My Kitchen Rules – Mon-Thu 7:30pm, Ch7
So much chaos, so much bitchiness, and so much fun. It all comes down to this – the battle of the South Australians Nic & Rocco vs Leigh & Princess Jen. If there’s one thing we can all be happy about it’s that there’s no Ke$ha to serenade us tonight. The teams walk in, dressed in their chef whites and blacks, and it’s ready to rumble time. “I can’t believe how far we’ve come,” says Leigh after walking in from the street. “Tonight, it’s all about cook, cook, cook and win, win, win,” says Princess Jen. “Pinch me, we’re in the Grand Final,” says Rocco. Nic motions to but is given a stern look by his childhood friend that he’s seen too many times before.
Manu welcomes the teams and remind them what’s at stake – $250,000 and the title of My Kitchen Rules Champeens. We hear about their inspirations and Leigh tells us he taught herself how to cook as her Mum was the only one around and had to look after the family and so this was one way she could help. “We did it tough growing up – we had the blandest of blandest foods like Toast and Vegemite, and Squib,” says Leigh. The girls tell us they’re here to dish up perfection they want to win. Or at least shame Nic & Rocco at least once.
Pete tells the teams that this Grand Final is quite the challenge – a 5 course menu, with the contestants delivering 20 plates per course. 100 plates of food from each team, and they all have to be amazing. “Cooking that many plates is gonna be a real struggle,” says Nic. Someone better explain to him they have to cook food to put ON the plates, not cook empty plates. Poor Rocco’s carried his “special” friend all season, and now this!? “You now have to prove what it takes to be crowned My Kitchen Rules champions,” says Pete. They’ve two hours to deliver their first course, and their time… starts… five minutes ago while they were yapping about cooking plates.Five courses, 100 plates. This is no mean feat for three amateur chefs and Nic (who is already talking WAY too much). Rocco’s already worked out that each plate is worth $2,500 each, and Nic’s agog at the expensive plates they’ll be using. LeSigh. Proving she’s mastered both over-stating and recounting exactly everything we know, Leigh says: “Today is about perfection. If we make one mistake, it could cost us the competition.” She knows they’re cooking against Nic & Rocco, right?
Each team is out to impress and the menus they’re each delivering are impressive enough:
Leigh & Princess Jen – Burlesque
1st course – Crab Congee
2nd course – Scallops in XO sauce
3rd course – Quail with barberry and quinoa
4th course – Wagyu Beef Ribs with bone marrow and cauliflower puree
5th course – Chocolate Hazelnut Cake
Princess Jen is hard at work creating the stock for the first course while Jen is sorting the crab claws before starting on the XO sauce for the 2nd course. It’s all happening.
Nic & Rocco – Double Trouble
1st course – Seared Moroccan Tuna and cured salmon
2nd course – Bug Tails with fennel puree and chorizo essence
3rd course – Spatchcock Two Ways with heirloom carrots and thyme crumbs
4th course – Poached Pork Belly with potato discs and fresh horseradish
5th course – Chocolate Raspberry Pop Delight
At least one course from the boys is a collection of words they pulled out of a hat and pieced together. They seem to be working like a well-oiled machine so Rocco must have learned something from his new robot girlfriend. Princess Jen is owning the creation of the XO sauce and the girls AND Pete notes it’s a very tricky preparation to get perfect. Let’s face it – if anyone can get a difficult preparation like this right, it’s the girl who’s had everything done for her most of her life.Manu jolts the contestants back to reality with the acknowledgement that 30 minutes has passed. I hope it’s not gonna be like this all night or we’re in for a loooooong recap. Go get a coffee/beverage and settle in, friends. Pete tells them all to “get yourself in the zone”, whatever “the zone” is. Perhaps it’s Nic’s special place where Guy Grossi is chanting “depth of flavour” over and over and over? Wherever it is Nic is busy de-boning spatchcock there and he needs to retain pretty much every component for different elements of their 3rd course. There’s so many elements for each course that it’s easy to get lost with what needs to be done when.
