EXCLUSIVE: Jean-Christophe Novelli talks all things MasterChef Australia

Get to know the new judge before the upcoming season premieres…
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Culinary enthusiasts rejoice! MasterChef Australia will be back on our screens in just a few days.

Of course, fans will be delighted that some familiar faces have returned for the show’s upcoming 16th season – Andy Allen, Poh Ling Yeow and, long-time guest judge, Jamie Oliver.

But there’s some fresh blood in the kitchen this year too.

Award-winning French chef Jean-Christophe Novelli and food & travel journalist Sofia Levin are set to join the MasterChef judging panel in 2024.

Ahead of the new season’s premiere, The Weekly sat down with Jean-Christophe to learn a bit more about the man who was brave enough to try and fill the shoes of Melissa Leong and the late Jock Zonfrillo.

masterchef judges

Thankfully, it was crystal clear from the instant our interview started that Jean-Christophe is not only passionate about food, but reveres MasterChef.

“It’s like joining the cast of Neighbours… It’s surreal,” Jean-Christophe marvelled.

“Those legacy doors, iconic doors, and the clock; everybody knows them around the world.

“I stepped onto the best cooking show in the world and… I had to keep trying to organise the way I breathe.”

Obviously, Jean-Christophe eventually settled in, and he ended up developing close friendships with the other judges. Particularly Jamie.

“I’ve met most other celebrity [chefs] and top chefs but, for some reason, I’d never met Jamie Oliver before. But he is a superb human being… Many times [during filming], he invited us, the judges, out,” Jean-Christophe shared.

jean-christophe novelli

“And I discovered what a lovely human he was. There were just so many moments I’ll never forget as long as I live.”

So what can fans expect from the new cohort of MasterChef contestants this year?

Of course, not wanting to give anything away, Jean-Christophe was hesitant to give names.

But he did say, “I could see straightaway who was going to be a threat or who was going to do very well. But the thing is, they all do very well.

“On day one, they all seemed to know what they were doing. And I actually forgot they’re not professional chefs, they’re amateur cooks.”

In fact, this level of talent threw Jean-Christophe. Despite running the Novelli Academy Cookery School for over 15 years, he had to abandon his usual teaching tactics.

“I did not know where to start because the standard was already, quite surprisingly, very high already,” he said.

“And I was flabbergasted by the vibe… You could see [the contestants] were excited and full of vibe. You could see they were like, ‘We’re gonna give this everything we’ve got.’”

If, like us, these comments about the contestants are making you want to tune into MasterChef on Monday, the multi Michelin Star winner has some sage advice.

“Drink a lot of water when you’re watching the show, because you’re going to be going through a lot of emotions,” Jean-Christophe joked before adding in a more serious tone:

“You can’t miss this year, it’s unbelievable what’s going to happen.”

The new season of MasterChef premieres on Monday, April 22 on Channel Ten and 10play.

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