We're officially halfway through the competition after the final 12 contestants were revealed on MasterChef Australia: Fans & Favourites on Sunday night.
Ever since the 2022 season kicked off in April, viewers have wondered how the cooking show will pan out, given the revamped format: half of the contestants hail from previous seasons (Favourites) and the other half are amateur home cooks (Fans).
Now that the top 12 have been unveiled, we can see that the 'Favourites' have claimed the majority, with eight of the remaining 12 contenders being past MasterChef stars. They are Mindy Woods (Season 4), Sarah Todd (Season 6), Michael Weldon (Season 3), Alvin Quah (Season 2), Aldo Ortado (Season 10), Tommy Pham (Season 13) and previous winners Julie Goodwin (Season 1) and Billie McKay (Season 7).
The breakdown is somewhat unsurprising, given the 'Favourites' have established food careers and are familiar with cooking using limited ingredients under time constraints in a pressure cooker reality TV environment.
We only need to cast our minds back to last season, when Justin Narayan won the show after several episodes of struggling to nail pressure tests and mystery box challenges. Judges Melissa Leong, Andy Allen and Jock Zonfrillo had told Narayan a few times that he needed to lift his game to remain in the competition.
According to contestant Sarah Todd, while there is obviously a difference in the level of culinary experience between the 'Favourites' and 'Fans', that doesn't mean the first-timers can't claim victory.
"The fans are just such beautiful people... and they love food and ultimately that means we're all kind of the same," Todd tells Refinery29 Australia.
"I think MasterChef is a bit of a leveller. Yes, we have more experience but there's so many things thrown at us that just kind of level the situation a little bit."
Todd says the newcomers' fresh sets of eyes and willingness to learn can also be viewed as advantages.
"They're just such huge foodies that anything that they watch or see, they're just like like sponges and pick up everything," she says.
"Julie walked into the kitchen absolutely quaking in her boots," says Leong. "Because she knew that in her season what she needed to win was so full of love — and continues to be — but in terms of refinement and technique, what people are doing now just at home for fun versus what she needed to win are very different things."
"And what she's cooking at home just for fun for her friends would blow your mind. So, bringing that level straight off the bat as an amateur into the kitchen has its own impressive nature."
On Sunday night the top 12 were confirmed after Harry Tomlinson was sent packing following an elimination challenge for guest judge, Marco Pierre White.
Now that we're at the halfway mark, it's only a matter of time before we'll know whether a 'Favourite' or 'Fan' ultimately comes out on top.
MasterChef Australia: Fans & Favourites continues at 7:30pm on Channel 10 and 10Play.Want more? Get Refinery29 Australia’s best stories delivered to your inbox each week. Sign up here!