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 – Tues, July 5 – immunity challenge

The three contestants who did well with their apricot chicken reinventions – Elise, Brett and Harry – are competing for a chance to go up against a chef. We’ve had some weak offerings in immunity pin challenges this season, so hopefully this will be better than usual.

This is Elise’s first crack at an immunity pin and she reckons she can grab it, but Brett is firing on all cylinders at the moment.

The mystery box ingredients are cauliflower, venison, bay leaves and elderflower cordial. And they get 20 minutes. Or if they decide to use the second, smaller box, they get 40 minutes and but have to use what’s under there (it turns out to be quandongs), plus an ingredient from the main box. And there’s a third box (with mastic) which gives them a total of 60 minutes. Brett sticks at the first box while the younger and less wise contestants go the whole hog. Harry doesn’t recognise the mastic. Elise has used it before – she must be a superfan.
Why does MasterChef keep trying to make mastic “happen”? Does George have a mastic plantation at an ancestral farm in Greece? Next to his giant tweezers factory.

Elise is using the mastic, quandongs and elderflower cordial to make a tart and mastic ice cream.
Harry is making quandong and elderflower pavlova but has yet to work out how to use the mastic. He’s got a thing for pavs – he made one that was not well received in the Christmas-themed Nigella Week immunity pin challenge.
Elise is masticating over how much mastic to add to her anglaise for the ice cream when George actually gives some helpful advice for once. He tells her the flavour will intensify once the mixture cools.
Both of them are making quandong jam. Brett has enjoyed 40 minutes of thinking time while Elise and Harry cook and has exactingly planned his dish. He’s doing cauliflower several ways, including roasting the leaves in the oven. It will go with pepper-crusted venison with a bay leaf butter sauce. Yum!
Harry takes his “pavs” out of the oven and his little meringues are browned while his bread-and-butter-plate sized ones aren’t cooked. Couldn’t he have done a meringue-topped brookie?
Harry things his use of elderflower syrup stuffed up the pav texture. He decides to use his mastic in a custard.
With five minutes to go Brett has cooked his venison and cauli puree. He looks cool as a cucumber.
Elise’s ice cream has worked (hooray – not ABP) but the mastic is very strong. Harry decides to do the bleeding obvious and turn his flopped meringue into a Mess.

The judges taste

Brett’s venison with cauli (20 minutes): Matt says the venison is beautifully cooked. It’s delicious. “Bloody good understanding of food. You’ve come a long way,” says Shannon.

Harry’s Mess with quandong jam and mastic custard: Harry pretends he’s in with a chance but knows deep down he’s got Buckley’s. George loves the jam but the meringue is sticky and gluey. Shannon says he’s done his best to save the dish with his plating up.

Elise’s quandong tart with mastic ice cream: “That’s beautiful,” says Gaz of the tart, with its vibrant red topping. Shannon praises the textures of the pastry and ice cream and says she was brave to go for the final mystery box.
Yeah, telling someone they are “brave” is code for “it’s not the winner”.
The winner is …
Brett gets it for great food in only 20 minutes. He’s thrilled. Good one, Brett. At the start of this comp I would have said you’d have been eliminated by now but you’ve proved me wrong.
He learns he’s up against mentor Shannon – who cracks up as Matt Preston talks him up in the intro.
Tonight, there’s no time advantage for the contestant. Both have 60 minutes and an open pantry. Seems a but unfair that Brett doesn’t get a little leg up.
Gaz tells Brett to focus on his strengths, saying he makes great sauces and purees and likes to hero a protein. Brett is doing lamb rack with parsnip puree.
Shannon decides to braise something in the pressure cooking and initially seems a tad nonplussed by not having a theme. He’ll do lamb two ways with pickled veg.
Poor Brett is chopping bones for his jews when he cuts his thumb, which will put him behind. Shannon is doing some fancy kind of mustard cream to put in a siphon. He talks about all the things that could go wrong with it, but then it works perfectly.
Brett is a little flustered after having to call for the nurse, knocking stuff over, including throwing his crispy shallots on the floor. He’s leaking blood out of his blue glove, poor bugger. “The first day I’ve ever cut myself in the MasterChef kitchen has to be today,” he notes.
Now he has to trim his lamb rack without full use of one hand.
Shannon has his shoulder braising in the pressure cooker while he panfries the loin then pops it in the oven. He tells Gaz he’s worried about the timing of the braise but no doubt it will be fine. He heads to the garden looking for a bitter herb to go with his dish but doesn’t head back the minute his timer goes off. By the time he gets the loin out, he says it’s cooked more than he wanted. The herb he grabbed was chickweed. I’d never heard of it so thank goodness for Wikipedia\
Shannon checks his lamb and Gaz gives it the seal of approval – he was worried about nothing. Shannon pops over to peel some asparagus for Brett, good lad that he is.
Shannon takes the lid off his pressure cooker but his lamb isn’t tender enough. “It’s a disaster,” he says. But then he finds some little pieces swimming in the stock that are fine. So that’s twice you’ve predcited a lamb disaster tonight, Shannon, and both times it was much ado about nothing. Now he gets cracking with his soz.
Brett is plating up and Gary seems to be giving helpful advice.
Shannon, super chef that he is, has laid out all his garnishes on a baking tray in orderly fashion. He finishes his dish and runs round to Brett’s station for the last few seconds.

