‘MasterChef Australia’ Recap: Abbey Ruins Everything

MasterChef Australia Season 11

Getting eliminated is only the second worst thing that can happen to you on MasterChef Australia. The worst thing is spectacularly screwing your team over with your incompetence, and going down in MasterChef history as a massive joke.

The most famous example of this is John and his white chocolate veloute in season seven, a moment of utter buffoonery that we may never see the like of again. Though Abbey certainly tried her hardest to match it last night.

The episode kicks off with Nigella Lawson breaking into the MasterChef house to fill her Mystery Box with things from the kitchen, like a curious, tipsy woman who lives alone. Fortunately it’s a house full of aspiring chefs, so it yields ingredients such as whole King George whiting and witlof rather than a half-eaten Coles chicken and three squishy cucumbers.

Desperate to impress Nigella, Abbey cooks something “really delicate and beautiful to match her”. Abbey’s leopard print T-shirt also matches Nigella’s jacket, which I am convinced was a deliberate but also weird choice.

MasterChef Australia Season 11

It works out for her for now. At the end of the Mystery Box challenge, the judges taste Abbey’s whiting with plum, witlof and mint; Simon’s buttered semolina with charred witlof and pan seared King whiting; Nicole’s plum pie and smoked vanilla ice cream; and Anushka’s layered cake with plum sauce centre.

However, it is Jess’ pavlova with vanilla cream and smoked plums that wins the cook, Nigella saying it made her want to “jump up and down with joy”. “It actually looks like something from a fairy tale,” she says, providing a sound bite for the ad.

A teary Jess heads up to the gantry, and is thus spared the horror of what is to come. It’s time for MasterChef’s most infamous challenge: The Relay.

In The Relay, contestants cook one after the other in 15-minute increments to create one dish, getting only 45 seconds to relay information to the teammate relieving them. It’s a high-pressure nightmare even by MasterChef standards, and all the contestants laugh and groan nervously.

“The only thing that people think of when you think ‘Masterchef relay’ is ‘white chocolate volute’,” says Nicole, referencing season seven’s notorious Relay.

In that challenge, contestant John cheerfully decided to change his team’s dish midway through the cook, adding a white chocolate volute to the seafood dish and turning the phrase into MasterChef code for “unmitigated disaster which completely screws other people over and is completely your fault”. Nobody wants to be John.

Today, Abbey is John.

MasterChef Australia Season 11

The contestants whose dishes were tasted in the Mystery Box become the team captains. Simon heads Team Yellow, Nicole Team Red, Anushka Team Blue, and Abbey leads Team Green for a certain value of “leads”.

The dishes have to feature another ingredient Nigella pilfered from the MasterHouse: Pistachios. Fortunately it’s a versatile nut, and Teams Yellow and Blue chug along merrily, cooking up pistachio-crusted lamb and pistachio ice cream respectively. Team Red’s Nicole gets started on some ice cream sandwiches with pistachio biscuits.

But Abbey. Abbey is having a mind blank. It’s up to the team captain to set their team up for success with a clear dish and a clear vision, but she cannot come up with anything.

In lieu of trying, Abbey thinks “flavours!” and just starts mindlessly segmenting oranges. Her plan is to scatter complimentary flavours around her bench in the hopes that it will inspire whoever comes next to do her job and come up with a dish. It’s a terrible plan and I hate her for it.

Nigella swings by to ask pointed questions about whether she’s abdicating her captaincy to whoever comes next. Even so, Abbey does not take her fashion icon’s hint, continuing to load up the bench with a random assortment of equipment. “I don’t think this is a risk, I think this the best way to set everyone up.”

Abbey’s profile says she’s from NSW, however her head is nowhere near Earth.

MasterChef Australia Season 11

Finally, Abbey’s time is up. Monica arrives to relieve her, and Abbey basically shouts “Orange! Rosewater! Vanilla ice cream! Flavours!” and leaves, abandoning her teammate to deal with her mess. The only actual element Abbey mentioned was vanilla ice cream, so Monica starts that while trying to figure out what the hell is going on.

