MasterChef finale – Tues, July 26 – Matt V Elena

Finally – we’ve made it! It was a hard journey but we pushed, pushed pushed to boom, boom, shake, shake the room to get here for a chance to achieve our food dream.
Tonight the final two contestants battle it out to see who will be crowned MasterChef Australia 2016 winner and take home the $250,000 prize.
Oh, and a column in the always excellent delicious. magazine (and, yes, that fullstop is part of the proper name … yes, I know!).
So it’s the finale of which we dreamed: Glowing Elena versus Intense Matt. How lovely to have two grown ups who have shown great growth in the comp and have avoided any drama.

Glowing Elena was under the radar for a long time, thanks to the edit. MasterChef 2016 started on May 1 but it wasn’t until May 22 (Nigella Week) that she made enough of an impression for me to note this in a recap:
Oh my god – Elena speaks!! She’s doing pumpkin parfait, pancetta crumb and cumin tuille. She’s a high school visual arts teacher who wants to inspire young people to grow their own produce. This is a lot of air time on Elena. Is she the winner?
Conversely, on May 8 (MPW Week), I wrote this about IM:
Intense looking dude Matt – he of the disc earrings – is doing a gnocchi and jus with crispy chicken skin. Marco tastes his jus as it’s cooking and gets the usual flick of the eyes over the bifocals … Next up is Intense Matt with his pan-fried gnocchi with lots of crunchy elements. Gaz is in heaven: “Savoury, chickeny, bacony cereal.”
MPW loves the soz: “I don’t think that you realise how clever you are … genius in your hands.” Matt says it’s better than even his recent wedding day. Oh no he didn’t!


I reckon it will be a good 15 minutes before anyone touches a saucepan. First we have to suffer through all the talking heads about the dream, the push, the “yes, George!” and who wants it most.
Why is the MasterChef trophy a giant platter? Surely it should be a gold-plated sous vide machine or a silver smoking gun?
Gary is wearing a paisley tie in his to camera piece about the intensity of Intense Matt. It’s weird.
Ooh – George is wearing a tie, too. The other contestants are dressed up aand Matt P just needs a tri-corner hat to go with his Napoleon Bonaparte frock coat.
Oh god, we’re starting with the deep and meaningfuls. IM and GE have to say what being on MC means to them? Surely they’ll make them repeat their answers at the end. The answers are pretty much “dreams”, “thankful”, “passion”.

There will be three rounds, with each round devoted to an entree, a main and a dessert – and we know the last round will be a Heston challenge that makes series one’s croquembouche look like a pancake shaker mix.

Round one: entree
There are 10 ingredients and they have to hero one: They don’t name them oil but looks like fennel (it had to happen), quail, sea urchin, fish that could be snapper, tofu, spring onions, duck eggs, marron (remember when Nev “cooked” it on MKR but didn’t know it should change colour?, oysters, pork.

IM goes straight for the quail. GE has granny smiths in her basket – more of her signature apple batons for decoration?

After last night's show.
After last night’s show.

IM is doing both roasted and confit quail, with charred corn and chorizo salsa.
GE is doing marron two ways with a ponzu dressing, a smoked veg salad and marron crackers. It’s a lot to do – she knows it and so do the judges. She’s having soz dramas with her dashi – something she has to nail given the judges said her main in the last episode was too dry.
IM is making a Pedro Ximenez reduction for his dish and the editors must have been chortling when they decided to cut in a pan to Con on the gantry – Con who used the wine in almost every dish he made in his short time on the show, causing me to believe he secretly works for PX.
GE has tried to fix her soz and Gaz comes over to give her a confidence boost. “That, is doing nothing,” he says after tasting. So blunt Gaz is back. Send George over for a “yes, George!” and she’ll be bawling on the floor in no time. “If you want any kind of complexity you have to take the panic away … making stuff is never going to be enough.”
She decides to roast the marron shells in a bid to bump up the flavour.
They’ve both done an amazing amount of work in 60 minutes.

The judges taste

And they are eating in the dishes in front of the contestants – seems cruel.

GE’s marron: Gaz was worried about the soz but he doesn’t really say if it’s any good. The marron is perfectly cooked. She’s done something she’s never tried before in the comp. “It’s a beautiful fresh dish, says Matt. He likes the saltiness of the marron cracker.

IM’s quail: They like the look. “It’s delicious; I love it,” says George. The confit legs are perfect. Woo hoo! IM must have this round.

Round one scores
GE: Gaz 7/10, George 8, Matt 8 Total: 23
IM: Gaz 8/10, George 9, Matt 9. Total: 26 Only an 8 from George and we didn’t hear one negative comment about the dish? He’s saving up for a 10 later.

Round two

They get 75 minutes to cook any style main they want. After
After a flustered start GE has her game face on. She’s doing twice-cooked lamb with a macadamia puree and pickled veg.
IM is cooking crispy skinned barra with brussels sprouts, fondant spuds and pancetta and prawn head broth. Hopefully he’ll do a fried prawn heard garnish – the judges love those.
Gaz gives him a look when he explains his broth idea and then pretty much trashes it. Please, IM, just make it and blow his bloody socks off with it.
IM forges ahead. “My gut’s telling me it’s going to be ok,” he tells the camera. He’s doing his brussies a few different ways – it’s a bit of a GE thing to do. GE is pulling out the big guns: she’s pickling beetroot (BINGO!).
GE says she wants her nut puree to have a slightly grainy texture. Really? She’s better hope the judges get it.
IM thinks his soz is a little lacking, so he chucks in some saffron. Mmmm. He does a text piece and thinks it’s done, but it’s raw inside. Fingers crossed it works with the real fillets.
GE’s lamb looks gorgeously soft, and if anyone can make a brown braise look pretty on a plate, it’s her. Again, we’re hearing from her how pushed she is for time.
IM is happy with his broth’s flavour: “It’s fully loaded.” God love him.

The judges taste
This time the contestants don’t watch the tasting.

GE’s lamb: She says cooking now is a bit like creating and artwork (remember, she’s an art teacher) and getting instant feedback on it, which is gratifying. “It looks like a little plate of jewels,” says Gaz. “I’m running out of words to express something that blows my mind,” says George. They love the soz – and George says it’s Michelin quailty. They’re all raving about it.

IM’s snapper: This whole thing of IM not listening too Gary about the soz and wondering whether his fish is cooked will turn out to be a total beat up. IM tears up when Gaz asks him how he feels about the dish. Gaz works hard to hold back the smile. You can tell they all really like him. Raised-in-a-barn George just drinks his broth straight from the jug. “I’ve been proved wrong today,” says Gaz. George says it’s a gorgeous and clever dish. “It tastes like it’s been on a great French menu for 50 years,” sys Matt.

Round two scores
IM: Gaz 10/10 (BFF Trent lets out a huge yell), George 10, Matt 10. IM can’t believe it. He’s now on a total of 56 points.
GE: Gaz 10/10, George 10, Matt 10. Total so far 53 points.
Gaz says it’s the first time in MC history there have been two perfect scores. And then they bring in their families, because they want to see floods of tears.

IM can bareley walk, he’s laugh-crying so hard at the sight of his wife and family. Up on the gantry, Charlie has to take off his hipster glasses to wipe a tear away. IM can’t believe his folks flew back from Italy for the finale but no doubt MC sprang for their tickets.

Round three
There are 40 points on offer for this last round. Gaz talks up how awesome and difficult this pressure test will be. “It takes not one but two of the nest chefs in the world to bring it to us,” says Matt. Ooh, Heston and who? Some bloke called Ashley Palmer-Watts, a top chef who is one of Heston’s proteges. Has Ashley been brought in to look interested when H can’t be bovvered. Heston says it’s harder than last year’s dessert pressure test (remember this?).
“There’s close to 100 steps,” Ashley tells them. It’s called Verjus in Egg.

