MasterChef: The Professionals is back - and with 48 chefs vying for the win, the competition is tougher than ever, say judges Marcus Wareing and Monica Galetti. Gemma Dunn finds out what's in store.

Marcus Wareing and Monica Galetti are discussing the perils of the "modern-day chef".

And the reputable duo - reunited for the return of MasterChef: The Professionals - are both in agreement that the world of social media and beyond is far from an envy-inducing path.

"God, no! It's harder to stand out from the crowd," begins Wareing, 49.

"Social media can damage chefs, because they're not learning their trade; if you're going to stand out, you have to find your inner self, your inner belief, your reasoning.

"So if you're constantly looking at what everyone is doing, you're going to be using it as your inspiration," he warns. "If you're a really good cook, that should come from inside you, or there's a possibility everyone could, or will, become the same."

"There is a massive upside to [social media], but as a cook, I would say there's a far bigger downside," says Galetti, 44.

"It's great to promote yourself, but you've got to be able to back it up once your customers walk through the door."

And this duo can certainly vouch for that.

British-born Wareing's one-Michelin-starred restaurant Marcus, set within The Berkeley, is deemed one of London's finest restaurants, while Samoan-born New Zealand chef Galetti has turned industry heads as chef proprietor of her first solo restaurant, Mere, also in the capital.

It stands to reason why they're deemed fit to preside over the UK's most revered cooking competition, the Bafta-winning hit MasterChef: The Professionals.

Back on BBC Two for its 12th series, the pair - along with regular presenter Gregg Wallace - will watch 48 expert chefs, hailing from pubs and pop-ups, Michelin-starred kitchens and catering in the armed forces, battle it out to be crowned this year's champion.

Launching the season are the heats, where over four weeks 12 chefs compete in the first two programmes each week, with the aim of making the quarter final in the third programme at the end of the week.

To make it through to the quarters, they must face the infamous Skills Test, as well as showcasing their own style with their choice of signature dish.

The chefs up to quarter final standard will then face two more demanding challenges by the way of an Invention Test, followed by an intimidating round cooking for the UK's most discerning food critics, who this year include: William Sitwell, Grace Dent, Jimi Famurewa, Tom Parker Bowles, Tracey MacLeod, Amol Rajan and Jay Rayner.

But with a "pop-up challenge to go", a trip to Portugal to cook with legendary chef Jose Avillez, and plenty more cook-offs waiting in the wings, the contest is set to be fierce.

It's a daunting seven-week process - from start to finish - for the chefs and the judges.

"There's very high levels of anxiety for us, [but] a lot of excitement too," says Galetti. "We always expect the best to come through, and, of course, invariably there's bound to be some disappointment."

"You see Marcus and I, at certain points, we tend to get upset," she explains. "That's just our sheer disappointment because we're expecting great chefs, we're wanting them to do well."

"If they make it to the final three, the world is their oyster," she reasons. "I'm very anxious for them. It is the professional series, it is what we do for a living, and we don't want it to be a mockery.

"The chefs who walk through that door have to know their craft, otherwise don't put yourself up for it!"

"It's a really weird environment for them - it's not a kitchen, it's a studio, and they're making a TV show that's based around cookery," Wareing empathises. "So you're taking them out of their comfort zone."

"A lot of our younger generations may not have stepped into that particular world, because kitchens have moved on," he notes.

"If they can get over that hurdle, which is a very high hurdle right at the very beginning, then the other stuff comes to play.

"I find the youth quite interesting, they're great, because they're just so naive to what they're walking into - but yet get through it better than anyone else. Like Teflon, it just slides off them.

"It's sort of a 'they've got nothing to lose' attitude, which makes them stand out," continues the father-of-three.

"For me, I see some people come through the door and I'm thinking, 'They're like 18 or 19'. I picture my own children standing in front of me, doing exactly the same thing, and [think], 'How I would feel as a father, watching my son or daughter on television?'

"What an intimidating place to go to for a young person, to showcase their skill at that age," he continues. "So I feel really quite proud about what they're doing and feel part of their experience."

Have the judges softened?

"You could say I'm getting a little bit lighter as I get older..." he teases.

"They've broken us down, they've worn us out!" Galetti adds with a smile. "Sometimes we're even giving them hugs - I mean, that's a really bad day!"

"It's such an in-depth competition with so many turns," Wareing concludes. "I just feel at the beginning that we are on the start of a very long, hard, tough journey - not just for the guys in front of us, but for us as well.

"It's a brutal competition and we have to deliver it every step of the way."

MasterChef: The Professionals returns to BBC Two on Tuesday, at 8pm.