It's a very special day in the world of MasterChef. One that I hold very close to my heart. It's the day of the grand finale. This time, a formidable group of twelve past contestants has been whittled down to just three, and we now wait with bated breath for Australia's first MasterChef All Stars champion to be crowned.
It is a day on which questions will be answered. Will Callum the boy become a man right before our very eyes? Can Chris find redemption from whatever it is people think he is supposed to be redeemed from? And why do we keep putting a superfluous 'e' on the end of 'final'?
Each of the finale three travel to the kitchen in a separate car – indicating that this was all filmed well before the introduction of the carbon tax – and they enter the hallowed hall to the rapturous applause of their vanquished opponents.
The judges announce that the first challenge of the day is to cook a family feast, and that on the judging panel will be the Barossa Valley's culinary dowager, Maggie Beer. This all seems a little unfair to Kate and Chris as Callum is a Barossa local and, unbeknownst to them, Maggie is also Callum's fairy godmother.
The ever-adorable Maggie enters the kitchen with one arm in a sling, having injured it only hours earlier during a charity puppy hug-a-thon. She informs the contestants that their dishes will be judged on synergy, largesse and a bunch of other qualities not generally associated with food in any sense.
Chris tells us that this family feast is a huge advantage for Kate, who cooks for her family all the time. Kate's misplaced sense of fairness then takes over and she evens things out by deciding to cook something she's never cooked before. It's a brave gamble, and we must all wonder whether, after an entire All Stars series based on revisiting previous challenges and ingredients, Kate may have just misunderstood the entire premise of the show.
Kate's advantage as a mother of children is also a boon to Callum, who was himself a child as recently as the beginning of this episode. Callum, however, also chooses to handicap himself by cooking a vegetarian feast for a group of non-vegetarians, a revelation that elicits a reaction from the eliminated contestants on the balcony similar to if they had all just discovered that Soylent Green is people.
Dani repeatedly warns Callum that his vegetarian menu will not impress her, and Callum shoots her a look that indicates he is fully aware of the irony that all of Dani's winning dishes in All Stars have been vegetarian.
Callum tells Matt and Maggie that he will not be cooking any protein, and that instead his meal will consist primarily of cellulose. They counsel him against this, and Maggie helpfully suggests adding some verjuice pheasant in a pheasant and verjuice sauce, served with verjuice jelly and a light verjuice verjuice.
Finally bowing to peer pressure, Callum accepts that he can't win friends with salad and includes animal flesh in his meal. This is actually a double-blow for our furred and feathered friends, as a win for Callum in this round would also reduce Chris' chances of raising money for his charity, the Lort Smith Animal Hospital.
Callum's dishes are first up to be tasted. The judges and contestants all agree that his new meatier menu is a winner and that, by extension, all vegetarians are idiots. Maggie celebrates Callum's triumph by putting on a pair of novelty neon swimming goggles – a quaint tradition peculiar to the Barossa Valley.
Chris is up next and he is concerned that Maggie might think his food – and all food in general really – should contain more verjuice and pheasant. But the clever cat has included Maggie's own pickled quince in with his carrots and pears in a move that is clearly more tactical than anything else. We know this because mixing quinces, carrots and pears together is not something any normal person would do for flavour alone.
Tasting continues and Chris and Kate keep delivering a series of vegetable and fruit medleys – carrots with quince, carrots with grape juice, potatoes with apples, and parsnip with pears – because frankly if vegetarians can't enjoy the meat dishes, they may as well not enjoy the vegetable ones either.
However, Chris and Kate's vegetable-fruit dishes are all fantastic, and the fluorescent Maggie Beer-goggles again make an appearance.
But all is not well, as a glance at Aaron's plate shows that part of Chris' chicken is undercooked. Similarly for Kate, Aaron's share of her pheasant is also raw. We wonder whether undercooked poultry is a personal preference of Aaron's, or whether whoever is dividing up the food has some kind of personal vendetta.
The results are announced and Callum has won the first round. Chris has narrowly edged out Kate, sending her up to the balcony where she must clap and shout "come on" at regular intervals for the remainder of the episode. This part of being a contestant is more important than people realise, because without that encouragement from the balcony, the people cooking below would have no idea they were supposed to "come on".
It's on to the final challenge now, and renowned Sydney chef Peter Gilmore enters the kitchen to reveal the dish that captivated a nation in 2010 – the snow egg.
Chris is crestfallen. Having successfully navigated the first challenge cooking for Callum's neighbour, he must now face off cooking the dish that Callum made in the 2010 final. But it could have been worse; in this new two-challenge format he has been spared a third and final round, which would have presumably been to cook dishes from Callum's cookbook, with Callum on the judging panel.
In any event, to level the playing field Chris will be shown how to plate one snow egg by Peter prior to the challenge – a concession comparable to showing someone what a finish line looks like so that they know how to run a marathon.
But it's all a bit of a moot point really, because we all know that the last dish in any MasterChef finale is always an extravagant dessert. Even if Callum has some advantage, Chris is probably just as glad that he isn't cooking against Kate, who has literally written an entire book just on extravagant desserts. Really, until someone comes up with a way to make a pig's head into an ice cream or coats a calf liver in chocolate, Chris is just going to have to play the cards he is dealt.
Time starts and both contestants lock horns for one last almighty battle. Callum jumps out to an early lead. His meringues are light and fluffy, whereas Chris, unaccustomed to euphemism, is concerned that his are exhibiting some disturbingly faecal characteristics. He must redo them because, as we all know, you can't polish a turd – or even wrap one in a tuille.
Thankfully his second batch is superb and the day is saved. Jackfruits are cut and granitas are scraped, and three hours passes in a whirr of mixers and ovens.
It's all down to the final plating now, and for someone who has never made this dish before, Chris is acquitting himself admirably. We are all impressed by his poise and control in the kitchen as he dishes up four snow eggs with little drama. Callum however is shaking nervously, a little of his resolve cracking with every tuille. He gets it done with moments to spare, and with that it's off to the judging table.
Chris' meringues are fantastic, but Peter is unconvinced by his jackfruit puree. Callum also has mixed results. His ice cream has melted, but George tells us that he loves the fool – although without further clarification we don't know if this is praise for the dish or a backhanded way of showing his affection for Callum.
Callum's snow eggs score eights and nines from the judges and his four-point lead going into the final challenge is unassailable. He is crowned – or rather "trophied" – as Australia's first MasterChef All Star champion! In an extraordinary gesture of generosity, Callum then donates nearly half of his winnings to Chris' charity, despite that being a move that renders the last four hours worth of cooking largely unnecessary.
And with the trophy held high, MasterChef All Stars draws to a close. The All Stars gather round in one almighty hug under a shower of refreshingly blue glitter. But success is not just measured in trophies. Tens of thousands of dollars have been raised to help others and a boy has become a man; and, with a touch of emotion, I'm a little sad that I wasn't there to see it.