The congee has stopped boiling for the girls and the thud in the soundtrack tells us this is something to note. They know they need at least one and a half hours of reducing time so that it’s ready and this is a major roadblock to that. They can’t tip it into another pot as it will simply make the sauce cloudy. The guest judges arrive to Pete’s heralding and they’re all dressed up like it’s a special event. The judges start to review the menus while Leigh and Princess Jen start debating if Jen’s stressed or not. It’s a fun exchange with the girls finishing with Abbott & Costello’s “Who’s on first?” routine. That was unexpected.
The teams are pushing on and just when they think they have it all in hand, Pete & Manu shout that the doors of their restaurant are now open and in walk the eliminated contestants for a free feed. The family and friends of the teams also come in and distract the teams from the task at hand. Valuable minutes slip by while Rocco tells us in his dull monotone, “Our mothers have cooked for us selflessly for years; now it’s our chance to cook for them. There’s no better feeling.” I couldn’t have read it worse myself.
In what may be another foreboding indication the girls take out the title, Nic & Rocco’s Mums came in with little fanfare, but Leigh & Princess Jen’s Mums get special entrances each to themselves. There’s lots of awwws as the girls are clearly close to their mothers and the producers want to start the tears early. In a sure sign everyone will hate Princess Jen’s husband even more, when the Peanut Gallery and family are cheering on the teams by name, he calls out “Go Pies!”. There’s a time and a place, buddy, and that wasn’t it.Angela notices there’s a burnt smell coming from the girl’s kitchen just as Princess Jen checks the XO sauce to discover it had started to catch on the bottom. No one was stirring it. The quickly transplant it to another pot and put it back on the heat. Leigh’s confident the sauce is still OK. Crisis averted. “We are 100% sure the XO sauce is still OK,” says Princess Jen.
30 minutes left before the 1st course is due and Rocco starts searing the tuna. The boys are very busy as they have LOTS of plating to do but cries of “hurry up” from the Peanut Gallery are poorly included as there’s still 12 minutes to go and they’re all but finished plating. Peanuts. 8 minutes and both teams have their plating of their 1st course well in hand, but the drama must continue. COME ON! HURRY UP! STOP LISTENING TO US! All this and then Princess Jen realises the XO sauce has burnt AGAIN.
With 10 seconds left, there’s only the final garnish to place and everything is delivered perfectly. Both teams are happy and present their dishes to the judges knowing they have to hightail it back into the kitchen and keep cooking. “We want these flavours to be clean and simple and we know they’re going to build right through the other dishes in the menu until you have a sandcastle in front of you,” says Leigh. Pete tells them they have one hour to deliver 2nd course, “So why are you still standing there?!”. Princess Jen is still concerned about the XO sauce and we’re back where we were 10 minutes ago – not burnt.
The girls’ congee is considered a delight by the judges. “An extremely delicate way to start a five course menu,” says Pete. As always nothing couldn’t be improved by the hand of Puttock or Feildel – Liz would have liked the rice to have a little more flavour – but Guy thinks it’s got the right depth of flavour (drink!). Pete’s concerned it’s elegant but it may be too subtle. Now he’s just making up excuses. When the judges taste the boys’ tuna & salmon they note it’s a flavour packed dish from the get go. “We’ve got some huge flavours here to start with and it could go anywhere from here, which is exciting,” says Tobie. I’m sure that means something to someone. Pete acknowledges a great effort from both teams, but for him Nic & Rocco are ahead by a nose. And he says that in front of their families. For shame.
Coming back from the ad break Manu forgets what show he’s on and announces “It’s the Main Event today”. Just as long as he’s not thinking it’s “Man O Man”. Leigh is working one course ahead again, trying to push watermelons through a flyscreen. Princess Jen’s working on the Wagyu Ribs to ensure they all get in the oven for as long as possible. “Is that chicken stock?” asks Justine to interrupt the process. “No, it’s veal stock, you heaving moron,” thinks Princess Jen.Rocco confirms everything they need to do while not actually doing anything, but then seals the spatchcock breasts in bags for cooking and rushes off to do something else. Nic reminds Rocco they need to start the Moreton Bay Bugs and start extracting the essence of the chorizo. They’re only extracting the essence so that Nic can use it as an aftershave though – not for any practical purpose. Just rub a sausage on your face, mate.
