ALL aboard, the MasterChef train is about to steam ahead in 2013.
The new spin-off of the popular reality cooking competition, MasterChef -The Professionals, debuts tomorrow night.
Instead of amateur cooks, 18 chefs with industry experience will compete for a career-changing grand prize to be revealed on Sunday.
Their goal will be to impress MasterChef judge and food critic Matt Preston and the "godfather" of modern British cuisine Marco Pierre White.
White, renowned for training celebrity chefs including Heston Blumenthal, Curtis Stone and Gordon Ramsay, established himself as a formidable figure during guest appearances on MasterChef Australia.
But he reckons he's a "nice" and "honest" judge who is sad to see any contestant go home.
"It's a rollercoaster journey (for the contestants)," White said.
"Sometimes it stops and someone steps off and it goes on its way."
White also acts as a mentor for the chefs, sharing knowledge honed by from years of running Michelin-star restaurants.
At the age of 33, White was the youngest chef in the world to be awarded three Michelin stars, the highest honour in fine dining.
He hopes The Professionals will unearth the next face of Australian cuisine.
"It is a show to celebrate professional chefs and bring out the best in them and go on a journey with them," he said.
"It's as much a journey for me as it is for them."
But that's not to say he and Preston will be going soft on the chefs. Because of their qualifications and previous experience, the chefs will be facing much tougher challenges than ordinary MasterChef contestants.
"The beauty of MasterChef is it's designed in a way to expose people to their weaknesses and strengths. Then it's how people deal with their weaknesses in the kitchen."
Speaking of kitchens, The Professionals features a new, state-of-the-art commercial kitchen and adjoining 120-seat restaurant in MasterChef's new home, Melbourne.
While they all have professional qualifications, the chefs are a diverse bunch from across Australia, ranging in age from 19 to 47.
Their CVs are diverse as well, with some fresh out of their apprenticeships and others with 20 years of experience and clientele lists including illustrious names such as Hugh Jackman, Penelope Cruz and Sean Connery.
White downplays his role on the show, saying the real star is Preston, the MasterChef judge who single-handedly brought the cravat back into Australia's modern style lexicon.
"Matt's the star of the show; I'm just on the side. He is a very charismatic, very magical, very mesmerizing individual. He's almost like a snake charmer."
MasterChef - The Professionals debuts tomorrow at 7.30pm on Ten.
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