We’re reaching the pointy end of MasterChef’s 800th season, or at least what feels like it.
And who appears but Heston Blumenthal. If you’re not familiar with the man, Heston is not just a British celebrity chef – he’s, like, a crazy, inventive chef. Everybody who’s ever been on this show gets weak at the knees at the suggestion of his name and to their delight, they don’t just get to see Big Hes for one day, but a whole week. Yes, that’s right – it’s Heston Week.
What have we done to deserve this?
Like a slightly creepy neighbour who doesn’t understand boundaries, Heston decides to introduce himself to the last remaining contestants by sitting down at their communal kitchen table at 7am and wait for them to wake up.
As is compulsory whenever Heston meets mere mortals, contestants explain with shock what an amazing chef/celebrity/army-coat wearer Heston is. “He is such a celebrity”, Tracy helpfully explains.
“He is my number one food hero so I’m going to try and really impress him,” says a grinning Brent. That of course means he will probably stuff up and humiliate himself at same stage. Oh goody, something to look forward to.
One of the many delights of MasterChef is how the contestants explain what’s happening to viewers too dense to understand the show’s complex structure. Cook food. Someone wins. Someone loses. Someone cries. Cool, got it.
The contestants are asked to whip up something at the house using only the ingredients in the fridge and pantry - otherwise known as what every Australian does every night of the week. They only have an hour and the Heston wannabes make a mad dash for the pantry.
Wanting to impress the mad scientist of food, all the contestants are trying to come up with something crazy to cook on their countertop pan. Tracy worries that her cured trout will be too simple for Heston. If it hasn’t been turned into foam or dunked in liquid nitrogen, then no, he probably won’t even look at it.
Jamie the Hipster talks about being ‘creative’ with cauliflower. Hahaha. Sorry, he’s being serious? Oh.
George exclaims that ‘Heston’s in the house’ like a year 10 book nerd who’s finally been invited to a party by the cool kids at school. Stop it, George, you’re embarrassing yourself.
They’re 20 minutes into the challenge and Tracy has had a change of heart with the trout but doesn’t know what else to cook. Maybe it’s just me, but talking to camera so often probably isn’t helping with your time management, Tracy.
Fan boy Brent is making duck with coffee, which sounds disgusting but also just weird enough for Heston, so he might be okay.
Tracey finally pulls it together and decides to cook chicken. Man, the intensity of this show is like waiting for whether Obama will launch a nuclear missile or not.
Amy declares that classic cooking is her strength, which means Heston will probably boil her in a stock of beef and cotton when she’s done.
Jamie is still salivating over himself about being in the same room as the Food God himself. “It’s not every day you have someone like Heston give you cooking advice,” he says with a smile that borders on creepy. Well, yes it is if you’re a previous MasterChef contestant or flipped through a Coles catalogue, you’ve all received advice from the Fat Duck master.
Emilia is also here but no one’s really interested in what she’s doing. Moving on.
Time is almost up and Tracy’s chicken is still undercooked, which even I know is a no-no. I got food poisoning from an undercooked chicken sausage two years ago, and let’s just say that my bathroom floor and I got very well acquainted with that night.
It’s now an ad break and what a shock, the first ad is from Coles featuring Heston hocking his own range of beef patties. Maybe Brent should serve those up to ensure he gets a hug from his hero?
Amy feels ‘confident’ about plating up – that’s one of the weirdest sentences I’ve ever written.
“One minute, that is 60 seconds in French,” Heston says helpfully. At this point, he’s just trolling us, isn’t he?
Jamie thought he was onto a winner because he plated up something pretty-looking and on time but is in shock because so has everyone else. “What do you have to do to win this thing?” he complains, revealing he has the same attitude to competitions as Britain’s athletic team.
Ben has created something called ‘elements of apple’, which Heston said he “nailed”. Ben looks like he wants to pass out with happiness. “My whole mouth is watering, it’s like someone has turned a tap on in my mouth,” Heston says. Hmm, that doesn’t sound good Heston – you should see a doctor about that. Don’t forget to bring $7.
Jamie wants to know if Heston thinks he can cook or not – pan seared chicken and cauliflower, which doesn’t look too bad. “It’s a good dish”, he says, granting Jamie his final bucket list item before he dies. You get the sense he’s going to find a dark room and have a special moment to himself just about now.
Tracy is kicking herself. Her pan seared chicken looks like it would have been popular in 1995 but it’s not the poor dears’ fault – she’s simply so overwhelmed by Heston’s presence she can’t think straight. It’s OK Tracy – I felt the same way when I met Ben Pobjie.
Showing he doesn’t have it in him to be the Mean Judge, Heston simply smiles and tells the frazzled Tracy to “follow what’s in here” next time, pointing to his heart. In a stroke of genius, Tracy realises that she’ll cook heart next time. Possibly Heston’s if she gets kicked out of the competition.
Brent is now presenting his caffeinated duck. It’s a risky move, but then again so is the tropical print tee-shirt he’s wearing. This guy lives on the edge! In a development that no one could see, the duck is just slightly undercooked. Brent looks like he wants to curl up into a ball and whip himself.
Next up is Laura. Does this girl never stop smiling? Her perkiness would be annoying if it wasn’t so authentic. She’s brewed up Sicilian fish stew, which leaves George “lost for words”. He continues to dish spoonfuls of the fishy broth into his gob. Excellent. It’s always a good sign when George doesn’t talk. Please, cook more stew, Laura.
