‘MasterChef Australia’ Recap: ‘T’ Is For ‘Test Your Damn Food’
Earlier this week Monica paid the price for Abbey’s failure to lead in the surprise relay challenge, becoming the fourth contestant to be evicted from the MasterChef kitchen because there is no justice in this world.
Now, in MasterChef Australia‘s latest challenge, two teams prepare a three-course meal for 80 Victorian teachers, based upon 1920 and 1954 Victorian state dinners. They also learn valuable lessons about testing their food before sending it out.
Prince Harry is stoked because he works in a primary school, so he’s two for two on personally relevant team challenges. He’s on the Purple Team, led by moustache Kyle, while house mum Steph captains the Burgundy Team. I’m presuming these colours are being used because the more easily differentiated aprons from last week are still in the wash.
The teams get a few minutes to read over the old-timey menus. Nigella then flings her black fringed sleeves in the air and curses them to the depths of the State Library of Victoria, which has a full commercial kitchen despite the library rules explicitly stating you aren’t allowed to eat in the building.
Kyle quickly assigns his teammates to the “gaudy kind of Victorian stuff” he wants to serve, while Steph asks people to volunteer for each course and brainstorm dishes in smaller groups. Their different approaches lead to the same outcome, and both teams choose to serve whiting for their entree, because even after 10 seasons people still think filleting and pinboning a crap ton of fish under immense pressure is a good idea.
Burgundy Team at least stick to one fillet per person, committing to purgatory rather than straight up hell. This is fortunate, as they have to sacrifice a few fillets to unsuccessful tests while deciding how to cook it.
Meanwhile, Purple Team goes balls to the wall and decides that not only will every entree get two fillets, but they will also be rolled up into little fish tubes for the aesthetic. They appear to have forgotten how time limits work.
Civilisations rise and fall while the Purple Team preps the fillets, and it soon becomes obvious even to them that they have overfished. Matt asks Kyle if Purple Team have done a tester, which they haven’t because they are too busy pinboning the entire ocean, and Nigella looks terrified.
Kyle’s already low heart visibly sinks even further. “If I don’t make sure everything gets done then that’s me essentially dropping the ball and sending everyone through to elimination.”
In a brilliant moment of editing, we then cut to notorious ball dropper Abbey, who is taking team Burgundy Team’s dishes to the serving area upstairs, a room that also exists in Victoria’s State Library. All Burgundy Team’s entrees are ready for plating, while Purple Team are still rolling raw fish into tubes.
“Poor them,” says Nigella. Nigella on MasterChef feels like a Disney character who’s discovering schadenfreude for the first time and trying not to enjoy it.
Burgundy Team serves their entree of whiting in butter grapefruit sauce with herb salad, and it is tender and delicious. The judges happily note that the mint modernises the old fashioned sauce, and Burgundy Team heads back down to finish prep on their mains.
Meanwhile, the Purple Team are screaming in the bowels of the library. Vegetable-lover Simon oversees the cooking of the last fish tubes as the team rushes up their entree. “I just hope that the fish is cooked perfectly,” he tells the camera.
Spoiler: It is not.
The whiting with wilted spinach, dill beurre blanc and caviar looks appropriately retro, however rolling the fish made it harder to cook through, leaving the skin tough. Turns out it was a lot of work just to make the fish worse.
All is not well on Burgundy Team either, as the chicken marylands for their main come out of the oven looking far from golden brown. Steph has Blake finish them in the pan to give them a bit of colour, and the team plates up their chicken maryland with pea puree and chicken jus.
However, though the meat appears fine at first glance, cutting into it reveals enough pink to blend into a Janelle Monae music video. George grabs one of the teacher’s plates and heads toward the serving room.
Seeing a plate return is the MasterChef equivalent of seeing the grim reaper standing by your bed. Accordingly, Burgundy Team’s good mood instantly vanishes when they see what George is carrying. The chicken may not be cooked, but they certainly are.
“Before you send any more chicken – ” says George.
“Ah, shit,” says Steph.
“ – Check ‘em all.”
“This is totally my responsibility,” laments Steph to the camera. “I should have checked the chicken. I didn’t.” She apologises to her teammates, which is more than Abbey did, as Team Burgundy rush the chicken back downstairs and into the oven. They’re now short the plates that had already gone out as well, so they grab the leftover chicken breasts and start new dishes to replace them.
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“The competition isn’t even on our minds at the moment,” says Jess to the camera. “The task we’ve been given is to feed these teachers today, and that’s the most important thing to do.”
The chicken is much improved after being blasted in the oven for a few minutes, and ends up “nice and crispy”. But the damage has been done.
Purple Team takes the chance to catch up, as Prince Harry cuts into their lamb to find it beautifully pink and moist. Their main of lamb backstrap with minted pea puree and parsnip and sweet potato chips goes down wonderfully with the judges. Matt declares that he loves it, and the Purple Team are firmly back in the running.
Dessert is smooth sailing in comparison to the previous two courses. Purple Team serves up a venetian parfait with no issue, consisting of a chocolate parfait, coffee tuile, coffee granita, muscatel and rum sauce. It goes down a treat with the judges.
Burgundy Team hits a bump when a test of their almond, coffee and cherry bombe alaska reveals that their Italian meringue is over-whipped and split. Nevertheless, Nicole hastily whips up two new batches of meringue, and nobody in the dining room is any the wiser. The judges think the dish could be more refined, but Nigella declares that it brought her “more joy than a chocolate parfait”.
Even so, the judges agree that Purple Team’s menu was a better meal in the spirit of the challenge. While their entree was a mess, they nailed their other two dishes. Meanwhile, though Burgundy did well with their entree and dessert, their chicken couldn’t be overlooked.
“Even if your dessert was the best in the world, it wouldn’t have been enough to overcome the fact that your chicken was undercooked,” says George, making Nicole’s frantic effort to quickly whip a new Italian meringue feel especially pointless.
Nigella tries to comfort them, pointing out that “some of you look like you’re trying not to cry” because she has apparently never comforted someone before. But the fact remains that Burgundy Team are going into elimination, where a fifth contestant will be sacrificed to the MasterChef Australia judges so the rest may live.
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.