FORT IRWIN, Calif. - In the middle of the Mojave Desert is where MasterChef producers discovered the perfect location for their cooking competition. It would be the biggest challenge ever in the five-year history of the Fox TV series.
The venue was the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, a 1,200 -square mile expansion of high desert geography with 500 very hungry soldiers. The TV series had never before taken on a challenge quite so grand.
The MasterChef series is co-produced and co-hosted by Gordon Ramsay, the colorful and demanding Brit who has a huge following in the United States with several other shows. Ramsay stars with fellow chefs Joe Bastianich and Graham Elliot.
The trio looks for unique opportunities to stump the cooking teams selected to compete on the show. This challenge was daunting; cooking in make-shift kitchens set up in the middle of the desert with a guest list of 500.
But first, culinary contestants were put through a gauntlet of real-life Army training exercises which included tanks, armored personnel carriers, pyrotechnical mayhem and machine-gun fire provided by the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in a routine training scenario.
The man overseeing this special mission was Commander of the National Training Center, Maj. Gen. Ted Martin, who said it was a unique exchange of skill sets.
"I think this was a great opportunity for our Soldiers and a great opportunity to show America what the National Training Center is all about. It is not that often that you can have professional chefs prepare a free gourmet meal for your troops after two hard weeks in the field. We learned a lot about how Hollywood works. They learned a lot about what a great group of Soldiers we have at the National Training Center!"
National Training Center Command Sergeant Major Stephen Travers said it was a day to remember.
"It was an absolute privilege hosting Gordon Ramsay and the entire Fox team here at Fort Irwin. They were a pleasure to work with, and most importantly, they were genuinely impressed with our Soldiers and appreciated what they do for our nation," said Travers.
U.S. Army Garrison Commander Col. Jon Braga guided Gordon Ramsay and his road- weary contestants through the desert training environment and to their final destination where grills were already fired up for the cooking contest to begin.
"We appreciate the professionalism and passion that Gordon Ramsay and his
entire MasterChef Team brought to the NTC," Braga said. "These are two traits we aspire to with our critical mission here training Brigade Combat Teams. We hope the experience for the contestants, as well as Gordon's team, was as special for them, as it was for the Soldiers here and we wish them the best with the rest of the season!"
We would have interviewed more Soldiers but they were too busy eating.
MasterChef at Fort Irwin airs Monday June 9th on Fox.