How The MasterChef Judges Really Get Along Off Screen - Exclusive

We all know that each of the judges on FOX's long running hit show MasterChef tend to have quite, how shall we put it, strong personalities. The show has Gordon Ramsay, of course, known as much for his outbursts and fits of rage when adult chefs mess things up as he is for his patience, tenderness, and calm around youth chefs just cutting their teeth in the business. Then you have the ebullient Graham Elliot, with his ever-present smile (and signature white eyeglasses). There's the level-headed and laid back Aarón Sánchez; and Joe Bastianich, known in the early days of MasterChef for the occasional acid-tongued zinger, and in recent years for a wit with a bit less bite.

But that's just what we see on screen. What are the MasterChef judges like when the cameras aren't rolling? Do they actually get along or do they spar, trade jabs, and judge one another as harshly as they lash out at the culinary failures on the show? Mashed caught up with none other than MasterChef judge Joseph Bastianich himself to find out the answers to our burning questions, and as it turns out, things aren't quite so dramatic and barb-tipped behind the scenes of MasterChef as one might think. In fact, as it happens, the judges get along just fine.

Behind the scenes, it's like family between the MasterChef team

So, how well do the MasterChef judges tend to get along off-screen? "Oh, it's like a family," Joe Bastianich told Mashed. "Gordon and I have been doing it for 12 years. There are a lot of the same people in production. It's an intense two or three months we spend together, so it's very much a family. It's that kind of energy that you see on the screen exists also off the screen. So we're like friends making a TV show every year."

The shared experiences of judging MasterChef also do much to bring them together, such as being obliged to taste truly awful foods — like Redneck Sushi, which Bastianich described to Mashed as "horrendous" and Ramsay called "f****** disgusting, I mean rancid," (via YouTube). But there have also been plenty of rewarding moments on the set, like working with chef Christina Ha, of whom Bastianich says: "She was a young lady who was blind who did ... Southeast Asian cuisine, which was really incredible." (Judging from this MasterChef YouTube clip, Gordon Ramsay is also a fan, describing an apple pie Ha made as "beautiful" with "amazing flavors" and advising the chef to start believing in her talents more.)

So why did Joe Bastianich leave MasterChef?

Contrary to what many viewers likely assumed, when Joe Bastianich departed from MasterChef in 2014 after five seasons on the show, it was not because of poor relationships behind the scenes with the other judges or production staff, but in fact an entirely personal decision. Spread thin between his work on American television, MasterChef Italia, and guest appearances on other programs; his role helping manage various restaurants and grocery stores spread around the world; and his music, something simply had to give.

The fact that Bastianich and the other members of the MasterChef team not only harbored no bad feelings about the departure, but also remained in one another's good graces is made plainly evident by Bastianich's eventual return to the fold as a judge on MasterChef Junior in 2017, again working alongside Gordon Ramsay. Bastianich also later came back to judging MasterChef alongside Ramsay and Aarón Sánchez. 

The 11th season of MasterChef was initially sidelined by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Deadline, but production started again late last year and the show looks set to remain going strong. If you're interested in hearing more from Joe Bastianich, you can check the Grana Padano website or Instagram page for recipes and updates on his work with the exclusive Italian cheese.