MasterChef Season 12: Release Date, Judges, And More

They're baaack. Gordon Ramsay and his sidekicks Aarón Sánchez and Joe Bastianich are returning to host another season of "MasterChef." According to Variety, the official renewal of the reality cooking competition comes hot on the heels of the debut of Studio Ramsay Global, Ramsay's new partnership venture with Fox Entertainment. Under the terms of that nine-figure deal, Fox acquired Ramsay's existing television portfolio. In turn, Studio Ramsay Global will develop, produce, and distribute culinary and lifestyle programming for Fox Entertainment, Tubi, and other outlets worldwide. The official renewal of "Masterchef" marks the beginning of the show's 12th season. Fox and its partners, Endemol Shine North America and One Potato Two Potato, have high hopes for the next chapter.

Currently airing on Fox, Season 11 of "MasterChef" is averaging five million multi-platform viewers, according to Nielsen (via Deadline), securing the network the No. 1 slot among broadcast networks for six of eight air dates this summer.

"'MasterChef,' Gordon, Aarón, and Joe, and our fantastic partners at ESNA have been vital to Fox's DNA," said Rob Wade, president of alternative entertainment and specials, Fox Entertainment. Even in its 11th season, this show continues to impress by sustaining Fox's success on Wednesdays this summer. We anticipate this momentum to continue next year when Masterchef' returns for a much deserved Season 12."

Here's what we know so far

While we don't have a specific release date for "MasterChef" Season 12, it's historically a summer show. Season 1 ran from July 10 to September 2, 2010 (via epguides) and subsequent seasons have followed suit with start dates in May, June, or July. Even though Season 11 production lost time when it was temporarily suspended due to COVID concerns — according to TV Series Finale, Fox halted Season 11 production in March 2020 and resumed in late October — it still began airing in June with the finale set for September. Looking ahead, we predict a summer 2022 debut of "MasterChef" Season 12.

Gordon Ramsay will return as the master of ceremonies with Aarón Sánchez and Joe Bastianich by his side as co-judges. Ramsay, who has been with "MasterChef" since its debut episode in 2010, boasts an impressive roster of accolades. A Michelin-star chef many times over, he's also an author and a member of the Culinary Hall of Fame (via Parade). In addition to "MasterChef," he has appeared on "MasterChef Jr.," "Kitchen Nightmares," "Hell's Kitchen," "Hotel Hell," and "Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted." Sánchez joined the "MasterChef" panel of judges in Season 8. He is the executive chef and part-owner of Johnny Sánchez in New Orleans and has appeared on Food Network's "Chopped," "Guilty Pleasures," "Best Thing I Ever Ate," and "Next Iron Chef."

One of the original "MasterChef" judges along with Ramsay, Joe Bastianich left the show in 2014, but returned in 2018 for Season 9. Although the restaurant owner is not a chef, he is a James Beard Foundation award winner in the restaurateur category.

What can we expect from Season 12?

While the "MasterChef" format has evolved over the years, its basic premise remains the same: A group of amateur chefs compete against one another through a series of challengers to win the title MasterChef. According to TVOM, the first two seasons of the long-running show featured amateur chefs vying for a white apron and a place in the "MasterChef" kitchen. The last chef standing at the end of the competition won $250,000, a cookbook deal, and a "MasterChef" trophy (via Reality Revisited). Since its debut, the number of competitors has varied season to season, ranging from 14 to 22. We expect a dozen or two amateur chefs to earn white aprons in Season 12.

One clear change is the intensity of the challenges. In recent years, competitors have stepped outside the "MasterChef" kitchen to prepare the wedding reception feast of a previous "MasterChef" winner, cater a 10th-anniversary pool party, and even fly to England to run dinner service in one of Ramsay's real restaurants (via TVOM). That's due, at least in part, to the burgeoning skill set of the talent pool. That point has not gone unnoticed by Ramsay, who credits the explosion of food-focused media over the past decade with exposing home cooks to myriad cuisines, cooking styles, and even kitchen equipment. There's also a growing element of mentorship by the judges. Responding to viewer critique from early seasons, judges have become kinder and gentler, offering helpful suggestions instead of scathing judgment (most of the time).

Who? What? And where are they now?

"MasterChef" is one of the few reality TV cooking competitions for amateur chefs that offers the winner a sizable payout — $250,000 — in addition to bragging rights (via Parade). According to Reality Revisited, the cash prize has been the same since the show debuted. (For comparison, according to Bravo, the top prize for "Top Chef" started at $100,000 in 2006 and is now at $250,000.) All but one of 10 "MasterChef" winners to date used the prize money as a springboard to build their culinary careers. According to MEAWW, Season 5 winner Courtney Lapresi, a dancer from Philadelphia, published a book, "'Everyday Fancy: 65 Easy, Elegant Recipes for Meals, Snacks, Sweets, and Drinks," but subsequently joined Tesla as a sales representative.

Season 1 winner, Whitney Miller, was still in college when she claimed the MasterChef title. After the competition, she finished her degree and has since published two books, "Modern Hospitality: Simple Recipes with Southern Charm" and "Whitney Miller's New Southern Table," in addition to appearing on a number of cooking shows. The most recent "MasterChef" winner, Dorian Hunter of Cartersville, Georgia, took home the prize in Season 10. According to Parade, Hunter won despite criticism from "MasterChef" judge Joe Bastinich who said her culinary style amounted to elevated home cooking that was not restaurant level. She's currently working on a cookbook showcasing "elevated soul" recipes.

Do you think you have what it takes to go head to head with other accomplished amateur chefs? Can you stand the heat in the "MasterChef" kitchen? According to Delish, getting on the show can be an arduous process. First, you have to meet the minimum requirements. You must be at least 18 years old, a U.S. citizen, and an amateur chef (no professionals allowed). After that, you have to pre-register online and you must be available to attend an open casting call where you will be expected to prepare your best dish on the spot. If you make it through the first round — and you're still interested — you'll travel to Los Angeles for a final audition. And if you're still in the running, you'll undergo a psych evaluation and a background check before getting the big green light. It's a lot, but for some amateur chefs, it's a life-changing experience.