TV

In Defence Of ‘MasterChef Australia’s Flavour Genius Larissa

Some viewers of MasterChef Australia are unhappy with Larissa's win. To them I say: Larissa is a brilliant food innovator, and you are all just jealous.

MasterChef Australia Season 11

I didn’t think I’d have to say this, but it turns out a bunch of you are molluscs who cannot comprehend truth even when it is broadcast into your homes over 61 hour-long episodes. So here it is losers: MasterChef Australia‘s Larissa is a brilliant food prodigy, and you are all just jealous.

I understand where you’re coming from. At 22 years old I was in uni, racking up thousands of dollars in debt for a double degree I could probably have lived without.

My culinary skills were limited, to say the least, and the concept of ever owning $250,000 was nothing more than wistful fuel for daydreams and bantered hypotheticals.

Considering the sad mattress barnacle I was at that age, the scale of Larissa’s achievement seems improbably, impossibly impressive. Not only has this young restaurant manager from New South Wales taken out the title of MasterChef Australia 2019, beating out hundreds of other amateur cooks, she has done so by creating unusual flavour combinations which have baffled even seasoned chefs.

Black olive madeleines. Parsnip ice cream. As the competition progressed, Larissa pushed herself to plate up increasingly imaginative dishes that both intrigued and delighted diners, serving food few have ever tasted before. She took risks and challenged convention, displaying culinary acumen one might find in a professional chef.

However, despite Larissa’s obvious skill and hard work, some viewers have expressed displeasure at her MasterChef win. They’ve complained that all she’s made are panna cottas, parfaits and ice creams, and is undeserving of the coveted title.

Aside from being exceedingly bitter, this allegation is provably false. If it pleases the court, I’d like to submit into evidence a list of the top dishes Larissa has made during MasterChef Australia, as recorded on the show’s official website:

  1. Szechuan pavlova with beetroot and blackberry
  2. Marron with bisque
  3. Bone marrow with onion soubise
  4. Lemon creme fraiche and cucumber
  5. Parsnip ice cream with caramelised pears and chocolate sauce
  6. Lemon parfait with black olive madeleine and poppy seed cream
  7. Sweet corn panna cotta with cornflake ice cream
  8. Yakitori style chicken with bonito mayonnaise and furikake seasoning
  9. Creme fraiche parfait with peach sorbet, poached peach and peach syrup
  10. Poached marron with eggplant and marron bisque
  11. Tiramisu french toast
  12. Chocolate and cola panna cotta with cola honeycomb
  13. Pear and ginger cake with lemon verbena custard
  14. Kanafeh with rose and strawberry sorbet
  15. Chargrilled cuttlefish with garlic bone marrow puree and tomato sugo
  16. Caramelised banana sundae
  17. Spiced crispy pork with scallion pancake
  18. Chocolate “jaffa”

This demonstrates that Larissa can cook considerably more than just panna cottas and parfaits, and cook it well.

But sure. Let’s entertain that argument for a moment, just for a laugh. Complaining that Larissa only makes frozen desserts is like complaining that Jiro Ono only makes sushi. It’s like complaining that Sandeep only makes “curry”. It’s dismissive, belittling and minimises her innovation, completely ignoring the absolutely wild flavours she’s introduced to the medium.

You cannot reasonably look at a successful chocolate and cola or sweet corn panna cotta and accuse its maker of not knowing how to cook.

Some have also pointed to Larissa’s problems in the grand finale as proof that she should not be this year’s MasterChef. She was late getting her entrees out, while her meringues collapsed and ice cream froze solid. How, they say, could the judges score her so highly?

To address this point, I will cite MasterChef Australia season seven episode 48. In this Immunity Challenge, dessert king Reynold plated up a passionfruit sphere and coconut granita with pineapple that won a perfect 30/30 from the judges. It’s a dish that’s gone down in MasterChef Australia history, but few remember that his sphere wasn’t quite set, slumping in its coconut shell.

Presentation is only part of a dish, and a minor aesthetic hiccup couldn’t mar the texture and flavour of Reynold’s dessert. So it was with Larissa’s szechuan pavlova, even more so because she was able to mitigate the issues and present a plate she could be proud of.

In fact, Larissa’s ability to manage setbacks and deliver beautiful, delicious food regardless is a point in her favour. A good chef isn’t determined merely by what they cook and how they cook it, but also how they deal with problems. It would be easy to become a MasterChef if every cook always went perfectly.

Finally, scraping the bottom of the barrel for objections to Larrisa’s hard-earned win, detractors have even said that her expression is not to their liking. Whether winning or losing, it seems that this 22-year-old woman cannot contort her facial features into a configuration that is acceptable to the couch-bound public, who in turns have found her smug, insufficiently gracious and faux modest.

To this, I will say only two things.

Firstly, I want you to think of that face you pull when people sing ‘Happy Birthday’ at you. Now imagine having that broadcast to a few million people across Australia, many of whom will judge you for it.

Secondly, if you’re sitting at home, judging a young woman for not having the correct facial expression while she achieves things beyond her wildest dreams, maybe reassess your life.

Larissa is MasterChef Australia‘s champion for 2019. Take that and eat it.