‘MasterChef Australia’ Recap: Bonito Redemption And Laura’s Super Simple Strawberries

Tag yourself: I'm Reynold showing absolutely no emotion while everyone else is sobbing.

masterchef recap finals strawberries laura

With only two episodes to go, the race to the grand finale is well and truly on.

And, to whittle down the top four to the final three, Sweat King Callum, Pasta Lover Laura and Dessert King Reynold took part in an two-round elimination last night, as Emelia watched above from the gantry.

Seeing two separate pantries behind Melissa and brothers in blue, Jock and Andy, the bottom three learned they had had to choose between boring, regular ingredients (which Laura, of course, absolutely frothed over) and an extraordinary pantry full of “special occasion” ingredients (which Reynold probably drooled over, but we’ll never really know because that man refuses to show emotion of any kind).

Despite loving all the snoozefest ingredients, Laura decided to jump out the gate with the ~luxury~ pantry, as did Reynold and Callum. However, even with all the luxe items available, Pasta Lover Laura only started picking all the boring shit in front of her, like turnips. Girl, love yourself. Love the judges. Please.

Thankfully, Andy and Mel called out her boring basket, and so Laura grabbed some caviar and truffle to appease the nosy judges. With her weird mix of ingredients, Laura settled on salt-baked turnip with truffle puree and caviar — a dish Laura described as “based on humble flavours”, which really was just a nice way of saying boring as hell.

Also overwhelmed by the sheer number of ingredients available, but at least doing something interesting, the Dessert King decided to not stick to his strengths of desserts. Instead, Reynold gathered his ingredients for a cheeky savoury dish of hibachi bonito with bonito tartare, kohlrabi flower and bonito wine sauce.

Still harping on about how he was eliminated in his original season off the back of overcooked bonito, Reynold decided that cooking bonito 73 different ways this time was the key to redemption and progressing into the top three. Do you Fish King, do you.

Meanwhile, Callum stood at his bench and put his trusty old Strategy Hat™️ back on as he planned out his luxury dish. You see, Callum somehow decided that saving his best dish and preferred pantry for the second round was the smartest move. Instead of, hm, I don’t know? Just doing really well in round one to avoid elimination altogether? Logic? We don’t know her.

Anyway, with his second choice pantry, Callum settled on duck served with smoked beetroot, Quandong and Jerusalem artichoke puree. Starting on his cook, despite having used sous vide machines, smoke guns and liquid nitrogen throughout the competition, Callum seemed to struggle with his corkscrew of all things.

Once he had figured out the complex contraption, the Sweat King started to incorporate all his native ingredients, which naturally brought Native Ingredient Expert™️ Jock out from the shadows along with his own shadow, Andy. Begging him to “tame his brain”, Jock urged Callum to reduce his massive number of elements. But again, like the king he is, Callum essentially said “hmmm thanks, but no thanks” and continued on his merry way with the dish he had originally planned. Icon.

With time ticking down, Laura started to finally add some luxe to her balls of salty turnips, by making a puree out of truffle, celeriac and *checks notes* even more fucking turnips. Also chipping away at his cook, Reynold dipped back into his perfectionist dessert ways and begun to form a literal flower out of shaved kohlrabi, as one does.

Meanwhile, as Callum prepared his billion “big flavour”elements for service, the CEO of Doing Absolutely Too Much decided that there wasn’t enough going on in his dish. So, Callum grabbed some wattleseed to add to the duck he was frying off, with less than 15 minutes to go.

While having war-like flashbacks to his overcooked bonito from Season 7, Reynold begun the dreaded cook of his fish, too. Placing the bonito fillet onto the hibachi, Reynold picked up the searing hot grill plate with his bare hands like the sorcerer he is. Sadly, all this moving and shaking did nothing as Reynold realised his fish skin got stuck and burnt onto the wire rack anyway.

Starting all over again with only a few minutes remaining, Reynold’s magic, un-burnable fingers somehow managed to create and plate a perfectly cooked bonito with just seconds to spare.

When it came to tasting, the judges felt that Laura’s turnips served with turnips and garnished with turnips salt-baked turnip dish, while delicious and extraordinary, was nothing compared to Reynold’s fish bomb.

