The Dalai Lama’s appearance on Masterchef Season III was met with criticism in some quarters. Many have suggested that appearing on a reality television show is beneath the spiritual leader of 600 million devotees worldwide. Others have opined that his appearance on Masterchef cheapens his calls for independence for his homeland from China. Still others have felt that if he truly was one of Australia’s best amateur religious icons that he would have appeared on the first season of Masterchef, and that the third season of Masterchef is less for those who really really really want to be professional spiritual leaders and more for those that just want to get their faces on television.

But those that criticise him ignore the fact that a succession of Lamas has appeared before the world’s populace in a variety of reality television formats. For example, the Sixth Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso, enjoyed a lifestyle that included drinking, the company of women, and writing love songs, and made a brief appearance on Brett Michael’s “Rock of Love”. Thubten Gyatso, the 13th Dalai Lama, was the inspiration behind the idea of “There’s something about Miriam”, based as it was on a weekend he spent on the island of Mykonos. And of course, who could forget the pairing of the Ninth Dalai Lama, Lungtok Gyatso, and Family Ties star Tina Yothers, in the inaugural series of “The Amazing Race – Celebrity Edition”? Almost everybody.

With the Dalai Lama as the guest judge the producers took a great risk. Known for his volatile ways and being high maintenance, the challenge for the contestants to cook vegetarian dishes for his edification was fraught with danger. The producers tried to offset his penchant for violence by placing him with some of Australia’s best known religious figures, hoping that he would be embarrassed into good behaviour. Yet they made some pretty fundamental errors by choosing people such as Tim “I spit in your face and my spit is made of shards of glass” Costello and Bill “Where’s my keys oh that’s right I shoved them up the arse of the last person that served me food I didn’t like” Crews.

Hayden was first to face the firing squad when he brought out his Japanese noodle consomme with shitake mushrooms. The Lama tore him a new one when he claimed that Hayden’s dish was “very good”. Alana was reduced to tears when her Middle Eastern dish was described as “very good”. When Billy brought out his coriander dumplings, the Dalai Lama showed his caustic wit when he claimed, despite the evidence, that it was “very good”. Dani’s Sri Lankan vegetarian curry was not immune from the torrent of abuse when he described it as ‘’something that is very good”. His Holiness? More like his Arseholiness!

Notwithstanding the ill considered opinions from the Dalai “Lame arse”, Dani’s dish was thought the best, giving her another change at an immunity pin. For the losers, Billy, Kate and Ellie, reincarnation as Nikki Webster. Or failing that, an elimination challenge.

And so the bottom three transcended to the elimination challenge. On the way there, Ellie had the other two in stiches with her impression of a bonobo coming to grips with some of the flawed concepts espoused in Mein Kampf, but as soon as they arrived it was down to business. And for Ellie, she said she had to make one of her hardest decisions in the competition. Harder than when she had to decide between getting up at 6am or hitting the snooze button for an extra 7 minutes. Harder than when she had to decide between tea or coffee for breakfast last Tuesday. Harder even than when she had to decide whether to stifle her bile or vomit all over George’s back the last time he hugged her. It was that hard. But in the end, she chose safety.

That left just Billy and Kate, two of the best bareknuckle fighters in this series of Masterchef, to face each other in the heat of a warm kitchen. And in that warm kitchen they were asked to cook a dessert called ‘Autumn’. It was called ‘Autumn’ because it represented the steady decline of life, the impending approach of death, and the fact that you can never have too much wank in your food. And anyway, ‘F**kface’ was already taken.

Billy was criticised because his canoli was too long, while Kate put a canoli in the deep fryer that was, in her own words, “way too big”. So with those euphemisms out of the way, they both got down to the cooking . According to Kate, plating the jelly was like handling her first new born baby, which confirms the accusations relating to her other children. Meanwhile Dani stood watching wearing clown pants for no apparent reason. The clown pants that is, not the watching. Billy’s plum mouse had a weird texture, according to Gary. “Sort of like licking tarmac where someone has spilled some plum jam, while a twelve year old bounces a soccer ball on your head”.

After the judges had tasted the food, they asked the contestants about their reasons for coming on Masterchef. Kate said she had seen the last two seasons and hoped to meet Adriano Zumbo, whilst Billy claimed he was just looking for the Master Builders Association. With Kate’s aspirations more suitable, it was decided that Bill would be the one to leave. When asked what his most memorable moment was, after some prompting Billy remembered to say that he would never forget the trip to New York, being in the UN and meeting the Dalai Lama. The end credits informed us that Billy is hosting “Just Desserts” private dinner parties, where serial offenders who get off on technicalities are savagely beaten by concerned citizens over an 8 course degustation menu.