It looks like an egg atop a nest of noodles. Heston cracks the egg and it craks like a real shell. It’s filled with coconut panna cotta and a mandarin and thyme gel for the yolk. At the bottom of the egg is a coffee parfait. Parfait AND panna cotta in the same dish.
The egg shell is made of two layers of chocolate but it looks like a real chook egg. A nervy IM exchanges a glance with GE and asks Heston: “Is it possible?” Heston says it is.
They have five-and-a-half hours for the dish. IM has done quite well with desserts lately but the finicky nature of this one favours GE.
To make crystallised coffee IM has to use what looks like a jar of Nescafe Gold. As a barista, that must kill him. The mad scientist magic works for both of them. “I’ve never crystallised anything, except by accident,” says IM.
GE has stuffed up mandarin “yolk” by jumping the gun with the setting agent. She needs to do it again but she doesn’t have enough mix to do a full batch. GE is trying to keep it together as someone lamely calls out “you’ve got this”. She’s going to do a half batch instead. Luckily they have calculators.
IM takes his “yolk” over to a vacuum machine and his face watching the science of it all is hilarious. He looks around as if worried he’s broken something, but apparently it’s all good.
Oooh, they are making their ABPs with powdered gelatine, which is usually a no no in the MC kitchen. IM’s ABP mix does not look thick enough and Harry, in a bow tie, is chosen to bring it to our attention.
GE makes a mountain of honeycomb which she then laboriously stretches in nest strands. GE’s ABPs have set a treat and she can pipe in her yolk. IM’s haven’t worked and H says he has to do them again. IM doesn’t know what he did wrong – did he not wait a bit before adding the gelatine mixture to the rest? His family looks worried but BFF Trent urges “stay cool”. He will have to wait another hour for the ABP. He starts to lose it. George comes over for the pep talk. “It will be like this in the kitchen one day,” he tells IM. Yeah, but when you’re a real chef they don’t lock you in a house for six months and hardly let you speak to your family or go for a stroll to grab a coffee.
Luckily he realises it was the lack of blooming time for the ABP that is to blame. At least he can do his tempered choc for the egg while it’s setting.
GE is worried because she hasn’t done much tempering – and she’s never used a marble surface before. She does well and uses a spray gun for the first egg layer, and you can hear Elise yelling down to clean the moulds carefully.
IM is having choc dramas – he’s let the temp drop too low. He uses it anyway. IM has become the underdog now. He at least drains his moulds upside down to remove excess choc – a step GE forgot. And his ABP #2 has worked. Yay.
Oh god – more excruciating watching choc being banged out of moulds. GE’s shells look pretty good – you can still see a bit of the seam where the two halves join. IM’s shells look so delicate and he’s rushing. There’s a little gap in one and he decides to skip the final sealing step to save time. Aargh – tension!
He looks lost at the liquid nitrogen station so GE pops over to give him detailed instructions.

Good on you, GE – this is why we love both of you as final two. You’d never see that kind of camaraderie in US cooking shows.
Finally, they are done, and GE sinks to the floor in relief. And then it’s hugs all round. But IM utters a heartbreaking “Oh no!”. His egg seam hasn’t held (he missed that last step) and it’s opened up. “I’m gutted,” he says through tears. His poor wife on the gantry is trying to telepathically tell him everything will be ok. Oh dear. They finally let her come down to give him a cuddle.

So, poor IM has just lost. Aaargh. Hopefully his runner-up prize will be enough to fund his food truck. He’s gained a legion of fans and will be a huge success at whatever he does. If he wants more experience in a professional kitchen first there will be hundreds of places around the country falling over themselves to offer him a job. GE is a worthy winner but IM made himself known as a contender from the beginning.

The judges taste
IM’s egg: “It’s all good,” he bravely tells the judges. “What do you want us to remember about you as a person fro this plate of food,” asks Matt P. What the hell – who’s writing these lines? They crack the egg and it looks fine inside. “He’s shown great ability to dig deep,” says Heston. The ABP texture was perfect. The shell wasn’t tempered and the egg had split, though.
GE’s egg: The judges are impressed. The shell is a little thick but otherwise they love it. “This one just had more impact… it seems a little bit bolder to me,” says Ashley.

Final round scores

The guest chefs from throughout the season are here, too, as well as Reynold, Emma Dean, Andy and Julie Godwin. I don’t see Billie – surely they would have mentioned her if she was there.
IM: H and Ashley 7/10, Matt 7, George 7, Gaz 7. Grand total: 84. GE is going to get 9s, so it’s all over for IM.
GE: Gaz 8, George 8, Matt 8, H and Ashley 9.
GE wins by two points.

Well done to both of them – we couldn’t have asked for a better final two. GE gives a nice thank you speech and graciously says how much she’s learnt from him.
“Thank you for your friendship and support,” he tells her in return.
Matt P tells IM how wonderfully tenacious he is: “We cannot wait to get into the queue of your food truck.” IM gets $40,000 and he seems genuinely surprised. And Harry gets $10,000.

And that’s all, folks.


MasterChef – Mon, July 25 – Three cooks enter, two cooks leave

The final three contestants vie for a place in the Grand Finale in this service challenge. Each contestant must prepare a main and a dessert for 20 guests plus the three judges.

Here we are at the MasterChef house and Intense Matt, Growing Elena and Harry are competing to see who’s now the tallest, because it’s all about growth in the MC boxing ring – ahem – kitchen, and rounder tummies do not count.
Matt Preston has worn his tartan-iest navy and purple suit for the occasion; he seems to save his pink numbers for the “away” challenges.
“This is going to be the hardest day you have ever spent in the MasterChef kitchen,” Gaz warns the trio. I dunno, Gaz – there was that one jaffle challenge …
They each have to serve a main and a dessert for 20 guests plus the three judges. They have four hours to prep. Blah blah … destiny .. blah blah … journey .. blah … deliciousness. The last being, George says, the main criteria of the judging. Umm, surely that’s beetroot, George?
Shannon is there to mentor them.
Oh god, we’re eight minutes in and they haven’t started cooking yet because it’s all about the dream. And then George makes them do the “yes, George”.

IM is cooking confit duck with harissa pumpkin and baby beetroot (BINGO!) and a brioche doughnut with orange and coffee. Yum! Winner! He’ll get points for his desert technique and not doing an Asian dish, which is his strength.

GE is using native Australian ingredients (we usually get a native challenge but didn’t this year – maybe because Jock Zonfrillo was on another netweork?). She’s doing an Aussie nicoise salad and for dessert, apples, bickies and cheese. This must be the dish with the perfect apple batons they showed on the preview. The apple component is a green apple sorbet. She is hard boiling a massive pot of eggs – I guess one per person. Her dishes will take forever to plate up.

Harry is showing different skills by doing European instead of Asian. He’s making lobster cannelloni with a smoked custard and a twist on a tiramisu. “This is something I’d want to see in a three-star restaurant,” he tells the camera of his dessert. Classic Harry. He’s obsessed with layered desserts, having missed out on serving a trifle that day Brett went rogue.

IM is getting a lot of “at home” shots. Building the winner edit? Harry’s delivery seems a little flat – and his enunciation is worse than usual – so perhaps he’s the goner.
GE has 16 elements to complete and has calculated she needs to do one thing every 15 minutes. It would take me that long to peel just seven eggs, so good on her. But, uh oh – they took her twice as long as she anticipated.

Now she has to cut up the world’s biggest piece of tuna and she starts freaking out a little. Don’t get stuck in the Mimi and Elise brain freeze trap, GE! Serenity now! At least you have the lovely Shannon Bennett there to try to calm you down.
IM is showing off his mad butchery skills, chopping up 14 whole ducks.
Harry is chopping up kingfish for his cannelloni filling and Shannon expresses concern about the fattiness of the fish. Harry listens – a bit – and ups the ration of lobster to kingfish.
GE is talking a lot about how far behind she is (and Shannon points out using unwashed potatoes is just adding to her workload). No doubt she will triumph on the end.
IM is starting to panic a lit and pops butter in the microwave … in a metal bowl! On the gantry a horrified Trent starts to clap his hands to his mouth and someone – it sounds like Chloe – yells out to him, luckily before there’s an explosion.
With 90 mimnutes to go Shannon gives them the “dig deep speech”. More from GE about being behind (she’s just completed a wattleseed crumb and a fennel gel and is simmering spuds in saffron). Shannon goes through all the steps she has yet to complete.
The gantry is whooping and clapping on cue – I wonder if they get to sit down in between whoops? IM revs them up by flaming his duck with madeira.

“I think he’s just amazing to watch,” Heather (sans headband) tells the camera.
Harry is prepping artichokes for his dish, which will take forever to do. It’s the skewered prawns all over again. After a while he tells Shannon he’s going to ditch them, but Shannon points out the word artichoke is on the menu, so he needs to lose something else instead. Harry decides to bulk things out with some brussels sprouts so he doesn’t have to do as many artichokes.
IM’s duck is looking pretty good – they haven’t alerted us to any potential mistakes yet. He is a machine.
Someone has shown Shannon George’s cue card: “It’s crunch time – push, push!” He tells GE she needs to speed up by 10 per cent. She’s stresed out but hasn’t yet cracked.
Harry is happy with his lobster reduction but he hasn’t made enough – aargh – how many times have we seen this (most notably with – jew-ess Heather).

Service starts and GE is still cooking her tuna. Shannon tells her she just needs four plates to start with.
IM gets four out quickly. “I’m really liking the presentation,” says Shannon.

The judges taste

IM’s duck: The judges are drooling just looking at it. Gary tilts back his head in ecstasy. “I’ve got nothing negative about this dish .. thank you Matt for being in this competition. He brings us so much joy every time he cooks,” says George. Gaz admires the French techniques used. He would drive 100km to eat this duck.

Harry’s kingfish and lobster cannelloni: “I really don’t taste the lobsert,” says Gaz. George and Gaz are confused there seems to be no soz. George heads to Harry’s bench to taste the soz and reports back it’s delicious. They yell out to Shannon to bring the soz over and drown their plates in it, so they can see what they missed. So a lot of diners will be missing out on it altogether. The kingfish was the wrong choice of fish for the dish.

GE’s Oz Meets Nice (Aussie tuna nicoise): And just before she serves it we hear her say it should have more sauce but she’s worried about keeping the diners waiting any longer. Not again! The judges notice, too. But she’s cooked the tuna well and they like the bush tomato sauce and tempura samphire. So she’s ahead of Harry.