Princess Jen lays out the lining of a pig’s stomach just to make everyone feel a little bit queazy. She lays the quail skin on it so she can put the quail mousse on it to then roll up and make ANOTHER cigar. Princess Jen flash fries the scallops to remove any excess moisture while Manu tells Pete they’ll have to cook 60 scallops perfectly and that’s gonna be really hard. But not anything he hasn’t ever done himself, of course, just hard for them because they aren’t him.
Rocco’s working hard on the fennel puree when Pete tells us why: basically, fennel’s a bitch. They’re gonna have to work hard on it to get the edible plant through the sieve. It’s come out too runny so Rocco tries to cook the water out and thicken it up. There’s lots shouted direction from the Peanut Gallery as to how to cook the bug tails – Megan is the most vocal. She’s an expert by association… the worst kind. Time’s flying by and Princess Jen cooks at plates the scallops without a whimper from the assembled throng. We’re getting grabs of comments from the Peanut Gallery, and the highlight so far is from Andrew: “Bugger me they look good.” No one can tell if he’s talking about an element on the plate or the contestants. It doesn’t really matter as everyone’s ignoring him anyway.
Two minutes to go and (BOOM!)… The girls don’t have enough scallops. Where’d they all go? Leigh can’t believe it’s all happening. Nic’s now asking the Peanut Gallery what the time is while he’s working and then chastises them all for yelling at him. Princess Jen’s busy cooking the extra scallops they now need with one minute left on the clock. In his best supportive bogan Princess Jen’s husband is all “oh my god”. Leigh lectures Princess Jen to make sure the scallops are cooked as Manu yells the 30 second warning at them. “They’re cooked! They’re cooked!” shouts Princess Jen. They get it all on the plate while the boys have cruised in. With only one hour to prepare the 3rd course the plates are delivered and it’s back to never-ending cooking.The judges start with Nic & Rocco’s bug tails, and determine it’s all bar perfect. Leigh & Princess Jen’s scallops get the same level of attention. “It’s a happy dish,” says Guy. “It’s all been perfectly cooked,” says Liz. Pete reminds them the girls had issues with the sauce (twice) and are concerned it may have a burnt taste to it. No one finds that – in fact Guy thinks it is adding to the depth of the sauce (drink!) and makes it even better. Karen says they’ve achieved that sweet caramelization (drink!) and that adds to the sauce. The judges agree it’s neck and neck as the teams continue… but there’s always time for a highly scripted surprise Pete & Manu visit.
The Dancing With The Stars promo in the ad break made me want to vomit. Daggy dancing? Really?! God help us all.
There’s never a time when the teams are not under a lot of pressure. Manu says both teams have high-maintenance 3rd courses but Leigh has the advantage as she’s been Princess Jen’s friend for years. Leigh’s really nervous about the dessert, but Princess Jen is entirely encouraging: “Don’t be – I have faith in you.” It may have been off-handed, but you don’t hear that from friends working together under pressure often enough. Leigh wants to get most of the dessert done in this prep time so that she can help in the other segments. “It’s gonna be crazy,” says Leigh. “Anything is possible in this Kitchen HQ,” says Princess Jen. “I mean, look at me. They all think I’m a normal person.”
Nic & Rocco have a small quibble over the stock pot as the both need it, but a quick game of “Nic, I’m taking it” sorts it out promptly. They’ve got their pork belly in the pot and getting it to simmer as they don’t want crispy skin on it – they want the softest skin possible. As soft as Nic’s face after he’s moisturised after a shower. The skin of a 12 year old pre-pubescent virgin.
Princess Jen’s working on their puree, and it’s still to thick so while the blender is on she takes the lid off and starts mixing with a whisk. As you do. Helen’s concerned she’s electrocute herself (shakes head in despair). The puree’s out and things seem to be on track. No electrocution. Leigh’s working hard on their cake and she knows working against the ‘Dessert Kings’ it has to be perfect.
