ADRIAN LOWE July 17, 2012
Chef Kylie Kwong demonstrated her tear-jerking power on her visit to the MasterChef studios.
Tuesdays in this most famous kitchen are usually reserved for the awarding of golden pins that their winners hold on to when common sense dictates they should be surrendered, and for embarrassing fawning and adulation of chefs that very few people have heard of. In a radical move, the rule book is being thrown out the door – there's no immunity challenge today. But any relief at avoiding the wailing and screaming that greets a visiting chef quickly dissipates when Audra and Mindy weep in the presence of Kylie Kwong.
The Kwongster has been cooking for 38 years, we learn, and the first challenge in this all-in elimination is to keep up with Kylie. A quick skip back through the opening titles and the perky faces of contestants long since eliminated (does any remember Polenta Lydia or Hungry Jack's Matt?) reminds of the existence of Deb. It's fortuitous that Deb is not participating in this challenge for a number of reasons, not least of which is that if Deb, 50, was cooking along with the Kwongster for the 38 years, 88-year-old Deb would probably still be moaning about how her menopause prevented her from giving her best.
But we digress. Audra, the groovy 42-year-old, who insists on calling the men of the house "dude", begins our episode with this eye-opening revelation: "There are three pins and I don't know if they're going to use it today." Thanks for that Audra; we also don't know because we're only one minute in to the episode. But the tension (or lack thereof) is dispersed posthaste as Alice, Mindy and Kylie (not Kwong, the one who's got the bouncy blonde hair) return their immunity pins to George – who may well crush them up to use as an ingredient in his deconstructed Greek salad.
Big Matt Preston, who's donned a questionable wardrobe combination of a navy shirt with a turquoise pocket handkerchief, warns our remaining five intrepid contestants that today is a "big day" and introduces Kylie Kwong as today's scary celebrity guest. Cue tears from Audra and Mindy, who by this point has retired to the balcony to take up residence as the advice dispenser during the challenge.
Mindy quickly ferrets back downstairs after she's offered the chance to hug a now scared-looking Kwongster, who should probably jack up her appearance fee for next season if this is the sort of crap she has to deal with. Mindy sobs and Audra gushes how much she idolises Kwongster, which prompts another awkward glance from the feted one.
Beau claims that round one of the challenge – to cook simultaneously with Kwongster – is unbelievable. "I've never seen anything like it," he declares and then proceeds to recap the rules of the round that Gary explained just 30 seconds earlier.
The dish for round one – a crabby stack of some kind – is revealed, and unlike the squid-ink inspired graffiti that saw the competition's eyebrows waxed off the night before, this actually looks like real food that one may want to eat.
Julia whines that this is her worst MasterChef nightmare. "I am in deep, deep trouble," she confides to the audience. Really, Julia? Don't you remember the burnt dessert from last week in Italy? Or that dessert you couldn't finish in the kitchen that wasn't a kitchen? Let's just calm down and take a deep breath, yeah? (Hi Matt Moran! Thought I'd continue your Tuesday tradition, yeah?)
On returning from the break, Alice again helpfully recaps what the challenge is and its stipulations. I wonder if she's this helpful in her classroom. I also wonder what stipulations are in the contract of production company Shine about how many recaps the audience must suffer through every single night. Note to producers for next year – less talky, more cooking.
Now, taking some of my own advice, the cooking. Kylie warns our crew of five that the crab should not be casseroled. Julia reminds us that there is a challenge in keeping up with Kylie. This is not in any way linked to Keeping up with the Kardashians, because those ladies probably never eat for fear of ruining their lips.
Kwongster instructs that the crab should be in four pieces. Beau reveals that he's never cooked crab. Someone really should be keeping a list of the foods that MasterChef contestants have never cooked. (For those playing along at home, Audra's never cooked a leg of lamb, TK had never cooked turkey, Wade had never made meringue and Tregan had never made onion rings. There could be a drinking game out of this.)
