If you’ve ever wanted to rub shoulders and trade recipes with the ambitious home cooks on MasterChef, your opportunity is near.
The hit Fox series, launching its 10th season on Wednesday, will send its contestants around the country for exclusive dinners, food tours and cooking classes as part of an alliance with Eatwith, which specializes in one-of-a-kind culinary experiences. Pop-up events are also scheduled for New York and San Francisco.
The deal taps further into the experiential trend that’s taking beloved entertainment properties from television and translating them into fan-centric activities in real life, a la the recent DragCon in Los Angeles.
MasterChef, a billion-dollar brand with hot-selling cookbooks and scores of other licensed products, has already waded into this territory with themed cruises on Holland America for the flagship series. For its popular spinoff, MasterChef Junior, the first multimarket live tour kicks off in October; its second cookbook, devoted to baking, is on the horizon; and its successful Camp MasterChef program for 8- to 16-year-old aspiring Gordon Ramsays expands from two to five cities this summer.
“We’re really leaning into these unconventional or unorthodox areas,” said Tamaya Petteway, svp, brand and licensing partnerships for show producer Endemol Shine North America. “We want to harness the emotion of the audience and give the uber fans something they can really engage with.”
Petteway, who’s also brainstorming ideas for the revivals of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Deal or No Deal and The Biggest Loser, thinks the future of show-related licensing may include malls, subscription boxes, escape rooms, VR experiences, theme parks and other nontraditional ways to expand the franchises.
“We go with the essentials first, like publishing,” she said. “It can be like a bell curve with products, so you’ll start slowly and then come out with more when the show picks up awareness. When it gets into a sweet spot with fans, that’s the time to start doing some unconventional things.”
For instance, MasterChef Judges Table, its first mobile game, debuts this summer, adding to online cooking classes with Bluprint.com, branded wine, small kitchen appliances, cutlery, spices, barbecue accessories and other branded swag.
The Eatwith events will include contestants from all previous seasons of the show and season 10 competitors once they’ve been eliminated. They’ll take place in cities like Houston, Chicago and San Francisco.
MasterChef, which has been Fox’s highest rated summer series for five consecutive years, has a new show runner this season, executive producer Natalka Znak, a veteran of Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen. Ramsay, Joe Bastianich and Aaron Sanchez return as the stern and hard to please, yet ultimately encouraging judges.
Petteway, who has also integrated brands like Blue Apron, Kellogg’s, Walmart, Heineken and T-Mobile into MasterChef episodes, wants to “maximize the brand 365 days a year so that fans can binge on whatever content they want anytime.”