My Kitchen RulesMon-Thu 7:30pm, Ch7
http://au.tv.yahoo.com/my-kitchen-rules/

Is Carla starstruck or simply looking like a duck?

Acknowledging the Blue Mountains debacle for Thomas & Carla, and the Kitchen HQ meltdown of Sam & Jillian, TONIGHT it’s time to hear who Peter & Gary are barracking for. Are they *that* important?! Who knows, who cares, because tonight one team will be GOING HOME… (again, going home is a bad thing? Why the negative connotations for something that is meant to be welcoming? Sure, they’re out of the competition, but “going home” is bad? Who lets menacing voice over man say such ludicrous things?)

Zooming into Kitchen HQ, the contestants are massing and T&C and S&J enter looking like they’re walking to their execution. Sam mentions how she’s intending to rock it, and Def Leppard fire up in the corner to egg her on with their 80’s english glam/hair-rock stylings. “Tonight, you are in the firing line,” advises Manu. It’s a scary thought for Jillian as there are no mirrors in Kitchen HQ and she’s not ready yet to see how much her new face has melted. Pete summons “4 of the best chefs in the country that we could afford and weren’t already contractually connected to that Ch10 cooking show”. As each chef enters, they get some random fanboy/girl-ism from a contestant, and a chance to lecture us all on their theory of cooking.

Fresh from the set of Iron Chef Australia (I know, right?!) is Guy Grossi. “I love food because it brings people together. It is paramount for people to be passionate about food,” asserts GG. Escaping from the set of Better Homes and Gardens, Karen Martini tells us, “I’m a professional chef, but for me cooking has always started in the home. Which reminds me – I’ve left the oven on…” Manu then introduces Jamie Oliver, and in comes Tobie Puttock – it’s as close as they could get on the MKR budget. “Cooking is about taking nature’s best possible produce and making those ingredients do as they’re bloody told on the plate,” says TB. Finally, Liz Egan walks in, and so that nobody wonders where she works there’s lots of shots of her restaurant Becco. Liz tells us she “Really likes simple, elegant food and as she’s the tough judge she’ll be the ‘Dicko’ of the group” and let’s down her hair to reveal a salt and pepper mullet.

Each team has to prepare a three course meal for each of the guest judges and Pete and Manu, who will score each dish out of ten. With 180 points up for grabs there’s puzzled looks all round, but Pete assures them there’ll be no funny business and the team with the lower score will be “going home”. The teams put on their aprons, which are colour coded so that when the bodies need to be identified they can at least narrow down which team they are on – S&J have the white aprons, and in the best type-casting yet T&C have the black aprons. MWUHAHAHAHAHAHA!

That's Jillian's "fired up" face. At least I think so, her faces all look the same.

With 90 minutes to serve their entrees, both teams begin all sorts of cutting, chopping, preparing and praying to the god of the Kitchen, Peter Russell-Clarke. The menu’s stack up like this:

Sam & Jillian
Entree – Seared Scallops
Main – Spiced Lamb Cutlets
Dessert – Chocolate Martini (which makes Judge Karen uncomfortable from the get go).

Thomas & Carla
Entree – Seared Tuna
Main – Slow Roasted Pork Belly
Dessert – Carla’s Chocolate Cups (Oo-er! said the Priest to the Nurse)

Both teams are working hard to ensure all courses deliver on time and with enough cooking or cooling time. Thomas tells Carla that he’s cooked crackling enough times that if he screws this up he’ll be really disappointed. Carla promises to “crackle him” if he does. Promises, promises, sister. Sam starts red salting the rims of her martini glasses for dessert, causing consternation in the peanut gallery. “Why not use sugar if it’s for dessert?” asks Megan. Nic agrees. Poor, simple children. If only they paid attention when we were all told what the menu was.

Carla’s chocolate mousse is a little bit different to everyone else’s (of COURSE it is) – it’s not whisked but rather beaten. Exactly the same way she likes her gay boyfriends. Time is a-ticking, and now Manu is concerned about how much salt is on the rims of the glasses. He’s not concerned the girls are putting the fragile martini glasses in the freezer. Jillian’s concerned about getting the parsnip puree ready for the entree, and Sam is concerned about and eBay auction she’s tracking. CONCERNED. Carla’s ignoring the challenge and has decided to start painting patty cake liners, showing signs she’s lost the plot and entree prep isn’t even 30 minutes old.

Just the way Thomas likes his Pork. And how Carla likes her men.