Andy is pretty confident and he of the colourful pants says he's managing to keep up and is backing himself in the first stage. Julia, on the other hand, fails to convince the Kwongster that she is going OK – her tone gives her away. One must admire her constant belief in herself, particularly in light of how often she's been in elimination challenges and been challenged by Gary and George.
Ben, disappointed that this isn't a Mexican crab dish, admits to cutting corners to keep up with the Kwongster, who by this point is starting her stir fry and putting the crab in the steamer. Audra's feeling the pressure, evidenced by the fact that Audra then starts talking about Audra in the third person about how the expectations are really on Audra today because of how much this challenge is playing to Audra’s strengths. Audra’s kinda freaking everyone out now, yeah, dude?
After Andy checks up on Ben's progress (seriously, their bromance is probably the second best in the history of television behind that of Ernie and Bert), Audra tells us she's not tasting her dish. Helpfully, the Kwongster chooses this moment to remind everyone to taste their food.
The Kwongster's next instructions are to "give it a really good toss without spilling it", and you may expect me to be taking that somewhere, but my grandmother might read this, so you can go there yourself.
Kwongster has also contracted the Mindy disease and is demanding the legs of the crab be placed in a "beautiful" big pile with "beautiful" sauce.
The challenge is quite reminiscent of an aerobics or Zumba class really – if you get behind, you're pretty much stuffed for the duration.
Beau says he's shattered that he ran out of time to put the sauce on his crab. And with that, the dirty dishes of our five magically disappear as they wait to be judged – a technical trick that depresses me as I remember my pile of dishes in the kitchen that are waiting to be scrubbed.
Gary helpfully repeats the rules – that only the top two dishes will see their creators through to safety. This is helpful because I'd forgotten what was happening since the last rule recap about 10 minutes ago.
Ben delights Matt and George with his crab; Kwongster's Mindy disease infection has spread to George, who says the crab is steamed beautifully. Matt appears surprised that the sauce worked well but says that the dish may not be the best looking one. This is not a new feeling for Ben, who deals with not being the best looking when compared with Andy by the remaining ladies of the contest.
Beau's dish is next and as he decries that his dish is sauceless, Kylie on the balcony is eyeing him off in a way that suggests she wishes he was topless.
As Beau shouts "No!" when George asks if he's happy, we cut to a break. Upon our return, we are again privileged to hear the exchange again, lest we forgot. When eating, George ignores the fork in his hand and forages through the plate and then licks his fingers.
Audra and Julia's dishes aren't pleasing to the judges but Andy has perfectly cooked his crab, according to the Kwongster. This praise makes Andy beam like the sun has possessed him.
Andy hugs Ben as it's announced the tattooed one is safe – and Ben reciprocates with a shout of jubilation when his buddy is also safe, and they retire to the balcony.
"Ding Ding, Round Two," says George, mistaking his occupation for a boxing referee's sound effects box.
In the ad break, we're treated to a cameo from the Perfect Italiano man who decries the "ugly little gherkin". I'm decrying his absences this year; those ads made the Season Two weeping of Claire and the injustice of Marion's loss more bearable.
Upon our return, we're greeted to a series of eight cloches sitting on the bench, under which lie the Kwongsters lucky eight ingredients. "I can't WAIT to see what you do with them" she says, having clearly taken enunciation and emphasis lessons from George's vocal coach.
The remaining trio has 45 minutes to cook a Chinese dish using one ingredient from the cloches – incidentally, the final ingredient, Kylie says, are "beautiful mushrooms with beautiful colours".
The challenge begins with Julia telling us she's worried – "I don't cook Chinese normally", says she of the designer specs – not to be mistaken for Alice's outsized ones.
Beau expresses hope that he hasn't picked "the wrong ingredients". To this obvious plea for help, Gary advises that if he wants to cook well, he should stretch the brain. That makes sense.
Meanwhile Kwongster tells someone that something has "beautiful texture" – one gets lost among all the beautiful. Isn't there room for average or even ugly in this place?
Julia again confides in the audience at home that if her poached chicken’s not done, "that will send me home". Thanks Julia, we had failed to work out that the judges don't like raw poultry – even though they have a strange propensity to go crazy over medium rare steak.
