‘MasterChef Australia’ Recap: Welcome To The Gun Show

Last night's episode was a lesson in leadership and great guns.

In the latest episode of MasterChef Australia, contestants are tasked with preparing a picnic at Hanging Rock, because that idea has never ended badly.

The group is split into two teams, each given three hours to assemble 25 picnic baskets for 100 people. Both spreads must include a savoury dish, a sweet dish, sandwiches, a salad, and a dip with something to dunk in it.

Sadly, beautiful spice boy Sandeep isn’t competing today because he injured his back, which I’m going to assume happened while he was jumping for joy about star anise.

However, HRH Prince Harry has returned, having won back his MasterChef apron in the second chance cook, while Tessa is sporting a shiny new Immunity Pin — the second she’s won thus far.

Today’s MasterChef guest is Maggie Beer, who advises the contestants to “make every bit so full of flavour that the guests are going to fight for it”. This is less advice and more an aspiration, but everyone politely holds their tongues. Then time starts, and the race to today’s outdoor kitchens is on.

MasterChef Australia Season 11

On Red Team, captain Anushka’s approach to leadership is just to trust that her team probably know what they’re doing. This demonstrates an unrealistically optimistic misunderstanding not just of captaincy, but of human nature, and I am concerned.

These concerns are not alleviated when Matt swings by and suggests Tati’s vegetarian frittata sounds boring, and we get our first look at Anushka’s leadership style in action. Anushka advises Tati to “think about flavours”, then decides she likely has this handled and returns to making her fig salad in blissful ignorance.

I love Anushka, but you wouldn’t lead a horse this way, much less a band of harried amateur cooks.

MasterChef Australia Season 11

In stark contrast, unilaterally appointed Green Team captain Derek is doing what may be the best job of MasterChef leadership I’ve ever seen. He seems to have manifested the omnipresence of a god to match his physique, and is multitasking everywhere, checking up on everything and helping everyone.

Derek’s helping Prince Harry break down chickens. He’s helping Nicole roll her quiche crust dough. He’s picking up on the judges’ hints and adjusting the dishes accordingly. Practically everyone has been assigned an element and Derek is moving from station to station, ensuring everyone is on track and coordinating the entire operation. It’s a feat arguably as impressive as his arms.

MasterChef Australia Season 11

Derek is so organised and in control that it’s almost unfathomable that anything on Green Team could go wrong. So of course, things go wrong. With two hours to go, Nicole calls Derek over. Several of her quiche pastries are dramatically shrinking in the oven and she is freaking out, worried they won’t hold the filling.

Green Team’s captain checks them, but remains unshakeable. “You’re still gonna have the base, right? We can work with it,” Derek assures Nicole, helping Tessa with her brownies at the same time.

The crusts admittedly don’t look great, but Derek says it with such confidence that I immediately trust that everything will be fine. The kitchen could literally be on fire and I’d probably still believe things were OK if Derek told me they were.

MasterChef Australia Season 11

Meanwhile on Red Team, Abbey has been making hummus since the Earth began. Her chickpea paste is grainy, and she just can’t seem to make it work. Larissa suggests adding water and Christina suggests Greek yoghurt, but nothing is helping.

“I’ve made this a million times at home before and it’s never done this,” says a teary Abbey, who has been working on the hummus long enough to feel incredibly embarrassed by now. 

Ideally, this is where the team captain would swoop in with a potential fix or executive decision. Abbey probably should have started over by now, or changed direction.

Unfortunately, all of captain Anushka’s focus still appears to be on her fig salad, and she just isn’t present to give Red Team the structure and guidance they need. She doesn’t step up even after she can’t answer Gary’s hummus questions, which should have been a hint that she needs to get her head out of the figs.

Abbey does eventually blend the hummus smooth. However, the whole enterprise eats up a lot of time that they just do not have, and Red Team are visibly floundering.

MasterChef Australia Season 11

With 45 minutes until service, Green Team’s Nicole is relieved that her incredible shrinking quiche pastry actually looks alright, so she starts filling the crusts in preparation for baking.

Unfortunately, it is just not Nicole’s day. She drops one as she’s loading them into the oven, splattering it on the floor and stressing her out once more. “I just hate the feeling that I’m letting our team down again,” says Nicole to the camera.

Despite her distress, Derek and his arms are there again with consoling words and solutions. He reassures Nicole that they can still cut enough slices for all their guests from their remaining 11 quiches, which I believe he would make happen even if he had to feed 5000, a la Jesus. It doesn’t come to that though as, just as Derek said, by the end of it the Green Team have all the quiche they need.

MasterChef Australia Season 11

While Green Team is well on track and nearly ready to start assembling their baskets, Red Team is ridiculously behind. Everyone is still cooking, and their baskets are still stacked and empty beneath their benches. There’s no way their food is getting out on time, particularly as there are only 15 minutes left until service.

“It’s next level Titanic sinking moment,” says Anushka, referring to the guests’ arrival. She feels responsible for Red Team’s whirlwind of panic but helpless to stop it. “I’m regretting I took on the salad.”

MasterChef Australia Season 11

Seeing the cabins filling with water, Simon decides he has to take charge if Red Team is going to make it to the lifeboats. It’s a relief that someone’s stepping up, but disheartening that Gary easily begins treating him as captain instead of trying to galvanise Anushka.

It’s also upsetting that Simon turns out to be a bit of a jerk, lashing out at innocent Tati when she asks where the bread is so she can help assemble sandwiches.

“The bread is there, in the open your eyes section,” snaps Simon, immediately killing all goodwill he’d earned from MasterChef fans by his decision to take control. It’s very uncalled for, and I will not be sorry if he’s eliminated next.

All of Green Team’s food is getting wrapped, boxed up and loaded into baskets in good time, and they even have enough time for Derek to taste everything and make adjustments. Everything is in order, and their service is a walk in the park.

The judges start their tasting with the Green Team’s basket, because it’s the only basket that’s available. It contains quiche lorraine, roast chicken waldorf sandwiches, caprese salad, hummus and flatbread, and brownies with mascarpone cream.

As expected from their incredibly organised operation and Derek’s stellar leadership, absolutely everything in Green Team’s basket is dialled up and delicious. “I would not want to change anything here,” says Maggie, making happy exclamations through the tasting.

MasterChef Australia Season 11

Considering their fiasco of a cook, Red Team’s hopes of measuring up to Green Team are sadly unrealistic. After they finally get their baskets out, which takes an age and a day, the judges find Red Team’s dishes largely uninspiring.

Christina’s carrot cake and, surprisingly, Abbey’s hummus are both well received, and the beef sandwiches are alright. However, both Tati’s frittata and Anushka’s salad have too many ingredients, making them a bit ordinary and losing the flavour of their distinct ingredients. Maggie does not make happy hums.

Thus, the Red Team’s wandering has led them to join Sandeep in the elimination episode, in which MasterChef will continue its reenactment of Picnic At Hanging Rock by making someone vanish.

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.