Masterchef: Six contestants face a brand-new challenge, and an invention test

​​Monday: MasterChef (BBC One, 6.30pm)
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Happy birthday MasterChef!

Since The Great British Bake Off decamped to Channel 4, the programme has been the BBC’s flagship cookery contest. It’s not quite earned the key to the door yet, but it is turning 20 this year – and any show that reaches that milestone in an era where productions can be one-hit wonders or, even worse, instantly forgotten, that’s certainly an achievement.

The amazing thing is, there so many amateur cooks desperate to prove they’ve got the culinary skills to pay the bills are still applying to take part – there’s a seemingly endless stream of them only too keen to enter the infamous kitchen. While some of their predecessors have shone under the spotlight, others have wilted, the heat apparently far too much for them to stand.

Hosts John Torode and Gregg WallaceHosts John Torode and Gregg Wallace
Hosts John Torode and Gregg Wallace
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Last year, it was 40-year-old Chariya Khattiyot who triumphed, wowing the judges with her use of flavours from Northern Thailand.

“This is unbelievable,” said the master coffee roaster at the time. “It means the world, the sun, the moon and everything to me. I don’t think anything can top this. I’m so happy.

“This just proves that if you dream something and you work really hard and you never give up, you can get it. That’s what my grandad said to me – never give up. He would be so proud of me.”

A whopping 58 contestants are hoping to follow in her footsteps this time around. The first six make their debut in Easter Monday’s opening edition, during which they’ll be faced with a brand-new challenge entitled Basic to Brilliant. It involves taking an everyday ingredient and using it at the centre of a spectacular dish.

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Seeing as hosts John Torode and Gregg Wallace have pretty much seen and tasted everything during their time on the programme, whatever the amateurs come up with is going to have to be a taste sensation – and that’s not something that’s easy to achieve once the cameras start rolling and the pressure mounts.

The duo who impress the most go straight through to the first quarter-final, which is due to take place later this week, under the watchful eye of formidable food critic William Sitwell. He’ll be setting them a tricky challenge – to devise an exquisite dish inspired by school dinners which, of course, were often terrible back in the day.

The remaining quartet fight for two vacant spots in the Think on Their Feet challenge, an invention test with a twist. They’re tasked with celebrating the humble potato gnocchi; it’s one of Gregg’s favourite dishes, so expect him to be particularly exacting.

Then, it’s time to prepare a meal for last year’s finalists, Anurag Aggarwal and Omar Foster, as well as champion Chariya. It’s not quite singing for their supper, but not far off!

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Whoever goes through to the next round will certainly have earned their place. Will the eventual winner be taking part this week? Well, that’s anybody’s guess, but we’ll look forward to seeing how they all develop throughout this special anniversary series.