Nic & Rocco are cooking their spatchcock and with 39 minutes to go they have HEAPS to do. The boys are stressing but, for once, Nic is the calm one and helps get Rocco back on track. Not that he’s a train and has derailed himself; more in the “he’s running through the streets of San Diego naked and bashing the ground with his fists so I brought him a jacket” kind of way. Rocco gets the breasts out of the pot and sits them to rest. Until he opens the bags he won’t know how pure the cocaine is and how well the bird is cooked.The quail is being pan fried to finish it off, and Princess Jen’s comfortable she can deliver it just pink in the centre. Both teams are running the checklists of what needs to be done and it’s Nic & Rocco that are found to be wanting: With only 11 minutes to go they have jus still reducing and puree that’s too hot to pipe. If only they’d worked in a clockwise direction they wouldn’t have this problem now. The chicken is cooked perfectly at least, so they’re plating up – there’s now only four and a half minutes left.
The girls are plated with nearly two minutes to spare, while the boys are almost throwing their plates together. The Peanut Gallery have to remind them to put the skins and the sauce on the plate (I knew they’d finally come through!). It’s chaos and it’s frustrating Megan more than anyone else. Leigh’s put the cakes in the fridge even though the dessert didn’t progress as far as she’d liked in the time allowed. 3rd course is carried to the judging table and the boys are disappointed with their plating experience. 4th course is due in 90 minutes and there’s still acres of stuff to do so the contestants waste no time in re-kitchening themselves post haste.
Leigh & Princess Jen’s quail is considered a triumph across the board. “I want more,” says Pete looking at Karen, but then quickly looks at his plate. Nic & Rocco’s spatchcock gets wraps, but not ones as big as the girls. “There’s certainly a lovely combination of flavours on this plate,” says Guy (drink!). “It’s nice,” says Tobie. “It is a shame about the presentation, but what they do have on the plate is great flavours,” says Pete. Pete & Manu threaten to pop in on the teams again, but I suspect they may be edited out as there’s just too much to do without their interruptions.
There’s still four elements to complete for the dessert by Leigh, and there’s almost the entire 4th course to prepare by Princess Jen, and the both acknowledge they’re just “behind, behind, behind”. It’s not helping them in that Leigh has to unwrap all the little chocolates they’re using for part of their dessert. “Aren’t there supposed to be people that fix this for us?” she asks. After calling Hire-A-Hubby and being told that’s outside their work method statements, she plugs on with it herself.
Dessert is firmly in Rocco’s responsibility so Nic is focusing on the pork. He’s got a lot of prep to do and is peeling carrots like a man possessed with peeling carrots. “We’re in a great position – the pork’s almost done and all Nic has to do is prepare the garnish vegetables and look up on wikipedia what the word “garnish” means. With an hour and 10 left there’s so much to do and so little time. There’s always time to interrupt Rocco though, who’s trying to get the mousse piped into the containers so it can chill. His mum asks how much gelatine is in the mousse and Rocco replies, “About one hoof”. His mum nods knowingly – she taught him well. Nic’s mum isn’t yelling out instructions to him as she knows he won’t listen to her anyway. Kids these days.The ribs are ready to transfer into the reducing stock to continue to cook them and make them even more tender and that’s got all of Princess Jen’s attention. Leigh’s working hard on dessert but quizzing Princess Jen for our benefit. They sound confident and that’s all we need, as that’s not quite what we’re hearing from the boys. Drama, people – drama!
Rocco’s got the mousse cups in the fridge to set (he hopes) and has started work on the macarons – there’s only one “O” there, mate. Nic reminds him they need 10/10 for the macarons and that’s exactly what Rocco intends to deliver, IF EVERYONE WOULD JUST SHUT THE HELL UP! Nic & Rocco thought Pete & Manu would be tough critics, but they tell us their mums are even tougher. They just can’t award them with $250,000 at the end of the competition. Eyes on the prize, boys.
“People love bone marrow – it’s creamy, it’s fatty, but not disgustingly fatty,” says Princess Jen. For those that don’t know, bone marrow is the tissue inside your bones that helps with blood cell production. Don’t say you didn’t learn anything. The marrow needs to be cooked really delicately otherwise it will disintegrate in the dish and that’ll make it a real bugger to plate up.
