We are almost halfway through Season 10 of MasterChef US.
This year, the long-running reality television (TV) series celebrates its 10th Anniversary with tons of difficult challenges and guest appearances. Since its premiere in 2010, the series has changed the lives of many home cooks across America, opening the doors to their career in the culinary arts.
And as I looked back on the past decade of MasterChef US, I came to a massive realisation that much like other reality TV series like Love Island, this reality TV series is also closely intertwined with the influencer economy, albeit different in nature.
Hence, in this article, I want to take a closer look at what the influencer economy means to MasterChef US and vice versa.
Since Season 3 of MasterChef US, the producers have engaged a number of celebrity influencers to make guest appearances on the show. This includes actresses and models like Eva Longoria and Alessandra Ambrosio, who each have millions of followers on Instagram.
Engaging these celebrity influencers has mainly helped in raising awareness for the MasterChef series due to these influencers’ massive following and fan base.
Throughout its run, MasterChef has also made a strong effort to feature niche influencers, particularly professional chefs. Season 7 of the series saw this effort at its peak when Chef Graham Elliot left the panel of judges. Taking his place was a total of 6 professional chefs who served as guest judges alongside regular judges Gordon Ramsay and Christina Tosi. This included the likes of Wolfgang Puck and Richard Blais, two extremely prominent Celebrity Chefs with hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram. The episodes featuring each of the two chefs were then among the top episodes with the highest viewership for the season.
Featuring these niche influencers has not only benefited the show in terms of generating interest but also benefited the chefs themselves as their Instagram accounts enjoyed higher engagement rates from their short stint on the show.
The most recent example can be taken from Masaharu Morimoto, the first chef to grace the screens as a guest judge for Season 10. The episode featuring this Japanese chef garnered the highest viewership out of the 13 episodes that have been aired thus far (3.25M viewers).
After the filming, he then uploaded an image of his TV appearance on his Instagram account @chef_morimoto. The post quickly received more than twice his average number of likes and has now climbed to become one of his top 10 posts within the past three months.
While MasterChef features celebrities and influencers on the show, they have also helped to grow their home cooks into micro-influencers. Past season winners like Christine Ha (Season 3) and Luca Manfé (Season 4) have both become micro-influencers with over 50K followers on Instagram.
These individuals have grown to become a part of the influencer economy, even becoming ambassadors for food brands like Donna Italia and Tajín.
Luca Manfé and Donna Italia:
View this post on Instagram
I’m very happy to announce that I am Donna Italia’s new brand ambassador and I will be in Chicago at the National Restaurant Association Show to make you some great Italian pizzas. Donna Italia's pizza is a fantastic solution for any business. It takes only 3 minutes to cook and you get all the equipment you need FREE OF CHARGE! May 19-22 | McCormick Place, Chicago, IL. Booth #8041 See you there! #donnaitalia #italianpizza #nrashow #restaurantsolutions #restaurant #pizza
Claudia Sandoval (Season 6 Winner) and Tajín:
The growth in followers is not only limited to the season winners, however, as current contestants also see a similar spike in their Instagram following.
Keturah King is one of the contestants on Season 10. Prior to her stint on MasterChef, she was a host and anchor with a significant following on Instagram. Since Season 10 first premiered on May 29, Keturah’s Instagram following has seen an upward trend.
Over the course of two months, her audience numbers have then grown by 10.9K followers.
Evidently, MasterChef US is closely intertwined with the influencer economy, regardless of whether the series benefits from it or vice versa. Its contribution to the influencer sphere with regard to niche micro-influencers also offer food brands and even cookware brands a larger pool of influencers to choose from than before, which is great news for brands due to the growing trend of engaging nano/micro-influencers for influencer marketing campaigns over macro and celebrity influencers.
And yet what this means for influencers already in the game is that the market is getting more and more saturated. They now have to be more engaging and authentic in order to grow their audience and stand out from the crowd.
You can buy followers but you can’t buy relationships. That’s why engagement is key.@influencerbites