Following Billy’s exit, it was Dani’s turn in the spotlight, as she went for her second immunity pin. Once again, the task would be no mean feat. And once again, she would have to prove herself against one of the best in the world. Fortunately for her, she only had to prove herself against someone who was one of the best in the world at something other than cooking. That person was introduced by Matt Prestons as someone whose “determination and commitment to winning is second to none in this country”, leaving out the bit that the actual winning is second to just about everyone. Yes, it was Olympic silver medallist , Eamon Sullivan.

Sullivan gave a hint of the ease with which Dani could win this task when he pronounced ‘Creme Brulee’, ‘Cream Brulee’. He further compounded this error when he included all the normal ingredients: flour; eggs; salt; sugar; butter; into the pastry, as well as the blade of a small food processor. These errors and more saw Sullivan gift Dani her second immunity pin.

At the end, the rest of the contestants joined Dani in walking out the door quite quickly, while Eamon continued his search for that elusive first prize in anything.

With Dani the holder of an immunity pin the show moved on to the last and final team challenge. Hayden, Michael and Kate were on the blue team, with Alana, Dani and Ellie on the red team. Hayden and Alana were captains of their respective teams. The first part of the challenge involved the captains in a mystery box challenge, with salmon the key ingredient. Alana wasted no time but Hayden dithered and asked his teammates what they thought. Both Kate and Michael urged Hayden to go with his instincts but Hayden, having been brought up in a strict Presbyterian household thought, “Hey? Isn’t instinct something animals have instead of ethics and doesn’t it tell them like where to seek food and when to root and stuff” and he didn’t think it was appropriate to start rooting anyone, particularly because Michael would get jealous and it would sabotage his team’s chances.

So Hayden’s indecision cost the blue team the first part of the challenge which meant they were disadvantaged going into the second part of the challenge. That part of the challenge involved both teams taking it in turns cooking at the Qantas First Class Lounge, with red team getting first use of the kitchen, and the blue team coming in second having to not only cook the same dishes as red but also deal with the mess left by red.

Arriving at the Qantas First Class Lounge at the airport, the teams could have been forgiven for thinking that they were on the set of some c-grade action film where a group of terrorists have taken over an airport and the only thing that stands between the passengers and death is a pudgy, middle aged man with a pony tail and some handy knife skills. But it was Neil Perry, not Steven Segal, who was there to guide them through.

The red team’s dishes were a bit hit and miss. Alana’s fish was well received, whereas Dani’s club sandwhich was disappointing. Similar complaints and compliments were delivered to the blue team, with Michael’s club sandwich proving a hit but Hayden’s fish disappointing the judges when it insisted on leaving school at the end of year 10 and getting a tattoo.

In the end it came down to Hayden’s inability to organise his team, keep an eye on his own dishes, and continue to develop his Kermit the frog impression all at the same time that led to the blue team’s downfall. Thus, Michael, Kate and Hayden had to battle it out in elimination.

They were given 90 minutes to cook whatever they wanted, but they had to cook something that they believe they couldn’t have cooked three months ago. Hayden suggested mammoth but Gary reminded him it should be something that he couldn’t have cooked three months ago, not something that he couldn’t cook ever. So instead Hayden went for a dish involving three chickens, who may or may not have walked into a bar after crossing a road. But after criticism from Gary that using all three chickens instead of all of one would be wasteful, he threw out the three chickens and decided to cook some fish.

To help him remember what he loved about cooking, Hayden left a message on his hand that simply said “ENJOY”. On his other hand, he had left a message to help him remember where he kept his genitals, which simply said “SPEEDOS”. And on his chest he left a message to help him remember what he had to do to it, which simply said “SHAVE”.

Yet with all the messages and changed approaches Hayden’s skill was what let him down, and it was no surprise when he was eliminated. It was a touching moment when Michael displayed the love he felt for his friend, assisted as he was with the message he had written on his left hand that simply said “CRY”. Michael said it was his worst nightmare, even worse than that one where he is standing naked in front of 200 laughing swimwear models.

With Ellie, Alana and Dani waiting back at the house, Kate’s arrival led Dani to state that it was going to be girl power in the competition from here on in, though it’s not clear how she knew Michael was the other one safely through before he had even walked through the door.

Forced to hike home, Hayden was greeted with indifference by his family and friends. The end credits informed us that he is in discussions with a production company about his own television show, a themed cooking show based around that seminal 1980’s cop drama “Cagney and Lacey”.


MasterChef Australia – Sun/Mon/Tue/Wed/Thu/Fri 7:30pm, Ch10.