You know this isn't going to end well.

With the world on the precipice of an economical disaster, with Europe imploding and set to descend into anarchy, with our Prime Minister and the US President carrying on an affair so blatant one wonders how Tim and Michelle even put up with it, it’s nice to know that there is a little corner of the televisual world where innocence abounds and joy is a prerequisite. But this isn’t a story about Kerry O’Brien and his journey from the 730 Report to Four Corners. This is a story about a bunch of kids cooking.

As the Disneyland odyssey wound down to a close, the prospect of going home shook some of them to their very cores, while for others, the prospect of being leered at by grownups in grotesque disguises also shook them to their very cores. However, of one thing there was no doubt. All of them would be going home, by some form of transport or another.

The first test came in the form of a cupcake extravaganza, where the tasting was performed by, not only the normal judges, but by a gentleman driven mad by his unhealthy obsession with the traditional methods of hat making, as well as a lady, so troubled by her life, that she had reverted to her three year old self in one of the worst cases of infantilism. The cupcakes needed to represent some aspect of American life.

Some of the contestants went with the type of cupcake one would expect. Indigo made a bouquet of flowers, from cupcakes. Jack decided to base his cakes around a chocolate indulgence theme, stating that “one is never enough, while 74 is pushing it a bit”. Zac made his cupcakes based on popular American sports, including a baseball, a basketball, a football, a jockstrap, and a syringe full of animal steroids shaped cakes. Lily, on the other hand, went for the very traditional “homeless cupcakes”, representative of the many Americans who for life is a daily struggle just to find shelter, when she dropped her cakes in the gutter. As for Mireade, her lamb cupcakes were a stunning display of ingenuity and not actually listening to the instructions.

At the tasting, there were the usual triumphs and the usual tragedies. The triumphs were the cakes. The tragedies were the adults dressed, and acting, like children. Gary thought Mireade’s cakes were hilarious, in an ironic way, because they looked exactly like sheep, the world’s most joyless animal, having as it does the highest rate of domestic violence amongst any species ending with the letters “i-n-e”. Meanwhile Harry disingenuously claimed that he hoped George wouldn’t choke on the hidden skewer in his, having failed to kill him with enormous amounts of chilli in past dishes.

But for all the imagination on display in the cupcakes, there were none better than Mireade’s little lambs, except for Indigo’s bouquet of cupcake flowers, which were second, and Jack’s chocolate indulgence, which was first.

That left six children to battle it out for only two spots, not in Disneyland, but in the Big Easy, New Orleans. How they got there remains a mystery, but get there they did. However, rather than decide those two spots by way of the traditional lobster wrestling, the producers hit upon the novel concept of having the children cook for their places, and, of course, all sorts of hi-jinks ensued.

The judges revealed that New Orleans was famous for its hot and spicy and flavoursome dishes, and as such, the contestants would have to cook a very famous Cajun dish, which was chicken. However, it was not any chicken, but blackened chicken. This left Darryl Sommers scratching his head and wondering why it was okay to blacken a chicken, but not a face. It is an interesting question.

With the cooking underway, the children’s lack of experience with spicy foods was telling. Chandler opined that if he put enough chilli in he could blow George’s head off, but then, on reflection, considered that the cost of repairing George’s head, a possible android, could run into the millions, so instead he opted to tone down the spice. Steven reckoned that “if the chicken is over cooked and dry, like Anna’s personality, you’re going home”.

After half the chicken had been burnt, and the other half had been undercooked, the contestants presented their dishes for tasting. George said Harry’s chicken had a lovely tan, but he was marked down because its bikini line was uneven. Kieren’s dish was criticised for not being tanned enough, and the judges suggested he had in fact forgotten the ochre. Kieren said he hadn’t forgotten it, it was just that, like normal people, he had no fucking idea what ochre was. Maddi’s chicken was described by Matt as “dry as a nun’s nasty’’, while Mireade had one good piece out of three. Steven strode in with confidence, and the judges thought it looked excellent AND beautiful, but tasted like and episode of Blackadder: really dry. Chandler sauntered in last and, disappointingly, didn’t physically blow George’s head off, but his attempt was appreciated by the other judges.

