MasterChef AustraliaSun 7:30pm; Mon-Fri 7pm, Ch10
Last night on Masterchef, the Italian journey continued as Alice and Mindy went head to head, though disappointingly not literally, with Alice coming out ahead with the better head overall, though definitely not literally. Tonight, the Italian journey continues to continue as they all face a team challenge which will, eventually, spell the end of someone’s Italian and Masterchef journey.

We open with morning shots over Parma (the town not the ham) as Sydney gets a well deserved rest. Julia and Kylie discuss things in front of a make up mirror like best friends, while Alice and an unmanned camera stand in front of a make up mirror and also discuss things like best friends. Meanwhile, Wade and Beau discuss the last time they wore chef whites, apparently during some adult themed role paying.

Viewers are provided with assistance to get the sadomasochistic scenes of Beau and Wade in flagrante al dente out of their heads with lots of lovely shots of Italian streets and fountains, before they are brought back down to earth with a spine shuddering thud as Gary and George welcome the contestants to Parma (the town not the ham).

“Two days of cooking” says George, describing his weekend “and the top five today get and advantage in the next round”. Gary introduces someone special who has been cooking for 65 years, though must have been released from his apparent servitude for this special occasion: the father of modern Italian cuisine, though to be accurate he left the mother of modern italian cuisine to raise modern italian cuisine on her own with little financial assistance and barely a birthday or christmas card, Gualtiero Marchese.

The dish is risotto, but not any old risotto according to George. Ben says risotto “scares all of us”, particularly when it declares the moon landing a fake and climate change a grand communist conspiracy. George says the dish they have to cook “changed the way the world looked at risotto”, because prior to this dish people looked at risotto obliquely. The dish itself, it should be added, is risotto with saffron and gold leaf. Notwithstanding its pricey heritage, it looks like custard with foil on top.

George tells them that they have no recipe but every thing they need is under their benches. Unknown to me and possibly other viewers a taller, more dynamic chef, sporting an enormous hat, has sidled up next to Marchese, and starts to speak. “Toasting the rice in butter is the secret to the dish” before adding that “whatever is written on the box is not true”. Do I sense a defamation claim in the offing?

Suddenly they start cooking as Mindy explains to the viewers at home who can’t possibly keep up with the complex plots and sub-plots, what they are doing: “We have to cook a saffron risotto with gold leaf.” Pardon me? Can you explain that again in plain language? Ben says there is nowhere to hide as he looks deep into his risotto and wonders if he could actually fit in there. Kylie smells her butter like a former West Australian state Liberal treasurer smells chairs, while Deb suffers through menopause before our eyes. George quizzes Ben on his approach, before moving on to taller and blonder contestants. Audra adds her stock like a consummate catering professional.

Gary and George talk about the death dish as an aside, while chef big hat says you need “an Italian feeling”, but doesn’t elaborate on what the Italian should be feeling. Kylie seems happy with her dish, while Deb seems hate filled and spiteful with hers, though handles her menopause with aplomb. Mindy is honestly just freaking out and doesn’t know why a pot of rice is so scary, but can only assume it’s a flashback to her horrific Vietnam experiences, particularly those in the eighties and the proliferation of Vietnam War themed movies.

Beau decides to cook his third batch as he remains uncertain about the quality of batch two and unsure whether he put butter or little known butter substitute ‘Olestra’, which has a commercial name of “I can’t believe it’s not butter and I also can’t believe it’s given me this case of life threatening diarrhea” in batch one. Julia laments that she has found she is doing things mechanically, though as a human replicant sent from the future to destroy all mankind and bake cupcakes, it’s hard to know what she could have done differently.

After a break, Gary asks the obvious question of Chef Enormous Hat: “At what point is the rice perfectly cooked?”. Chef Enormous Hat is bewildered and admits that because no one has every actually cooked an edible risotto no one actually knows when the rice is perfectly cooked, only when it is not perfectly cooked, which is all the time. Ben thinks he’s done, and attempts the put the gold leaf on but wind is his enemy, as it blows the leaf around and blows George over for tasting, who says it is undercooked and needs more salt. Beau, apropos of nothing, says “it is blowing a Gail”, so at least Gail is getting something out of this challenge. According to Marchese the ancient, it’s a bit dry. Mindy follows and the old fella says a little bit more cream, while Deb’s is “missing everything”, including rice, saffron, gold leaf and the bowl.

