Joe Bastianich Weighs In On MasterChef Season 12 - Exclusive

With only a few more weeks of "MasterChef" Season 12, fans are dying to see which all-star will be named the champion. Judges Gordon Ramsay, Joe Bastianich, and Aarón Sánchez will determine who wins the $250,000 grand prize and bragging rights this season. The 20 "MasterChef" alumni have been battling it out, including two previous "MasterChef Junior" cooks who are now competing as adults (Dara Yu and Shayne Wells). Last week's tag team challenge reached a new level of difficulty as contestants had to make a three-course meal – consisting of Gordon Ramsay's famous beef wellington, mushroom risotto, and caramelized pear tarte tatin — in 75 minutes 

Halfway through Season 12, Joe Bastianich has some thoughts on the competitors thus far. In an exclusive interview with Tasting Table, Bastianich confirmed that there is an interesting difference between an all-star and regular "MasterChef" season. He also revealed which contestants have surprised him the most.

Bowen and Big Willie have pleasantly surprised Joe Bastianich

Joe Bastianich explained the judging criteria on "MasterChef: Back to Win" as higher expectations. He told Tasting Table, "If we consider the professional experience that our chefs have had, we must raise the bar. It's more like judging professional chefs than home cooks." Bastianich has been a part of the series since the beginning, with the original trio including Graham Elliot. Now that Aarón Sánchez has taken Elliot's judging seat, Bastianich described the chef as a "brother," saying that he looks forward to time with Sanchez in the "MasterChef" kitchen. "Aarón brings out the kid in me," Bastianich told us. "He makes me laugh and take myself less seriously." 

As "MasterChef" is now down to the final 10, Bastianich weighed in on who has exceeded his expectations. He named Bowen Li, seen on "MasterChef" Season 9, and Willie Mike (aka Big Willie), seen on "MasterChef" Season 5. "They were both classic transformations from home cooks to professional chefs," Bastianich said. "On the other hand, someone like Emily [Hallock] I expected a lot and, of course, she delivered." According to MasterChef fandom, Emily Hallock ranked 10th place in Season 9. 

If only Bastianich had given us a hint as to who wins the finale! 

"MasterChef: Back To Win" airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on FOX.