MasterChef Australia – Sun 7:30pm; Mon-Fri 7pm, Ch10
Last night on Masterchef, the contestants entered the exotic world of Barilla, named after the mythical Roman god of beige where beautiful pasta is created from nothing more than cardboard and blue packaging, and where the inhabitants are starved for days on end before being “treated” to Barilla’s endless array of dried pasta. For the green team, their efforts were insufficient and they were thus doomed to elimination. Tonight, a medieval Tuscan village, and 50 hungry inhabitants will have their way with one of them.
“Waking up this morning is a strange sort of feeling” moans Ben, as he looks back on his life as a vampire. “Yesterday we lost the Barilla challenge”. Is there anything these sponsors have not laid claim to yet? Barilla Andy says he’s not ready to go home yet as he frantically packs his bag. Barilla Alice also doesn’t want to go home today and as holder of an immunity pin she can guarantee it. “I think I’m looking at myself differently now” she says, as she removes her enormous novelty glasses, before replacing them. “There’s no way I’m going back to my old life” she continues. “Teaching is just so unrewarding.”
We swoop over long roads and green fields, arriving at an ancient village, called Monticciello. Gary asks everyone to look at the view, and while they are all looking in the other direction he takes the opportunity to passionately kiss a passing and frail elderly Italian woman.
George asks Alice what she wants to do with her immunity pin. Gary says he would use the pin, even though he, a professional chef, would be cooking against rank amateurs. Alice gives a speech about courage before deciding to stay in the challenge.
A five course feast for fifty people from the village. Antipasti, pici, bacalla, a spit roast pig, and dessert of their choice. Five dishes, five contestants. Gary takes them on a walk through the village, introducing them to two “beautiful” ladies from the village. Clearly in Italy beautiful has a different meaning. But the point of this pointless exercise is that the contestants have to make 100 grams of pici each to the satisfaction of the so called beautiful women and as each passes this task they get to choose which course they want to prepare. It is a little known fact that at every conclave since Pope Gregory the First, this is how the Pontiff has been selected.
The dough is already made for them so all they have to do is roll it out. Ben finds it easy and wonders if he has pici hands, which may be a distant relative of jazz hands. He takes his up and has just over 100 grams and has satisfied the old woman, even though he was only there for 30 seconds. He gets the choice of any of the five courses and takes the pici. Alice suggests the women are her “nonnas”, a claim which is quickly and vehemently disputed by them both, but manages to get their approval and over 100 grams. George says to Alice “that means you are number two”, and truer words have never been said. She takes the anti pasti.
Deb weighs in next but the ladies are not happy, claiming it’s too thick. Clearly they’ve never heard the saying “Long and thin too far in, short and thick does the trick”. So she has to make another lot. Julia follows and just scrapes through, so takes dessert as expected.
It’s down to Andy and Deb as Andy brings his pici up for inspection and weighing. It’s good enough according to the old bags and it weighs enough according to the scales. He chooses the bacalla, leaving Deb with the task of putting lipstick on a pig.
Meanwhile Kylie takes her winning team to see how cheese is made as they visit the set of Neighbours. Back with the losers, and they have four hours to prepare before the fifty people arrive. Those fifty will select the best dish while Gary and George will select the worst, and eliminate the owner of that dish. Then they start and according to Julia everyone is immediately in the zone.
Alice chops and peels as George and Gary come to talk. She gets tetchy when they tell her she’s not putting up enough food, and suggests that if it’s good enough for Jamie Oliver it’s good enough for fifty backward, sibling f**king, six fingered village idiots.
Deb prepares her pig on a spit by first grating a lemon, as she’s started the day in quite a good mood and needs to add extra bitterness. She says she was a vegetarian up until eight months ago and hasn’t had the opportunity to insert something in a pig’s rectum like most long time meat eaters. She finds a large stick and gently threads it through the pigs anus, saying its the most confronting thing she’s ever done. No doubt it’s also the most confronting thing the pig has ever done, but not once do you hear it complain!
