In the song, ‘Some Days are Diamonds’, John Denver sang, “Some days are diamonds, some days are stone”. The sentiment being expressed is that you have some good days, but mostly your days are bad. Sure, some days may be diamonds, but mostly they are just steaming dog turds with a fresh shoe imprint that turns out to be yours.
At least that would be your view this week if your name was Alex or Seamus. Because it was this week we said goodbye to those two much loved characters of Masterchef. And when I say much loved, I mean despised.
The week started off with the Mystery Box challenge. The box contained rabbit, leek, garlic, carrot, cheddar, olives, swedes, lemon, lemon thyme, mustard fruits, and butter. This was not a usual mystery box challenge. In this one, the contestants had to use all of the ingredients in the box. This resulted is some surprising results, and also some resulting surprises.
Jay served up a rabbit tasting plate, forgetting the first rule of Masterchef, which is feed humans, not rabbits. Well perhaps that’s the second rule of Masterchef, as the first rule is “You must talk about Masterchef”. Jay said he was as “proud as punch”, punch being a drink known for its ability to replicate human emotions, with his dish. George made a crack about Jay being a chef with “chubby little fingers”, which really was a case of the “chubby little fingered chef calling the chubby little fingered chef, chubby little fingered.” Notwithstanding the gross insults, the judges as a whole thought Jay’s dish was excellent, and he was able to carry his dish back to his bench with he head held high, and his fingers held chubby.
Cleo provided the judges with a rabbit loin stuffed with two olives and a leek. She stated that “the arrangement on the plate represents the fundamental discrepancy between the home kitchen and the professional kitchen, as a microcosm of the ongoing struggle between the genders.” Gary replied that it looked like your garden variety “dick and balls on a plate”, to which Cleo responded, “That’s what I said”.
Craig came up with a rabbit loin wrapped in pancetta, or as Chelsea likes to call it, pancetta, with swede chips. Gary was particularly impressed with Craig, because he’d paid attention in Masterclass and managed to add a “a little Jew” to the dish, though frankly I don’t see what religion has to do with it.
Ellie’s dish brought back memories of Kate from season two when she served up some really really fresh rabbit. She asked herself, “how could I have served up raw rabbit when I thought it was overcooked?” Ellie attempted to cover her mistake, explaining to the judges that, “This is cutting edge cooking. This is what it means to be a great chef. This dish symbolises the rabbit’s life. Always the hunted, never the hunter. Always the prey, never the predator. This is what it means to live your life on the edge of existence. You criticise me because the rabbit is raw? Well I say to you Gary that, dammit, the life of a rabbit IS raw. It’s raw in its brutality. It’s raw in its oppressiveness. The rabbit doesn’t have time to provide perfectly cooked meals to its litter. It’s a life and death struggle and you take what you can get. The rabbit who wastes time worrying about life’s trifles is that rabbit that gets caught in the headlights!” Gary’s somber reply said it all. “Well, the sauce is very nice.”
Alex’s dish was based on a similar concept of the agony of the rabbit’s life, in that his plate resembled the remains of a rabbit after an altercation with a truck on a road. Gary likened it to the first time he met George, stating that it was “grainy, burnt, slightly chewy, and a horrible sensation in your throat”. Alex was confident that, if he was in the bottom three, he would, “pull through, so long as they don’t ask me to cook, because, boy, am I bad at that!”
When Peter was called up, he expressed his disappointment to camera and stated that when he took up his “brown sludgy mess (copyrighted)” it took all his strength not to “slam it down” on the counter. Gary noted there was a little bit of rabbit fluff on the bone sticking out of the “brown sludgy mess (copyrighted)”, which, he said “was helpful to me to distinguish what kind of meat I’m eating because, frankly, it tastes like failure. And, you’ve used the lemon thyme and the leek to marry failure with the rabbit beautifully.”