As the judges tallied up the scores, viewers were treated to the now traditional ‘Bupa Confusion Session’, where we all wonder what the fuck that ad is about. But on return to New Orleans, no such confusion existed. Only two places were available for the six, so no doubt at least four people would be disappointed. Harry was selected as the first one through and described in a large number of words how he was unable to express his delight in words. Chandler was the other one, notwithstanding his attempt on George’s life.

On returning from the land of make believe and high crime rate, the children were forced into another gruelling mystery box challenge back at Masterchef HQ. This was a double mystery box challenge, as the first contained your standard ingredients, whereas a second, optional box contained all the non-chop related bits of a sheep: heart, kidney, liver etc, unbeknownst to the kids. The twist? If they chose to lift the lid off the second box, they HAD to use the offal.

Zac, Harry and Indigo chose to lift the lid on the second mystery box, and were understandably shocked. Zac thought the offal was the worst thing that could have been under the second mystery box, which was something of an exaggeration considering they almost went with the Hitler mystery box instead. Indigo decided to make a pasta dish with diced brain, calling it “Gunshot wound to the head spaghetti”, a fun take on a Quentin Tarantino movie. Lily went the safe route with a lemon delicious pudding, which George thought sounded delicious, in his laziest pun of the year. Harry fried his brains but then laid off the LSD and started cooking.

Lily and Chandler were first up, and Chandler was criticised for his pithy sorbet, with George asking if he was “taking the pith”, while Lily’s lemon delicious pudding was well received and easily avoided a breach of the Trade Practices Act. Greta served up a blue cheese cigar, which was so tasty that it may have put a big dent in one of Cuba’s most popular industries. Next came the offal dishes, and Harry suffered the ultimate humiliation when the judges forced him to eat his own food. It didn’t go down well, and almost didn’t go down at all, as vomit filled Harry’s spacious cheeks. Indigo didn’t succeed using her brains either, but Zac’s liver was triumph in making unpalatable food somewhat palatable. Zac himself became a convert to offal, and in fact went on to become a fanatic, and then a zealot.

Unsurprisingly, Greta was in the top three at 3rd. Zac was second with his liver and fava beans. But Lily was first for her lemon delicious pudding.

The next round involved the boys and girls being split into two teams, with each having a professional chef added to their team, in a tag team challenge. Colin Fassnidge joined the boys and Miguel Maestre joined the girls. Words such as “butt” and “crying” and “Spanish” were bandied about inappropriately, before the cooking of roasted barramundi and saffron fettuccini started. Both teams started with the pasta while various European accents floated across the ring. Lily struggled with the pasta, while Zac got Colin to help him to score with the fish. Miguel stood on the sideline, apparently shouting “Riva, Riva” until someone brought him a coffee, while Chandler struggled with a too small opening. Colin widened the aperture, but was instantly criticised by Chandler for making the pasta too thin. Meanwhile, Bupa continued its exercise in futility.

The big guns, Jack and Greta, started off the final round, the “fish” round, with both teams neck and neck. However, Colin’s failure with the pasta came back to haunt the blue team as Jack had insufficient pasta to do a decent twirl. Notwithstanding this, both teams made it to the end without a single fatality.

The blue team served their dishes first, and both Anna and Matt thought everything was overcooked, though Anna thought the sauce was a little sharp, particularly the shards of glass, and Matt was a little unsure of the presentation, done in the style of David Irving’s head. The red team served next, and both judges thought the presentation was first class and the pasta well cooked. The red team was marked down, only slightly, when Matt came down with an almost fatal case of salmonella. In the end, fairly or unfairly, it was Matt’s low tolerance to bacteria and toxins which saw the blue team win.

