‘MasterChef Australia’ Recap: Everything Is Awful And Nothing Goes Right
The latest Team Challenge on MasterChef Australia had three teams attempt to serve delicious street food to 120 people. "Attempt" is the operative word.
Watching the latest episode of MasterChef Australia is like watching people frantically trying to prop up a slowly collapsing building, only for a semi-trailer to run straight through it.
In this week’s Team Challenge, contestants are taking over three restaurants in Melbourne’s HWKR food centre.
Three teams must each cook three street-food style dishes, one vegetarian and two proteins, for 120 people. Service starts after 90 minutes, during which they have another 90 minutes to finish cooking.
“Guys, make it delicious, but don’t overcomplicate it,” advises Israeli-English guest chef Yotam Ottolenghi, having arrived in a completely unnecessary helicopter. “We’re talking street food – simple, delicious and bold.” These words definitely haunt at least one team at night.
The contestants are randomly split into teams. Yellow Team, led by Nicole, will serve Mexican. Simon is leading Green Team, which will serve Indian. Blue Team will serve Malaysian under Tessa’s direction. And Australians of colour will serve takes on MasterChef‘s versions of their cultural dishes.
Time starts, and Simon’s Green Team run into problems almost immediately. Deciding to cook lamb vindaloo, they join the other teams in grabbing ingredients like suburban mums at a Boxing Day sale.
Unfortunately, they mistakenly pick up beef, the one meat famous for not being eaten by Indians. “We cannot have beef in the Indian cuisine. Absolutely not. We will be insulting them,” Tati rightfully says.
There’s no lamb left, Derek having grabbed it all for Yellow Team’s pulled lamb quesadillas, so Green Team put Tati on a fish curry instead. With the crisis averted, the rest of their cook goes smoothly.
Just kidding! Green Team’s tiny Melbourne kitchen is actually a previously unrecorded circle of Hell, and they are also cursed.
It isn’t all bad for Green Team. With around 45 minutes to go, the other two teams appear equally boned. Paradoxically, the contestants seem to be getting worse at Team Challenges as the season progresses.
Blue Team’s Steph is shelling prawns at a pace that would get her clocked by a speed camera, but she still needs to start on her curry sauce. Her teammate Sandeep is prepping rice for the nasi goreng, but he needs to start his sambal if it’s going to cook down.
Meanwhile, Yellow Team’s Kyle is trying to make 240 tortillas for the quesadillas, because nobody learned from MasterChef Australia seasons one to 10 that dishes with individual elements are a nightmare when cooking for huge crowds.
Fortunately, Yellow Team’s captain Nicole descends like a golden-headed goddess to transform Kyle’s quesadillas into tacos. This immediately halves the number of tortillas required, and Kyle gets further help when Prince Derek arrives, having finished prepping the filling.
Yellow Team is managing its setbacks well, but Green Team is in shambles. They’re running behind on every dish, which involve too many processes because they ignored the guest judge’s opening advice, as per MasterChef tradition.
On Gary’s suggestion, Green Team have decided to serve their tandoori chicken on the bone rather than waste any more time deboning. Now Matt swings by to suggest they could save even more time by making a samosa pie instead of individual samosas. It sounds super bad, but sure. Desperate times, I guess.
It turns out to be a moot point anyway. Anushka doesn’t think their pastry will work in the oven, and a quick tester proves her right. The baked dough is too dry, so Green Team have no choice but to continue on with their initial plan. Anushka decides to make the samosas into a quicker moon shape rather than the traditional cones, but it still takes ages.
The one thing that may save Green Team is the massive screw up happening on Blue Team. With 10 minutes to go, Sandeep is having severe difficulties with his nasi goreng. He didn’t do a thorough enough job washing and draining the rice before cooking it, and now it vaguely resembles Clag glue.
“It. Is. Mushy. Oh my god,” says Sandeep despairingly to the camera. “Oh my god, this is going to become a porridge. This is not nasi goreng.”
Freaking out, Sandeep tries to wash the cooked rice. This predictably doesn’t help, but panic has thrown his brain into as much chaos as his dish.
There’s really nothing Blue Team can do to salvage the nasi goreng in their remaining time. Team captain Tessa decides to put the egg through the rice instead of on top, presumably trying to reintroduce some structure to the mess, but it looks gluggy, unappetising and highly binnable.
“I really don’t want to be that guy who dragged the team into elimination tomorrow,” says Sandeep to the camera. “I hope we sail through this.”
This is way more optimistic than his mound of wet rice warrants.
Green Team’s curse is still in full swing however, and they’re still cooking all their dishes when service starts. “We can’t even serve one diner right now let alone 120,” says team captain Simon, who is attempting to internalise his panic so it doesn’t spread.
At this point, their challenge is less about serving delicious food than about serving any food. Simon makes a valiant effort to scrape things together. They don’t have time to make a tamarind chutney for the samosas, so he decides to add a mint yoghurt sauce instead. He checks that the fish is cooked, having learnt from the lesson from a previous Team Challenge, and it seems fine.
Everything is looking, if not great, at least somewhat unshameful.
Then Tati says “Oh my god,” with the kind of inflection you never want to hear in any kitchen, much less the MasterChef one, and their house of cards collapses once more.
Green Team realise they forgot to cook rice for the fish curry, which is literally half the dish. It’s the most rudimentary mistake I can recall in MasterChef Australia history, and I am actually kind of dumbfounded. “You don’t eat fish curry with nothing,” says Tati to the camera.
Unfortunately, there’s no time to rustle anything up. Simon is forced to resignedly scoop curry onto empty plates, like a doomed man bailing water out of a sinking ship.
It’s time for the judges’ tasting, and Yellow Team kicks it off with its Mexican menu of pulled lamb tacos (nee quesadillas), charred corn with chipotle mayo and Mexican beef lettuce cups with guacamole. The first two dishes dazzle the judges, and while the third isn’t quite as spectacular, Matt declares it “very solid”.
The judges aren’t granting a winner in this challenge, but if they were it would be Yellow Team, who do an adorable Mexican wave once they’ve finished their cook.
Blue Team then presents its Malaysian dishes of coconut prawns with curry rice, beef satay and nasi goreng with sambal.
Steph’s coconut prawns have the judges overjoyed, and the beef satay is average, but the worst by far is the claggy nasi goreng. The sambal hasn’t been cooked down enough either, coming out more like a tomato sauce with chilli.
“It’s one win, one draw, and one really embarrassing loss,” says Matt. Oh, Sandeep.
Finally, Green Team serves up its Indian dishes.
Considering the cook they had, it’s unsurprising that there is something glaringly wrong with every single one of their dishes. The sauces for the tandoori chicken are salty and no good, the vegetarian samosas simply reuse the chicken’s yoghurt sauce, and the South Indian fish curry, while tasty and beautifully cooked, does not have rice.
This is great news for my attachment to Sandeep, but bad news for my attachment to Tati. Despite Blue Team’s abominable nasi goreng, Green Team takes home the title of Disaster Artists, and are headed into elimination for their crimes against Indian food.
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.