Dessert time
From the gantry, Nicolette (wow -she’s a distant memory) gets to yell out George’s lines: “Good job, Elena – push, push, push!”
IM’s doughnuts look fab and he’s doing his curd in the microwave, but it’s not behaving itself. He chucks butter in thinking that may help but Shannon gives him the bad news that he’s just stuffed it by doing so. It’s the first sign of trouble for IM but he’d have to drop dessert on the floor, scrape it off and still serve it to not be put through.
Harry is using some fancy techniques, spraying his dessert with a melted chocolate and coconut oil mix (aka Ice Magic) and Trent gets a talking head to say how coll this is.
Luckily IM’s second go at curd works.

The judges taste

IM’s doughnut with orange and coffee: They look even ore excited than they did for his duck. “I haven’t seen a doughnut look that good for as long as I can remember,” says Gaz. They taste and are in heaven. “Can’t get enough of that,” Gaz says. George says it’s a restaurant quailty dish. “Those doughnuts could be coming out of a food truck with people queuing round the block to get them,” says Matt. (Well, he is a former barista, so a coffee and doughnut truck could be a goer.”

GE’s Apple, Cheese and Bickies: “How modern and exciting does this dish look.” says George. They all love it. “I love the fact it’s real – nothing’s mucked around,” says Matt. He actually prefers this over IM’s doughnut.

Harry’s espresso bavarois with marsala ice cream: (It looks good on the dark plate – much more refined than the desserts Harry and Elise served last night. and, to his credit, he did a good job after no doubt being rattled by George coming to his bench to taste the lobster soz.) The judges like that it’s not what they expected – fooled by the sprayed chocolate coating. Matt says it’s sophisticated and fun. George says he’s pulled out all the stops.

The judges decide
They pretend it’s going to be a tough decision but it’s obvious IM is going through. And surely GE’s only transgression of not enough sauce on the main far outweighs Harry using the wrong fish and serving only a skerrick of soz on his.
First up Gaz raves about two flawless dishes, and of course they belong to IM. He’s through! And starts crying and laughing. Good on you, IM! Winner winner, duck dinner! Pity they weren’t finale dishes.
George gets the talking stick and raves about GE’s and Harry’s desserts but says both their mains were too dry. Harry’s choice of kingfish was wrong. So GE’s through. More tears and Harry, to his credit, is grinning and clapping away.
“How do you feel about being in the finale?” George asks GE. “Pretty bloody stoked,” she replies (channelling a bit of Elise, there). “Matt and I sat on the first table on the first day of auditions, so it’s especially cool to be there with him.”
Hooray – the result we here at Talking TV have wanted for weeks.
Good luck, Harry – go find a great mentor to channel that energy in the right direction.

Tomorrow night
Heston is back. Well, that’s a surprise. I hope it’s not just two hours of recreating a Heston dish, as usually the finale has three different challenges. But since they did the service challenge tonight maybe it will be all Heston. Will he be able to muster up more enthusiasm for this latest appearance?


MasterChef – Sun, July 24 – Who will be final three?

In this quarter-final mystery box challenge and invention test, contestants cook off for a place in the semi-final using ingredients chosen by their loved ones.
Let’s hope Harry, Intense Matt, Glowing Elena (why I didn’t call her Serener Elena I’ll never know – maybe because the judges sometimes pronounces her name Ell-en-a) and Elise had a chat with their loved ones before MasterChef started and teed up lots of parfait ingredients, seafood, chilli and vegies.

We start with everyone getting ready back at the house and they are all so close to achieving their dreams, yadda yadda yadda.
The eliminated contestants are up on the gantry, applauding the frizziness of Harry’s fringe. Three people are missing – hard to tell who.
There are two rounds and the winner of round one is straight through to the semi final. One person from the three in round two is eliminated.
It’s the loved ones mystery box challenge first and they all get a letter from home – and Elise recognises the handwriting straight away. MasterChef loves nothing better than seeing contestants weep as they cook. It’s not quite on the level of Survivor loved ones letters but on the balcony even Theresa is crying. And we learn Harry’s real name is Harrison.
Usually there’s one person who gets screwed over by their loved one in this challenge and this time it looks like it could be Elise. Her box is half full of savoury items (including thyme, which no doubt is growing in the MC garden), and freekeh, which she’s never used before.

Everyone has eight ingredients in their box.
Elise’s fiance chose: Freekeh, gelatine, thyme, strawberries, quail, leek, almond meal, vanilla bean. (And we learn his nickname for her is Vanilla Bean. She’s stunned by the freeken but luckily they only have to use one ingredient – although I’d be worried round two is to use what you already haven’t.)
Glowing Elena’s mum chose: Almond meal, mud crab, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, vanilla bean, apples, bacon, lemons (A good all rounder box).
Harry’s mum chose: Tassie salmon, dry sparkling wine, sesame seeds, avo, lemons, asparagus, chilli, peas. (Surprised no crab of prawns).
Intense Matt’s wife selected: Longan, limes, peanuts, daikon, green papaya, snapper, chillis and Vietnamese mint. (Luckily my local supermarket was giving customers free longan tastings a while back or I’d be scratching my head right npw. They’re like a lychee.)

GE is making crab with cauli and Brussels sprouts and seems to be using many of the ingredients.
IM is doing a fish broth with snapper dumplings, and he and his then fiancee used to travel around Asia eating soup.
Elise is making vanilla and thyme panna cotta (it’s been a while since we’ve seen one of those) but the gelatine her fiance picked is not as strong as her usual variety so she’s taking a punt on the ratios. This could be vanilla custard. Can’t she just yell to Con the panna cotta king for help?
Harry is having a Mimi-style brain freeze and hasn’t started. He’s very sombre in the talking head … he’s either sick of he’s been eliminated.
He starts with a wine granita but still has no idea what his whole dish will be. Time for a George and Gary pep talk. He decides to do salmon two ways, peas and dumplings. Will he even use the granita?
IM’s dumpling skins look glorious. I want dumplings! Elise is making a strawberry jelly to go with her panna cotta (and using rectangular moulds – not the red moulds of death!) and bravely decides to have a crack at the freekeh. Luckily there are directions on the box. She pops it in the microwave and hopes it will puff up. Gaz likes the idea.
GE’s prep is excellent – she has everything lined up in little bowls, chef style.
Elise’s freekeh isn’t cooked enough so she whips up a thyme crumb for crunch and a black pepper tuile and praline. What’s next: spun sugar?
IM is making noodles out of his daikon. We call zucchini noodles zoodles, so does this mean he’s made doodles?
Harry is throwing all kinds of extra elements at his dish to add substance to it, including a lemon curd. Did he burn the lemons, as per usual?
Elise’s panna cotta seems to have set and it looks pretty good.The Brussels sprouts on GE’s plate give an amazing pop of colour. Even if it was a blind taste test they’d know it was her dish.

The judges taste

Elise’s panna cotta: The judges like the look of it. You can tell they like it – and, indeed, Gaz seagulls in to snag the last piece. The pops of pepper and thyme are great. Matt does say there’s a bit too much gelatine in there.

Harry’s salmon with dumplings and granita: Gaz says it looks pretty and sophisticated. “The things that throws the whole dish is that granita of champagne, because it’s raw.” Matt says the pasta is the best they’ve seen in the comp. So, he’s not the winner.

IM’s snapper with dumplings: “Lots of technique. The noodles for me are a hit,” says George. Matt says the fish is well cooked but questions the amount of chilli and Vietnamese mint. Seems like they were just trying to find something to balance the positives.

GE’s crab with Brussels sprouts: The judges adore her arc presentation and Gaz demands extra soz. Here comes the loud angelic music. She’s won. Gaz raves about her soz and while he goes on about “the alchemy of a sauce” the other two polish off the dish. “You bastards,” he says. Ok, I like Gaz a bit more today. Matt says the crab and apple combo was genius.

And the winner of round one is …
GE. She’s through to the semi final. Well deserved but if IM goes home after the next round I’ll be throwing a sous vide machine at the TV. I just have to buy one first.

Round two
They get to choose from types of ingredients, techniques and equipment. They do a knife pull for the order and they all must use the same selection.
Matt lists off some of the options: skewering, candying, juicing, using tea, grilling, aerating …
IM is first and he chooses “liquefying”, which involves juicers and blenders. As he says, this could be used for sweet or savoury dishes.
Harry picks “aeration”, which is whisks and siphon guns.
And Elise picks, surprise, surprise, gelatine.
The guys won’t be happy with the gelatine – time for a savoury jelly?

Gaz says Elise has chosen well by picking something that narrows the choices to favour her skill set.
IM is doing a dessert, a blackberry sorbet with honey nougat, tempered choc and port jelly – sounds like he’s using some of the skills gained in the Alla Wolf-Tasker challenge.
Elise picks an aerated choc parfait (ABC!!!) with an orange sorbet and jelly. Mmm – love Jaffas. On the gantry, dessert specialists Mimi, Charlie and Chloe aren’t keen. “I know Elise is always wanting to do something with parfaits but this is for a place in the semi finals … you have to make sure you’re showing the judges you’ve learnt so much,” says Mimi in a talking head.
Harry is making passionfruit sorbet, Aperol and grapefruit jelly and a coconut something – he needs to work on his enunciation.

