GILES HARDIE June 25, 2012
A night of euphemism, trout torture and smoking elimination.
Every episode of this season of Masterchef available on demand.
The MasterChef Kitchen, where the chefs who would be masters of the kitchens of the future come to impress future employers in hatted and starred restaurants world over by making ... errr ... dude food.
Three of our wannabes, Andrew, Amina and Sam were bad at dude food last night and for reasons best articulated in highly-alcoholic or marketing-speak-heavy terms, that is cause for punishment when it comes to a competition of quality cooking.
Sam isn’t ready to go home he says. Andrew isn’t surprised to find himself in the elimination he says, most probably because he was told he would be last night and having woken to discover MasterChef wasn’t a bad dream (haven’t we all felt that way before) he rationalised that the events of yesterday probably did occur.
Amina tells us that today will probably be an experience, continuing her existential approach to life: the experience. Very zen. Very practical. Very hard to manipulate into an emotional rant through editing.
Moments later people are screaming in agony in the MasterChef kitchen. It is the other contestants who are being forced to watch MasterChef (and haven’t we all felt THAT way before) from above despite earning the day off, releasing their frustrations as the three eliminees enter, prepared to do battle to the death / disappointment.
Gary asks Amina what she is holding. The items are some photos and a wooden spoon, items you would hope Gary might be able to identify what with being a celebrity chef. Celebrity: One whose photos are often taken. Chef: One who receives the wooden spoon in the ratings most nights.
Amina explains that this specific spoon was signed by a friend who believes that Matt Preston and Margaret Fulton are both hot. And. George. Cackles.This is, apparently, the singularly funniest thing that George has ever heard. Supplanting “How can you tell an elephant has been in your fridge?”** right out of his dinner party repertoire.
Picture the scene: A dinner, George seated to the right of the Prime Minister, holding court with his famed bardic stylings, the nobles and elite of Australian society hanging on his every word as he concludes: “And she said ‘she also thinks Margaret Fulton is hot’ BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!” Picture it. George certainly is. Due to the miracles of video editing none of us will ever know how long it goes on.
Some time later, Andrew’s parents are proud that he is facing elimination tonight, a fact made clearer by his mumbled musings on family. Sam on the other hand, can articulate words, but this proves a handicap as he is saying a lot of them without any discernable reason. Matt finally cuts him off by introducing Christine Manfield whom he says will give them a wild ride.
Christine’s dish, “Nightmare under a closh”, is not a dessert, it is not an egg and bacon sandwich or a sticky date pudding, it is “things that make Amina go ooooh”.
Which seems like a good time for an ad for Glee.
Following that, Amina goes ooh again at smoked river trout, mussels and a tumeric lemon grass broth which is not as simple as it looks, nor as simple as Matt sounds when he compares it to a sleeping tiger.
What it is, is like a little pink pillow, according to Amina who comments on her joy biting into the pillow. In fact she is possibly the happiest pillow biter on the show.
The trio have two hours to recreate the pink pillow of pleasure, yet Amina takes some time to speak to us from her special monologue place. While she loved the fish, it also threatens her.
Christine and George come together to discuss what could go wrong, pointing out aspects such as the fact that the contestants haven’t actually read the whole recipe before starting, that the trout could be very easy to overcook and the need to multi-task in this task. So as it is only basic competence, basic cooking and basic chef skills in their path, all three of our competitors should prove near incapable of completing it.
Andrew talks us through the process of cooking his broth as he cooks his broth. He won’t be fussed by the number of ingredients he says. He won’t have a cloudy stock he says. He strains the stock and it isn’t cloudy, no sediment, it is very pretty, “a bit like my wife”.
I’m sorry, Andrew has a wife ... who is as pretty as stock? Ummm. Wow. I am genuinely shocked. That is quite a revelation. "As pretty as uncloudy stock." Someone call Hallmark, we have a new card-writer.
As you were.
Gary uses technical terms to tell us that the contestants are now “working on their next bit” which seems to involve the sort of cooking that can only be made more interesting by rapid camera work and editing. Sorry, make that NEARLY made interesting via such techniques.
Sam is buzzing, he likes the flavour of the “that” that he’s made in his blender. Christine tastes it and agrees it tastes good but bewilders Sam by suggesting he might want to think about the texture. Sam looks confused, not realising that that is a polite way of saying “you weren’t meant to blend it into a pile of dust you fool.” Realising she has to be clearer, Christine tells him he has cut one of his ingredients the wrong way and ... well Sam is still confused. But he throws a bowl of chillis on the ground in the hope it will distract the strange lady with crazy “methods.”
Meanwhile Alice withdraws to the thoughtful place of discreetly dobbing on one’s friends to point out that she can see Sam is making a lot of mistakes but she doesn’t want to tell him as that might upset him. And you know, help.
Amina is getting high on the fumes from her fried paste-o-rama, causing her to simultaneously giggle and cry over it. Sam is feeling the stress so George wraps a napkin around his neck, adding to that stressful I-can’t-breath feeling Sam has and also making it much harder for the editor to cut in older footage to make it seem like Sam is all over the place, but that doesn’t prevent them it turns out.
Alice is back in the teacher’s office to dob on Amina this time who she feels may have a white pepper problem. Amina doing lines of the stuff makes it a tough point to argue.
