Celebrating another anniversary this year is MasterChef, Fox’s hit reality-TV cooking competition series hosted by the iconic British chef Gordon Ramsay. Despite undergoing a series of format changes, different judges, and featuring a wide array of uniquely talented chefs over the past decade, the show has persisted for over a decade and remained popular among the masses.
As the show continues its long run on air, it’s interesting to look back at all the seasons so far and how they compare.
Updated on September 16th, 2022, by Kevin Pantoja: Season 13 of MasterChef just wrapped up and it was one for the ages. For the first time in series history, contestants who came close to winning in the past were brought back for an All-Stars extravaganza, leading to some of the stiffest competition ever. It lived up to the hype which makes for an interesting idea about seeing where it ranks with the rest of the franchise. Looking at all of them, including this latest batch, you can find the best season of MasterChef and it might actually surprise you.
For the most part, there has never been a bad season of MasterChef, so even ranking at the bottom doesn’t mean anything overly negative. Season 11 was a good batch of episodes with a talented bunch of contestants.
The season was won by Kelsey Murphy, who was a standout from the very beginning, while the likes of Autumn Moretti and Suu Khin were also top-notch. Cooks like Alejandro (who returned in season 12) were also welcome additions as he often butted heads with the judges in entertaining fashion.
For the first time since Season 1 of the great cooking series, Season 9 featured more contestants than episodes. As such, fans became a bit exhausted with tracking so many names and aces (24) during the lengthy competition. But the real reason the season is ranked so low is the inclusion of the tutor twist.
In a new format twist for Season 9, each judge chose eight competitors to give their apron to, followed by culinary advice and mentorship to help them succeed throughout the season. Though a good idea, this seemed to make the show more about the judges than the contestants.
Despite a hot start that featured several fun-filled episodes to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the show, Season 10 lacked a certain element of suspense.
With 20 chefs competing over 25 weeks, a certain fatigue factor likely played a role in the enjoyment of this season. And while the eventual winner Dorian Hunter had a bubbly infectious attitude and certainly deserved the title, the lack of drama during the final two episodes didn’t make for great TV. It felt like she had the win sealed up before the finals even arrived.
Season 6 of MasterChef marked the departure of an original judge, Joe Bastianich. While his replacement Christian Tosi acquitted herself well, fans felt let down by the casting shakeup and took a while to get used to it.
With 22 chefs competing over the course of 20 weeks, Season 6 featured a wide array of compelling talent that culminated in an intense showdown between runner-up Derrick Peltz and talented winner Claudia Sandoval. But the subdued guest judges led to a certain lack of enthusiasm.
Like any new competitive reality TV show, MasterChef took a while to find its footing and really hit its stride. As such, the rudimentary nature of the inaugural season lands in the middle of the pack.
After the novelty of the format wore off, viewers were left with 13 contestants vying for culinary supremacy over a 14-week battle. After experimenting with the format that included awkward elimination, a strange voice-over narration, and uneven pacing, Mississippi college student, Whitney Miller emerged victoriously.
Despite a boilerplate competition for much of the first half, the riveting finale among Dino, Eboni, and Jason makes Season 8 one of the best and most memorable in series history. The addition of new guest-judge Aarón Sánchez didn’t hurt either.
The unpredictable nature of the season led to a surprising winner in Dino. Highlights from the season include the chefs preparing a fish dish for local lifeguards, flying to Las Vegas for a glitzy VIP event, the intense personal drama between Jeff and Yachecia, and the controversial elimination of Brien.
One of the major appeals of Season 7 was the rotating third judge after Graham Elliot left the show. Rather than one permanent replacement, a revolving door of such esteemed chef judges as Wolfgang Puck, Richard Blais, Aarón Sánchez, Edward Lee, and Daniel Boulud was included.
However, the most important reason Season 7 excelled was the high-quality cookery of the eventual winner, Shaun O’Neale, and his final competitors Brandi Mudd and David Williams, who tied for second place.
After smoothing out the speed bumps and roadblocks experienced in Season 1, the finale of Season 2 enjoyed high viewership. With more time and bigger production, the show hosted 18 contestants over 20 weeks of competition.
Despite Gordon Ramsay’s incessant outbursts and temperamental flare-ups, Season 2 won viewers’ hearts with the run of former Miss USA contestant Jennifer Behm, a realtor who turned her casual cooking hobby into a $250,000 grand prize.
With dramatic kitchen conflicts among contentious personalities Ahran and Leslie and between “Cutter” and Dan, Season 5 provided viewers with some of the most memorable moments in MasterChef history. And that doesn’t even include the heart-pounding showdown between finalists Courtney Lapresi, Elizabeth Cauvel, and Leslie Gilliams.
However, one of the main reasons Season 5 remains so strong is the refinement of the format, the comfortability of the three original judges, and the familiar nature of the show before it made major changes beginning in Season 6.
Season 3 of MasterChef garnered some of the best ratings in show history (per SpotVault). Fans felt strongly about the diverse cast of highly skilled contestants, none more impressive than the eventual winner, Christine Ha.
With tremendous spirit at top-notch cooking skills, Christine became the first blind contestant to compete on MasterChef, winning first place over the course of a harrowing four-month process. Fans of the show were also thrilled to see the first Asian winner take home the top prize.
The All-Stars concept turned out to be a fantastic idea to help boost MasterChef after a few seasons that weren’t among the favorites of fans. Most of the past competitors improved upon their return. The biggest leap came from Dara Yu, who stunned everyone by becoming the show’s youngest winner.
The former MasterChef Junior contestant was on an impressive roll down the stretch that she rode to the win. The tight competition, return of recognizable and likable faces, and some heated drama during team challenges all combined with some outstanding dishes to make for a tremendous season.
The consensus among the MasterChef faithful is that Season 4 still ranks as the overall best. In addition to the most likable cast of competitors in show history, including the magnetic first place winner Luca Manfe, the show gave ample time for each person to show their personality over 25 long weeks of competition.