‘MasterChef’ Australia Recap: Geography Lessons, Blown Sugar Balls And “American Cuisine”

"Reynold started with apple pie as a concept and ended up with a terrarium."

masterchef recap american

Last night officially marked the end of dreaded Twist Week.

But in true MasterChef fashion, it couldn’t end without a real bang. You see, right before the cook even started, Jock finally addressed what Australia had all been waiting for: that Ice Cream Ben had been booted from the comp.

Instead of talking of the arrest at all, however, Jock simply said that Ben left for a “personal matter”. To add to the drama of it all, the contestants all acted shocked by the news, despite already being fully aware as they all literally lived in the same place together during filming.

Anyway, entering the kitchen, the remaining 14 contestants — bar Poh, who was gifted immunity thanks to THE Ms Katy Perry — learned they were cooking off against their bench mates in the first round. Then, whoever created the worst dish of the two in 60 minutes would head to the second round.

After blindly choosing their stations, the cooks opened their cloches to find different cuisines and countries. Sweat King Callum and Vego Simon had to go head to head with French, Jess and Tessa scored Vietnamese, Khanh and Sarah T unveiled Italian, Emelia and Laura landed Japanese, and Brendan and Reece were given Spanish.

Throwing some pairings into the deep end, Tracy and Hayden — who are two white chefs who shared they rarely cook Asian food — were left with Chinese, while Dessert King Reynold and Redhead Sarah unveiled American, which, let’s be real, is hardly a type of cuisine.

With a shorter cooking time than normal, the contestants sprinted to the pantry. But despite the wide range of cuisines they had to cook, most were just worried about having to cook off against their closest friends — none more so than actual angels and best friend duo, Reece and Brendan.

Out of her comfort zone, Tracy begun cooking blue swimmer crab in a black bean and chilli oil sauce to hit the Chinese brief while Backwards Cap Hayden went for simple “dumplings in a really nice broth”, which is something that Dumpling God Brendan actually taught him how to cook the night before.

Meanwhile, still confused over what the fuck “American cuisine” actually was, Reynold, for the first time this season, looked genuinely stressed out but decided on a modern take on a traditional apple pie. But because he isn’t capable of just cooking something chill, the Dessert King shared that he was going to Reynold-ify his dish with some blown sugar domes.

Just a few metres away, Redhead Sarah proved she understood the brief to a tee, as she poured a fuck off giant bottle of oil into a fryer for some buffalo wings with homemade hot sauce.

On the Vietnamese bench, Tessa started her pork and prawn bánh xèo (savoury pancake) and Jess decided on bún bò Huế (spicy soup). After being dealt Japanese cuisine, Laura was finally forced into a situation where she couldn’t make pasta. Instead she opted for tsukune aka Japanese meatballs, while her rival Emelia went for a meatless dish of tofu and tomato salad.

Standing in the garden picking veg with Reece, Emelia found out that Reece was going for a crema catalana with a rando rhubarb compote to hit the Spanish brief. Reece’s bestie Brendan on the other hand went savoury with a cumin-spiced prawn and potato parcel, which I guess is somehow Spanish? Who knows what the hell was going on in their minds.

But as off-brand Gordon Ramsay, Jock, started doing his intimidating walk throughs around the kitchen, he gave the Spanish bench a very hard time. Grilling Reece and Brendan like it was some sort of Year 8 geography test, Jock left the boys questioning their understanding of Spanish cuisine. While Brendan decided to power through with his original dish, Reece swapped out his rhubarb compote to stewed figs in an attempt to make his dish more ~Spanish~.

Meanwhile, over on Laura’s dream bench of Italy, Sarah T begun whipping up tortellini en brodo, which shocked Jock. Because apparently only Asian people can cook Asian food, Jock assumed that Sarah T had to be out of her comfort zone despite her cooking Italian all the time at home. To battle Sarah’s toretellini, Khanh was whipping up a seafood pasta in a sugo sauce.

Over in France, Vego Simon and Sweat King Callum were so calm (read: boring) that they literally got almost no screen time. But that wasn’t the case for Reynold the Scientist™️, who was literally using magic to craft some blown sugar balls with only 15 minutes left on the clock.

As Reynold begun his second batch of sugar bubbles, the contestants spoke about him in awe and the judges literally RAN over in excitement to watch the process — and if that’s not proof that the man should win the competition already, I truly don’t know what is.

With two minutes to go, the contestants scrambled to finish cooking and plating their dishes. During this time Backwards Cap Hayden decided to not taste his dumplings because he wanted the judges to have as many as possible, and Brendan fearfully looked down at his fried parcels knowing full well that they were never going to pass as Spanish.

