MasterChef Australia's fourth season is one of change: most notably, the move from Sydney to Melbourne as the competition base. It's a win-win for judge George Calombaris, who gets to spend more time at his four Melbourne restaurants, and with his long-time partner Natalie Tricario and their two-year-old son James.
"Sydney was fantastic for the first four series, but it's nice to get to Melbourne, my home town, the place where all my restaurants are, my family are," George tells TheFIX. "It's all sort of fallen into place, it's brilliant."
George on his weight lossThe move has helped the 33-year-old chef in profound ways: he's lost 20kg by having a steadier routine, going to the gym, playing soccer with mates, and avoiding binge eating.
"It's not hard at all, it's really, really easy, to the point where you think about, 'I wake up in the morning, eat a couple of eggs on toast, a good lunch, little snacks in between, healthy snacks, and a good dinner," he says. "And making sure I'm eating as well, because you forget to eat and then you binge and grab whatever's in front of you, which is no good."
Does he still have room for Adriano Zumbo's macaroons? "I'd eat an Adriano Zumbo macaroon any day of the week, there's no problem with that!" he laughs. "It's OK to indulge, but if you're gonna do it, indulge with the right things. Do you grab the chocolate bar that you don't know what's in it, or do you grab the Adriano Zumbo macaroon, or grab 30 Adriano Zumbo macaroons and smash them?"
Baby James gets the MasterChef treatmentGeorge's baby has a pretty sweet deal having one of the best chefs in the country as his dad.
"James is a funny little eater, he eats everything that we eat so there's no such thing as a kids' meal," he says. "While he was on purées, they were great purées. We roasted our own pumpkin, made our own pumpkin purée. We'd never buy shop-bought purees 'cause it's just ridiculous."
"Everything that we do is real and whole, never would we buy anything pre-made. Because life's too short to eat stuff that you don't know what's going into, and you don't know who's made it."
George adds that his bub drinks "like, litres of water" every day. Not a bad habit to have!
'Whatever' to marriageGeorge also makes sure to find the time for his partner of six years, Natalie, who runs her own marketing agency.
"She's busy as well, she's got her own business that she runs. We live busy lives, but when we are together, we're together, which is great," he says.
Are they tempted to seal the deal and get hitched?
"I'm living in sin! I'm living to my mother's despite!" George replies with a laugh. "I don't know, whatever, does it matter? No, not really, as long as we're happy, that's the main thing."
Blowing up stereotypes on MasterChefTen's latest season of the high-rating cooking show has a few other changes up its sleeves: it starts with the top 22 rather than top 50 so there's less messing around; and cravat-crazy Matt Preston returns to the judging panel alongside George and Gary Mehigan , joining them in the MasterClass in front of a live studio audience for the first time.
But for George, it's the cultural diversity of the contestants that really stands out this time.
"MasterChef's going to be a true reflection of who we are as Australians," he says. "This is a diverse cultural melting pot of different religions, colours, ethnicities, and it's wonderful. It just makes me realise how lucky we are, especially this batch of contestants."
Nevertheless, there will always be critics of MasterChef the first promo for the new season played with the "boys versus girls" theme of one of the early challenges. Some fans accused the ad of reinforcing gender stereotypes.
"We blow stereotypes up, honestly our show does," George tells TheFIX. "[NSW stay-at-home mum] Christina is the perfect example of us blowing the stereotypes up. Everyone is looking at her thinking 'how cute, polka dot skirt, she's at home, the housewife, 50s housewife'. I can tell you now, she's a lesbian, and she's got two kids, so that blows that stereotype right up."
"We're a show that's all about positivity and nurturing talent, and nurturing people to understand that if you've got a dream, you can fulfil it."
MasterChef premieres on Sunday, June 2 at 7.30pm on Network Ten.