Fox’s MasterChef and Bravo’s Top Chef are long-running cooking competition shows, but which one has the best food, contestants and judges?
Bravo’s Top Chef and Fox’s MasterChef are two of the longest-running competitive cooking shows, so there’s a natural urge to compare the two. MasterChef is currently airing its first comeback season which makes this a great time to consider the history of both shows. Like any great meal, a show is only as good as its ingredients — in this casem the contestants, the judges, and the food.
Top Chef is a stalwart of competitive cooking with 19 seasons so far, while MasterChef has a very respectable 12. Both shows have spun off junior editions featuring kid chefs and have created global empires with versions appearing in myriad countries. Top Chef uses top-level professional chefs while MasterChef casts amateur cooks with little to no exposure to the professional culinary world. But in the competition between the shows, who has the advantage?
Both shows have had the good fortune to have memorable contestants. Top Chef contestants like Marcel Vigneron, Carla Hall and Michael Voltaggio have appeared in a variety of cooking shows. Top Chef winner Richard Blais even judges Next Level Chef with Gordon Ramsay. It is expected that professional chefs would have more culinary success than MasterChef’s home cooks. But MasterChef bringing back returning players shows how great the show is at highlighting memorable characters. Of the 20 returning contestants that made it past the Season 12 audition rounds, all but three now work in the culinary field. MasterChef gets bonus points for finding amazing young talent in MasterChef Junior, but Top Chef gets the edge as some of its stars have become celebrities in their own right.
Top Chef has kept a core of host Padma Lakshmi and judges Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons since Season 2. Gordon Ramsay is MasterChef’s only constant, but Joe Bastianich has been there for most seasons. Both programs have had an impressive stable of judges and guest judges; Graham Elliot even served as a judge on both shows. One could add up the Michelin stars or accolades of the panels, but it is more telling how they interact with the contestants. MasterChef has a slight edge with a positive and mentoring Ramsay.
Food challenges are the heart of a competitive cooking show. Viewers need delicious-looking food that they can almost taste right off the screen and fun and engaging challenges. Top Chef produces more epic failures because its chefs are taking much bigger risks. The challenges on both shows are excellent, but Top Chef is more creative as producers have more latitude with professional chefs. Both shows have been around long enough to resort to cross-promotion, with Top Chef having a Jurassic World Dominion challenge and MasterChef including WWE guest appearances. While the Fox show’s challenges are classic, the creativity seen on the Bravo series makes it the more challenging show.
With two of the three categories, Top Chef wins this battle — but like food, it comes down to preference. If one prefers the creativity of professional chefs, Top Chef is the clear choice. If one identifies with home cooks learning to make world-class cuisine, then MasterChef gets the nod. But since both shows have been on the air for over a decade, it’s clear viewers have worked up an appetite for both.
MasterChef airs Wednesdays at 8:00 p.m. on Fox; Top Chef will return with Season 20 on Bravo.
I live in lovely Hattiesburg, MS and am a holdout fan of broadcast TV. I also loves reading (sci-fi/fantasy and comics), sports cards, and Lego. Follow me on Twitter at @johndudleyjd for more on those subjects.