‘MasterChef Australia’ Recap: Wrong Guesses, Laura Not Listening And Overcooked Kingfish

We're halfway through the Masterchef season, and Laura has shocked us all by not cooking a pasta dish.

masterchef recap kingfish laura

Last night marked the halfway point of MasterChef: Back To Win, with 24 contestants dwindling down to 12.

With only 13 people left, only the best of the best were left in the MasterChef competition. So to help weed out those who truly knew their stuff, the judges started the elimination by making the contestants play the shittiest game show in all the land, ‘Name That Fish’.

Introducing his old classmate, fish legend and guest judge, Josh Niland, to come and assist, Andy unveiled two benches full of dead fish that the cooks would have to take turns at guessing. From there, the first five to get one wrong would advance through to the second round and cook off against each other.

With the order decided by who entered the kitchen first, Vego Simon started the guesses. Walking up to the table, Vego Simon correctly guessed the ugly flat fish as, well, flathead. Then Callum got pink snapper, Brendan picked garfish, Sarah Tiong went for John dory and Emelia was correct in her choice of coral trout.

Six fish in, Vegan Reece stepped up and managed to name bonito correctly and Tessa aced her choice of mirror dory. As did Pasta Lover Laura with flounder and Tracy with rainbow trout.  But as all the easy-to-name fish dwindled down, Khanh rightfully started to freak the fuck out being in 11th place out of 12.

Stepping up just before Khanh, Last Minute Poh correctly pointed out barramundi — the one fish left that Khanh was confident in. Now faced with a bunch of fish he had a general idea about, but wasn’t 100% sure in, Khanh decided to pick the biggest boy on the table. Knowing it was tuna but not the exact type, Khanh settled on yellowfin, which was wrong and sent him right to the second round.

Next up, Reynold picked out salmon without hesitation, which sent the guessing game right back to Vego Simon. From here, ling, King George whiting, mullet, and red emperor were all guessed correctly. Sadly, on Emelia’s second go round, she was wrong in her choice of what she thought was kingfish, and joined Khanh in the line of failure.

Following the string of bad luck, Vegan Reece also bombed out with what he thought was sand whiting. Then, proving that she really doesn’t listen to other people, Pasta Lover Laura stepped up to the table and named the exact same fish that Vegan Reece literally just sent himself to elimination with.

Rounding out the bottom five, Tracy’s incorrect guess of cod meant that Khanh, Emelia, Reece, Laura, and Tracy would battle it out in round two.

Entering the second round, in some elimination/MasterClass cross-over, Josh started to teach the contestants how to butcher a fuck-off massive kingfish. But for the elimination cook, the bottom five didn’t need this info at all because they were only cooking with the rando pieces that Josh had already butchered.

Whipping out the funkier cuts, Josh started prepping bits like the shank, collar, sashimi loin, double cutlets, butterflied belly, darne, tail chop and four-point rack. From these cuts, the bottom five had to each select a random number that gave them their order to select a butchered bit of fish to use in their cook.

Up first, Khanh selected the darne, Emelia chose the rack, Tracy picked the double cutlets, and Vegan Reece took the butterflied belly — which left Pasta Lover Laura with her first pick of tail chop.

With 60 minutes on the clock, Pasta Lover Laura shocked everyone by shying away from her old faithful of Italian dishes, and instead decided on a smoked pipi sauce and wakame oil to accompany her kingfish tail.

Emelia opted for a cioppino, which is essentially an Italian-American seafood stew. While, on the other side of the world, Tracy decided on some heavy Spanish flavours with pan-fried kingfish cutlet, sweet corn, and a pork belly and chorizo sauce — a dish that Brendan and Reece would’ve probably loved to know about during last week’s challenge.

Still in Europe, Vegan Reece chose to cater to Jock’s palate by going classic French with kingfish belly, potato fondant, and a chicken and butter sauce. While Khahn decided to treat the challenge as his own chance at redemption, by recreating the dish that got him eliminated in his own season — canh chua cá, a sweet and sour Vietnamese tamarind-based soup with fish.

