‘MasterChef Australia’ Recap: The World Is Burning But At Least We Have Potatoes
MasterChef Australia season 11 has kicked off Legends Week, and joining them for Sunday's Mystery Box was English chef Rick Stein.
Mandy has been exiled, having borked the condiments elimination challenge with a roast cabbage. For the rest of the contestants, MasterChef Australia is kicking off Legends Week, during which a new top chef will drop in every day and everyone will pretend to know who they are.
Introducing their first guest, George starts listing their work history like he’s playing culinary nerd celebrity heads. The contestants titter in excitement, some wondering if it’s English chef Rick Stein because they are culinary nerds. “If Rick Stein walks through those doors, I’ll probably faint,” massive Stein stan Tessa says to the camera.
Rick Stein then walks through those doors. Nobody faints, but someone does make a very high-pitched shriek which their friends will likely mock them for.
Not only is Rick here to help with the judging, but he’s also put together today’s Mystery Box. No offence to Rick, but it’s a bit dull. Tomato, basil and raisins don’t seem very challenging, and while the cuttlefish and bone marrow are slightly less usual, overall it feels underwhelming.
If I were to put together a Mystery Box, I’d chuck in some durian. See how they handle that. (Hey MasterChef, call me — I have ideas.)
Anyway, it’s good news for the contestants, most of whom are quick to get cooking. Blake is making a smoked tomato sorbet, because that’s a thing the world has decided it’s OK with. Walleed is making a spotted “cake”, because he didn’t want to say “dick”.
The only cook without a clear idea for a dish is Steph, who’s in danger of pulling an Abbey on herself. Absent direction, she’s working on flavour profiles and disparate elements, hoping a dish will eventually fall together.
It looks as though Steph might end up plating a mess, until a quick chat with the judges prompts her to stop, grab a pen and have a think. She soon comes up with a dish and proceeds to confidently execute it, killing 90 percent of this episode’s drama.
At the end of the cook, Steph’s roasted bone marrow with pine nut pudding is selected for tasting, along with Abbey’s cuttlefish with tomato, basil, pesto salad and spicy raisin sauce; Larissa’s chargrilled cuttlefish with garlic bone marrow puree and tomato sugo; Sandeep’s basil lachha paratha with tomato curry; and Tessa’s confit and grilled cuttlefish with roasted garlic and basil sauce.
Rick calls Tessa’s dish “unctuous”, which probably doesn’t mean “oily” or “soapy” in Food Speak judging by the way they act. However, the winner comes down to Larissa or Sandeep, who is just overjoyed the judges like his food.
“Cooking food to bring someone pleasure has always been something that I’ve done, and I think to me that is spiritual,” Sandeep tearily says during his tasting, having pulled an Indian dish out of that box because he is genuinely magic. “This is almost like seeing God.” It is the most passionate I’ve ever heard anyone be about food on MasterChef, and he deserves an award for that alone.
Nevertheless, Sandeep can’t overcome Larissa’s display of technique. Though she left it until last due to fear, violating the only MasterChef cooking tip I’ve retained in 11 seasons, Larissa’s cuttlefish is perfectly cooked and she ascends to the gantry.
Those left behind are thrust into this week’s Invention Test, which gives them 75 minutes to cook a dish using both fish and potatoes. This is great news because I flippin’ love fish and chips. It’s the best thing the British have ever done for the world, and I would happily watch MasterChef’s contestants serve up 19 different variations of the dish.
Unfortunately, Gary betrays me by saying the judges don’t want to see 19 different variations of fish and chips, even though it is objectively the best possible thing you could make when given those ingredients.
— Ben Trobbiani (@BTrobbiani) May 19, 2019
Still, some interesting dishes come out of it, even if 18 of them aren’t fish and chips (shout out to Ben). One of them comes from Steph, who grabs an uncontested bowl of tiny whitebait in the contestants’ lawless scramble for fish.
“One: You don’t have to fillet them. Two: You don’t have to pinbone them. Three: You don’t have to skin them. And you cook them whole!” says Steph, who is growing as a cook at a rate previously only seen in time lapse videos. Her smart selection indicates she probably learnt something from last week’s State Library challenge.
Tati is also cooking her fish whole, leaving it unfilleted, unpinboned and unskinned, however hers is much larger. She’s making a whole barramundi with potato curry, which she’ll steam in some giant banana leaves she grabbed from the MasterChef garden. It sounds amazing, and I am all aboard the Tati Taste Train.
My faith is rewarded. Though she isn’t sure it’s done by the time she presents it to the judges, having only gotten it in the oven with 22 minutes left, Tati’s barramundi is beautifully cooked through, and now it’s the judges’ turn to get religious.
“The sauce is like a hymn in praise of coconut,” says Rick, singing a hymn in praise of Tati. “That’s the sort of dish that everybody would love.”
However, it isn’t all songs of praise. The most disappointing dish of the night comes from Derek, who serves potato scale barramundi with potato fondants. It looks lovely, with the potato slice fish scales sticking to the flesh beautifully despite the judges’ early concerns. Unfortunately, the fish itself needed one more minute in the pan, and Derek resigns himself to the Pressure Test.
Joining him are Leah, whose “boring” yakitori salmon skewers with edamame and kipfler salad and could have done with a char or more sesame seeds, and Jess, whose rainbow trout rillettes with potato chips are “a bit flat”. Neither are clear disasters, but they don’t need to be when you have people serving up whole barramundi with potato curry.
Derek, Leah and Jess will be cooking to stay in the competition tonight, when someone will completely screw up a dessert. I hope it isn’t Derek, purely because desserts are his speciality and that would be too much humiliation for me to watch.
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.