MasterChef is back for a 16th series, and the competition is as tough as ever, with some difficult decisions to be made. Judges Gregg Wallace and John Torode take Georgia Humphreys behind the scenes.

Cooking in the MasterChef kitchen is just as scary as you'd imagine.

There's a box on the counter containing three mystery ingredients. Apron on, I lift up the lid to discover a whole lemon sole, spinach and mushrooms.

After a panicked 40 minutes - which involves filleting a fish for the first time ever - I manage to rustle up something that vaguely resembles a dish.

When presenters Gregg Wallace and John Torode grab a fork and dig in, I get a taste of the tension the real contestants feel under those bright lights.

They declare my ideas were good, but the execution didn't go to plan; there's way too much garlic in the sauteed veg, and the pan-fried fish is overcooked, without that coveted crispy skin.

My food might not have impressed, but the judges insist that, 16 series in, they're still left amazed by the skills of the real contestants in the BBC competition, which sees amateur cooks pitted against each other.

"I want to have their backgrounds checked, to see that they're not professional chefs," quips London-born Wallace, 55.

"I think, 'Is that honestly what you do on a Wednesday night? You honestly cook like that?' I find it incredible."

"The MasterChef firsts this year were extraordinary... It was the first time we saw something from Hawaii," reveals 54-year-old Torode, who moved from Australia to the UK in the Nineties.

That's not to say there aren't things the dynamic duo is bored of seeing, having fronted the show together since 2005.

"It's not the dishes, it's the stupid excuses," Wallace, a former greengrocer, notes exasperatedly.

"Like, you've under-cooked it, and regularly we get, 'Well, I didn't want to over-cook it'. Well, no - I didn't want you to do that either. Are they are only options?"

"I have to tell you, I am so bored of raw scallops," sighs Torode, who first appeared on television on ITV's This Morning.

The format of the show is simple: each week there are two sets of heats, in which six talented home cooks battle it out to make it to Friday's quarter final.

Once all the quarter finalists have been chosen, the competition really heats up, with challenges such as cooking in a professional kitchen, and a trip abroad - this series, to Mauritius.

The dramatic final sees three contestants vying to be crowned MasterChef 2020 champion.

As for trends, the chirpy, chatty pair agree the rise of veganism is clear this series. Viewers can even expect a plant-based challenge.

"I think the use of more vegetables at the expense of meat and fish is most certainly happening," Wallace chimes in. "And we both welcome that. That's a wonderful thing."

Asked if they're cooking with meat less at home themselves, Wallace points out he doesn't have much time to be in the kitchen now.

His wife, Anna, gave birth to son Sid in May last year, so when he's home from work, he's busy "playing with the baby and sleeping".

"My family do most of the cooking," elaborates the TV personality, who also has two grown-up children from a previous marriage.

"But, yes, we are eating a lot more veg. The wonderful thing about vegetables is that there is a finite number of meats and fish, but vegetables, we are still growing and inventing different types."

"We definitely don't eat enough plant-based food - I definitely don't," admits father-of-four Torode, who married former EastEnders actress Lisa Faulkner last October (they met when she appeared on Celebrity MasterChef back in 2010).

"I used to run a meat restaurant! But I don't eat anywhere near as much meat as I used to."

One thing Wallace says he is saddened by in this more health-conscious age, though, is the decline in pudding making.

"I don't think there is enough of that. I definitely get a real tingle of excitement when someone is a good pastry chef, but we are getting less and less of it."

It can be a very close call in some episodes as to which amateur cooks will make it through to the next round.

Do the pair ever have arguments over the decision?

"Yeah, there have been moments, because we are both passionate about what we do," reflects Wallace.

"We might find that we are championing different people and there is only room for one. It does happen. But, we know each other. So, if John starts to get emotional or even slightly angry about it, then I know how much he cares.

"I think we both stamp our feet once or twice a series," confides Torode, smiling. "And I think that's really good.

"One of the things that we both admire about each other is that we both care. But we have our own lives. We have our own personalities. We have our own likes and dislikes and I think, because of that, we end up with a fully equalised judging opinion."

The show is a huge hit, and is broadcast around the world ("I've just found out it's very popular in Sri Lanka," says Torode).

They often get recognised by fans and asked for selfies.

"I've resigned myself to the fact that I'm public property, it's as simple as that," Torode suggests, matter-of-factly.

"I've actually invited myself into someone else's lounge via their television, therefore they have the right to be able to say 'hi' to me."

"What I don't get," he continues, "is that the one who takes the photograph of you, usually doesn't like you. It's usually their sister, or 'My mum really loves you, can I have a photo with you?' And I think, 'You can say you like me as well if you want to!'"

It certainly sounds like an all-consuming job. But Torode says there's a rule in his house that, after work, he doesn't talk about the cooks he's seen that day.

"Because Lisa always wants to know who it is. And then, of course, she'll get despondent if she sees the person and thinks they are really good, and I send them home!"

MasterChef returns to BBC One on Monday, February 24, Wednesday, February 26 and Friday, February 28