The top 24 walk into the MasterChef kitchen.
There are two kinds of people in the world. There are normal people, like you and me. And there are people with dreams. Dreams of taking courageous journeys of soulful risk-taking challenges in mastery and cheffery and honest-to-goodness food that real Aussie blokes would eat. Or something. These people are called Contestants on MasterChef Australia, there are 24 of them, and tonight they must cook for their very lives. Let's meet them, shall we?
Cut to glamour shots of Sydney, glamour shots of a glamorous house, and shots of MasterChef Contestants. They are not glamorous, nor could they hope to live in a glamorous house, but they find themselves in one anyway because dreaming is what MasterChef Contestants do best. Emma, 19, a retail assistant from South Australia with a black belt in karate is evidence of this fact. “This house validates me,” she says. A woman named Treegan (of course) agrees, as do a collection of other people who arrive in the house's elevator (double of course).
The scenes that follow establish a few things: one, MasterChef Contestants omfglurrrrve big houses; two, female MasterChef Contestants omfglurrrrrve cooking desserts which is, like, totally ironical and refreshing; and three, some MasterChef Contestants have buckets of zany personality as evidenced by the fact they live in Melbourne and/or have kooky eyewear.
The MasterChef mystery box challenge.
One of these "edgy" characters is Debra (that's the Melbourne spelling of "Deborah", just so you know), who is an architectural product rep who makes food that is soul-full because her food is not about cooking for everyone, it's about cooking with everyone. An important distinction, but let's not get lost on semantics and correct spelling. Ben, the science teacher from Tasmania, certainly wouldn't. Not because teachers don't know how to spell, but because Ben has tattoos, a winning smile, a neat hairdo, and big dreams of a small café, which makes everything else seem irrelevant somehow…
The arrival of the other MasterChef Contestants in this series also shows other things so deliberately irrelevant they are totally relevant, like the fact there's a blonde secretary from Brisbane who makes cupcakes and an Italian from Cairns who speaks a foreign language and a bloke who plays gay rugby and a registered nurse from Sydney who wears a headscarf. Not Conspicuous Details At All. There's also a kid who works at Hungry Jacks who wants to open a restaurant. Which, like the ageing male hairdresser's comparison of cooking to haircuttering, just isn't at all funny. (Dreams! Serious Dreams!)
Anyway, Ben's gorgeous tattooed mitts open a bottle of champagne like so many test tubes and sexual metaphors, and we enjoy a brief, sunlit montage of happy strangers all cheersing and being bestest mates, before a convoy of big, black, terrifying truck-car-things pick them up and cart them off to almost certain doom. Or the MasterChef kitchen.
Kylie waits for the mystery box challenge to begin.
(It's the MasterChef kitchen).
“This just got real!” someone says. It did, didn't it? It's really happening! Oh Boy! Giddily, joyously, dreamily, honestfully, the MasterChef Contestants enter the warehouse filled with cooking stations and other real-life kitchen things like cameras and a crew and the guys in charge of seamless product placement. In fact, three of these products have already placed themselves on a stage area at the front of the warehouse. They are a Gary, a George and a Matt, who the product placement guys nervously realise has turned a peculiar shade of orange and seems to be sporting a Chux cloth in his jacket pocket – a direct violation of about eleventy-million contracts.
“Wow-look-at-you-lot-you-are-so-excited” the Gary says, dispensing with punctuation – oh that is just classic Gary we laugh! “You have dreamed of this you've worked really hard for it so welcome to the MasterChef Kitchen where you will see beside me a small man who is about to explode he's just so full of dreams!” He's talking about the George – ho! And he's right! A George just isn't a George without those little bouncey-bounces and funny little way of over-emphasising his lines unscripted dialogue – wait, he speaks!
You'll be cooking with ... a mirror.