“I feel I have huge empathy, but I’m actually enjoying this,” smiles Nigella as Kill Bill sirens wail in Monica’s head. “Is that bad? Does that make me a bad person?”

“Now’s about the time for the white chocolate volute,” says Matt.

Monica scrapes together the chaos and starts both a roasted pistachio praline and an orange curd. This is not a dish, but at least it’s something. Abbey reacts as if this is all according to plan.

“She looks like she’s on track. I set her up with all the equipment on the bench and all the ingredients so she doesn’t have to run around so she seems to be going good,” she says, talking as though she did something useful instead of completely boning her team.

Once Monica’s time is up Mandy comes on board this runaway train, followed by Leah who gets a pistachio biscuit going. But still, by the time poor Larissa has to plate up nobody on Green Team has any clue what their dish is supposed to be. Even oblivious Abbey is beginning to realise that this is not good.

Larissa does what she can, ditching the orange curd because it’s too runny as well as the crumble because it doesn’t taste like pistachio. But despite her best efforts, the end result “just looks like shit”, and hopes aren’t high for the taste either.

MasterChef Australia Season 11

Red Team has problems as well. Walleed is overwhelmed by Nicole’s rapidfire handover, and can’t remember what the dish is meant to be or what ingredient they’re meant to feature.

Piecing together what he has, he decides on a pistachio tart with an ice cream filling, featuring star anise. This is all wrong, but good on him for at least giving Sandeep something other than “flavours”.

Sandeep is weirded out by the alleged dish. “I just have one question: Who’s heard of an ice cream tart?” He rightfully decides the tart shell needs a proper filling, and rushes to the pantry to get ingredients for a star anise custard. I love Sandeep.

Walleed’s mistake is then further mitigated when Joe looks around and realises everyone else is cooking with pistachio. He passes on his doubt about the star anise to Kyle and advises him to try heroing both ingredients. This causes Kyle to candy up some pistachios for garnish and only add a small scoop of the star anise ice cream.

I still haven’t forgiven him for his fake scallop audition dish, but Kyle did good.

MasterChef Australia Season 11

The judging goes pretty much how you’d expect. Yellow Team’s pistachio-crusted lamb with confit fennel and pistachio and fennel salad is even better than captain Simon envisaged, winning the challenge and sending them to join Jess to cook for immunity. Blue Team’s dish of pistachio ice cream goes down well too.

Sadly Red Team’s “pistachio sablée tart with flavours of the Middle East” is less successful. Matt compliments Kyle on his camouflage, because it certainly looks pistachio-y, but the ice cream was over flavoured and custard under flavoured.

But Green Team. Oh, Green Team.

They present something called a “Middle Eastern Delight”, which is the kind of thing you say on MasterChef when you have no clue what the hell you’re serving. “Nigella means so much to me and I feel like I’ve let her down,” says Abbey to the camera, while Twitter screams that letting her team down is way worse. Nobody is sympathetic.

“You’re told ‘pistachio’ is the ingredient and your initiative is to say a vanilla bean ice cream?” asks Nigella, the Nigella equivalent of tearing someone apart. “I think you didn’t want to take responsibility.”

“It’s an orange vanilla dessert with a sprinkle of pistachios,” says Gary.

The praline isn’t crunchy, the ice cream is eggy, and there just isn’t enough pistachio. Green Team’s dish is a disaster, so it’s no surprise they’re going into the Pressure Test, which will see one of them leave the MasterChef kitchen. If there’s any justice, it will be Abbey.

Amanda Yeo is a Sydney-based writer, lawyer and MasterChef enthusiast who still thinks Reynold should have gotten an immunity pin for his 30/30 dessert in season seven. Follow her on Twitter: @amandamyeo.