The judges come over to Elise’s bench to freak her out. “Why are you doing another parfait again?” Gaz asks. She freaks out because she knows he’s right and he actually comes back to her afterwards to say “I don’t want to put you off, but it has to be said.” She agrees as tears plop into her sorbet mixture. “It’s MasterChef, not Average Chef,” she tearily tells the camera. Then whips out the smoking gun. “Smile – you love making desserts,” Anastasia tells her from the gantry. Because telling someone to “smile” always cheers them up. GE tries to cheer her up from the sidelines.

The judges remind IM how far out of his comfort zone he is.
Matt suggests to Harry he is trying to do too many things at once and Harry bites back: “I’m going to fight for the top three, Matt.”
So Matt moves on to Elise, who is still buckling under the pressure. Everyone on the gantry is worried about her.
Gaz reminds Harry he needs to add something crunchy to his dish, which is all soft textures. D’oh – that’s basic MasterChef, up there with seasoning and tasting as you go. With 12 minutes to go he decides to try and temper white chocolate. Oh Harry – why not just do a quick crumb or toast some nuts? White choc is hard to temper, whereas IM’s dark choc looks lovely and glossy.
So far everything we’ve heard from IM is that he’s happy, so it’s between weepy Elise and Harry.
It’s time to plate but Elise says her sorbet is too icy while Harry’s is not frozen enough. And his white chocolate “chips” are too soft, so he wisely leaves them off. And he hasn’t tested his coconut foam.
IM’s dish looks awesome. Winner pick! Elise’s dish looks a bit clumsy and GE comes over to give her a cuddle.

The judges taste

Harry’s passionfruit sorbet with jelly: “I feel like a shell of myself,” he tells them. His foam (which I’ve worked out is an espuma) is meant to stay fluffy but it melts away. The judges say he made a mistake by keeping the foam warm in the siphon gun. Gaz says it’s more of a pre-dessert cleanser than a dessert and it’s crying out for texture. George says the ice cream is “nice”. Faint praise.

IM’s blackberry sorbet with port jelly:
“You get to that point of the competition where you can’t hide behind a savoury mask any more,” he tells the judges. They love the presentation. George says it’s like something a top chef would make. “The sorbet is spot on,” says Gaz. Matt says he’s like a boxer who’s switched hands midway through a fight and he’s excelled.

Elise’s choc parfait with orange sorbet: “It’s a bit clumsy, isn’t it,” says Gaz. The glaze is dull, the jelly roughly cut. The sorbet is icy and flat and the choc too hard. George loves the flavour of the smoked choc parfait. They’re disappointed but you can tell Gaz especially likes her – he’s come a long way from barking at her in the early rounds of the comp.

The judges decide
And it’s Elise. She’s not surprised. The judges say nice things about her. They don’t show her saying “wongtongs” in the montage – dammit. “I’m going to have my own cake store,” she tells the camera. Harry is a lucky boy.

Bye Elise!
So top three is IM, GE and Harry. we may have to rename IM Glowing Matt – he’s so happy.

Tomorrow night
Gaz tells them tomorrow is a service challenge, They have to cook a main and a dessert for 20 people in the MC kitchen. We see one dish with perfect granny smith batons, so that’s Elena’s.


MasterChef – Tues, July 19 – Alla Wolf-Tasker

The top five contestants must cook five dishes from the menu of the Lake House in Daylesford under the guidance of legendary chef and owner, Alla Wolf-Tasker.
Here’s the restaurant’s sample menu
Chef’s tasting menu is $155, including coffee and dessert.

Only two contestants will be safe, out of Intense Matt, Glowing Elena, Harry, Mimi and Elise. Plus they’ve decided to increase their risk of hypothermia by making them stand outside in short sleeves in a place that’s on the chilly side even in summer.
GE is looking even more glowing than usual in her talking heads – is she living on beetroot and fennel smoothies?

The contestannts each have to recreate a Lake House dish for 40 guests in only 2.5 hours, over a staggered start. They do a knife pull and it’s:
Smoked eel Harry
Chicken Mimi
Roo Elise
Plumns GE
Blackberries IM

IM must be hoping third time’s the charm with this dessert dish after his liquid nitrogen disaster and rocky start to Christy Tania’s chocolate cake.

Harry is off first and has to fillet a swag of eels. What do you call a group of eels? A school? Google says bed, fry or storm. He’s an eel fan and, being Harry, is not at all daunted.
Mimi’s chicken dish looks delicious while Elise’s roo looks simple, when no doubt it’s not. There’s a fair bit of airtime devoted to getting the kale puree right, so it will be problematic.
Harry is ready to crack on with his eel dish but – whoops – it’s full of bones. Alla says he didn’t fillet it correctly so he will need to pinbone them. All seven eels. Seven! Instead he chops out most of the bones and hopes he has enough meat for his roulade.
GE’s plum dessert looks delicate and spectacular. Matt’s blackberry dessert has the forest floor look about it. and Alla says it’s called a Country Ramble. There are aboout 20 different elements on the plate – it will be very hard to plate up 40 of these dishes, let alone cook all the bits. At least there are no chocolate domes involved.
Mimi is freaking out and is still rolling up her chook when service is ready to start. It looks like Mimi has copped the death dish here, plus she’s having one of her brain freezes – and she knows it. She’s forgotten to get her stock on. She’s come back to earth with a thud after the success of her Christy dessert. George comes over to “inspire” her and amid her tears he comforts her with a curt “get it together … you hear me”.

The judges taste

Harry is serving his eel and beetroot dish (beetroot’s back, baby!) and he’s had to make his roulade smaller because he had less protein due to his filleting error. The judges comment that it does look different but he’s cooked it well. Matt says it’s now a beetroot dish rather than an eel dish.

Mimi’s chicken She knows the soz isn’t right but has to serve it anyway. “Certainly the wheels have fallen off the wagon,” says Gaz. While it’s tasty, it’s different to Alla’s dish. The lack of jus gras is a problem.

Back in the kitchen: Elise is happy that her kale puree is vibrant green – and Alla is, too. She seems in control, until Alla asks her if she’s taste it. Err, no. C’mon, Elise! It’s a basic step. And now your puree is apparently horribly bitter and you don’t have time to do anything about it. She’s put too much native mint in. With only two of the five contestants safe after tonight, it looks like Mimi and Elise will be in the elimination challenge. It’s hard to imagine GE stuffing up and IM is on his redemptive “OMG – I can do desserts” arc.

The judges taste
Elise’s roo: They like the look of it. Everything is cooked well – except the horrible puree that is spread all over the plate.

Back in the kitchen:
GE is doing a talking head about how problematic the fruit strap-looking element ofher plum dessert could be. So it will be fine. Meanwhile, IM is losing kilos sprinting back and forth between two microwaves, nuking siphon sponges like a madman as only four at a time will fit on the tray.
Uh oh – GE is having jelly dramas and it looks a lot paler than Alla’s crimson hue. Instead of rolling the jelly logs – which keep breaking – she has to cut a slice to drape over the plate.

The judges taste

Elena’s plum and rosemary dessert: Gaz loves the rosemary sorbet. Everything is great except the plum gel was too thick.

Back in the kitchen it’s IM’s turn and he’s in a happy place. “You’re mis en place is fantastic,” Alla praises him. “You’re a champion, Matt.”

The judges taste

IM’s blackberry Country Ramble: They are impressed and we’re getting the swelling music. They love it. “Everything on there is spot on,” says George. It’s very close to Alla’s dish. Matt says it’s not out of place in the restaurant.

The judges decide

They are outside again and Alla is wearing a parka as the sun sets while the poor contestants are in their short sleeves. Gaz says the standout dish belonged to IM. He’s knackered but delighted. Good to see you back in form, IM. Mimi and Elise are bottom three. GE had gel problems but her flavour and other textures were great, so it’s Harry who’s bottom three.
Yay – our two favourites are through to the quarter finals.

Tomorrow night
They have to reinvent their audition dishes. Looks like Elise did something chocolate and Harry, of course, seafood. I’m guessing Mimi did dessert. They have to show how much they’ve grown – ahh, remember the heady days when we though pannacotta was the height of sophistication – so expect sous vide machines, smoking guns, parfait, liquid nitrogen and beetroot.


MasterChef – Tues, July 12 – grape challenge

Four of the most impressive contestants are cooking for a guaranteed place this week at Francis Ford Coppola’s Inglenook Estate in the Napa Valley.