The pork’s ready to come out and the stock is split into three pots to cook three different processes – potato, vegies and pork. The boys it was as easy as mixing it all up in one pot, but in doing so they risk being judged as “one pot wonders” and nobody wants that. Princess Jen tries some of the marrow and it’s well undercooked, so with no time left to poach it she puts it in the oven but has to be careful as unchecked it could just melt away. “We have to do it because we have no time,” says a harried Princess Jen. 11 minutes to go.
Rocco checks the desserts – they seem to be setting perfectly. Rocco goes to help Nic but has to put the macarons in the oven. Princess Jen gets the marrow out of the oven and it’s cooked perfectly – a win, considering she’d never finished it like that before but then there’s lots of things she’s never finished like that before.Leigh runs out of time with her cakes so puts them in the fridge to chill (she hasn’t finished putting the cream on) and spills some cream on the floor but doesn’t have time clean it up. Workplace health and safety, people – it’s too important NOT to clean it up. Parts of the Peanut Gallery start up a maniacal chant, led by Sam & Jillian. Which makes perfect sense. Rocco’s mum is suggesting he should take the macarons out of the oven so everyone else starts yelling that too. It’s not a big deal as he and Nic have plated their 4th course with ease. The girls have finished too – not a problem. Time for the judges to pick it apart.
“We’re pretty happy about this. We’re sure none of them have ever tried this before so they’re unlikely to taste the motor oil,” says Nic.
“I think this is gonna be a turnaround for us,” says Rocco.
The teams have 45 minutes to deliver dessert – and as it’s the final course there’s no mucking around now. Gotta get it done.
The poached pork belly from Nic & Rocco is acknowledged to be very, very good. Be it the beautiful pork, the gelatinous skin or the flavoursome broth the judges are impressed. “They have done a fabulous job with this dish, it is delicious,” says Liz. The wagyu beef from Leigh & Princess Jen knocks the judges socks off. The judges can’t decide if it melts or sings but either way it’s a winner. “This dish has their personality on it,” says Guy. He draws a smiley face in the puree and stares off into the middle distance of a time when *he* was the Iron Chef. Good times, good times. With a deft use of hyperbole Pete describes this competition as shaping up to be the grand final of grand finals. “No one has ever in the history of the universe had a grand final like this one,” says Pete, and you can hear Meatloaf warming up in the background for his half-time performance.
Leigh has a backup plan if she can’t temper the chocolate for their dessert. “If it fails, it all falls on my shoulders,” says Leigh. She doesn’t let on what the backup plan is, but motions her head into the ceiling where you can just make out a sniper with his muzzle trained on Princess Jen wherever she walks in the kitchen. “So, this better work out then, hey?” says Leigh with a glint in her eye.
Pete & Manu confirm what everyone is thinking – yes, Pete’s suit is one size too small. Oh, and that this dessert portion of the challenge is Nic & Rocco’s to lose. But mainly the suit.
The science of chocolate tempering is an awkward one, but if you get it right it makes for an amazing shiny, snappy delight. Leigh’s working hard to make it go but again – the back up plan. Princess Jen’s blowtorching the sides of the cake to get them out of the moulds and the first one works perfectly. Leigh’s just stressed about getting the right temperature in the chocolate. “Come on, duggut un, duggut un!” shouts Simon.Nic’s well outside his comfort zone piping the filling into the macarons(!), but Rocco’s there encouraging him and together, one day, they’ll rule the world. It’s a touching but confusing moment. How will they rule the world? WHY will they rule the world? Because of a dessert??
Just as a Highlander needs the quickening, so the South Australian Florist needs the tempering. So far so good, so they add titanium dioxide to help the white chocolate turn perfectly white. Also to add all the essential titanium you need in your annual diet in one dish. Isn’t titanium radioactive? Won’t this turn everyone into Spiderman (such is my understanding of 8th grade science)??!! “It’s the best I could do – if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work,” says Leigh. In mixing in the titanium dioxide, they didn’t sieve it first and it’s gone lumpy in the chocolate. They have to start again. It’s nearly Leigh’s worst nightmare, or at least it would be if she was dreaming.
Geez, Channel 7 are packing in the promos for new shows in tonight’ grand final ep, aren’t they?