Billy was called up after Peter, and this instantly threw him into a state of confusion. “When my name was called” he said, “I thought, ‘That’s me!’ and started to take my plate up to the tasting table. However, halfway there, I became subject to a sneaking suspicion that maybe, just maybe, they weren’t talking to me. Maybe, just maybe, they meant someone else and either (a) there is someone else here called Billy (or Billie if she’s a girl), or (b) they didn’t actually say Billy. Or maybe there is some nefarious plot designed to confuse me, whereby they call me name out, but when I get to the tasting table they say something like, ‘Oh Billy! What are you doing here? We asked for Kate.’ And so I walk away all embarrassed and humiliated and paranoid and that effects my cooking. I mean, that’s eminently possible isn’t it?” 10 minutes later, when Billy finally arrived at the tasting table, George threw him a curve ball, when he asked: “Billy? Have you used the bally?” Billy, now totally in the grips of deep paranoia and profound confusion, could only reply “Thwerp fangle!” before melting into a puddle onto the floor, only to be cleaned up by Matt Preston with a Handee paper towel. George, for his part, only said “No comment” which, because it comes with the obvious connotation that the dish does not taste good, is indeed a comment.
With the mystery box cooking done, it was down to the judges to name the three worst dishes, with the makers of to go through to an elimination challenge. Alex was one of them, that goes without saying. Ellie was another, as a result of committing the unforgivable sin of serving raw food. Billy was the final contestant to fill the vacant position in the triumvirate of terrible. 20 year old Ellie, knowing full well that she would never get another chance at a career working as a chef if she was eliminated from Masterchef, apart from undertaking an apprenticeship for four years like 99.999999% of chefs, broke down into tears as the reality dawned on her. Alex tried to comfort her by draping a lazy hand on her, but George was having none of it, violently pushing him aside, embracing Ellie and screaming, “If there is an attractive 20 year old woman on this show who needs comforting than I shall be the one doing the comforting!” Choking back the tears, Ellie said that she “puts 100% into everything I cook, which leaves little room for flavour, technique and food safety”.
On the plus side, the three best dishes were also named. Cleo, Craig and Jay were chosen as the best, with Jay the best out of those three. This meant that Jay would take on a professional for the chance at gaining an immunity pin, though exactly how Jay would manage to insert the immunity pin with his chubby little fingers remained a mystery.
So to an elimination challenge the bottom three ventured. Billed as a ‘do or die challenge’ where everyone does something but no one is likely to die, the task was to cook a Coconut Cherry Bombe Alaska in 2 hours. Gary explained the rules, stating the the contestant “with the least impressive dish will be leaving the Masterchef kitchen”. With this stunning revelation out of the way, the contestants got to work.
Alex was under pressure early when, upon looking at the recipe he realised he was unable to read, and threw himself into the task of learning the finer arts of arranging letters into words and words into sentences, setting aside a possibly optimistic 15 minutes to do so. Billy suffered under no such difficulty in that he refused to even read the recipe, choosing instead to improvise as if some jazz musician hell bent on annoying the world with a random assemblage of sounds and absences of sounds. Ellie batted her eye lashes at George and got him to do it for her.
Needless to say, Ellie’s dish was adjudged the finest and she was safe from elimination. This meant that it came down to Alex or Billy. Alex’s dish looked more like the original, but because of his problems with the written word, instead of putting ice cream in the dish, he put in hemorrhoid cream. This was irony incarnate, because Billy’s dish actually resembled a giant white hemorrhoid on a plate, as a result of piping the meringue around the cake rather than spreading it. So it came down to either a dessert that numbed your senses or one that numbed your tongue.
Fortunately for everybody and everything that ever has or will exist, Alex lost and was sent home.
With the elimination out of the way, the attention went from the worst to the best, with Jay having a shot at immunity. Going up against Irish chef Colin Fassnidge, the challenge was to replicate Gary’s much loved and rarely eaten steak and kidney pie. Jay had a 10 minute head start, with Colin being deprived of the recipe as an added handicap.