It’s Trent V Mimi V Intense Matt V Glowing Elena in a wine-themed challenge, with the prize a shortcut to finals week.
Matt Preston is in his pink suit in tribute to red grapes.
The estate looks gorgeous, made even more appealing by me trying to ignore the sound of hail on my windows as I write this – SA is particularly Artic today.
The contestants are presented with a table laden with local produce and must create a dish that’s all about “the grape”.
IM is getting the most talking heads, followed by GE and Trent. Mimi is apparently also in the challenge.
Elena is cooking quail with grape chutney and vine leaves and a wine and verjuice soz.
Trent is making grilled quail with cauliflower skordalia and a raisin agrodolce (which Google says is an Italian soz made by reducing sweet and sour elements). Gaz and George tell him he’s on a roll.
Mimi goes the dessert route, determined to stand out, with a sweet inspired by a cheese platter. It’s a red wine and grape sorbet with a red wine cake and a blue cheese cream. Matt Preston reminds us Mimi pretty much won the Atelier Crenn challenge for her team yesterday with her work on the beetroot sorbet, but then scares her by saying wine sorbets don’t usually work. Oopsie.
IM is making roast lamb rack with chicken and mushroom jusand celeriac puree. Now, I love a good lamb rack but we’ve seen it so many times, and I’d rather see him cook something I wouldn’t have a crack at myself for a Sunday dinner. Gaz and George are worried there are hardly any grapes in his dish – luckily they reminded him at the start of the cook. He decides to ditch the mushies from the jus and add some red wine and dried grapes instead.
Trent is sounding confident about his dish and has lots of grapey elements.
Mimi adds red grape juice to her sorbet to help it freeze more and GE is dehydrating vine leaves for texture.
I’ve never seen cauliflower as yellow as Trent is using -it looks amazing, even if it is too lumpy.
GE is worried about the sweetness of her dish so decides to infuse lavender in milk to whip through goat’s cheese. The judges are worried about the lavender but she goes with it. Please don’t let this be another green tea jelly pond mistake.
And please let IM’s lamb rack cook in time.
Uh oh – the red moulds of death DID make their way over to the US, and now they are giving Mimi grief with an unset sorbet. She plates the rest of her dish and waits til the last second to get the sorbet.
Trent is getting yet another talking head – he could well win this one. His quail dish with fennel salt and cauli puree sounds delicious.
George does the obligatory “yes, George”. Sigh. IM’s lamb isn’t cooked enough so he has to pan sear it. Does this mean it’s not rested? Mimi has success getting her sorbet out and GE’s sticky glaze for her quail looks fab.

The judges taste

Trent’s quail: “It looks fabulous,” Gaz tells him. They love the colour pop from the red grapes and dill and the taste of the skordalia. “It’s a sophisticated plate of food … The flavours are pure Trent,” says Matt. Gaz says he’s found his mojo.
IM’s lamb: “I think it looks fantastic,” Gaz says. IM has a little moment, thinking about his wife back home, whom he hasn’t seen for ages. She is going to bawl when she sees this bit.

The lamb is actually spot on. George drags through the sauce with his finger and licks it. They appreciate the work that went into the soz. “Great food,” says Gaz.

Mimi’s red wine and cheese dessert: “It’s all the things I like to eat,” she tells them. Gaz thinks it’s creative and gives his portion a good ole sniff. Matt thinks the winery could well use this dish as a signature dessert. “I think she’s smashed it,” says Gaz.

GE’s sticky quail: Uh oh – first we get a talking head of GE doubting her use of lavender. I think it belongs in the garden and drawer fresheners and that’s about it, but I hope for her sake it worked. Gaz tells her she’s been putting up great food lately. George says he’s mesmerised by the dish. He can’t wait to get his giant tweezers stuck in there. “How bloody good is that,” says Gaz. “It’s a dish with all the boring bits taken out,” says Matt. The lavender worked.
They’ve all done really well – how refreshing to have a challenge where no-one was too flustered and everyone was happy with the end result – but it sounds like GE has got this.
The judges decide

It was tough but the winner is GE. Woo hoo! Oh – there’s Brett, Elise and Harry on the sidelines. They’ve apparated in at the last minute. Hope they got to check out the cellar door while they were there.

It’s a food truck challenge at Santa Monica Pier. This should be fun. It looks like the red team is Brett, Harry and Mimi, which means blue will be IM, Elise and Trent. My money’s on blue.


MasterChef – Sun, Jul 10 – San Fran trip

The MasterChef Australia competition travels to California for the week. With just a map in hand the contestants must track down the mystery box ingredients from local San Francisco produce shops.

Don’t forget to vote in the new poll for MasterChef final three.
According to Wikipedia (so it must be true), this is the rundown for the last few weeks of the show:

We start with the Qantas plug with Elise and Trent living it up in business class – the reward for having won the last challenge. No footage of the others crammed into cattle class.
All of a sudden they are strolling on a clifftop past Alcatraz. “It’s an absolutely mint day,” says Intense Matt.
George is looking extra stubbly today but Matt Preston is wearing a new cream blazer and waistcoat combo.
They learn today is a mystery box challenge, with each person contributing one item of local produce they buy somewhere in San Francisco. Harry and Brett end up at a fishmonger scoffing down calamari, oysters and crab. Trent and Elise stumble upon a farmers market – no way did a producer tell them to head there. Trent goes for citrus while Elise finds a dreadlocked farmer to sell her vegies. She wants to choose a veg that has multiple uses. No doubt it will be beetroot.
IM ends up in a fancy chocolate shop where they wrap they blocks of chocolate for you and he’s right – no-one would have picked him to choose bacon. Glowing Elena is sent more to a deli type place and is sniffing around the fennel pollen – will she pick it? No Mimi airtime.
They head back to the outdoor MasterChef kitchen, with views of the Golden gate bridge.
The mystery box contains: Mimi – beef shortribs, GE – fennel pollen, Brett – fennel goat’s cheese, Harry – crab, IM – 100 per cent Ecuadorean choc, Trent – tangelos and Elise – golden beetroot. They have 60 minutes and the usual staples of butter, flour etc.
IM is planning to do Korean short ribs with roasted beets, tangelo and beet relish with grated choc, served on flatbread.
Trent is doing a dessert of smoked choc mousse with tangelo granita. Ooh, fancy. Trent is really getting into smoking stuff. But he’s having drama melting the choc as it’s 100 per cent cacao. Luckily he fixes it by folding some smoked cream through it.
Elise is, of course, doing dessert: a choc brownie with a golden beet and tangelo sorbet.
Mimi is grilling her shortribs and serving them with beetroot and a fennel cracker.
Harry is making what he calls crab benedict while GE is making a crab and beetroot salad with the veg done several ways, including a beetroot puree with fennel pollen.
Brett is doing fennel pollen ravioli (it’s a while since we’ve had ravioli on the show, after the initial glut of them) stuffed with goat’s cheese.
IM is in his element cooking street food and we get talking head reiterating his food truck dream. He’s getting heaps of airtime so could well be winning this challenge.
Now Elise is having the same choc dramas as Trent and she’s using silicon moulds, but the red moulds of death obviously weren’t tucked into the Qantas jet cargo hold. Elise’s brownies are a bust and she’s trying to hold back the tears in front of a crowd of tourists. “It looks like absolutely crap,” she says in her usual blunt manner. At least George comes over to put an arm around her and give her a pep talk. She gets back on track and plans a few last-minute elements to bulk out her dish.
Trent adds a microwave sponge to his dish as an afterthought, even though he thinks it’s too dense.
Again, Mimi has disappeared from the edit. And Harry didn’t get much time.

The judges taste

GE’s crab and beet salad: George says there is a definite “look” to her food. Gaz says it’s clean and fresh. “I love it,” says George.

Elise’s beet and tangelo sorbet with fennel and citrus crumb: Gaz tells her it looks fine but she’s teary anyway. He likes the sorbet. “Show everyone here in America how good you are,” George tells her.

Trent’s smoky choc mousse with tangelo granita: You can tell from the edit they are going to hate the sponge. George loves the smoked mousse. But Matt says the sponge is “bleagh”. Gaz says he’s worried for him: “You haven’t found your identity yet in the competition.”
Mimi’s beef with crackers and beetroot: She gets a few words about it being tasty.
Brett’s ravioli: The cheese dominates the crab. It is, however, delish.

Harry’s crab benedict: It looks great and it’s fun, they say.

IM’s beef ribs in flatbread: He’s worried it’s street food and not fancy enough. They are so going to love it. And, yes, they love the colours and he gets the tinkly piano. Thumbs up from Gaz: “The hairs on the back of my head just went ‘ping’.” George takes the leftovers out to the crowd to try.

The winner is …
Yep, it’s IM, which was bleedingly obvious from about eight minutes in. Next up is a parade of farmers walking in carrying giant baskets of local produce. IM’s advantage is to pick one ingredient to be the challenge “hero” and he goes the beef. Brett will be happy. They can use any of the local produce, plus staples, and have 60 minutes.
If they win this one they get fast-tracked to the final challenge of San Fran week.

Elena is making a borscht-inspired sauce, using red cabbage and betroot, calling on her Ukrainian heritage. Matt is respecting the produce by not cooking it, for a carpaccio. Trent is going back to the hearty rustic cooking that is more his style, doing steak, mushies and creamy kale.
Elise wishes she was doing dessert but sucks it up to cook steak with smoked leek, pickled onions and jus.
For once, the judges aren’t thrilled with GE’s dish and look disdainfully at her soz of beetroot and beef bones. “I think you’re just making it mucky and dirty,” says Gaz. “It looks like a witches’ brew.” Ouch.
Harry is the first one to pull out the sous vide machine, so his steak will be perfectly cooked. Brett is doing the caveman rib eye on the bone with a smoked parsnip puree, which we’ve seen a few times.
Mimi is going with a walnut theme, crusting her rib eye with it and serving it with a walnut pesto and walnut butter.
IM makes parsnip chips to go with his raw beef but needs to trick it up some more.
Mimi pulls her T-rex haunch from the oven and reckons she’s overcooked it. And, yes, it’s no longer mooing.
IM is adding some sauteed mushies and a smoked, confit egg yolk to his dish. Trent is happy with his self-described “caveman food”.
Elise is doing her dessert-style plating for her dish and you know the judges will adore it. She’s getting the underdog comeback edit.
Mimi and Brett aren’t in with a chance – they haven’t had enough airtime, and Harry isn’t far behind.

