It’s Masters Week! And what better time to watch our favourite contestants crumble before the all-knowing gaze of the high council of culinary mastery?
Monday was all about pasta, but many teams tried to make ragù – a meat sauce that can take upwards of four hours to simmer – in an hour, dismaying pasta master Andreas Papadakis. Therese, Dan and Justin cooked it in more ways than one, and would be joined by Brent, who missed last week’s pressure test due to his Covid-quarantine microwave cooking research trip.
Tuesday summoned the cruel sorceress of pressure tests of yore: chocolatier Kirsten Tibballs. The purveyor of existential torment uttered a series of dark charms (“ruby chocolate financier”, “cocoa mass screen-printing”) before the contestants descended to the ninth circle of Dante’s Inferno: the river of tempered chocolate.
Humble Tradie Brent surprised all, approaching his desserts with the precision of, well, a tradesman. Justin screamed “WHERE’S THE RASPBERRIES!?”; Dan’s lollipops suffered the effects of gravity; but not even the tortured screams of contestants and judges pleading desperately for her to PLAY. THE. PIN!! could sway Therese’s firm belief that “desserts are my thing”.
After presenting a nearly irredeemable cook, she “did a Dani Venn” and sunk into the fires of Mordor still clutching the gewgaw above her.
There was relative respite on Wednesday, with the contestants tasked with creating a balanced bento box inspired by Ishizuka’s Chef Yomo, whose own bento honestly looked like what happens when the Forest Spirit takes a step in Princess Mononoke:
Thursday’s “cooking with fire” immunity challenge masterminded by Scott Pickett was so intense the music team employed the Bay_Area_Thrash.mp3 sting within the opening teaser; you know stuff’s going to get hectic when the producers invoke the spirit of Death Angel before the first ad break. After much flailing over flames by the others, it was Depinder who snared Sunday immunity (again!) with her tandoori chicken and smoked lassi.
And so we are at Sunday’s episode, which brings one final Master to take the contestants through their paces. “He’s got a passion for butchery…” Jock teases, introducing not the latest subject of a Netflix murder documentary but Australia’s own Curtis Stone! Curtis joins the team from within the Matrix plinth, appearing via satellite in his LA restaurant, Gwen.
Curtis prepares eight cuts of beef, from eye fillet to gravy beef, and explains how to use them. “And it all comes from Coles,” Curtis intones as he trims a tenderloin in a different time zone. Guess someone drove one of those jaunty nicknamed Coles delivery trucks onto an A380 and straight out the other side to Gwen, huh Curtis!
Split into pairs, the contestants bid on their preferred cuts using cooking time, because temporality is a Eurocentric capitalist construct. They all start with 100 minutes in the bank (clock?); whatever they don’t “spend” will be their cooking time, for their cut plus two sides. Dan and Justin go mad large mental times and blow 52 minutes on the sirloin.
Sabina and Linda sit tight through the other auctions and get their gravy beef “for free”, with 100 minutes to cook it. Presumably they are not going to cook my grandmother’s CWA braised beef with a selection of Deb and McCain’s accoutrements.
Aaron and Eric are doing “schnitties”. By the end of Jock and Andy’s visit to their station, Aaron’s said “schnitty” so many times I’m about to get in Curtis’ temporal obelisk and go back in time to rampage through 17th-century southern Germany and prevent the invention of the wiener schnitzel.
A foreboding zoom on Conor and Amir’s pressure cooker gives me flashbacks to the ragù catastrophe.
Flash forward to the end of the cook and quicker than you can say “Chekhov’s pressure cooker”, Conor and Amir’s beef is in dire straits: it might have dried out while cooling down.
Linda and Sabina’s massaman curry is tender! Scott and Jess’ dirty-grilled steak is “elegant”! Kishwar and Pete’s steak and Jenga-like chips are so good they’re accompanied by the “dear lawyers this is absolutely not Fedde Le Grand’s ‘Let Me Think About It’!” cue!
Alas, respectively dry and overdone beef fells Conor ’n’ Amir and Dan ’n’ Justin – and my new favourite bromances are plunged into round two to demonstrate, in 75 minutes, something they have mastered.
Justin’s masala sweet potato taco feast, which he makes when his mates come around to his place, is a hit, its blue corn tortillas “absolutely, spankingly perfect”.
After initially forgetting to put baking powder in his dough, Dan’s duck bao is triumphant. But there’s trouble for Conor, whose grainy green olive ice-cream leads the judges to question his decision to “master” ice-cream (“mastering” is “heroing” for when you reckon you’re good).
After forgetting to wash his first round of herbs, Amir’s falafel frenzy results in a hurried cook.
Sadly, neither I, nor you, nor the judges, all screamed for Conor’s ice-cream – and as Amir’s falafels are still deemed “tasty”, the bejewelled one heads home, or possibly to the club. May choirs of olives sing him to his rest.
What made me cry
Amir recalling that he “wasn’t about hotrods” as a kid, but instead hanging out with his teta to learn her cooking skills.
The white chocolate velouté award for failure
Bloody pressure cookers!! What are they good for!
• MasterChef Australia continues this week on Network Ten. Clem Bastow recaps every Sunday night