To the delight of many fans and to the horror of this writer, the show went over three nights in week 8, instead of two. Tuesday night’s show started with master chocalateer, and object of many a protester’s scorn, Max Brenner, to present a deceptive challenge: make a sweet dessert which looks like a well know savoury dish, a feat Brenner is famous for, such as with his “nachos” with white chocolate, his chocolate “burger”, or his rum and raisin “skid marks”. Perhaps it is this misleading and deceptive conduct which has led to all the protesting.

As the cooking started, Zac explained that he was making Zac’s version of a meat pie and sauce, with ganache as the gravy, cake as the chunks of meat, a raspberry coulis representing the tomato sauce, and some edible paper representing a random bandaid. Alysha was powering through her sweet sushi, until George came up and suggested the rice might be raw. Meanwhile, Bupa continued providing a service for people who talk to themselves.

With the cooking done, the judges were looking more at presentation rather than tasting, notwithstanding George’s protestations. So not surprisingly, Chandler was criticised because his banana split brownie pizza looked like a banana split brownie on a pizza, while Harry was criticised for not making his own chocolate “meatballs”, whereas Jack was praised for actually making his meatballs. Admittedly, Alysha was criticised for the taste of the risotto, not so much by what the judges said but by what they didn’t say. They didn’t say it tasted good. But she was the only one, for in this challenge image was everything.

But the real standouts were Zac and Indigo. Zac, for his meat pie and “ketchup” and Indigo for her meat and (the very untraditional) four veg. Eating Zac’s pie, Max Brenner admitted he was actually a vegetarian, giving his enemies further ammunition, while Indigo’s dish drew high praise. So it was no surprise that Indigo and Zac took 1st and 2nd respectively, with Jack coming in 3rd.

With Max Brenner disposed of out the back the children were told they were going to be spending the night in the Masterchef kitchen, as there had been strong evidence that rats were invading at night and the producers needed someone to stand guard. Unfortunately using 10-12 year olds as guards is considered below industry standard, so to make up for their error the producers decided to put on Christmas for the kids, replete with Santa and irritable adults.

The challenge involved the children finding one core ingredients amongst a bevy of presents that would represent their family Christmas. Chandler unconvincingly claimed he enjoyed spending Christmas with his family, while Harry suggested the present he opened sparked memories of Christmas with his Nana, when he burnt down the entire house. Jack was a little disappointed to find underpants in his, so instead opted for raspberries.

The cooking started with much groping around in the pantry area, before things began to hot up. Chandler decided to put his core ingredient of strawberries to good use when he went with a seafood platter, while Zac’s core ingredient of chocolate was used in a Chocolate Yule Cake, as in “YOU’LL get sent to your room if you don’t eat it”. Greta exclaimed “what a disaster” extra pepper was in her mushroom dish, which helped put things in perspective for the people of Christchurch, while Anna declared there was nothing more beautiful than a ham, while looking straight at Jack.

On to the tasting, and Matt found something to die for in Lily’s salad, his first death related meal in about three weeks. Alysha’s truffle cake was unfortunately attacked by truffle seeking pigs before the judges could taste it, whereas Greta’s Christmas tapas plate was left to its own devices by the pigs AND thoroughly enjoyed by the judges. As a reward George presented Alysha and Greta with something floppy to pull. Bon bons people. Bon bons. Chandler’s strawberry seafood sauce was as popular as Prince’s raspberry beret, while everyone was forced to eat Zac’s Yule cake.

As in most cases, not everyone can be a winner, and this time was no exception. Lily was third with her ham, Zac second for his Yule cake, and Great, as usual, came in first and was awarded six points, for her tapas. Meanwhile, the truffle pigs lurked in the background, waiting, hoping that one of the kids would break off from the group, so they could be isolated, stalked, and eventually brought down just like the wild, graceful truffle never is.

Junior MasterChef – Sun/Mon/Tue/Wed (finale) 7:30pm, Ch10.