Kylie fights the wind to lay her leaf whereas Wade builds himself a wind break. Gold starts to blow everywhere as everyone begins to lose control, before hands are shooting up all over the place. The tasting and the criticising continues as the world’s self appointed risotto expert finds fault with everything. Kylie’s tastes okay, Alice nods like an idiot, while Audra calls on all her professional catering experience. Wade, notwithstanding his clever wind break, has gold leaf spread everywhere, but his rice has the best texture, according to Gary.

After all the tasting old man Marchese and Chef Enormous Hat wander back to whatever circus tent they came from. George has the call of the names and calls Wade, Audra, Mindy, Kylie and Beau, as the five who made the best dishes. They are made the red team, with the rest in the green team, because green is for jealousy. Andy believes he has a good team, until he looks over and notices a small, gray haired middle aged menopausal woman is amongst them. Then he just slaps his face with his palm.

After a break it’s the next day and they have arrived at the ‘Barilla’ pasta factory, where they not only make pasta, but also crush people’s dreams. At least 500 dreams, because that is the number of staff the two teams have to cook for. Each team must cook three pasta dishes, containing a least one lasagna, one vegetarian dish, and one seafood dish, and serve it to the obviously pasta hating staff at Barilla. Imagine, you spend your life making this shit and management comes along and forces you to also eat it during your hard won lunch hour break rights.

Kylie is nominated to captain the red team and Andy for the green team. Boxes upon boxes of Barilla pasta are presented as Mindy spruiks the product free of charge. Tasks are allocated and for green Alice is lumped with beheading, peeling and deceiving seven kilograms of prawns. An Italian Steve Jobs enters the fray and immediately offers his assistance to Kylie.

Deb expresses concern that green have decided to use ricotta instead of bechamel sauce for their lasagna, until Italian Steve Jobs arrives and suggests someone better make a bechamel sauce otherwise he pasta will be too dry. Julia instantly nominates Deb before Deb has even had a chance to say I told you so. Deb accepts the burden of the task on her broad shoulders which are already straining under the weight of several chips.

Alice shells the prawns which begs the question if they use per made pasta why not pre peeled prawns? Gary tells Kylie to plan things as he takes valuable time out of her planning things schedule. Mindy says she and Audra don’t need to talk as they know what each other is thinking as Audra asks Mindy what she was thinking when she put the pork belly on so early. Andy has allocated himself the task of making pasta which involves undoing the packet of Barilla, placing it in the pasta making machine, and taking it out when the pasta making machine tells him. Meanwhile, Alice says “epic prawnage” as Deb says he often feels like she’s been shoved into the corner, as Andy asks her to stand in the corner and make sure her allocated corner remains in the corner.

Beau says the pressure point for his dish is not over cooking it, while pigheadedly ignoring all the other pressure points, such as not over salting it, not over burning it, not dropping it on the floor, and not shoving it up George’s arse.

The bain marie begins to be filled as the hungry Barilla hordes arrive. Andy is worried that his number one pressure point is cooking the pasta to the right degree, as Italians are fond of it being a lot harder than Aussies. However, he expresses his joy working side by side with Ben as he suggests they open a taco bar together. Ben remains noncommittal.

Suddenly the teams face an enormous challenge as another 200 staff appear out of nowhere. Word has spread that the quality of food is high, and the level for punishment for not supporting the company’s product is fierce. However, the opening of twenty more packets of Barilla pasta poses little challenge to the now well drilled teams, and the late arrivals continue to be fed.

Finally Italian Steve jobs shuts everything down as the teams congratulate themselves on a job well one without knowing if they did the job well. Gary calls them a bedraggled lot, but perhaps he meant they were a vajazzled lot (that is, a bunch of sparkly c**ts). Gary tells them they served over 1200 meals, but then he says there is a serious side. What, half of the staff have cancer? Adult illiteracy is rife? No, someone has to go to elimination.

Andy says he’s confident the green team will win as George announces that, in consultation with Guido, the managing director of Barilla, and Gary, they had decided that the red team has won, making Andy a look a fool, but a pretty fool according to Audra. George says Guido has eaten more pastas than he and Gary have had hot dinners, but as the head of Barilla, what choice does he have?

Gary says for green it’s a tragic day, which must mean that someone in their team died. Unless it was Deb. Or Alice. But in fact it means the all face an elimination, as the voice over man says the green team cook for their lives, even though we can be pretty sure that they won’t. Someone should ask the voice over guy to watch the show every now and again.

Anyway, I’m out to buy some Barilla.