“We ARE excitED” – (Yes George, go-ON!) - “BeCAuse you(se) are goING to cook us STORIES.” Oh George! You haven't ChaNGed! You darling little bouncey bogan in your snazzy shirt! Tandoori Matt says something about confidence, and then reveals it's the moment we've all been waiting for – “Grab your bench,” he booms, ah! The Mystery Box challenge is nigh! Which can only mean one thing! Ad-break!
(Cut to break).
(And we're back).
Julia prepares her cupcakes
The MasterChef Contestants lift the lids on the Mystery Boxes before them and – no way! – it's not even ingredients!
“It's a mirror!” someone says, perceptively. Self-identified simple Aussie Bloke Beau makes a self-deprecating joke about his reflection which is almost as original as "Alice" from "Melbourne" using the self-descriptor "random" in relation to her "signature" "glasses" (she used "eclectic" earlier. #hipster).
Meanwhile Debra realises the episode has progressed too far without any crying and so she begins talking about how she doesn't see her reflection in the mirror but her courage and not just the courage of one but everyone and so moves herself to tears. She is courageously consoled, everyone claps bravely, and Gary says the time has now come to literally put themselves on a plate and “blow us away (something something) heritage (something) interest (something something) 75 minutes (something) heart!” (ah! Debra was right. It's About Courage.)
Sam has 'real issues' with his duck.
With their big, courageous dreams in mind, the MasterChef Contestants rush to assemble their ingredients and figure out who they want to be when they plate up. We soon learn some people want to be ducks, others want to be steaks, and nearly everyone is very special and unique and that the males of MasterChef like referencing their mums as much as possible because, hey, let's face it, as if they'd be inspired by a man! That'd be ga-GARY has bowled up to "Alice" to ask how she's putting herself on a "plate". She responds by telling him how she's "creating" a dish that explains how she's "Georgian" and didn't speak "English" and was "misunderstood" as a kid but leaves the "randomness" of her glasses intact. “I'm like offal,” she says. “It takes a while to get to know me”. It also takes a while to cook the tongue she's hoping to cook – twice – as her dish Gary says. Like four hours long. But hey, Alice points out "she's" original and is like, pffttt "whatever Gary, just because you're a chef with years of experience doesn't make you, like, 'expert'." And Gary's like, "pffft, whtvr. #Fail. Srsly".
Meanwhile, self-described Simple Aussie Bloke Beau is pretty happy with himself because he's doin' a portahouse with kiffla potatas an' a red wine Jew. When Gary seems worried his dish is too simple, Beau sort of scratches his head and wonders whether there is such a thing. “Look Gary, I'm like a barbecue,” he begins, but stumbles – all this thinking about 'imself has 'im confused again about the lettas in 'is name. Fittingly, we cross to Debra, who is cooking lime and ricotta cakes that are somehow "courageous". But will they be as teacher Ben's fancy deconstructed tacos? Or the cupcake-cooking blonde secretary's cupcakes? Or retail assistant Emma's Chinese chocolate cake?
Who knows! What we do know is "Alice" is making an "awful" mess of her "offal". So much so we can cut to break, and reiterate that fact all over when we return!
The judges cut into Wade's lamb shank with polenta.
We return! And Alice is making an awful mess of her offal! She decides to slice it thinly in the hope she will prove herself more right than Gary, as the judges discuss how this challenge is designed as an elaborate metaphor for the highly individual machinations of each the contestants' minds, or "what's going on in their heads".
Speaking of, Debra has messed up two of the total five elements required in her Cakes of Courage – the flour and the sugar. Bravely, she continues, as elsewhere in the kitchen her fellow contestants stumble over things like Chai-spiced ice-cream, roast duck and deconstructed beef taco (wusses, Debra thinks, with Courage).
As for the blonde secretary from Brisbane who makes cupcakes, well, she is making cupcakes, and when pressed for information about how they reflect who she is, she replies, tellingly, “well, they're sweet, you want more, they might not always be good for you, and you might always want another – people assume that I'm tall and blonde and they don't go deeper, but there's two levels to a cupcake.” Pro-found.
