Masterchef Recap: All Beer and Spittle

“Tonight: a very special guest,” says the voiceover guy, but Masterchef contestants are so used to guests like Marco and Nigella and Heston and that guy with the thing, this very special guest only seems moderately special, if that. Still, Maggie Beer is the woman many call “the Nigella of food”, and with good reason: she once cooked something pretty tasty. So it’s always a big deal when she wanders aimlessly into the kitchen and starts babbling about “verjuice” (literally translated, the juice of a ver).

At the outset, Matt tells the amateurs that greatness in the kitchen isn’t only about technical ability: one must also have a love of food, and respect for the earth, and some other airy-fairy nonsense that doesn’t mean anything at all. Anyway apparently Maggie Beer epitomises that school of cookery that focuses on feelings rather than actually making stuff taste good, and that’s Matt’s way of introducing her.

“In honour of Maggie being here, we’ve decided to switch things up a bit,” says George. “You’re going to be cooking in the invention test first!” I don’t quite see how this “honours” Maggie — is she known for her love of doing things the wrong way round? Still, this baffling homage is the way we’re going, and the contestants must choose their core ingredient from abalone, silken tofu and lemongrass, so I guess this invention test is on the theme of “invent something revolting”.

Harry thinks the challenge might be right up his alley, because lemongrass is his favourite ingredient, although that fact kind of suggests that nothing involving cooking is “right up his alley”.

Gary tells the amateurs that they have sixty minutes to cook a delicious dish, “heroing the ingredient you’ve just chosen”. Did Gary receive orders from the network that he had to start saying “heroing”? Or did he come up with it himself? Because unless his family is being held hostage and will be killed as soon as an episode airs without him saying it, I can think of no reasonable excuse for his behaviour. It’s bad enough that Masterchef introduced the idea of using the noun “hero” to refer to an ingredient — that they have now progressed to using it as a verb is one of the foulest insults that television has visited on the Australian population, and I need to know whether to address the letterbombs to Gary himself, or to the showrunner.

Harry is smoking a lobster and ignoring health and safety regulations — put a goddamn hairnet on. Meanwhile Elena has been working on a recipe for a gluten-free noodle and is perfectly willing to admit that in public. She’s going to use said noodle to accompany her abalone, which foodies will know is another word for “gigantic walking sea mushroom”. And Chloe, who has posters of Maggie on her bedroom ceiling, is making a coconut and lemongrass panna cotta and god even by Masterchef standards that sounds innovatively vile.

But just when you think Chloe’s savoury panna cotta is absolutely worst, Zoe reveals she’s making a tofu cheesecake. A tofu cheesecake! TOFU CHEESECAKE! The judges pop by her bench to confirm that she has never made a tofu cheesecake before and that making it today is a terrible idea and that she is, in general, hopeless. Zoe attempts to redeem herself by making a chilli berry jelly, but as she grows older and wiser she will realise that this is never the answer. “I’m really hoping this modern twist appeals to Maggie,” she enthuses, but if you’re going to try a modern twist, it’s always good to know what it’s a twist on.

Meanwhile Harry is making lobster brain butter, because tonight’s episode is an homage to the cinema of David Lynch. For example, Miles is serving raw tofu because he used to live in Japan, so he thinks he doesn’t have to bother.

Harry prepares his invention test.

“Chloe, what are you doing?” cries Maggie in a genuinely terrified voice. Chloe explains that she is making cold prawns. “Is that the best way of doing it? I don’t know,” lies Matt. He knows. He knows all too well. Chloe immediately completely changes her dish with ten minutes to go, because she is an absolute slave to peer pressure. Matt’s passive-aggressive bullying pays off yet again.

“This broth is super-lemongrassy!” cries Harry, probably implying that this is a good thing but god only knows, to be honest. Meanwhile Chloe only has three minutes to make whatever it is she’s making, the nature of which has still not made itself clear to her, let alone to us. Over at Elena’s bench, she carefully arranges what appear to be weasel intestines on a plate, while Zoe is extremely happy with her tofu cheesecake because she has lost touch with reality.

Time is up, and a close-up on the Vespa in the driveway reminds us, once again, that there is no reason for that Vespa to be there. Only three dishes are to be tasted because Masterchef producers revel in forcing people to work for no reason. Harry is first up, serving his revolting lobster brain butter. “Looks great, doesn’t it?” George asks, clearly not wanting an honest answer.