Amy is “happy” with what she’s cooked up - beef fillet with fondant potatoes. Heston says the combination works really well – meat and potatoes. It’s good he knows what he’s talking about.
The challenge over, and with Brent breathing once again, the contestants’ wait while Heston and George heap praise upon them (apart from Tracy, because her dish was truly terrible). But they all want one thing and that’s to find out who the winner is.
Laura, Jamie and Ben get the special golden halo of Heston’s pleasure, being named the top three. It sounds like an honour until you realise that only six contestants remain. Not all can receive that eternal glow and it’s Ben who is anointed as the Chosen One. He gets to “travel in style” with Heston to the MasterChef kitchen and pick Heston’s brain, which, incidentally, is on The Fat Duck’s menu.
FYI, Brent is now crying on the inside, again.
Ben slides into a car with Heston and starts asking questions. Disappointingly, he doesn’t ask which celebrities have gotten plastered at his restaurants but asks boring, practical questions about the next task. Boring.
“It’s such a big thing to hang out with your culinary idol,” Ben says. I know exactly how he feels; I once met Ronald McDonald and it was a pretty overwhelming experience.
Back in the kitchen, George, Matt, Heston and Gary stand at the front like jail wardens and look about as friendly. It’s time to get down to business.
“This is the biggest week ever,” one contestant says, reminding viewers of what’s happening just in case they hit their head in the ad break and have no memory of what they’re watching. Or what their name is.
Heston wants a family-orientated, creative and native-ingredient inspired dish – in 90 minutes. Quick, to the Bat mobile, er, pantry!
The contestants dashing off to the pantry is a lot like the start of the Olympic marathon – messy, limbs everywhere and you’re hoping someone trips over.
Unfortunately, everybody stays up vertically. Tracy, once again is wasting time talking to the camera about the fact she’s wasting time. “I’m feeling completely rattled,” she says.
Ben is poaching fish in red wine and vegemite with pepper berry. “It’s definitely taking a risk today.”
Amy is making a native take on the family roast, working with roast quail stuffed with mushroom. “Heston looking at dishes for vision and he’s looking to us. That’s amazing.” She gushes.
Laura looks like she has half a supermarket of products on her bench. “I’m being a bit ambitious today and I hope I can pull it off”. Honey, don’t worry about the dish – think about the poor schlub who has to clean up after you.
All I’m going to say about Brent’s dish is that he’s going to serve up raw pumpkin. I have no words. Or appetite.
Ben’s snapper taste good but looks horrible, he says. That’s not a euphemism, ladies.
Tracy makes the most obvious comment of 2014, declaring that her meat needs to be cooked. Congratulations, Tracy – you’ve won something, at least.
With the clock ticking and all the contestants flipping out about overcooking, undercooking or the 2014 budget, it’s time to reflect on what’s been the most remarkable part of this episode – no one has cried.
It’s truly incredibly, given that the tears from those who just want their ‘food dream to come true’ essentially act as a fuel and seasoning for this program. Well done, cooking people – you’ve finally figured out how to act like adults.
But wait, could there be tears still! Time is up and Jamie has forgotten to dish up his “incredible” sauce. He’s kicking himself and looks like he’s had 100 onions shoved in his face. “My Heston week is over.” It’s okay, Jamie, you can still buy Heston’s food at Coles and stroke his face on the packaging.
We’re back and Laura is the first victim to show off her work. It’s vibrant, Heston says. “It’s hard to judge because there’s so much on the plate” but there’s nothing bad, allowing Laura to keep that grin on her face.
Amy, a bit of a devil, declares that her dish is amazing. It’s delicious, Heston says, but overcooked. Serves you right for thinking good about yourself, Amy #TallPoppySyndrome.
Now, Tracy, who has redeemed herself but still looks like she’s going to cry. “It’s a bit salty”, Heston says.
Lamb fillet with native greens – Brent, says he’s worried about the raw pumpkin. Oh really, Brent? Shouldn’t you have thought about that before? But Heston loves it, likening it to being wrapped in a warm blanket. “It’s warn, it’s comforting...and has it inspired me? Yes.”
Just get a room, you too.
Jamie, who left off his best-ever sauce, is red-eyed and looks a little like Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver. He’s an angry, angry young men with himself.
Ominous music is playing and Jamie is asked if something is missing. Yes, something is missing and it’s his self-respect. But there’s no point me going off at him; Jamie is already a broken man.
Emilia has crispy quail and raw squad , which George says is good but not great. “It’s a nice dish”, Heston says, which is the cooking equivalent of being told ‘you’re rubbish. Get away from me peasant’.
Everyone is now on the edge of their seats and preparing their to-camera pieces (“If I don’t win, this could be it for me”, etc).
Brent is in the running and he’s playing it cool. Joining him is Ben, who sighs in relief – “I want to be in the top, not the bottom”. Well, duh. And the winner is...Brent! “I’m almost speechless. I’m super proud of myself,” he says, before adding the compulsory praise of the Heston god. “If there’s anyone I looked up to in food, it’s Heston.”
I wonder if Heston gets sick of people drooling over him? Get it together, Brent.
With the winner crowned, it’s time for the losers panel – Amy is “devastated” and “worried” about being in the bottom two. Double duh. Tracy is the other loser, whose overly salty dish is deemed to have “missed the mark”.
But the least impressive dish belongs to Spacey Tracy. It’s just not her day. She’ll face elimination later this week and a lifetime of being mocked by Twitter.
Unfortunately, George promises there’s more to come this week. Which means viewers will be exposed to more Heston-lovin’. I don’t think there’s enough valium in the world to cope with that.