MasterChef: Never Cross a cook
Emma prepares the tear ducts ... MasterChef
They wake to a stunning view of Sydney’s harbour. Some make the most of what MasterChef has afforded them and sit lazily on deck chairs in the sun, watching million dollar boats sail by. Of course there’s soothing background music for viewers to really feel as though they’re part of the action. Must be a big budget this year.
Others, like Sam, can’t get out of bed. Not even for MasterChef it seems. Tregan Borg (yes, that’s right, folks) tries to wake Sam the sleeping giant, whose proudest moment to date is getting a hole-in-one at the Royal Sydney Golf Course. Tregan doesn’t want to pull the covers off Sam because he sleeps naked. No nudity allowed on this family show - only mild course language. And of course, parental guidance is recommended for young viewers.
Some prepare for the day ahead: shaving, brushing teeth and putting makeup on. They’re all blissfully unaware of what MasterVoice has in store for them – the wheels are going to fall off today, home cooks. It’s time to feel the heat of a commercial kitchen. I’m sure MasterVoice has told me this before, maybe the same time every year since 2009. But apparently this time it will be a mix of excitement and pure terror in the race to make the most money and avoid elimination.
Andy realises MasterChef is just like basketball ... MasterChef
This year’s first team challenge will see team red battle to the end against team blue. You would have thought the producers could have at least come up with some new colours but alas, no.
What better place to hold a battle than Sydney’s red-light district, The Cross. I’m envisioning a food war between team red and team blue with pots, pans and chocolate fondants flying everywhere.
Ten seems to be utilising its Olympic themed music as the contestants stride down the main strip of Kings Cross. The home cooks, soon to be masters in the kitchen, notice the eclectic mix of people, restaurants and bars. “We’re not in Melbourne anymore,” one says.
They can have what they get ... Parental approach to MasterChef
Big Kev admits to having a few dirty nights out in The Cross. “Going back to the playground. Obviously the context is pretty different today,” the big man says.
The contestants huddle before The Big Three. Tonight they’re in for one of the biggest nights of their lives. They will be taking over two of Kings Cross’ BEST restaurants, opposite each other on Bayswater Road. They’ll prepare food, cook and serve a restaurant full of paying customers. Well, lets hope the restaurant is full. And you guessed it - they’ll be competing for the same customers. Bring it on. Judging criteria is simple: compete like you’ve never competed before to make the most money. That seems to be the motto in The Cross, after all.
“Running a restaurant? … Us? … This soon?” says Big Kev. Sorry to break it to you Kev, but you’ve landed a spot in Australia’s most popular reality cooking show (TM). People tend to cook in restaurants on the show. The sun has set in The Cross and the knives are out and all Big Kev wants to do is “get it on”.
Tregan smiles the smile of the people smuggler ... MasterChef
So what’s at stake? Losers will face this year’s first elimination challenge.
Contestants have five hours to pull off entrees, mains and desserts before doors open. They’ve got three hours to get as much money as they can in the till. Oh the suspense.
The tables have turned for Andy (team blue) and Emma (team red), who are the chosen ones (team captains) assigned to order around home cooks in their first big moment in a restaurant setting.
MasterChef 2012 Top 24
The MasterChef judges - Gary, Matt and George
Emma, 19, is nervous, but says Andy’s goin’ down. Andy on the other hand is super pumped. He’s captained a fair few basketball teams over the years so leadership skills, such as organising people and designating tasks, come naturally to him.
But first it’s time to pick the teams, old school style. Friendship goes out the window and it’s the worst cook that is the last one standing, apparently. “It doesn’t feel nice getting picked last… it doesn’t… it’s poopie,” says Lydia, the last to be picked.
Good things come to those who wait, says George. And so Lydia (team blue) gets a prize for coming last and decides which restaurant her team will run. Cheers resound.
She goes with Concrete Blonde, which has a menu inspired by Mediterranean, Asian and Mexican flavours. That leaves team red with Ortolan on Bayswater, a two-hat restaurant specialising in French cuisine.
Team red are amazed with Ortolan on Bayswater’s beauty. Team blue’s eyes pop out of their sockets when they see the HUGE floating island grills with a pit in the middle.
Team red mentor Gary introduces the redders to Ortolan’s owner. The owner’s advice: “Keep it simple. Have your prep finished by the time you start your service.” Things are bound to go pear-shaped otherwise.
Concrete Blonde is in the business of providing good food and great service. Head chef Ian reminds team blue his reputation is on the line. Never mind the publicity.
Andy reveals his natural leadership capabilities right off the bat. Emma, however, struggles to lead team red. Each team’s initial meeting couldn’t be more different.
Team blue knows exactly what they’re doing because of Andy the dictator. Team red is in chaos. They’re panicked. There’s not enough time. Is Emma even at the meeting? I think she may have left for some alone time with the cameras.
Big Kev (team red) puts it on the line and says they could lose.
A quick (or not so quick) commercial break and the five hours of preparation have begun. People are stressed. Time is passing too quickly. Does anyone know how to turn on the stoves? Emma can’t find anything. Amidst the chaos, Kylie (team red) is busy at work in her own little corner. She’s in her element, looking determined to deliver the goods. She’s never made a crème brulee tart before, but “life’s not fun if you don’t take risks”.