Over at Camp White Apron, S&J have developed a disturbing trait of narrating everything they do LIVE, though Sam does find time to give a flower to her potential mother-in-law. What a kooky couple (kouple?). Thomas doesn’t know what he’s doing next so strips down to his undies and runs around screaming for a few minutes. Carla gives him a look, and somehow he’s immediately dressed and preparing the bitter greens for bitter disappointment by being entirely bitter about them behind their back (“The greens aren’t that appealing, so tonight we’re giving them a one.”). What a bitch. Mind you, Carla reminds Thomas she doesn’t date him because of his performance anxiety. Cue awkward look from Justine.

Sam’s concerned about Camp White Apron’s time management skills as she starts on cooking down the parsnip puree and the parsnip “looks funny”. Manu tells us that roasting the parsnip beforehand is a strange technique as normally the parsnip is blanched or steamed – this will make it too chunky. S&J notice the puree is in a state, and that without it they don’t have an entree. Megan & Andy (Tas) have a ‘soft spot’ for S&J, only because they were in their instant restaurant round. In these crazy, mixed up days that’s as good a reason as any. In what seems like a passing comment Jillian tells Sam to add a lot more cream otherwise it’ll never get through the sieve. Perhaps that will be their saving grace, though it sounds stupidly time consuming.

Time is depleting rapidly, so much so that Thomas has to start on the entree potatoes and Carla has used most of the entree prep time to complete those cups of hers. Once done, she starts on the raspberry vinaigrette for their entree. She doesn’t want Thomas to talk to her (even though he’s asking what to do next). S&J are now getting the mousse into the freezer, doing the dance of joy once the glasses are in. Carla’s busy prepping the tuna (taking way too long); Jillian’s now sieving the parsnip puree but it’s also proving to be time consuming too.

It’s almost time – the guest judges are welcomed back into Kitchen HQ. They march in triumphantly like Nero returning after a conquering battle. They sit at the table like Norse gods. They look at each other like part-time celebrity chefs waiting for reality cooking show food to be served to them. It’s the circle of life.

Poor Manu. He's as confused as we are.

Sam was looking to have 10 minutes to plate up, but with 10 minutes to go and not having even started on the scallops, Jillian steps in and plates for her. T&C have started plating and Thomas looks overwhelmed. Sam whacks a scallop in her mouth to taste and realises, “Oh crap! Do we have any more? I just ate a scallop!”. Plating fury as the countdown reaches zero. The entrees are served, and the teams are sent off with only an hour to prepare their mains. They’re off and running.

The judges pontificate over T&C’s tuna first. Manu waxes lyrical about how they “really respected the tuna”, which makes for a change as to how Carla usually treats her men. Karen wants more dressing, and Tobie’s bored. Guy thinks the balance is out. As for S&J’s scallops, the judges are far from scathing. Guy likes the prosciutto crumb; Liz is missing the parsnip flavour from the puree. For someone who doesn’t like seafood Gary’s hoeing into two scallops, but notes the puree is “a train wreck”.

The pork’s got 16 more minutes as T&C start their main prep, though Carla’s still painting (“The cups need to be a little bit thicker”). Thomas is stressed. He’s grated the potato for the rosti but after washing the starch off it now can’t get a dry-ish handful of potato with which to rosti. So he adds flour (“Removing starch only to add more starch,” notes Manu). Sam’s started making her onion sauce by de-skinning some sausages and adding some port fat, causing all sorts of worried looks from the peanut gallery. They do note that S&J need to get the lamb in the oven – there’s only 40 minutes to go.

Thomas is running from one end of his kitchen to another. “I don’t know what I’m doing,” he says. “Tom’s going in circles,” laughs Scott. In Thomas’s stress he’s now also narrating every day actions: “I’m just opening the oven.” “I’ve just gotta find a whisk.” “I have to keep checking my phone as I keep getting lots of messages on Grindr.” He’s like a little lost sheep. Awww.

It looks ever so rested.

Manu pops in for a visit with S&J. He’ concerned there’s too much going on for the onion sauce. Bewildered. Confused. His face is so emotive, he should get a job on TV. The peanut gallery are yelling at S&J to get their lamb in the oven, which Jillian does, but Manu’s worried they’ve not seared the lamb racks before doing so – it’s just gone in the oven raw with an oil/herb rub. Thomas’s panic has transferred to his rostis so Carla steps in. She notes they are pressured and wonders how the other team are doing. Sam still can’t get her large pot of onion to caramelise to dumps the meat in with the onion and sets the pressure cooker to go. “The onion isn’t caramelised, so it’ll taste bad,” bleats Sam. Peter & Gary joke about the girls using a pressure cooker for the sauce when “They really should be using it for the lamb as it’ll only have 30 minutes in the oven – gigglesnort”.

