Judge John Torode reckons that lockdown has resulted in one of the strongest ever MasterChef line-ups.

The quality of the amateur chefs in the upcoming run of the popular BBC show has improved from previous years, Torode says.

He believes contestants made the most of their added spare time and spent longer in the kitchen practicing for the show.

He told the PA news agency: "What I really enjoyed was the fact that the contestants had obviously spent so much time, whilst they were in the first lockdown, practicing and working at what they wanted to do, and becoming really good at it.

"And that meant we ate really, really well. There was only a few dodgy dishes along the way, which is really saying something for MasterChef; well, I say a few, probably more than a few.

"There's the odd bit of raw lamb and a bit of chicken here and there and a few odd concoctions. But otherwise it was a really, really great series."

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The 17th season of MasterChef kicks off next month and was filmed under Covid restrictions.

Torode's MasterChef co-star, Gregg Wallace, revealed an unexpected upside to making the show during a pandemic.

He said: "One of the differences was really positive, that John and I got a dish each, rather than trying to elbow each other away for the choicest bits. That was a positive."

But Wallace also admitted he missed physically interacting with others on set.

He said: "Of course, the negative is we didn't get to go travelling around the world. But the negative I found odd is that I couldn't shake hands with people in the morning, or give people a hug, people that we've worked with for 20 years. There was no physical interaction. I found that a little strange."

MasterChef starts on BBC One on Monday, March 1.