The judges taste …

Elise’s steak with smoked leeks: The pretty plating gets a “woah”. Gaz says she has a great chance of getting into finals week. Matt loved the soz and the balance of the elements. George tells her she needs to embrace her savoury side.

Trent’s caveman food: “Everything taste as it should do,” says Matt. The judges are happy he’s “cooking from the heart”. Meanwhile, on the sidelines the tourists are shivering in their hoodies while our contestants are stuck in their T-shirts for continuity.
GE’s teak and veg with borscht-inspired soz: Gaz actually loves the soz but thinks it doesn’t go with beef. Matt thinks it would suit duck or pork more.
Harry’s sous vide steak with mushies and onion soz: They like it.
Brett’s rib eye with pickled beetroot and smoked parsnip puree: Gaz loves the puree.
Mimi’s walnut beef: Night has fallen by the time Mimi’s dish is tasted. Poor thing looks nervous and cold. Gaz thinks it’s not as overcooked as she feared. It’s delish. Matt likes the walnut theme.

IM’s carpaccio with smoked egg yolk: Again, the edit is doing the “it’s a risk thing” to make you think it will be a disaster. Gaz says the dish shows confidence and maturity in looks alone. George says he respected the produce. Matt says the yolk “derailed” the dish slightly.

The winner …
..and the person who will be fast-tracked to the end-of-the-week challenge is out of Elise (and George gives her a loud “yes” – and not a “yes, George” yes) and Trent. And Trent gets it! Good one, Trent. “You could seriously win this competition,” George tells him. Much as I love Trent, at this stage, that would be a bit of a surprise, as the edit has painted him as more of a steady cook than a risk taker.

Now, please let them put some jackets on and go back to the hotel for hot showers.

Tomorrow night
They have to replicate the dishes of a Domenique Crenn, who’s won “best female chef in the world” awards. Yay – a female chef who’s not Kylie Kwong on the show. She’s so fancy that when you go to the website for one of her restaurants and click on “menu” you just get a poem. George would love it. But maybe not so much vegetarians wondering if there are any meat-free dishes.


MasterChef – Thurs, July 7 – auction elimination

The four members of the losing teams from the service challenge now face elimination.
(Sorry, gice – hope to catch up on last night’s service challenge recap at the weekend.)

Poor Intense Matt looks tired but maybe that’s because they are still forcing him to sleep in a bunk bed. We get IM back story about his recent marriage and his food dream. And more footage of Chloe’s beardo hubby and her farm restaurant food dream.
Glowing Elena looks extra glowy today. No back story as yet for her or Mimi. Have we ever seen Mimi back story?
They walk into the MasterChef kitchen and realise it’s the dreaded auction challenge, where they bid minutes of their 120 minutes total cooking time for ingredients: proteins, veg and miscellaneous (sauces, spices etc). They’re not allowed to use the MC herb garden, which will make it harder for whoever misses out on the herbs or spices.
In the past there’s always been one person who plays strategically, bidding on something they don’t want to inflate the price, but it often comes back to bite them.
Thanks to reader Liberty, who recapped all the bids:
Mimi bids 25 minutes for beef
IM bids 35 minutes for duck (after a bidding war with Elena)
Chloe bids 15 minutes for eggs (she wants to do a dessert – shock, horror)
GE gets red mullet for free

Fruit & Veg
Mimi bids 20 minutes root veg
GE bids 20 minutes nightshades
IM bids 5 minutes for alliums (which is stuff like onions, leek, garlic and chives)
Chloe gets citrus for free (oh, dear – are we heading for another lemon curd bombe Alaska?)

GE bids 20 minutes for herbs (outbidding IM)
IM bids 5 minutes for sauces
Chloe bids 5 minutes for spreads
Mimi gets spices for free (she’s done well with beef, root veg and spices and no doubt will go for the beetroot)

Cooking times
Chloe 100 minutes
GE 80 minutes
Mimi 75 minutes
IM 75 minutes

And they’re off
Chloe is off and grabs the honey, citrus, blackberry jam and eggs and there’s a close up of the black heart tatt on her finger as she uses the whisk to create a mousse, even though she doesn’t have a setting agent. Everyone else thinks it’s a risky move. But Chloe has her “I’m ignoring the warnings of experienced chefs” noise-cancelling headphones on and ploughs ahead.
Elena is taking care with her filleting of the delicate fish – it’s her first time using red mullet.
Mimi is doing eye fillet with roasted beetroot, pickled radishes and some jews. She’s using a fennel and mustard rub on her beef.
IM is doing crispy skinned duck breast and braised duck leg with a Chinese-style soz.
It’s a worry GE still doesn’t know what her dish will be, even though she had 20 minutes of watching Chloe cook.
IM has had to use a jar of bought soz to simmer with his duck bones, but he’s happy with the taste… until Other Matt comes over. “You might want to have a little back-up plan,” OM says. Uh oh. Don’t panic, IM – you can do it. Hell, without you being in the challenge tonight I wouldn’t have bothered to Google what “allium” met
How will IM save his soz? Smoke it? Freeze it into a parfait in the red moulds of death? Add it to liquid nitrogen?
After 35 minutes Elena has finished her filleting and creates a charred nightshade soz with chilli, eggplant and tomatoes.
Chloe is getting a lot of talking head time about how flustered she is and how things aren’t working.
Mimi is making charred beetroot leaf butter by blitzing burnt leaves with a butter sauce. When did burning everything get so cool? I’ve been on trend for years without even realising.
IM decides the solution to his soz dilemma is butter – genius!
Oh god – George is doing his “yes, George” thing. Urgh (it’s the same reaction I had upon learning Pauline was back in the Senate).
Another talking head from Chloe about her iffy mousse. The judges head to the fridge for a taste and point out it’s very soft. If only there was some kind of freezing device nearby.
Mimi gives her beef a little squeeze. “How does it feel?” Brett the Protein Man asks her from the gantry.
Elena is deepfrying her red mullet wings and panfrying the fillets in butter – you can see how delicate they are. Her plate looks gorgeous.
Mimi is taking her time to make her beef dish look fancy, topping it with some leftover burnt beetroot leaves. Chloe is having curd dramas and then discovers her mousse has set too much.


IM’s duck two ways with onions and a char sui jus: This whole soz bizzo better be a misdirect. If IM goes and Chloe stays there will be rioting in the streets. Gaz loves the look of the dish. As George dishes up I notice he’s wearing the same bead bracelet as Chloe – do Swisse make healing bracelets?

The judges love the perfectly cooked duck but aren’t keen on the sweet yet salty sauce. OM says IM should have left the soz off.

GE’s red mullet fillets with nightshade sauce and salad: She looks confident. OM says it looks spectacular. Here comes the swelling music of triumph. “Can’t fault it,” says Gaz. “Incredible,” says George. OM says she could win the comp.

Mimi’s eye filet with roast beetroot: She explains the dish as George stick his schnozz in the soz bottle. Her use of beet leaves is on trend. Gaz says the leaves are a bit like a nori sheet. They like it.
Chloe’s honey mousse with orange curd, butter wafer and blackberry sauce: “Is that a mousse, is that an ice cream or is that a parfait?” asks OM, brow furrowing at the rapidly melting quenelle on the plate. “I think it’s a mousse,” says a worried-looking Chloe. Apart from the wafer, they could do with a straw for this dessert. “What a shame,” says Gaz. “That mousse is an absolute disaster.” It froze and then collapsed. And the curd was undercooked.

The judges decide
Elena gets the standout dish award. Gaz says they knew straight away which dish would send its maker home … and Chloe’s gone. George says he’s loved watching her “po-gress” and then does his “yes, George” again. Stop it, already!

Where is she now?
Chloe is launching Bowles Family Sauces, starting with her favourite – butterscotch. She also has plans to open her own bistro.

The announcement
Enough with the teasing … George lifts a cloche and reveals s Sydney tourist trinket and says they are going on a trip. But then OM tops it with his own cloche with a souvenir of the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge. Trent and Elise get to go bizzo class because they won yesterday. Fair enough – Trent needs to the extra elbow room to fit his shoulders in.


MasterChef – Tues, June 21 – immunity challenge – what’s a rocher?

The four contestants who impressed in the relay invention test cook for immunity. Does the winner of the first round have what it takes to out-cook guest chef Victor Liong from Lee Ho Fook?
This will be an interesting one, as Karmen, Intense Matt, Trent and Elena are all decent cooks. And, look at the tweet below – Karmen has a sense of humour, too. I just hope she doesn’t try to plate up anything fragile that she will smash with shaking hands. Stay away from tuiles tonight, Karmen.