Leigh’s committed – she’s gonna make the tempered chocolate again. Nic’s putting their mousses into the freezer to ensure they set and nearly loses a tray as he puts it in. It’s cray cray everywheres with only 10 minutes left. The girls are extremely determined. “Give us 30 seconds, we’ll make something work if we can,” says Princess Jen. Now with only six and a half minutes left, they better make something work if they can.
“It’s $250,000 of tempered chocolate – that’s how I’m seeing it,” says Leigh. “No risk, no glory.” Mixed metaphors at a time like this is understandable.
Four minutes and finishing touches are going on all the dishes. Two minutes and the chocolate isn’t set – they’ll have to leave it. One minute and the boys are OK, but the girls are persisting with the chocolate. Nup. the caramel sauce will have to do as the cake topping. Then the producers do something interesting – Leigh mentions she’s so stressed that even with the shouting it’s like the place is silent. They emulate a heartbeat and slow everything down to be in black and white. You wouldn’t want to have a heart condition as you may think your number’s up!
Time’s up. That’s it – everything’s done. Leigh feels like the dessert was her responsibility and she’s let Princess Jen down by not getting the chocolate disc on the plate. Rocco’s super relieved as their dessert has come off perfectly. Too late now – it’s judging time and naught any contestant can do about it. Pete congratulates them on their efforts and sends them to rest while he and the judges taste their final dish. The contestants leave Kitchen HQ with the applause of their friends, families and eliminated contestants ringing in their ears.Dessert judgement starts with Nic & Rocco’s delight. All the judges are completely impressed – “A fabulous finish to a great meal,” says Tobie. Leigh & Princess Jen’s cake follows and the judges all note that the disc is missing but no one is missing it. “I don’t like white chocolate so I’m not missing it,” says Liz. “I know it is missing so I know the dish is unfinished but when I put it in my mouth it is finished,” says Manu. He’s almost got the hang of this English thing.
Pete reminds the judges that this decision is life-changing. “It’s for a quarter of a million dollars,” he says. “We know that’s just Grossi’s hair product budget for the year, but for these kids it’s everything.” The teams are called back and it’s time to find out who’s won.
Pete is very proud to have been a part of this journey with the contestants – they were set quite the challenge tonight and they rose to the occasion. Manu reminds them there can be only one winner, conveniently forgetting there’s two people in each team, and that if there’s a tie there’ll actually be four winners. While they can milk it Pete asks Leigh what it’s like to have her mum here tonight, and there’s tears of love from both ladies. Rocco’s mum has transformed into a bobble head and now can’t speak but only nod.
It was quite the competition between them all, and the judges recap dish by dish what they thought of each menu. So much so that before we get a score we have to sit through 6 minutes of reflection and compliments. For each team. The judges reveal a little too much of their hand by over-complimenting the boys compared to what they say to the girls, which can only be their last chance at mis-direction.
Nic & Rocco – Double Trouble
Guy Grossi – 9
Tobie Puttock – 9 (“So fantastic to see two good friends cooking together.”)
Liz Egan – 8 (“Watching you guys has been an absolute pleasure.”)
Karen Martini – 8
Manu Feildel – 9
Pete Evans – 9
Total score – 52/60.
See?! The judges over-complimented them but only gave them 8’s & 9’s. This has to be the last minute bait ‘n switch. There’s also all sorts of screams from Rocco’s sisters that are entirely ear piercing.
Leigh & Princess Jen – Burlesque
Guy Grossi – 10 (“You put together a beautiful menu for us.”)
Tobie Puttock – 10
Liz Egan – 9
Karen Martini – 9 (“Tonight you gave us a contemporary full flavoured menu.”)
Manu Feildel – 10
Pete Evans – 10
Total score – 58/60.
Nic & Rocco are gracious in defeat – they’ve been gentlemen the entire series. Leigh can’t believe it. She didn’t think they’d get into the competition let alone win. The girls are ecstatic as we pull back out of Kitchen HQ for the last time this season and the credits roll. My only question is: who has to clean up all that metallic confetti that was just dumped from the rafters. That stuff is a massive pain to get up. Where’s their applause?!
FUN FACT: The narrator of the series was Septimus Caton, son of Michael Caton and cast as “Andrew” is season one of Laid.