It turns out that lobster brain butter is delicious, or at least these judges, who have a history of pathological mendacity, say it is. I guess we’ll never know, because Harry is the last person who will ever make it.

Up steps Elena with her gluten-free noodle. She’s worked hard, but will her dish be as disgustingly original enough to beat brain butter? The judges seem to like it, but honestly these pigs will eat anything.

The third dish to be tasted is Zoe’s dark chocolate and silken tofu cheesecake, which looks like something you make to punish white collar criminals. The judges love it, which is getting pretty monotonous. All I ask is one, “this is disgusting…disgustingly DISGUSTING!” Zoe is overjoyed because Maggie says it’s one of the silkiest cheesecakes she’s ever had, which to be honest sounds more like a compliment you pay a spaniel than a dessert.

Maggie is finding it difficult to choose between the lobster and the cheesecake — which inappropriate combination of ingredients is the MOST inappropriate? In the end they choose the cheesecake, so at least this country has not gone so far down the plughole as to reward the making of butter from crustacean brains.

Hence, Zoe gets a massive advantage, which is Masterchef-speak for “a small advantage”. Her advantage is that she gets to choose all the ingredients for the mystery box. Zoe promises that when her competitors lift the lid, “they’ll be shocked”, which suggests that the ingredients she’ll be choosing will include human heads or pornography.

Did you know Shark Tank is on twice a week? Whose idea was that?

Maggie takes Zoe into the pantry to reveal her disturbing secrets. Together they gather some random garbage to screw everyone else over with, and bring the mystery box back into the kitchen. The ingredients are: ricotta, pork mince, thyme, chilli, pancetta, tomatoes, garlic, and basil. Boy, was she right when she said it’d be shocking! These ingredients have absolutely knocked me for SIX! Garlic? Pork? Tomatoes? Cooking doesn’t get much more avant-garde than this!

As well as those ingredients, everyone gets verjuice, because god forbid we don’t kowtow to Maggie Beer’s peculiar fixations for three seconds.

Almost everyone is making pasta, but Chloe is pushing herself by making a pancetta parfait, whatever the crap that is. All she wants is to make a delicous dish for Maggie Beer. She longs to please Maggie Beer. She hopes to one day work as Maggie Beer’s personal chef, bringing her breakfast in bed and breaking her ankles when she threatens to leave.

Meanwhile Elise is making a parfait too. What the hell is going on? When did we become a nation of parfaiters? Is this what the Anzacs fought for?

The horrifying face of the future.

Harry is doing his “take” on “Jimmy’s Dimmies”, to be dubbed “Harry’s Dimmies”, a particularly inverted comma-intensive dish based on a George Calombaris specialty that is called Jimmy’s Dimmies after George’s malevolent alternate personality Jimmy.

Brett notices that many of the amateurs are making pasta dishes, and so he decides to defy expectations by making a pasta dish. Meanwhile Nicolette is making…a parfait? WHAT? Come on guys, you’re taking the piss now. “It’s a crazy idea, but I want to stand out,” says Nicolette of her idea to make a horrible grainy parfait that nobody likes.

Charlie is going to stick with flour and water. Good luck to him.

Elise has too much sugar in her parfait, which is a common problem with parfaits. Probably. Seems likely. I think parfaits are sugary things, I guess. I don’t know what a parfait is. It’s either a kind of cake or a kind of ice cream or something else.

Chloe is making a pancetta praline which is “the textural element” of her dish — the rest of the dish won’t have any texture, it’ll be purely theoretical. Meanwhile Harry is pouring verjuice all over everything just to suck up to Maggie Beer, ugh, he sickens me.

“Two things you should be thinking about right now: delicious food, and getting into that top three!” shouts George, which would suggest that there’s a way to get into the top three that doesn’t involve making delicious food. Maybe there’s a special fee you can pay to fast track yourself?

Brett has figured out the angles and is now pouring on the verjuice himself. Smarmy little crawler.

Elise is happy with her dessert, until…her dessert starts to self-destruct, in order to protect the identity of its creator. The parfait has not set: in fact you might say it’s…less than parfait? If you were the kind of person who switches languages mid-sentence, that is.

