WHEN the latest series of MasterChef began, some fans may have been worried that the show had lost its hold on the public’s imagination.

After the success of Great British Bake-Off, on which Paul Hollywood telling someone their tart had a soggy bottom counted as stinging criticism, were viewers ready to take food seriously again?

For many, the latest series has been as addictive as ever, and now there are only three contestants left. Over the course of three nights, they will battle it out for the title of MasterChef champion.

Maybe judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace already have an inkling about who will win. Wallace recently admitted, “Do we gossip about contestants and their cooking behind their backs? Of course we do.”

The first challenge begins in Italy, where the aspiring chefs will undertake a culinary odyssey. They begin on the Amalfi Coast, where they meet Mamma Agata, who has served her rustic-style dishes to the likes of Humphrey Bogart, Elizabeth Taylor and Jackie Kennedy.

She will give the finalists a masterclass in traditional Italian cuisine. Then they will have to serve up a dish just like Mamma used to make.

Then it is on to Florence, where they will go from rustic home-cooked fare to the Enoteca Pinchiorri, a restaurant that has held three Michelin stars for nearly a decade. Executive chef Italo Bassi introduces them to three of his signature dishes, which they must recreate using a whole array of new techniques.

Finally, they journey to Fiesole to rustle up lunch for luminaries of the Florentine art world.

There is no respite on their return to England. On Wednesday, they face the ultimate invention test, judged by Torode, Wallace and two Michelin-starred chef Michael Caines.

Another Michelin-starred chef, Simon Rogan, will present them with the next challenge – serving a menu he has designed to a table of the culinary industry’s great and the good.

The grand final is on Thursday, as contestants prepare for one last cook-off.

They must prepare a three-course meal to wow Torode and Wallace.