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aussie rules

14 Nov

I could use my recent accident as an excuse, but I won’t.  Lounging around, nursing a fractured metatarsal, I set to work, doing really important things like catching up with lots and lots and lots of Masterchef.

Masterchefs Australia and New Zealand aired on Watch only for its British counterpart to crash the BBC party a few weeks later. Back were the familiar Aussie faces of Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris.  George is nearly half the man he used to be and looking very well on it too.  In the New Zealand kitchen we have Simon Gault, Josh Emmett and the fabulously named Ray McVinnie.  Josh has been in place since season two when Ross Burden bowed out due to ill health.

Josh, Simon & Ray

Josh, Simon & Ray

After a brief flirtation with Canada, it’s clear that my heart still lies in Australia.  Canada was good, don’t get me wrong, but the competitive element was ramped up pretty high with mystery box winners having the opportunity to remove a cook from an elimination round, catty comments and deathly stares.

One thing in Canada’s favour?

Bacon.

Lots of bacon.

And not a croquembouche in sight. 

Gary, Matt, Kylie & Gary

Gary, Matt, Kylie & Gary

So, back to Melbourne and a very welcome sight was additional judge, Kylie Kwong.  A regular guest over the years, Kylie has officially joined the judging panel on a part time basis and her main role seems to be as mentor for those lucky enough to find themselves competing for an immunity pin.  Yes, the immunity challenges are still there along with more mystery boxes than you can shake a stick at.  Overall, not much has changed.  They still have a week for eliminated contestants to return and try to win their place back.  This year the first chap to be shown the door nearly sneaked back in but Gary felt it a bit harsh on the others to let him return.  Oh, I don’t know!  Go through the auditions, unpack your suitcase in the glamorous house on the hill only to serve raw pork and make a hasty retreat.  You can use the intervening weeks (or months) to practice, maybe get some kitchen experience, learn how to cook pork properly, and return!  Win back your Masterchef apron, wow everyone and make a hasty retreat with the winners trophy.  That would be my plan.

There are still back stories to make you cry and always one cook with a lot of tattoos.  Pastry queen Emelia suffered a terrible car accident as a child, Scott had to cut short his career as a carpenter due to a back injury, Colin hopes his new cookery skills will resurrect his ailing wine business and Renae has a lot of tattoos.

We’ve also got Brent, a bobcat driver and Byron, a nice young chap who ditched his job aboard a cruise ship (and his girlfriend) to pursue a life in the kitchen.  Oh. yes, we’ve also got Ben who now has the all clear after cancer treatment and Jamie, a barman whose baby daughter undergoes regular treatment for a foot condition.

I nearly forgot!  There was also a very promising lady who made it through the auditions but was advised to leave on medical grounds.  What she was doing running round a kitchen after suffering a head injury resulting in brain surgery only a few months previously is anyone’s guess.  Fingers crossed she’ll return next year.

We are now in the midst of Heston Week having recently survived a week of Marco.  Maybe I’m used to Marco or maybe he’s mellowing in his old age.  Yes, he likes to repeat things three times (three times, THREE TIMES) and shout every now and then (YES, MARCO) but it’s for our own good.  He seemed to take a shine, professionally speaking, to Laura, a talented student with an Italian nonna and had his protege Donovan Cooke take her on for an immunity pin.  This was not your usual challenge. Something rather strange happened.

Laura has the understandable habit of freaking out midway through a challenge, realising her plan won’t work.  Standing in the middle of the pantry, she stares blankly at the insane amount of produce on offer and has no idea what to do.  Gary or Greg wander in, tell her to get a grip and then, BOOM, a moment of clarity.  She finishes the dish, it’s amazing, smiles all round.  So, that happened … meanwhile, Donovan, a no nonsense Yorkshireman does amazing things will a fillet of fish, a bisque and diced tomatoes.  “THREE, TWO, ONE!  TIME’S UP, STOP COOKING!”  Donovan was right up against the clock. So up against it that he seemed to hover the fish fillet over the plate and carefully place it just after time was called.  He then gently poured some of the sauce over the vegetables.

The dishes are judged without knowing who cooked what and marks given out of 10.  Plate #1 was brought through by a waiter, tasted, enjoyed, marked.  Plate #2 was brought through by a no nonsense Yorkshireman and the expressions on the judge’s faces were amazing.  Donovan explained that he finished plating up after the time limit and that needed to be taken into consideration.  Their minds were blown.  Nervous giggles all round.  How do you judge that?

In the end, it was decided that they could only taste the elements that were already on the dish before time was called.  This caused a further problem as the bisque coated everything on the plate, ergo, Laura (who scored a record number of points anyway) won the pin.  I’m sure it was all a genuine timing issue but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he knew this was a highly talented lady and felt she deserved the magical badge.  We’ll never know.

One new element was the power apron or the “power apRUN!!!” as it was sung in my house.  OK … as it was sung by me. The winner of the power apRUN was hairdresser and no-back-story-all-round-lovely-lady, Tracy.  Tracy wore the glamorous garment (with a gold embroidered logo no less, none of the generic black cotton) and got to wield her power like there was no tomorrow.  Well, she got to choose the main ingredient, who teamed with who and stuff like that.

I’ve watched all seasons of MC OZ and thus far this should be the third time I’ve not spoilered myself.  I’ve learned my lesson, no searching for pictures!  Needless to say, the end is in sight – next week is finals week.  I can’t wait.  I also can’t call it.  The final mini brigade of amateur cooks are so strong.

My money’s on Ben.  No, probably Amelia.  Actually, Tracy is looking good … or maybe …

 

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