Chloe’s parfait is super-smooth, so she starts looking smugly at Elise and probably flicking some insulting hand gestures her way when the camera’s not on her.

It’s Nicolette’s turn to check her parfait, which is breaking apart but at least has the unpleasant grainy texture she wanted for reasons yet to be made clear.

The seconds drain away along with any memory of how we got here, as Brett uses the phrase “just so plump and upright” and it’s far more exciting to make up your own suggestions of what he was talking about than to know the actual context. Elise pulls her parfait out of the blast chiller, and finds that it’s an absolute disaster. It’s collapsed at the back, but Maggie Beer is used to that.

For her part, Chloe just wants to put a smile on Maggie’s face, and it’s getting kind of creepy.

First to present is Trent, who…Trent’s still here? Oh yeah, Trent is here. Huh. There you. He’s made spring rolls which are good enough to cause the soundtrack to go all chirpy. “There’s something symbiotic going on here,” says Maggie, who recognises that neither she nor the spring rolls can live without the other.

Up steps Nicolette, who is hoping the judges like what she’s done — interesting attitude. “It’s really broken,” says Gary, speaking about either Nicolette’s parfait or the show’s format. The judges taste her awful grainy parfait and discover that it is an awful grainy parfait. “Sometimes things don’t work out,” says Gary, strongly implying that Nicolette is one of those things.

Zoe serves her meatballs, having selected all the ingredients herself but been suspiciously non-focused on during the cooking. The judges like her pasta but don’t seem to be all that enthusiastic about it. They’ve gone off Zoe a bit.

Then people like Matt the Amateur and Heather and Karmen and everyone whose dish was not interesting enough to show on TV get tasted as quickly and unobtrusively as possible, before we come to Elise and the Parfait of Broken Dreams. Maggie thinks it has a lovely mouth feel — and she should know, as rumour has it she’s got quite a nice mouth feel herself — but apart from the mouth feel it has very little to recommend it. And what profiteth a man if he should feel nice in the mouth, yet forfeiteth his soul?

Here comes Harry with his unhygienic hair and Jimmy’s Dimmies or whatever. George immediately sues him for copyright infringement before tasting. “What’s the acid?” asks George. Harry reveals it is even now eating through his vital organs. And then the bombshell lands…

“I think there’s too much verjuice,” says Maggie. Too much! Excessive verjuice! Maggie has played him! She drew Harry into her verjuice web, then disowned him. Classic Beer! Harry goes back to his bench, weeping for his innocence.

Brett serves and everyone loves his stuff, whatever, who cares.

Next, Charlie, who describes his dish as “a little bit street”. Matt corrects him: “it doesn’t look good”, but that’s a bit rich coming from a man wearing that suit. Gary complains that there is precious little relief from Charlie’s inherent dryness. “I’m sorry Charlie,” says Maggie, and it’s good that she is at least taking some responsibility.

Here comes Chloe, the Annie Wilkes of Masterchef, to serve her parfait to Maggie Beer with an unnerving smile. Everyone loves Chloe’s weird bacon caramel parfait thingummajig, and it’s clearly a massive relief to taste something that’s not dry or grainy or swimming in verjuice. Chloe is so happy she could feed someone to a pig.

Yeah Offspring is coming back, we get it.

Time for judging, and the top three are Brett, Trent and unfortunately Chloe — this will just encourage her. Maggie congratulates them all in a voice that suggests she is genuinely sexually aroused.

The bottom three, who Maggie Beer has promised to hate forever, are Charlie, Nicolette, and Harry — all that hair has done him no good whatsoever and he has some serious tonsorial decisions to make. There is a wrinkle here though: if Nicolette plays her immunity pin, Elise is the fourth worst and will have to cook in the elimination. Wheels within wheels…Nicolette proclaims herself “devastated” that she has the choice to put Elise into the elimination, but I think she actually means “delighted”.

George tells them all to go home and “we’ll see you tomorrow”. He doesn’t tell them to get any rest though — he gave up caring about their welfare long ago.

Tune in tomorrow for a ridiculous dessert that just does not need to exist.

Maggie Beer, pictured performing her daily fruit-drowning ritual.

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