‘MasterChef Australia’ Recap: Ice Cream, Terrible Flavour Combos And Socially-Distanced Tears

I hate it here.

masterchef recap jess

Last night we saw one of the most emotional farewells of the MasterChef: Back To Win season so far.

Starting a whole lot happier, greeted by a giant ice cream stand, Vegan Reece absolutely frothed the challenge set up as soon the contestants entered the kitchen. With Emelia and Reynold heading straight up to the gantry thanks to their immunity wins earlier in the week, the remaining 10 chefs found out they were, obviously, making ice cream for their first round cook.

But instead of it just being a nice, normal challenge, the judges explained that the cooks would have to make two ~wacky~ ice cream flavours that would only work when eaten together. To make matters worse, these two flavours would have to come from both a table of fresh ingredients and one of dry goods, with the five least impressive dishes advancing to the next round.

Given 75 minutes, and no pantry or garden access, the socially distanced contestants rushed over to throw on their plastic gloves and pick from their provided ingredients.

Trying to fulfil the judges brief of not playing it safe, Chaotic Poh decided to fill her basket with the ingredients to make her own fucked up version of neapolitan — with the flavours of strawberry and crème fraîche, and wasabi and vanilla.

Similarly, Sweet Baby Jess decided that this challenge was the perfect opportunity to whip up another one of her “this doesn’t sound like it’s going to be good” desserts. This time settling on the combo of basil, liquorice and dark chocolate, Jock called the pairing “plausible, but a little bit weird”.

Still beaming ear to ear and seeing the dessert challenge as a chance to shine, Vegan Reece took the opportunity to make a mandarin and tarragon ice cream paired with a caramelised white chocolate and miso parfait.

Meanwhile, going with a calmer mix, Khanh chose the combo of vanilla cardamon and smoked rhubarb, which disappointed Dessert King™️ Reynold watching on the gantry above for its lack of inventiveness (and probably because there wasn’t enough bending of time and space going on for his liking).

During the now standard judges huddle, Andy revealed that he actually loves ice cream but definitely NOT cake — even though he continues to scoff it down any chance he gets. Sharing that the sweet treat is his guilty pleasure, Andy explained that he’s a “litre in a sitting guy” and honestly, same.

Providing no real insight beyond “yum, I love ice cream”, Andy decided to give Tessa’s bench a visit. Busy whipping up a beetroot and aniseed myrtle ice cream and a second tamarind one, Andy gave Tessa the super helpful advice of: “Just make it perfect”. And wow, super useful stuff, Andy. Very insightful.

Anyway, after deciding on the (very bad) game plan of “literally just grabbing everything I can” at the start of the cook, Vego Simon still hadn’t found a flavour pairing he liked with only an hour to go. Pressed for time, Simon ended up settling on the boring combo of a molasses and a peach ice cream served on pancakes, which, may I remind you, took him a whole 15 minutes to think of. Bless his soul.

After being unable to figure out how to turn pasta into ice cream, Laura was forced to think on her feet and landed on a toasted wattleseed and roasted fig ice cream. While Sweat King Callum took the safe route with a beetroot blackberry and salted pistachio ice cream.

Similar to Poh, Brendan also decided to incorporate heat with a white chocolate wasabi ice cream and a parsnip one, and also using miso like Vegan Reece, Sarah T chose to make a miso and a corn ice cream, served with miso caramel popcorn.

As the cook continued, the contestants started to plan their other elements to make their dishes more than just two scoops of ice cream on a plate — which, tbh, is actually my idea of a perfect dish.

So in an attempt to tie her beetroot-y, aniseed-y, tamarind-y concoction together, Tessa decided to throw some blackberries into the mix and some accompanying meringue sticks. Meanwhile, to complete her ode to the humble three-year-old, freezer burned neapolitan tub sitting in the back of your grandmas freezer, Chaotic Poh started baking some chocolate bikkies to finish the classic trifecta of flavours.

Terrorising benches once again, Jock started pestering Vegan Reece about his oddly calm demeanour and decision to pick tarragon leaves with tweezers. Meanwhile, Reynold just couldn’t stop helicopter parenting Khanh from the gantry above because he knew that his mate wasn’t being adventurous enough.

Agreeing with the Dessert King™️, Andy walked over to Khanh’s bench and basically told him that his flavour combo was boring and already exists everywhere. And if King Of The Basics™️ Andy Allen is telling you something is boring, then good sir, you better believe it’s BORING.

So in an attempt to make his flavours more ~wacky~ to appease Andy, Khanh decided to drop some bay leaf in with his rhubarb to add a lil’ more kick to his dish.

With only a few minutes remaining, Chaotic Poh decided her wasabi ice cream wasn’t hot enough. To fix this, she poured some raw wasabi paste from the tube right into her already churned ice cream, which was obviously a very bad decision. This was reflected when it came to tasting, where the judges felt that the wasabi flavour was just too jarring on the plate.

Unable to break the wasabi curse, Melissa told Brendan that his idea required refining and that he needed to broaden his techniques, which, let’s be honest, was just a really nice way of saying his dish was shitty. Also on the receiving end of some negative critiques, Sweat King Callum’s dish lacked acidity even though his pistachio ice cream was textbook perfect, and Vego Simon’s pancakes were all out of balance thanks to his overpowering molasses ice cream.