An ecstatic Emma.
“39 MINutes to GO”, announces George, as Gary bounds off to help Sam, his new best friend, who has "real issues" with his duck. Perhaps his realer issues relate to the buckets of sweat he is sweating, literally, all-over everything. But there's only so much room for things to get real before they get too real, so we quickly cut to "Alice' to see how she's going with her "tongue". Which is "not good".
“Now the dish is messy or unkempt, but maybe that's just you,” says Gary as we plunge into the 15-minutes-to-go rabbit-hole-of-doom. There's carnage everywhere – that chai ice-cream just wont freeze, Debra's cakes have so much courage they've collapsed, and Sam is still really, really, really sweaty.
“Just A thOUght,” says George. “One of you, tomorrow, WILL be COMPETING for Immunity.”
MasterChef 2012 Top 24
The MasterChef judges - Gary, Matt and George
The tension is mounting, Ben's deconstructed tacos aren't constructing, Emma's cakes aren't cooking, Alice's offal is still awful, and no-one cares about Sam's duck in view of his obscenely wet body.
“30 seconds to go - Finishing touches!"
Debra is despairing. Sam is perspiring.
“10 seconds to go – five, four, three, two – one! Step AWAY from YOUR dishes.”
The judges congratulate all present on their use of products to complete their first ever MasterChef Mystery Box Challenge™.
As an antidote to the horror of Alice's tongue, glasses, and Sam's sweat, the judges have decided the first face to fill our screens in the tasting round belongs to Ben who says his dish is an elaborate symbol for who is as a person because his mother made him tacos from a packet when he was a kid and he played cricket one time. In Tasmania, his students are proud, and their parents are heartened Ben's teaching doesn't extend to critical literacy, handsome though he is.
The judges make a lot of ominous faces as they masticate, no doubt puzzling over the elaborateness of Ben's personal food totem. Gary says he was a fool for braising a primary cut of meat, but they all agree it was a good dish that 'nailed" who Ben is as a person. They also say Simple Aussie Bloke Beau has nailed his personality in his dish, which leaves Beau slightly confused about who was nailing who. His head-ouch is compounded by the judge's subsequent recommendation that next time, Beau should try being a little bit fancy – which Beau knows is just not the way real Aussie Blokes nail anything.
Other contestants have their dishes tasted, but as we weren't really introduced to them we don't really care as they are clearly not central to this plot unscripted dialogue. What we really care about is Sam, and that duck, and more importantly, what happened to all that sweat. Overcooked, and dry, the duck receives a 'C" from Gary, presumably because it has zero resemblance to big, wet-wettity-wet Sam. Happily Emma's Chinese chocolate cake with failed Indian Chai ice-cream has everything to do with her in the sense that she does Karate (obviously!).
And before we know it, it's Alice's "turn".
Gary says he doesn't even want to taste her offal. He says it will taste like an old boot. He tastes it. He says it tastes like an old boot. Which is, like, totally random, and not even in a good way. Deb's ricotta syrup cakes are not in a good way either, being without flour and proper sugar and all, but she's got the courage to hope they'll taste amazing and, courageously, they are. Or as George put it:
“I'm looking at you I'm creating who I think you are and I'm thinking you're a bit country, honest, maybe a bit out there and all of that is in this dish it's delicious honest and totally you on a plate.” #saidonnationalTV #Courage. #Cuttobreak.
And we're back!
We are all of us waiting to be shocked and surprised as the judges reveal their favourite dishes. Shockingly and surprisingly, Emma, Ben and Debra are named. Shockingly and surprisingly Sam and Alice did not make the cut. Even more shocking and surprising was name of the person the judges thought most eloquently described themselves through food.
Well, not really. Because as we all know only too well, reality is only as real as you dream it in MasterChef, and so it is right and courageous and that The Deconstructed Beef Taco Named Ben is named winner of the first MasterChef Mystery Box Challenge™ Pty Ltd.com.au #dreams.