Similarly, Andy dipped into his extensive vocabulary (I’m lying) as he shared that Callum’s dish was just “awesome” and had “bags of flavour”. And, despite all the unnecessary worry and criticism about the number of ingredients Callum was using, Jock said that the Sweat King’s dish was “easily the most balanced” plate of food he’s brought up. Almost like it’s a sign for the judges to stop planting seeds of doubts in the contestant’s minds mid-cook! Weird how that works!

But even though Laura and Callum did well, Reynold’s redemption bonito was just too good to not bag a spot in the top three. After a dramatic and triumphant score played behind Reynold’s critiques, the judges announced that Laura and Callum would face off in round two, equipped with their ~ordinary~ pantry ingredients.

Jumping right into it, Callum proved that he’s far too sweet and kind for this competition by handing Laura a shopping basket before even taking one for himself. Ow. My heart.

Anyway, once the gentlemanly gestures were out of the way, Callum grabbed what he needed for coconut poached snapper with a coriander sauce, roasted chilli oil and crispy ginger, and started his cook by making a stock out of his fish head and bones.

Meanwhile, going for sweet, boring, and, sorry, but a total fucking cop out for a top four cook, Laura decided to make her take on strawberries :) and :) cream :). And, no. It wasn’t some elaborate dessert with nine elements, a technique no one has ever seen before, or anything that required safety goggles.

Laura was literally making strawberry sorbet served with whipped ricotta, a crumble, granita and strawberries. Like, sorry? You mean to tell me that “strawberries and cream” — a dish that Laura literally admitted was her playing it safe — is a fine combination that isn’t “too simple” for this point in the competition, but Reece’s beetroot and goat’s cheese was? Make any of this make some damn sense. PLEASE.

With almost half their time elapsed, Callum decided to shove his snapper and stock into the sous vide machine while he prepared his other elements.

Over on the sweet side, Laura begun to whip her ricotta for the cReAm element of her StRaWbErRiEs AnD CrEaM dessert. Happy with the flavour but unhappy with the grainy texture of her ricotta, Laura had a cheeky mental breakdown and started sobbing over her cheese — which is basically just what I call my usual Thursday nights.

Totally lost on what to do, Emelia and Reynold tried to help Laura with her ricotta debacle and suggested straining it or making an entirely different cream altogether. But to fix the problem, Laura just blitzed her ricotta a little more and solved her pressing crisis.

However, despite helping Laura out from the gantry above, no one found it important to remind Callum about his fish overcooking in the water bath. Instead Emelia and Reynold just spoke between themselves about how they, personally, would’ve taken the fish out 10 minutes earlier. So very helpful, that.

After an obviously tough cook, Callum started to cry over his MasterChef journey and coming to terms with the idea that either he was leaving or was going to be responsible for his close friend being booted from the competition. And because Callum, the human Golden Retriever, was crying, it was only natural that Emelia and Laura started to cry too.

As Callum asked for a few minutes to compose himself, Laura went on her own emotional spiel, and the pair (probably) broke social distancing rules off-camera to comfort each other, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Except, of course, Reynold the Robot™️, who didn’t shed a single tear and looked entirely unfazed during the whole thing. Truly iconic.

Moving into tasting, the judges chowed down on Laura’s safe and simple strawberry dessert. Despite it being an uninventive dish, the judges didn’t have much negative to say about it. In fact, Andy praised how simple and well done the dish was (Justice for Reece, honestly) and Jock shared that while the dish was safe, it was well-executed.

For Callum, his critiques were the opposite. Despite having a pretty inventive dish with great flavours, that long ass time in the sous vide left Callum’s fish ever so slightly overcooked and with a mushy texture.

And because basic and safe dishes > slightly overdone innovative plates of food, we had to say goodbye to Callum, the greatest, kindest and most pure man that has ever walked through the MasterChef kitchen doors.

On the next episode of MasterChef: Back To Win, the top three compete for a spot in this year’s Grand Final for a Pressure Test created by three-hatted guest chef, Martin Benn.

MasterChef: Back To Win returns Sunday at 7.30pm on Channel Ten. 

Michelle Rennex is a Senior Writer at Junkee who can’t cook, but enjoys judging people like she can. You can follow her on Twitter at @michellerennex