Jay started off well, correctly walking to the kitchen, turning stuff on and clanging together pots and pans. However, as soon as it came time to combine ingredients and utensils, that’s when the trouble started. He had particular difficulties with the pastry, realising that ordering the ingredients to assemble themselves into a pie casing wasn’t going to suffice. Colin offered him some assistance with the pastry, but it turned out to be wasted as Jay served up what could only be described as a cracked pie. Gary correctly described it as a “cracked pie”, which momentarily got Matt Preston excited when he thought Jay was serving a “crack pipe”. Jay’s dish was adjudged much worse than Colin’s and as such Jay missed out on the opportunity to wear the fabled immunity pin.
So with eliminations and immunities out of the way for a couple of days, the contestants headed off to the Mean Fiddler pub in Sydney’s Rouse Hill. The Mean Fiddler is a well know venue, where young men and women can meet over a drink or dinner, where they can discuss the finer points of life and get to know each other, where they can catch up with friends and make new ones, and where they can watch patrons bleed to death after a complimentary glassing.
The contestants were split into two teams, with gender being the selection criteria. Each team created their own menu and they would be judged on the results. The women started okay, but began to unravel when Arena set fire to the kitchen. She was unfairly criticised for this tactic, in my opinion, because setting fire to things is the way western Sydney traditionally spends a Friday night, or indeed any other night that ends in ‘Y’. The men had particular problems with their steak dishes, with Mat continually serving up steaks that were either undercooked, overcooked, too big, too small, or beyond the scope of this study. Mat will find his inability to cook a steak a handicap to forging a career in the industry if steak becomes a popular dish in Australia and beyond. Only time will tell.
The end result was that although both teams efforts were disappointing, the men were more consistently disappointing, which is unsurprising. They had 16 dishes sent back, though whether that was because they were unpalatable or because the patrons didn’t think the plates sufficiently big enough to cause lasting damage to the face of someone they had a beef with, we may never know. The upshot was that the men would face an elimination challenge together.
The elimination challenge involved three rounds. in the first round, the best 5 would be safe with the other 6 going through to the second round; in the second round, the best 4 would be safe, with the remaining two going through to the third round; in the third round, only one would be safe, with the other’s journey coming to a conclusive end.
In the first round, the contestants were given 10 minutes to cook whatever they wanted. Seamus, mishearing the instructions, thought he had 10 minutes to “cut” whatever he wanted, and cut up some raw fish. Hayden, bereft of his lucky $2 trucker’s cap, still managed to plate up a well received dish, whilst Peter quite literally went the raw prawn. Mat, though, probably cooked the worst dish, serving up raw mince with a raw egg on top, although describing it as “cooking” gives it qualities it had no intention of possessing.
In the second round, the remaining contestants had 15 minutes to cook whatever they wanted. Seamus served up a snapper and snow pea dish, explaining to the judges that he had “burnt the aromats”. Presumably he burnt the aromats, who are an ancient race from the mountainous Bosporus region, because they were trying to steal his snapper. Andrew presented prosciutto (or as Chelsea calls it, proscui-tt-o) wrapped sardines. Traditionally, fish, even sardines, are cooked and presented without their scales. However, Andrew, ever the philosopher, decided to make a statement about the world not removing the scales from its eyes and recognising that less than 2% of the population control 98% of the wealth, and left the scales on. Predictably, the judges failed to see the bigger picture and Seamus and Andrew went through to the third round.
In the third round, Andrew aimed low and cooked a steak, while Seamus decided to rectify the mistakes he made with his snapper and snow pea dish in round two and cooked a snapper and snow pea dish in round three. Unfortunately for Seamus, the mistake he made in round two was to turn up, and it was a mistake he repeated in round three. It was also a mistake that cost him his place in Masterchef, as the Gary and Matt Moran decided that they’d had enough, and sent him on his way.
At the close of the episode we learnt that Seamus, a web designer by trade, has, apparently since leaving, combined his old job with his love of cooking, and is now designing web sites for restaurants. Which sounds to me like he’s still doing his old job. Obviously, he is still working on his sauce range, and accompanying website.
Until next week.
MasterChef Australia – Sun/Mon/Tue/Wed/Thu/Fri 7:30pm, Ch10.