People keep trying to tell me burgundy is back, but Matt’s suit is doing nothing to convince me this is true.
He tells the contestants tonight is a skills test with a dessert theme, so Karmen gets a hige grin on her face. They must separate 12 egg yolks; create five perfect ice cream rochers (that’s a quenelle done with only one spoon, apparently); and spin sugar to a 30cm-high conical shape. Intense Matt has never even spun sugar before.
They’re pretty even in the egg-cracking leg, and all smash a few in the rush. Karmen finishes that round first, then IM, then Trent and Elena.
Karmen plans to take the rocher round slowly and get them right but IM and Trent are racing through, with Trent using his fingers to plop them off the spoon. They must have told the contestants the correct technique before the challenge. IM smashes out five rochers that he knows are dodgy but Gaz only lets one through. Trent’s are also wonky.

Meanwhile, Karmen is already on to her spun sugar. Elena has taken her time and it pays off – she catches up and is the second person to start spinning sugar.
IM and Trent slow down with their ice cream and finally Gaz lets IM through, then Trent. It’s still pretty close, though, as Karmen is waiting for her sugar to caramelise and hasn’t started spinning. Shannon urges her to take it easy.
Her caramel is ready first and out comes the head massage tool to flick back and forth. Trent has a go but his caramel looks too light, while Elena’s seems dark. IM waits til the right time and goes nuts with his flicking. He’s catching up quickly – height and longer arms are probably an advantage here. He takes his pile over to be measured and he’s done it! Good one, Intense Matt!
Skills tests are always fun to watch, although not as exciting as name the cake or ingredient, as there’s no play along at home element.
Matt is definitely top three material and, interestingly, he’s not active on social media – unlike some other contestants. Does this mean he goes all the way? Or he’s just not a Twitter kind of guy.

Guest chef Victor enters and how lovely to see a chef who looks like an engineering nerd rather than a tattoo artist – although he does have a Harry-style teeny topknot.
IM gets to pick from overflowing benches of ingredients A to N and M to Z. IM wants the kingfish, so chooses the former, to cook it crispy-skinned with blue swimmer crab broth. He’s definitely had hours of practice filleting fish and is a real chance here.
It’s Victor’s time to cook and his face drops when he realises what’s on the table for A to N. I like him even more when he tells confessional: “Ah, bugger – there’s no soy sauce, there’s no sesame oil.” He decides to do a crayfish in order to show “oriental decadence”.
IM is trying to make a crab broth to better the prawn head version with which he won an immunity pin last time.
Victor is having trouble balancing his sauce without any M to Z ingredients – IM has the advantage of having cooked in the MC kitchen many times. Victor grabs a can of coconut cream to add to his sauce and is happier.
IM starts straining his broth through muslin and manages to add some unintentional smoke when he sits it too close to the burner. Cue yelps of concern from the gantry and cool-headed Shannon tells him to pop the flaming saucepan saucepan in the sink. Victor even pops over to check on him and offer assistance. Luckily IM has plenty of soz left over.
Victor is only serving crayfish and coconut soz because he thinks less is more, but Shannon urges him to do something else to impress the judges. He doesn’t seem too fussed until Harry leans over the gantry to tell him to listen. Eventually Victor decides to add some mushies and cauli.
On the other side, IM is going hell for leather with a million techniques and is working hard to balance his broth. He’s doing George-style plating.
Victor’s plate looks pretty, too, but neither of them used tweezers.
Victor pops over for a lick of IM’s soz and says he’s impressed.

The judges taste

Victor’s roasted crayfish with coconut and armagnac soz: Gaz is salivating just looking at it. Matt Preston says the soz is well balanced and they agree the cray is perfectly cooked. Sounds like a high score.

IM’s crispy skin kingfish with crab broth: Gaz says it looks pretty but Matt thinks the bits of crab on the side seem superfluous. They love the taste of the broth and it’s all well cooked. “Sublime,” says Gaz.
They do the “oh, it’s so close” thing, which is usually so fake as there have been some shockers in the immunity pin round this season. But this time they both seem great dishes.

The scores
Scores for IM’s fish: Gaz 9 George 9, Matt 9 = 27/30 Fab scores but now I’m worried Victor will get 10s.
Scores for Victor’s cray: Yep, 10s all round.
Well done, Victor, but poor IM – any other week he would have slayed the competition.

Victor says some really nice things about IM being intelligent but ambitious and jokingly offers him a job.
Fun fact: Victor’s LInked In profile says he has a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA), Hospitality Administration/Management.

Tomorrow night
The contestants must cook three courses of finger food at an outdoor cinema team challenge. It looks like Brett and Harry’s blue team stuff up their quantities, but it could be a storm in a tea cup. And then on Sunday, Heston Week begins. Crack out your goggles and nitrogen canisters.


MasterChef – Sun, June 19 – mystery box and relay

The mystery box challenge contains eight of the ugliest ingredients ever seen. The contestants must impress the judges by creating a beautiful and delicious dish in only 60 minutes.
Hmm … ugly ingredients? Maybe offal and some of the knobblier root vegies? This is also the relay challenge, which is always nailbiting to watch.

And the “ugly” ingredients are:
Chicken livers, monkfish, blue cheese, celeriac, Buddha’s hand, morels, horned melon, Moreton Bay bug and morels. Horned elon is a new one on me – Wikpedia says “The fruit’s taste has been compared to a combination of cucumber and zucchini[3] or a combination of banana, cucumber and lemon.” wiki
Surely for the “ugly challenge” Matt Preston should have donned one of his more startling outfits. He looks positively restrained in navy with pink highlights.
He talks them through the ingredients, giving pointers along the way. Elena is the only one who’s eaten horned melon before, because on an overseas trip her family went to a shop with unusual items and bought everything they didn’t recognise. That’s my kind of holiday – can I join the Elena family?

Theresa is butter poaching the Moreton Bay bug and monk fish while Anastasia is making a blue cheese parfait. Yep, another bloody parfait. This is making me miss the panna cottas!
Karmen is making blue cheese ice cream with a morel ice cream cone balanced in a microwaved sponge, with a horned melon syrup. It’s definitely inventive.
Elena is experimenting with dehydrating melon seeds in the oven, to be teamed with celeriac puree, butter-poached bug tail and a monk fish wing.
Brett will grill the bug, deep fry the fish tail and serve atop celeriac puree.
It’s back to Ana again, who’s having lump cheese dramas. How has Karmen resolved this?
Come on – there are only 12 contestants – can we see what the others are doing?
Ana ditches the blue cheese and will make a chicken liver parfait instead, but will it set in the red moulds of death?
George and Gaz pop over to taste Elena’s cooked melon seeds and you can tell they are impressed (take note, Harry of the poisoned rambutan seeds). They look a bit like pumpkin seeds.
Then they taste Karmen’s morel cone batter and tell her she needs to step it up. Just what she needs when she’s already under pressure.
Theresa is unsure how to cook her fish so it will probably be perfect.
No camera time for Chloe, Mimi, Trent, Intense Matt, Teeny Topknot or Headband Heather. Oops and Elise.
Uh oh – Karmen is having tuile dramas. Have we ever had an episode where someone said “my tuiles worred first time”?
The red moulds of death have had their terrible way with Ana’s parfait so she has to plop it on the plate. Just put it in a little ramekin, Ana? Poor Karmen’s nerves get the better of her and she crushes one of her cones with shaking fingers.

Time to taste
Theresa’s butter-poached seafood with morels and celeriac salad: George says “Theresa – where have you been?” Uh, you eliminated her, genius. Gaz likes the fish and salad but the bug is undercooked. George proves he also pronounces the veg “celery-ack”.
Karmen’s blue cheese ice cream in morel cone with horned melon syrup: George gets the broken cone. George dips the sponge in the syrup and creepily feeds it to Karmen off his spoon. Matt says the flavour combos are innovative and work.

Elena’s buttered bug with celeriac and horned melon salad: She explains she tried about 20 different techniques. The judges clean the plate. “That is an absolute riot,” says Gaz. He loves the textures and flavour. Matt says it’s genius.
That’s the top three, although they give Brett a shout out. The winner is, of course, Elena. Yay! So, what will her advantage be now the dreaded power apron is goneski?

