There isn’t a single season of MasterChef that hasn’t been a bonafide hit.

The series’ creative and endearing approach as a cooking competition, the heartwarming and inspirational stories accompanying talented aspirational chefs, and the appeal of the judges, like Joe Bastianich, all contribute to that.

For its fourteenth season, MasterChef has taken on an intriguing theme: exploring the cultural components of how different generations approach foods.

Judge Joe Bastianich appearing stoic while judging Masterchef.Judge Joe Bastianich appearing stoic while judging Masterchef.

Yes, from Boomers all the way to Gen-Z, these aspiring chefs are such a diverse brood, taking the culinary television landscape by storm and keeping us glued to our screens in the process.

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TV Fanatic was fortunate enough to hop on Zoom with our favorite candid judge, the esteemed Joe Bastianich, to discuss the generation wars! Check it out!

A & J -tall  - MasterChef Season 13 Episode 3A & J -tall  - MasterChef Season 13 Episode 3

Fourteen seasons into Masterchef, and it’s still wildly successful. What is it about this specific cooking show that you presume resonates with audiences so much?

I think it’s kind of the chronicle of the evolution of American food. I mean, it’s 15 years, it’s almost two decades. It’s a long time.

We’ve seen a transformation in how people consume, think about, and cook food. MasterChef is always on the cutting edge of bringing what’s happening with aspiring cooks in America to the big screen.

What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of being a judge on the show?

It’s a lot of fun. I get to hang out with my buddies, Gordon [Ramsay] and Aarón [Sánchez].

We get a first bird’s eye view of what America is cooking. We get to see the talent and dishes.

Every year, it’s a different theme, so we always have something fun to work with. It’s just really being at the pinnacle of what’s happening with cooking in America, how passionate American cooks are, regional ingredients and traditions, people’s stories, and all that good stuff.

Gordon Ramsay, Aarón Sánchez, and Joe Bastianich stand in front of the MasterChef emblem laughing during the Millennial auditions.Gordon Ramsay, Aarón Sánchez, and Joe Bastianich stand in front of the MasterChef emblem laughing during the Millennial auditions.

You’re notoriously blunt. Do you find brutal honesty to be the most effective way of bringing out the best in everyone? I love it personally.

It’s not really a strategy. It’s just kind of how I am. I don’t pull punches. I treat these people like I would treat cooks at my restaurant. I’m just kind of straight to the point. I try to be kind and empathetic as well. But you know, if your dish sucks, it sucks.

Related: Chef Aarón Sánchez Talks Masterchef Season 13 and His Own Take on a Fair-Inspired Dish

That’s something we can appreciate, though. You say what everyone else thinks but may not always want to say.


Are people intimidated by you in person because of what they see on the show?

Justifiably so.

Joe smiles and poses with his mother, esteemed chef, author, and television personality, Lydia Bastianich.Joe smiles and poses with his mother, esteemed chef, author, and television personality, Lydia Bastianich.

This season is interesting because I never considered how food culture could vary among generations. What do you say are the differences across generations regarding their approach to cooking?

Well, it’s an amazing theme for the show, and I was really happy that we did it. Look, we’re all a culmination of our life experience. The experience of a Boomer is different than that of a Gen-Z, and seeing that layout, issues, ingredients, and techniques is amazing.

And then the exciting part, now that we get into the real show, mystery boxes, field challenges, you get to see the people interact as teams and as individuals, how their tendencies are different, how they speak to each other, their whole M.O., the cultural documentary that we’re seeing. So it’s smart TV—rare these days, but actually smart TV.

The competition heats up as the generations go head to head in their first big challenge.The competition heats up as the generations go head to head in their first big challenge.

What would you say are some of the assets of each generation versus their weak spots?

Yeah, you know, you start with the Boomers. So their assets are, you know, like definitely tradition, traditions of early immigrants to America, what they grew up with and the suffering that comes, you know, 60, 70 years old, maybe a little bit lacking in imagination and inventiveness.

Gen X, which is mine, is the most practical. You see the introduction of international cuisines. In the nineties, we found out what Thai food is: sushi, Korean barbecue, and everything else. And that’s great. Except maybe the Xers are a little bit overconfident.

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We have the Millennials, who are a blend of the two. They grew up with the internet, and they’re informed about everything, every detail, every ingredient.

They have that digital sashay, shall we say, but perhaps they’re a little bit blinded by the lights of what they read versus what they actually know.

And Gen Zers are the extremes. They’re all about substituting foods, inventive foods, zucchini, pasta, everything else. What it looks like and how many likes you get is really important. Maybe they could focus a little bit more on flavor.

Judges Joe and Aarón stop at a chaotic Murt's station to learn about his dish.Judges Joe and Aarón stop at a chaotic Murt's station to learn about his dish.

Yeah. The recent episode was Murt. Very inventive, but I was like, “Oh, please, kid, just rein it in a little bit.”

Is there any generation, contestant, or even a dish that has just taken you by surprise this season?

The Gen Zers. Even a guy like Murt, some of the stuff he’s done for good and bad, is very interesting.

I’m most interested in seeing how Gen Z fares because I have kids of that age. I understand how they behave and act, the good and bad of it. And I want to see it play out on these dishes.

You guys recently did the childhood-inspired dish. What would you have made if you were a contestant?

I don’t know. It may sound blasé, but I would make spaghetti and meatballs. That’s what I grew up eating, and I do it well, and everyone loves it.

Joe Bastianich smiles and hugs Masterchef alum Christine Ha.Joe Bastianich smiles and hugs Masterchef alum Christine Ha.

What can you tease about the remainder of the season and what we can look forward to?

What you’re going to see is that now we put them in categories and teams and generations, but as you go on to these mystery boxes, it gets more competitive and strategic: one versus another.

You put them out in the real world; you’re going to see the humanity of the generations play out as well. How they treat each other, communicate, and respect they have for each other or lack thereof. And we really see the generational differences, not only in food but in their humanity.

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That’s really interesting. You’re starting to see that now a bit. I have noticed just how they work together. I can’t wait to see that.

Oh, just you wait. There’s a lot more to come.

Has there been any specific competition this season that you were really excited about?

I can’t say. But we have some amazing field challenges. I’ll just say that.

You can catch Joe Bastianich on an all-new episode of Masterchef when it returns tonight at 8/7c on FOX.

You can stream the following day on Hulu!

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