Jillian starts work on the garnish for the lamb (“It’s always a hit”). Carla tells Thomas to get the crackling out, but he says it’s not ready. Sam pours out the sauce and it hasn’t cooked for long enough – there’s only half a cup of sauce for all the dishes. “Payback’s a bitch,” offers Peter gleefully. There’s one minute left and it’s a frenzy of plating. A maniacal Sam yells “30 seconds” at no one particularly, though all the dogs within 10 kilometres of Kitchen HQ all prick their ears up at this distress signal. “Step away from the benches,” says Pete, infringing copyright. T&C are stoked they got their main delivered; S&J are amazed they delivered anything – but there’s still the question of the lamb.

With advice that dessert is due in 30 minutes, the judges settle in to discuss the main courses. The judges think S&J’s lamb could have rested longer to be perfect, and Liz thinks the sauce doesn’t taste really nice. “As usual, less is more,” says Manu. “Always,” says Liz, emphasizing the point. T&C’s pork goes down a lot better, and Guy’s really happy with the pork belly. Karen’s rosti was raw in the middle, though Tobie enjoyed the entire dish. It’s a close race with S&J delivering the better entree, and T&C offering the better main. It’s all down to dessert so Pete & Manu go for a visit to see how they can get in the way.

Manu pops into see how S&J are doing. He notes there is far too much salt around the glass rim, and that’s caused Sam to start second guessing herself. Carla’s busy peeling the paper off her chocolate cups which is proving to be time consuming as the paper is sticking to the chocolate. Who would have thought it would have done that? EVERYone. In a coaxed display the peanut gallery scream and yell at the 26 minute mark as we come back from the ad. This makes no sense but at least offers some colour.

Cups of chocolatey goodness balanced against Carla's bitterness.

The peanut gallery are offering their thoughts on who should stay or do, and it’s only David or Scott that reveal their true intentions: “We’d like Thomas & Carla to stay because we reckon we can take ’em,” says Scott. It’s obvious he meant in the final cook-off, though seeds of doubt have now been sewn. Carla mispronounces coulis, emphasising the “lis” part, giving everyone a chuckle. Oh Carla, you crazy, ill-informed culinary “whiz”. Thomas is worried the coulis isn’t thickening so he adds… cornflour. Then he and Carla are worried the coulis now has an overpowering flavour of cornflour. Whod’a thunk it.

S&J’s brandy snaps are melting (Jillian nearly places them in the oven), and T&C decide not to serve the coulis – instead placing some fresh raspberries on the mousse instead. S&J decide against the brandy snaps with seconds to spare, so it’s disasters at 20 paces when it comes to dessert for both teams. They present them to the judges, and both teams go “take a well earned rest”.

Starting with T&C’s chocolate cup, the judges think the flavours are great, but Guy thinks the cup could have been finer (it didn’t need the second coat). Pete’s really impressed, but the peanut gallery think the cups are very rich and too thick. As for S&J’s chocolate martini there’s no reservations from Tobie – the salt was too overpowering. Liz thinks the salt is too much and they’ve not pulled it off. All the judges are happy with their scores – Martini has made her decision, which prompts Pete to acknowledge that everyone’s made their decision so it must be time to bring the contestants back in for the decisions.

Pete & Manu welcome back the teams and pass off to the judges to share their decision-based culinary morsels with both T&C and S&J. The scores stack up like this:

Sam & Jillian
Guy Grossi – 6
Tobie Puttock – 5 (“There was too much salt in the dessert.”)
Liz Egan – 5 (“The sauce still has me baffled.”)
Karen Martini – 5
Manu Feildel – 6 (“You would have got a lot more flavour if you seared the lamb.”)
Pete Evans – 5
Total score – 32/60.

Thomas & Carla
Guy Grossi – 7
Tobie Puttock – 6 (“Overall your menu was nice but very safe.”)
Liz Egan – 6
Karen Martini – 7
Manu Feildel – 7 (“The best thing on the plate for me was the crackling.”)
Pete Evans – 6
Total score – 39/60.

"Yeah, bye loser..."

It’s tears, hugs and knives in the back for Sam & Jillian as the first team eliminated from the sudden death cook-off from the peanut gallery. “This feels like such a turning point in the competition,” says Carla, again stating what no one was thinking. “We’ve learned so much and we’ll never forget a word either of you have said to us, Gary & George,” grimaces Jillian (it’s not really a smile, is it?).

There’s a nice montage of Sam & Jillian’s time in the competition, and tears from them as they leave. Boo hoo. No time to dwell on the past, as tomorrow night the teams are in Melbourne and trying to hawk their food to a passing lunchtime crowd. There’s ominous signs as Leigh offers, “We’re dead pork meat.” We can only hope.

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