The invention test
She gets to choose the core ingredients from the following combos: honey and lemon, maple and bacon, orange and fennel.Elena picks honey and lemon. Everyone’s happy until the twist is revealed: It’s the relay challenge. Cue “ooohs” all round. “It can be white chocolate veloute hell,” Matt warns. John is going to be copping lots of tweets tonight! There are three teams of four and Elena gets to pick her team.
It’s Elena, Intense Matt, Karmen and Trent. That’s a strong red team full of mostly cool heads. The other teams are (yellow) Mimi, Elise, Brett and Harry; and (blue) Ana, Theresa, Chloe and Heather.
IM goes the savoury route with pressure-cooked duck with honey and lemon. Smart move as they just have to wait for the timer to go off.
Theresa seems to reverting to her old ways, faffing a bit in the pnatry.
Harry wants to make whisky, lemon and honey trifle so each person can add a layer like a jelly, sponge or custard.
IM goes hell for leather, starting work on a sticky sauce.
Theresa finally picks dessert with a lemon and prosecco jelly BUT she doesn’t know what else should go with it. So, everyone else in her team will come in cold and waste time thinking what they can add to it, with no advanced prep? I hate to say it but she could at least have started off a parfait so it could be freezing while the others cook.
By the end of his time Harry has finished a lemon mousse and a syrup.
IM is leaving his team “a visual map” by putting the whisky next to the frypan for deglazing – smart move. He has 45 seconds to hand over to Trent.
Theresa hands over to Heather (wearing her magical headband), while Harry talks to Brett about the trifle he wants served in a martini glass.
The first lot of contestants heads to the storeroom to watch the TV and yell in frustration or, in IM’s case, grin like a maniac when he sees Trent set his whisky sauce alight.
Heather decides to make coconut macaroon biscuits to go with Theresa’s jelly. So, it will be a dessert platter, then?
Brett decides Harry has planned a very complicated dish that will be hard to communicate to the rest of the team. He decides to change the dish – OMG the producers must be so excited right now. Harry can’t believe his eyes: “Brett’s gone rogue.” Brett tells George it will now be a lemon meringue tart, with not much time left to make pastry, let alone blind bake it.
Trent decides to do honey-roasted carrots and we hear him say Karmen will have to remember to take them out at the end. So, that’s not happening, then.
Mimi takes over from Brett, Elena takes over from Trent, Ana from Heather. Brett heads to the other room to tell Harry everything will be fine but Mimi is quietly shitting herself.
Ana is making a preserved lemon syrup to add bitterness to the blue team’s choose your own adventure dessert. She hands over to Chloe who, quite sensibly asks: “What is the dish?”
Mimi hands over to a worried Elise (perhaps you should crumble it into a soil, Elise, to cook more quickly) while Elena briefs Karmen. The red team’s happy with Karmen’s actions bit those darn carrots are still in the oven.
Chloe is tasking all the elements and pulls a face when she tastes Ana’s syrup, but is determined to use it anyway to prevent hurt feelings.
Elise is running at a million miles an hour and then George comes over to ask dourly: “Where’s the invention in your dish?” Poor Elise always cops it.
Chloe drizzles Heather’s biscuit with the bitter syrup and tops it with Persian fairy floss.
In the other room IM, Elena and Trent are desperately yelling out “carrots!”, willing Karmen to hear them. With 30 seconds to go, Matt releases the hounds and they bay at Karmen to add the carrots. Luckily she tastes them and they are burnt, so she leaves them off. Good move but they may get lambasted for not “heroing” lemon and honey.

Time to taste

Red’s duck with pine nut puree: Contrary to their fears, the whisky did not overpower the dish. It’s tasty but they wish the carrots had been there. They’ll be safe.

Yellow’s lemon meringue and honeycomb tart: “Surprisingly, that looks all right,” laughs Gaz. The pastry is cooked and, while not great, they heroed the lemon and honey. But, asks Matt, is it inventive?

Blues’ lemon and honey choose your own adventure dish (Chloe calls it a lemon honey cloud): Matt loves the bickie. But they don’t like the rest of it. “That syrups very medicinal,” says Gaz. “It tastes like it’s been made by four people, rather than one person,” says Matt.

The result
The winners are obviously the reds, and they get a crack at an immunity pin. At least yellow’s team was edible, so they’re safe.
Going through to elimination are Theresa, Ana, Chloe and Heather. Theresa must feel dreadful right now.

Tomorrow night: They cook against a young gun from New York who is only 17! They have to make his beef wellington. Apparently he started a supper club at his mum’s house when he was only 12. What the hell! More on him here


MasterChef – Wed, June 15 – Curtis Stone

Guest chef Curtis Stone joins the MasterChef off-site team challenge.
Each team must prepare a six-course degustation menu for 50 guests in only two and half hours to avoid the elimination challenge.
Warning: Matt Preston’s garish outfit may offend some viewers.

The contestants arrive at Sails on the Bay (, where they have to prep a six-course degustation. They’re in teams of two. Uh oh – what if your partner sucks? Theresa gets to choose one contestant to sit out of today’s challenge – in effect saving them from potential elimination. She returns the favour by picking Anastasia (who used the power apron to let Theresa pick an additional ingredient the previous night).
The teams are:
Elena and Theresa
Nicolette and Chloe
Intense Matt and Heather
Elise and Trent
Karmen and Harry
Mimi and Brett

IM and Heather should be a force to be reckoned with but I’m still worried about Theresa’s ability to focus (my recap from the returning contestant challenge is now up, by the way).
And here’s Curtis, in town for MasterChef and to film more Coles ads, no doubt. He tells them their theme tonight is citrus. This rings a bell and (thanks, Google) it’s because when Curtis was on MasterChef in 2014 (the year of Brett and Laura) he also set a citrus-themed service challenge. So, in 2018 we can expect Curtis back with another surprise citrus challenge? This time, the teams won’t know what citrus they have until they enter the kitchen.
He takes Mimi and Trent into the kitchen to discuss their ideas for the first course. They have mandarins so pick seafood for a light start. They are making a grilled prawn and rocket salad.
Harry and Karmen are up next and get lemons. They are making salmon sashimi with a lemon zest cure with microherbs. Hopefully Karmen had input on this dish, because Topknot seems to be doing all the talking.
IM and Heather get oranges and go for duck breast with candied beetroot, roasted fennel, pickled orange and madeira duck jus.
Mimi and Brett get limes and will do eye fillet with beetroot and lime. Brett’s the meat man so he’s in charge of that and Mimi gets everything else.
Back in the kitchen, Trent is a bit worried the starter dish is too simple. As they practise their plating up, Curtis and the other judges tell them it’s not fancy enough (something that could have been mentioned at the start). Perhaps Elise could make wongtongs? Curtis flat out tells them to do a pesto.
Elena and Theresa get tangelos and they have already chatted with the final team to plan that they will make some kind of warm pud and Nicolette and Chloe will do a sorbet to finish. But Curtis reminds them that, in the real world, the sorbet comes first as a palate cleanser and then the heavier dessert. They are making Star anise crumble, creme fraiche cream, tangelo segments, tangelo granita and tangelo juice inside chocolate spheres. It sounds like a tonne of work.
Now, the first team has decided to do a cold starter of mandarin-cured prawns with rocket pesto and mandarin reduction. Will their prawns cure in time?
Curtis grabs the last team of Nicolette and Chloe, who get ruby grapefruit, and delivers the bad news that he wants them to do a heavy dessert. All the planning they’ve been doing while they waited has gone to waste. Uh oh – no it won’t. They’ve decided to ignore Curtis completely and keep doing their lighter cold dessert. Forget that a degustation is meant to flow and the team before them is doing a cold dessert. Their youth is showing here.

The tasting begins

Elise and Trent’s prawns with mandarin: The dish looks interesting but they are worried because they changed their concept the prawns won’t be cured enough. What the heck is George wearing tonight? Some spotty kind of shirt and one of Matt’s cast-off brown and navy check jackets. George and Matt says the prawns aren’t cured enough and a lot of diners won’t eat them.
Everyone seems to be going well in the kitchen. The last team – the rebel girls – are doing grapefruit sorbet, a meringue shard and grapefruit gel.

Harry and Karmen’s salmon with lemon: It looks pretty on the plate – wonder if Karmen did the plating? Gaz thinks it looked refined and had good flavours.
In the kitchen, IM and Heather are feeling great as they have 30 minutes to go, which is plenty of time to cook and rest the duck. But, no, Curtis tells them they only have 10 minutes. This smacks of a producer swifty to add drama – I can’t see both Heather and IM getting the time wrong.
Poor IM is worried he’s lost track of which duck rested for how long in the confusion.

IM and Heather’s duck with orange: “I love everything about that dish apart from the duck,” says Matt. The duck, while looking pink, is apparently “over rested”. If Heather or IM goes home off the back of this I will be even crankier than Gary on a normal day.
Back in the kitchen, the rebel girls are adding a choc ganache to their dessert to heavy it up.

Brett and Mimi’s beef with lime: The judges love everything about it.

Elena and Theresa’s tangelo dessert: It looks absolutely delightful and the choc-coated juice bursts are a hit. “Oh my,” says Matt, cleaning his glass. “It’s a thoughtful dish,” says George.

Chloe and Nicolette’s sorbet with meringue: Looks lovely but is definitely not the heavier dessert Curtis wanted. “Do you want two sorbet/granita desserts in a row?” asks Matt. Gaz says it’s refreshing but is not the memorable end to a meal it should be. “This degustation ends not with a bang but with a whimper,” Matt says. The sorbet is overchurned (which explains why it was trying to escape from the churner.

The judges decide
The judges says the dish of the day belonged to Theresa and Elena. The teams in the elimination challenge are Trent and Elise and Chloe and Nicolette. Phew – IM and Heather survived. Elise is the eternal black apronner – it could stand her in good stead if she doesn’t have a brain freeze, a la the frying challenge.

Tomorrow night: The contestants must make a dish inspired by either sea shells or autumn leaves. How vague is that! It could favour the dessert girls.