To fix his previous mistakes, Khahn chose to keep the dish as traditional as possible by poaching the fish in the broth instead of grilling it separately. Meanwhile, Pasta Lover Laura whipped out the hibachi to grill the hell out of her tail chop, which she decided to cut in half despite Josh perfectly butchering it for her.

Back over in stew land, Emelia realised that her cioppino was mad salty, which is something she should’ve thought about before throwing in a bunch of proteins that literally came out of the sea, but what do I know? Anyway, she tried to adjust the salt levels by just chucking in some more water, as she fried off her kingfish instead of letting it poach away in the stew itself.

Tasting her powerful ass sauce, Tracy also finally realised that her pork belly and chorizo sauce was way too rich. So, with literally just over 20 minutes to go, Tracy decided to start the sauce all over again, this time with no pork belly in the hopes that the kingfish wouldn’t get overpowered.

During walk-throughs, Jock started to ask each cook how they’d make the fish the star of the dish. And in a surprise to almost everyone, Jock actually stopped to question Pasta Lover Laura’s decision to slice up the tail piece in a challenge focused on top-to-tail cooking — especially when Fish God Josh had perfectly butchered the kingfish for everyone.

This comment from Jock sent Laura into an absolute spin — the kind you see when the teacher’s pet gets yelled at for the first time by their fave teacher. But with 10 minutes to go, there wasn’t really much that Laura could do to pacify her king Jock, so she just continued with her half-tail.

As everyone scrambled to finish and plate their dishes, all their cuts were being poked and prodded with thermometers during the cooking process. While each cook used a different method, they all had a varying worries for their fish. Khahn was scared that his darne would become squeaky or raw, Vegan Reece was worried his belly was undercooked, while Tracy was worried her thin cutlets were going to overcook.

When it came to tasting, Pasta Lover Laura presented her half tail chop first, which didn’t seem to faze guest judge Josh. Impressed by the look of the fish, in particular by the crispy skin, the judges absolutely loved the dish and the fact that the flavours matched the presentation.

Up next, Vegan Reece shakily presented his chicken and fish combo, which he said was a step out of his comfort zone. Melissa then said it’s good because he “can’t cook cake every day” which is a real rich sentence when they never comment on Pasta Lover Laura’s go-to dish. But I guess it doesn’t matter when you’re Jock’s favourite. Anyway, Reece’s kingfish was heaps overcooked but the accompanying components were beautiful and delish.

Emelia’s giant kingfish rack sadly also suffered the same fate as Vegan Reece. After slicing into the fish, the judges noted that not only was the rack “overwhelmingly overcooked” but the cioppino broth itself was way too salty.

Next, bringing in her fatty Spanish broth, the judges felt that Tracy’s kingfish cutlet was “so well done, it could pat its own back”. When starting to judge the dish, Andy complimented the corn while Jock said that the dish was “nicely seasoned”, which are definitely all critiques you don’t want to hear when your hero ingredient is the fish.

Last but not least, Khanh tearfully presented his redemption dish as he thought his darne cutlet was raw inside. But as the judges cut into the poached fish, they noted how beautifully the kingfish was cooked and how good the broth smelled. It was even so good that Josh licked his bowl and went in for seconds, while Andy gave his fave critique and called the dish “CRACKIN”.

In the end, the elimination came down to the three overcooked kingfish plates that belonged to Vegan Reece, Tracy and Emelia. But the judges felt that there was no coming back from Tracy’s dry-ass fish and fatty sauce and so we said farewell to Tracy and her, what? Five minutes of screen time all season?

On the next episode of MasterChef: Back To Win, the contestants enter into a COVID-19 world and the top 12 take part in a four-team relay, where the winning team will take part in a Pressure Test for immunity instead of elimination.

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