find out who will win.
MasterChef: Legends airs on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.