After a break Alice opens a can while Deb continues to drive the stake through the pig. George offers some sage advice about not oiling the skin of the pig, but Deb, who normally wouldn’t take George’s advice anyway, blithely ignores him. She doesn’t want to deprive herself of the pleasure of rubbing oil all over dead skin, after all.
Ben and Andy cook together, like in their dreams, as Julia prepares her tart. She says “I’ve seen some of the inhabitants in this village, and they’ll tell us exactly what they think, once they learn to speak”.
Ben rolls and rolls his pici, while Alice suggests she’ll be “wizzing chicken livers at some stage”, a bladder condition, rare in first world countries, that can only be treated by prescribing enormous novelty glasses. Things begin to heat up in the kitchen and the pants as Ben comments on the sweet sweet smell of Julia’s jam, while Deb revels in her own smells and juices, before leaving some Italian locals to do her cooking for her. She goes inside to braze her fennel, which, when you consider Gary suggested fennel was the vegetable she most resembled, is kind of cannibalistic.
They continue to cook as if in some kind of competition as Gary and George again recap things and provide their opinions. On Alice, not enough ideas. Ben, too slow. Deb, has no idea how to slice a carcass. Didn’t these people do any practice before the start of this competition? While all this criticism is taking place, Andy puts something in Ben’s mouth, like in their dreams, and Ben gives it the thumbs up.
“Hear that?” asks Gary “That’s the sound of tramping feet as people step out into the square.” Although it could also be the sound of viewers deserting the show en masse after last night’s ridiculous Barilla challenge. Alice begins to get her food out, leaving the rind on her prosciutto but George tells her that it’s disrespectful, as “rind” was Mussolini’s nickname. With only two minutes to go Alice thinks her food looks hideous, but it’s far too late to do anything about it now as she finishes up. “I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed” she says as she walks across the town square with great difficulty. She explains to the villagers in Italian what they will be eating, before leaving them with a “ciao”, “arrivederci” and jazz hands. They taste and George and Gary are disappointed with some of the items, as Bea Arthur looks on.
Ben and Andy prepare Ben’s pici before Ben serves it and takes all the credit, or blame as the case may be. George tries it with his face millimeters from the plate, fearing a sudden appearance from the Hamburglar perhaps, and says its quite Al Dente, whoever he is. Some townspeople say the pici is too large and has no Italian taste, but Andy staunchly defends his friend and says his pici is the perfect size for him.
Two dishes down and Andy serves his bacalla to George’s building excitement. The assembled Italians show varying degrees of pleasure, but George is a fan as is Gary. Meanwhile Deb carves her pork but is falling behind and feels pressured. Gary laments that her pork will get cold as she runs into the kitchen in tears to the rescuing arms of Ben and Andy. When she finally serves its too applause, ironic or otherwise. George notes that the volume has dropped because every one is eating, but Gary is concerned that its cold, and that it’s too complex.
Julia serves her dessert last and according to Gary the pastry is burnt, while a young Italian gentleman says the marmalade is too sweet. It’s fucking jam numb nuts. Anyway, the villagers vote. They vote with their feet, showing amazing dexterity as they place the tokens betwixt their toes into the urns.
George and Gary announce the best dish with much fanfare and incidental music. Unfortunately for everybody everywhere the dish belongs to Alice. Next Ben and Andy are told about the reaction to their dishes, and although there were some complaints, their food was good enough and they are both safe.
It’s down to Julia and Deb, the ice queen and the menopausal moaner. Unfortunately for interesting television, Deb is the one to go, as the rest of the contestants shed some very dry tears. George and Gary hug her goodbye, bravely ignoring the risk of catching menopause themselves. However, they offer to let her stay for masterclass, to give the rest of the contestants one last chance to say goodbye/stab her in the neck with a freshly sharpened 2HB pencil, before she goes. The end credits fail to inform us what achievements Deb has made since leaving, so the only conclusion we can draw is that she fell foul to the machinations of a despotic echidna on her way home.