But not all was doom and gloom for the ice cream creations. The judges felt Tessa’s aniseed and tamarind hit the brief with a perfectly balanced mouthful and that Laura’s bitter and sweet ice cream was “utterly Laura”, whatever that means.

Vegan Reece’s tarragon treat was also praised and called his best dish of the competition, Andy gave Sarah T’s miso and caramel creation the dreaded “BANGING” seal of approval, and Khanh’s worries were unwarranted as the judges loved his smoked rhubarb and cardamon combo. Even Andy “this dish is too basic” Allen loved the creation, and said that Khanh needs to “start backing himself and his decisions” despite literally telling him to doubt himself just 20 minutes prior.

Anyway, last but not least, Sweet Baby Jess’ strange liquorice creation was sadly a miss because of the lack of pronounced basil flavour. This meant that Poh, Brendan, Callum, Simon and a teary-eyed Jess were sent to the second round, where they each had to cook with an unusual flavouring pairing pre-chosen by the judges.

With an open pantry and garden, the only rules during the 60-minute cook was that the flavour pairing had to be front and centre.

To meet the brief, Chaotic Poh went for mint and mustard and decided to cook a tortelli di zucca aka pumpkin tortellini — a dish she learned from her totally real and not at all made-up “violin-making friend from Northern Italy”. This dish also allowed her to take a page out of Pasta Lover Laura’s book in the hopes of “tugging at Jock’s little Italian heartstrings” — and honestly, yes. Go for it Poh, take Laura’s Jock-loving beat! We love to see it.

Also going for the mint and mustard flavour pairing, Sweat King Callum chose to make a daal mustard roasted cauliflower with a ginger mint chutney.

Meanwhile, still on the verge of tears from landing in the bottom, Sweet Baby Jess decided to use the pairing everyone seemed to avoid: Carrot and raspberry. Turning her unusual flavour pairing into a mulled wine-style dessert, Jess decided to do yet another dish with far too many elements for an hour-long cook with sorbet, chocolate cremeux, kumquat orange jam and carrot spheres.

Doing something way more chill, Brendan went for peanut butter and basil, and settled for bang bang chicken served with a basil salad.

Despite this essentially being the dish that Melissa said she would make if she had to choose a pairing herself, Andy told Brendan that he was “playing it safe” with his dish… and, what? Andy, did you literally not just say that contestants should ignore what you have to say and start trusting themselves when you judged Khanh’s ice cream? Bad Andy. No more bench walk throughs for you.

In his own world, Vego Simon said fuck veggies and picked lamb and coffee to make *checks notes* hibachi lamb with a *checks notes again just to be sure* coffee jus and served with *checks notes one more time just be certain that I didn’t make this shit up* coffee biscuits????????? Absolutely feral areas.

As time ticked down and there was 30 minutes to go, doing some funky Reynold The Scientist™️ type cooking, Jess started to craft her carrot juice spheres using a sodium alginate bath — which doesn’t really sound like something you should have around food.

Anyway, weirdly actually doing normal, non-chaotic stuff, Poh begun to blend her tortellini filling of roasted pumpkin, amaretti biscuits, cheese, mustard and mint. But in a shock to everyone, Last-Minute Poh was no more as she started to actually track ahead of time for her cook.

At the 10 minute mark, Vego Simon made the smart decision to ditch his bonkers coffee cookie idea. Instead, to inject more coffee flavour, Simon whipped up a roasted coffee butter glaze for the hibachi lamb. But back on his life mission make all the contestants feel shit, Jock decided to taste all of Simon’s elements and tell him that he couldn’t taste coffee in anything, which put Simon back on the terrible coffee cookie path with a quick “coffee crumble”.

Up first, the judges decided to taste Vego Simon’s coffee catastrophe. With perfectly cooked lamb and some nice squash, Andy felt the coffee crumb was way too overpowering. Proving he is truly the most dramatic judge, Jock described the dish as “dank and musty” and said that he was “kinda depressed after eating it”?? Lmao, you literally asked for more coffee. Please make up your mind.

Following up Simon’s mess, Brendan brought in his “too simple” bang bang chicken, which surprise, surprise was perfect despite all the doubt that Andy tried to plant into his mind. All the judges loved Brendan’s dish and said it couldn’t be any better, which is proof why simplicity doesn’t mean shit, especially when Andy cleared his entire plate.

Sweat King Callum’s daal and cauliflower dish also went down a treat, with the judges calling it his best dish yet. This was also the case for Laura’s Poh’s strategic pasta dish, which worked perfectly because Jock loved it and even described it as “a warm hug from nonna”.

Sadly, this praise wasn’t the case for Jess, who’s dessert was unbalanced because of the overpowering flavour of red wine in her sorbet, the chocolate overtaking her main flavours of raspberry and carrot, and the failed juice spherification process.

And in one of the show’s saddest eliminations yet, this meant we had to say goodbye to Jess. This unexpected elimination resulted in a whole heap of tears, which were only made worse 3000x worse by no one being able to hug her because of COVID-19 restrictions. It was like watching a sad puppy whimper and not being able to pat it. I hate it here.

On the next episode of MasterChef: Back To Win, Heats Week starts with a two-round citrus challenge, with the winner bagging a spot in this week’s immunity cook-off.

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