Alice (team blue) gets sent to work the streets of Kings Cross (no easy feat). As if flaunting your goods under the neon glow of the Coke sign isn't challenging enough. But Alice has been told several times she can “sell ice to Eskimos’’.
“Our strategy is to speak to couples,” she says. People agree to join team blue for dinner.
Gary does his thing for team red and gets a cup of tea and makes people sweat for a bit.
But he may need to step in on the catfight between Emma and Big Kev, who has been on the computer for hours. Emma is angry. They haven’t even started “spruiking”.
“My personal approach for spruiking is I walk up to people, engage them, hands in the air,” Big Kev says.
“You have to get them to stop and listen to you.” Really? You don’t say.
Disaster strikes MasterChef when Lydia can’t find the prawns for the main dish – prawn pasta. But there are scallops. George initiates a group huddle. He leads team blue to the freezer. Tiger prawns have been sitting there since the morning. Lydia stuffed up and she knows it. But she looked in the fridge two or three times!
“You know what I was looking for? I was looking for shelled white prawns,” she says. A prawn is a prawn, Lydia.
Competitive Kev tries to steal team blue’s customers. But it backfires. Tregan (team blue) gets in on the action and plays the game. “Dirty little competitive Tregan” poaches a table of ten from team red. It’s a move that will haunt team red in the end.
Customers will be walking through the doors any minute. It’s time to get a wriggle on.
George is pumped because team blue is on track. Gary is having a whine about team red captain Emma, who is struggling as team leader. She’s relegated herself to the back to scrub the potatoes. She’s got no idea what’s going on. Garry is worried and thinks the whole thing is going to be a schmozzle.
“You are not going to be ready,” Gary tells team red. “You need to do something. It will get progressively worse every minute the service goes on.” Do you think they get it?
Emma pipes up. She’s found her voice and gives Big Kev her two cents. But they’ve got 20 people in line and Big Kev can’t seat them because the food isn’t ready and there are no waiters. Gary is beyond stressed and says Emma is showing her age.
Meanwhile, team blue has been inundated with customers. But Andy has managed to maintain the four Cs – he is calm, cool, collected and controlled. George is proud.
But he starts to worry. Team blue is under the pump. And they can’t keep track of their dockets.
It can’t be as bad as team red - no one in team red really knows where the food is going. Orders are going to the wrong tables. The food, which Emma hasn’t tasted, is cold. Ortolan’s owner is seeing red, and it's not the team's tastefully matched wardrobe. It’s chaos in the red kitchen.
The blue team seems to run away with the challenge after Matt drools over their pork belly. The crispy wad of fat is nothing short of sensational, we’re told.
But things turn sour for the blue team when Julie’s chocolate fondant resembles fresh, um... I'd rather not say
As quickly as things turn sour for the blue team, things are on the up on the red team. Red customers love their scallops.
And Matt loves them too. So does Gary. Slight hiccup is Gary’s rare steak. Some people like it that way, Gary.
Team blue runs into trouble with an hour to go. The wheels start to fall off. Andy’s heart is pounding. He’s overwhelmed and stressin’. He puts it down to miscommunication.
The blue’s prawn pasta is too clumpy. And it’s lacking in flavour.
George tells Andy: “You let it crumble now and it's a disaster”.
It gets worse. Customers are waiting, waiting, waiting for food. The desserts are taking way too long. The blue team is getting smashed and customers are threatening to walk out. But the fondant just isn’t working out.
There’s technical failure in the middle of Lydia and Mario’s parmigiana battle. The show breaks to an ad and we miss it, only to be greeted by the radio rentals man.
When we return the blue team tells complaining customers they can have what they’re given. Big mistake when they’ve been waiting 45 minutes for dessert.
Matt tastes team blue’s fondant.
“I love a chocolate fondant pudding, I love an oozy chocolate fondant pudding, I also really enjoy eating cake mix, uncooked, straight out of a bowl. If you’re a cake mix sort of guy that fondant would be perfect,” Matt says.
That just about sums up the success of team blue’s dessert.
Gary thinks team red has recovered from catastrophe. It’s a little calmer in the red kitchen. Emma seems to have it all under control and Kylie has saved the day with her dessert. She’s the legend of the day - the one person in the kitchen, who stood out like a star, says Gary. The crème brulee looks spectacular. Oh, I can taste the sweetness. Matt says it’s a dish that gets people into the top four. Kylie stands out as one to watch.
The bell rings and it’s all over. Team blue huddles, screams and does a little dance. Team red wonders if they’ve done enough to get mula in the till. It’s going to be close.
Both teams congregate in the concrete block courtyard, leaving behind the mayhem of the kitchen. The home cooks have been put through the ringer and want to go home to bed.
George is proud of Andy. Gary is proud of Emma. Emma sheds a tear of joy and relief.
But at the end of the day it’s all about wining and dining customers so they pour money into the till. Everyone wants to avoid elimination.
The Big Three mutter on a bit longer about the highlights and downfalls of the night in order to stretch out the show.
But when the clock hit 9pm there was one winner. And it was team blue, by about $500. Both teams made over $2000 each. But it is team red who will face the elimination round.
Tregan says stealing people from the red team earlier that day was what won the blue team the challenge.
Those in team red will fight to keep their MasterChef dream alive. Emma says the loss rests on her shoulders. We end the night with tears from Emma, again.
The next challenge is all about pasta as contestants name that pasta, make that pasta and cook that pasta.