Earlier this month it was confirmed that Reuben Riffel will be replacing Andrew Atkinson as one of the judges on Season 3 of Masterchef SA. At the end of last year Atkinson was offered a position as a full-time Executive Chef at a hotel chain in Johannesburg and can no longer commit himself to the busy schedule of a TV series. Well, that’s what the press release says, anyway. Riffel has been the key sponsor, Robertson’s, brand ambassador since the show began, so it seems a logical move as viewers are now very familiar with him.
I have no doubt that Atkinson is a great chef, I enjoyed his feedback to contestants on the show because it was usually quite constructive. As a viewer and a fan of the series, it, however, seemed like his heart wasn’t in the entertainment part. He had no social media presence which translated to me as someone who had little desire to directly engage with viewers. He sometimes looked a little unkempt on camera, with hair a little messy and clothes more suited to a harangued parent or school teacher. I recognise that neither of these criticisms are fair for a person playing the role of a chef judge. However, it’s playing this role on TV and one does come to expect a little investment in appearance or, at least, audience interaction.
I look forward to seeing what Chef Reuben brings to the judging table. And it will be interesting to see how the dynamic changes, if at all, with the other judges. I note that fellow judges, Benny Masekwameng and Pete Goffe-Wood often play up the Good Cop/Bad Cop trope respectively (and to be fair, Benny, with his suitably affable first name, really does seem nice off camera too) and I’m interested to see how and what Riffel will contribute to that. I assume that being so heavily tied to the headline sponsor might prevent any scandalous decisions coming from him, but we’ll see!
What do you think? Will you miss Atkinson? If you could choose the new judge, who would it be?