Going for American first, the judges were still baffled by Reynold’s ability to do what he did in only an hour-long cook. Tasting just as good as it looked, the judges called the dish “visually unbelievable” and a “wow of a dessert”. While, they also all loved Redhead Sarah’s classic buffalo wings, they rightfully chose Reynold as the round winner, sending Sarah to the second round.

In the Chinese cook off, not tasting his wontons was ultimately Backwards Cap Haydo’s demise. Even though the broth and filling were delicious — and for the first time, actually well-seasoned —  the pastry itself ended up being raw. This was the total opposite to Tracy’s crab that was cooked and seasoned perfectly, sending Hayden right to round two.

Keeping with the Asian theme, the judges felt that Jess’ soup was the superior Vietnamese dish, and that Emelia’s tofu salad was the best representation of Japanese cuisine. This meant that both Tessa and Laura had landed themselves in the bottom.

With their zero screen time, we finally learned that Callum whipped up a quick version of a prawn and calamari bouillabaisse. Sadly, the judges felt that the soup itself needed more time for the flavours to deepen, and so Vego Simon won with his pan-fried snapper and veg.

Continuing with their travel around Europe, the judges then tasted bench Italy and found that Khanh’s seafood pasta was superior to Sarah T’s tortellini. Then, saving the most controversial to last, Andy called up besties Reece and Brendan to present their “Spanish” dishes.

Unsurprisingly, the judges continued to complain about Brendan’s dish not being Spanish at all. Calling it a “Spanish dumpling”, Andy found that while the brick pastry and filling were great, they just weren’t the right flavours for the brief. However, the judges also felt Reece’s dessert was more French crème brûlée and English in its accompaniments than Spanish. But ultimately, Reece was still more on brief than Brendan, and so was ruled safe.

This left Backwards Cap Hayden, Redhead Sarah, Laura, Tessa, Brendan, Sarah T and Sweat King Callum to battle out in the 60-minute second round with the twist of no twist.

Instead, the bottom seven just had to pick a popular flavour pairing  — of apples and cinnamon, tomato and basil, ginger and lemongrass, walnuts and dates, or beetroot and horseradish — and make sure it shone in their final dish.

Going with lemongrass and ginger, Sarah T went for prawns in a lemongrass and ginger caramel with green mango salad. Using the same pairing, Brendan decided on a Vietnamese-style yum cha dish of lemongrass and ginger pork rice flour rolls, and Tessa chose to make a seared sashimi bonito served with a lemongrass and ginger granita.

The only one going for tomato and basil, Laura fucking frothed the unveiling of her fave ingredients that allowed her to go back to her old faithful of pasta with a hand-rolled cavatelli with tomato and chilli sugo.

Also opting for savoury, Redhead Sarah decided to make a beetroot, horse radish and beef tartare with wattleseed crackers. Using the same star ingredients, Backwards Cap Haydo settled on a hibachi grilled rolled beef served with ketchup made of the horse radish and beetroot, which truly was…… a choice.

Despite Jock reminding Hayden that this challenge was all about showcasing the star ingredients, the hint totally went over his cap-wearing head. Meanwhile, as the only one cooking dessert, Sweet King Callum decided to follow in Reynold’s footsteps by choosing cinnamon and apple to make a cake with cinnamon ice cream and apple caramel.

The cook itself went pretty smoothly up until five minutes to go, where Redhead Sarah tearfully cracked her egg yolk as she tried to plate her tartare and Hayden again refused to taste his dish.

When it came to tasting, Callum’s cake was perfectly cooked and, in a surprise to literally no one on Earth, the judges absolutely loved Laura’s pasta, again. Also, while tasting the lemongrass and ginger dishes, Melissa eloquently noted that Brendan redeemed himself with his rice flour rolls, and that Tessa’s fish and granita combo absolutely nailed the brief. But resident Bogan Andy just called all the dishes rippers with banging flavours that were just super tasty, of course.

Sadly, Sarah T’s prawns, while delicious, didn’t let the lemongrass and ginger sing over the other ingredients. Similarly, Redhead Sarah also received some tough critiques when her pink tartare was simply called fine — not the best, but not the worst. However, her flavours of horse radish and beetroot did sing through — albeit probably too much.

But honestly, no mistakes were larger than Hayden’s questionable decision to turn his star ingredients into a side of dipping sauce. Not only this, but Haydo’s beef was way overcooked thanks to the hibachi and his constant lack of tasting before service, which ultimately sent the King Of Backward Caps home.

God, we’ll miss you Hayden: human Golden Retriever and only MasterChef contestant who has ever been afraid of salt.

On the next episode of MasterChef: Back To Win, the contestants are split into two teams for a service challenge where they’re tasked with creating one entirely savoury menu and one dedicated to sweet.

MasterChef: Back To Win returns tonight 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