George and Matt taste

Brett’s lamb with smoked parsnip puree and enoki mushrooms: George says it looks beautiful and thought has gone into it. Matt loves the flavours. He’s frenched well. Neither ones mentions that the blood from the lamb has stained the parsnip mash from not being rested enough.
Lamb with mustard, onions and fresh herbs: It looks very modern but Shannon’s mustard cream is now a puddle. Perhaps that’s what he meant it to look like. Matt says it’s classic French flavours. Hmm, could it possibly have been cooked by someone whose restaurant is called Vue de Monde. Matt thinks the braised lamb doesn’t really add anything to the dish.

The scores
Brett: George 8 (even though we didn’t hear any criticism), Matt 9. So, Shannon’s won, then. And, yep:
Shannon: Matt 9, George 9
Poor Brett – that dish looked so much better than some of the dog’s breakfasts we’ve seen in past immunity challenges.

Tomorrow night

It’s a service challenge at MasterChef HQ and there are four teams of two, using ingredients from north, east, south and west. The bottom two teams will be up for elimination. The preview shows the teams are:
Green: Glowing Elena and Chloe
Yellow: Trent and Elise
Blue: Brett and Harry
Red: Mimi and Matt


MasterChef – Mystery Box – May 4

Here’s one for you Shannon fans – note the tweet is from South Australian Jessie Spiby from last year’s MasterChef.

Tonight’s Mystery Box was chosen by last year’s winner, Billie McKay. An interview with her here Billie Tenplay
I won’t be recapping tonight – contributions welcome. Chat away.


MasterChef – day 3 – Shannon Bennett pressure test

The last apron is up for grabs and the contenders have to recreate a dessert from our fave MC chef, Shannon Bennett. I believe it’s a take on a Snickers bar.

Shannon has his hair tied back – yay!
He lifts the cloche on Bistro Vue’s Snickers-inspired chocolate bar. Peanut caramel fudge, peanut crumb, choc parfait, honey nougat, tempered choc, brown sugar crumble, caramel peanut icecream.
Headscarf lady got a brief confessional! I don’t know her name or occupation but I’m thinking pottery teacher or reiki healer.
Ranger Miles has never made parfait, nougat or tempered chocolate. No surprise. At least two of those feature heavily in each season. This is going to be a balls up. Some MKR-like casting here with character triumphing over skill. Does he just want publicity for a future business venture?
Love the theatre of Shannon pouring his soz over the tempered choc to enrobe the dessert.
Ooh, headscarf lady is named Melissa and she’s a barista. Dangerously, she says she’s quietly confident because she can follow a recipe. Yep, and she over whips her cream.
Not once, but twice. This is Jordan all over again with last night’s dodgy ravioli dough.
At least Gaz liked the taste of the butter she made.
Ranger Miles is actually the first one to finish his parfait, although that does not require specialist skill, and his cara el is nice and dark
Sarah (she of the stewed apple beef) looks a bit crazy eyes in her determination to succeed but she seems to be falling behind.
Blonde Lauren has a moment of madness and touches boiling caramel with her bare hand – ouch! That’s really going to make it hard to grip anything.
Intense Sarah “doesn’t have time” to check if her nougat is whipped to stiff peaks. Umm, you just look with your eyes and keep the mixer running! It’s way too runny, which is obvious to everyone but her.
Miles has been doing really well until this point but his peanut caramel seizes and he has to start it again.
Again there are invisible contestants – we haven’t heard from Ginny who liked Gary’s eyes, or the other blonde lady who made salmon tartare – or are they the same person?
Miles tries to temper chocolate for the first time, dropping the thermometer in in the process.
Jordan’s run out of time so Shannon tells her just to chuck melted chocolate on the acetate. Melissa does the same.

Time for judging and hopefully we will see the invisible contestants here. Everyone has five minutes to plate up their components.
Jordan is first and her nougat is rubbish and she has two shards of non-tempered chocolate. Can I just fast forward through the bits where each person is asked: how badly do you want the apron? They love the peanut caramel and ice cream but the presentation is a letdown.
Melissa seems like a lovely lady and did well to come back from her cream disasters but her chocolate is not tempered. Gaz loves the flavours. Shannon admires the ice cream.
Burned hand Lauren gets praise for her nougat. Invisible Molly is praised for her soz but the parfait is a dud. Flirty Ginny is missing the tempered choc and peanut caramel but is thrilled just to be in the presence of the judges.
Intense Sarah is having trouble getting her choc off the acetate and her nougat is super runny. George asks her: “Have you done enough?” Urgh. Shannon starts kindly, praising her for tempering chocolate (her first time, apparently). George likes the ice cream and Gaz said the parfait is the best of the lot, but the caramel and nougat are too soft.
Miles’s chocolate looks brilliant but his peanut caramel is very pale because he rushed the second go. His nougat looks soft, given his peaks looked stiff. He tears up as Matt pushes his emotional buttons. Shannon says the chocolate is the best thus far and he showed determination. The soz cascades beautifully. Matt is licking his lips. He loves the parfait and ice cream – both the best of the day. But the peanut caramel sucks.
Miles – I apologise. I fell for the editing trap and thought you would suck, and you did not.

Top three are Melissa, Miles and Sarah. And it’s Miles.
Sarah is trying to stay cool but she’s gutted.
So, that’s the top 24. There are quite a few faces in the crowd I’ve never seen before.
Tomorrow it’s an invention test set by the lovely Billie, last year’s winner – she of the cool, calm demeanour who was always drama free.