Kylie on the balcony is worried about Julia's chicken; she fears that it may dull down the flavours of the "beautiful mushrooms". Enough beauty!
The Kwongster and Gary huddle like they're plotting world domination – KK fears that Audra's sauces are heavy-duty and that Beau's dish is a bit simple. Gary wants Beau to transform from amateur cook to miracle worker and go from "a bit lost" to "doing something special". Tough call Gaz, Beau's a pipe worker by trade, not Mother Teresa. Balcony Kylie says Beau is flustered – clearly he's contracted Deb's menopause, the curse of which has spread through the house via fennel before she was booted.
Audra is trying to make her tofu edible, and less like the remnants of a drippy candle. And with just three minutes to go (where did the time go?!) Julia's chicken is raw. "Imagine if it's raw," says Gary.
"A fait accompli." Amazingly, he says it at the same time Julia is befuddled by the undercooked nature of the poor bird, who surely didn’t want to die for this indignity.
Beau's dish is tasted first – it is "nicely cooked" prawns with "a lovely glaze" but features a salad containing vegetables that appear to have been prepared at a local nursing home. Kwongster isn’t convinced and claims to be able to taste Beau's confusion about what he was doing.
Audra has "cooked" fresh tofu in a dark vinegar and Szechuan sauce. Matt had better rattle his dags with the tasting; Lara Bingle's due on in three minutes for the weekly half-hour of boredom. I'm sure she's lovely but she's just dull. I do wonder if she'd like fresh tofu in a dark vinegar and Szechuan sauce.
Matt likes the tofu's texture and Kwongster says the tofu is "authentically Chinese".
And we come to the raw chicken of Julia, which is seemingly no longer raw. Kwongster is impressed by our Julia's courage to poach chicken in limited time AND deal with the mushrooms. Boy, that’s a hard lot. We come to the fireball, that ever-present MasterChef symbol, which is ironically what the chicken could use to ensure it is actually cooked.
If the chicken is raw, Julia won't survive. In the same vein, I won't survive another promotion for I Will Survive, which is shockingly coming to Channel Ten soon. Those blanket promotions are really subtle.
Ms Bingle won't be happy that Julia is stealing the first few minutes of her scheduled time ... Apparently tonight her brother makes a court appearance dressed like the mafia, which makes Lara laugh hysterically like a hyena. Hyena could make a good dish for this "bombshell" week of MasterChef, but it would have to be cooked medium-rare and have blood pouring out to win the judges' approval.
Now, back to the impending food poisoning of KK at the hands (claws?) of Julia's undercooked chicken. Kwongster says it feels perfectly cooked, but I always cook as though pink chook is a bit crook. Hey, what would I know? Apparently I'm wrong – Kwongster says the flavour of the mushrooms is beautiful.
We're at the pointy end of the night and only five minutes over the scheduled airing time. Matt says it is sad that only two contestants can continue. Sad? Or just playing by the rules? I'm not quite sure because there are some contestants the judges really seem glad to see the end of and then others for whom the rules change.
Audra is declared safe first, after a dramatic pause, followed by Julia, leaving Beau-zo (that's Alice's pet name for him) out in the cold and returning home.
Beau, newly equipped with psychic powers, tells Julia: "I knew it."
He also knows that MasterChef has been the best experience of his life. In the car, he tells us he loves food. I'm so glad, otherwise these past 10 weeks or more have been a complete waste.
Julia and Audra are warned that tomorrow – the very last team challenge – will be a big day.
"Pack a bag," warns George, "cos it's going to be a big day ... and I LOVE big days," he whispers threateningly.
At home, Beau is cheered, which was missing yesterday for Wade. Maybe Beau required less eyebrow maintenance, thereby making him more popular among his housemates.
And tomorrow, the "dark lord of pastry", Adriano Zumbo, is back. Ben is already scared at the edible centrepiece they'll have to make. Kylie (no longer of the balcony) licks her spatula, signalling an end to the already low food hygiene standards. And our favourite bald man of MasterChef, Matt Moran, is back as a special judge. Can't wait for that, yeah?