We have reached the fish. George articulates a long list of things that need to be done to the fish. Then Andrew summarises it perfectly as “da da da da da da da da da da ... da da da da da da da da da da” and with that his book deal can actually be seen blazing up in the back ground. As can Amina. Actually she may have a problem.
Gary is wandering the room giving tips in how to fillet fish. Christine has withdrawn to the balcony as she’s realised some of these contestants shouldn’t be allowed to play with sharp objects. And George says he hopes they are all "dadada"ing the fish to perfection. Andrew says it's easy except for the bits he could get wrong. Amina says it will be fine as long as she remains focused, but if she doesn't “it will all go wrong” and almost as though that sort of line requires it, we go to an ad break.
After the break we take a moment to ponder how hard today is for those watching. Not one word about the feelings of the poor fish who made the ultimate sacrifice only to be hacked up by the sort of chefs who give reality contestants a bad name. Where is the empathy people?!
Andrew is using a smoking gun, which he explains is all about his need to “stick that in there” before taking time to tell us how he doesn’t want to over smoke the fish or under smoke the fish and I swear there is not a skerrick of metaphor, euphemism or plural entendre to be found in this kitchen.
Sammy’s smoking is smokin’ and he’s happy until one of the verandah crowd throw him a complicated technical question: “how long has that been in?” Sam seems upset that they would ask him that, and by upset I mean vaguely confused. The verandites suggest a form of timing device might help with this. Amina, mere metres away from this cruel grilling, beats the v-meisters at their own game by asking them to time her smoking for her. She then ducks off for a bit of white pepper goodness.
The cooking is soon reduced to an incomprehensible montage of kitchen-like actions interspersed with vague moments of incompetence like throwing a bowl on the floor or lighting bits of food on fire. We pause briefly for Christine to suggest some breathing techniques for Amina who may not have been using the smoker correctly. Then it’s all strings and George shouting “ten seconds”.
The music builds to a rhythmic frenzy leaving everyone in the room in a near-trance like state and three plates mystically filled with food as if by fairies. 3 hours later as the producers pack away the smelling salts and vow to have proper ventilation installed in the MasterKitchen, the eliminees compare the size of their trout and Amina feels bad, Andrew feels good and Sam feels distressingly sodden.
And now, let there be judging.
Sam the former banker (the times are tough in all industries) is a Jeckyll & Hyde character, Preston explains. Unfortunately not a main character, not even a notable victim, rather just a recently unemployed bank clerk that Hyde runs past in a thrilling chase sequence. Dismissing such literary pursuits, the judges taste Sam’s food. Gary feels the broth has been reduced, while Christine is worried the broth has been reduced. George on the other hand feels the broth might have in some way faced a reduction of sorts, and fears this may overpower the trout. “Hmmm” comments Preston who can’t think of a single word that isn’t “reduced”.
Amina looked to be in trouble according to Gary who doesn’t think he’s ever seen Amina under such pressure. He tries to recreate that however by grilling her on the big issues: would she give up nursing to become a chef? Amina politely admits that in order to change career she would indeed change career, and Christine dives in to express her shock at the coincidence that she too had to change career in order to change career. Only on television can such coincidences occur.
The broth looks much better than any of the other broths Christine has seen so far, which is one. The fish peels off and the smoky fish is Gary’s favourite aspect. Christine thinks her long lost sister’s fish is wonderful. George concurs, in love with her mussels and vegetables. Preston realises he failed to say a single thing that made the cut on the last contestant so starts on a long winded story about camp fires on misty mornings in highlands which leads seamlessly to his revelation that there is way too much white pepper in the dish. Preston’s family come from the mountainous snowy pepper districts of anecdotaland.
Andrew slowly delivers his dish, commenting that his delivery was the hardest part. Preston comments that he is magnificent in his black apron and Andrew postulates that he is best up against a wall.
Preston and Christine judge the dishes looks while George serves up and Gary gushes about how well cooked it is before emitting “wow” when he finally tastes it. He loves the balance. George hates the beards. Preston appreciates the match and also values Christine for pushing the contestants around with a dish of more than 40 ingredients. Then Gary realises that someone will go home following this elimination and the mood is just ruined.
Bringing the black aprons into the room, Preston does his best to imply that this is an incredibly even contest, highlighting highs and lows for all three, including Sam’s ability to make his dish look like a dish as his strength.
Then the rhythmic beats of an orchestral beating heart begin, the music swells, the obligatory ad break occurs and then Last Man Standing gets a shameless bass plucked soundtrack played over its promo in a desperate hope someone will confuse it for Seinfeld.
Oh and Amina is safe.
Sam nods. Preston expresses his sorrow that Sam won’t be Australia’s next MasterChef . Sam nods.
George worries Sam hasn’t actually realised what’s going on so asks him if he remembers anything. At all. Sam is able to recall a few random flashes of his months on MasterChef and thus passes the weakest of mental faculty checks. He shakes the judges’ hands, hugs his fellow contestants and walks out ... well into a storage cupboard, but as no one goes in to find him, he’ll be there for a while.
Back at the house, Amina makes up some blatant lies about a message that Sammy had for everyone and everyone prepares a few short words of shock, a few of which are convincing enough to make the final edit.
Sammy returns to Perth and we learn that his cooking future will consist of organising a food and wine tour of Europe. And former backpackers around Australia recognise the final metaphor of what has been a euphemism heavy evening.
** Footprints in the butter.