Masterchef Recap: The Chips Are Down

Ben Pobjie
May 11, 2017 · 10 min read

Losers, losers everywhere. Having discovered that having a big Italian family at home is not enough to guarantee food that actually tastes good, Eloise’s red losers are now in black and fighting for their lives.

Not actually their lives, obviously: in the big picture, the stakes could hardly be lower. But they might be eliminated tonight, and these people are such drama queens they might as well be dead for all the carrying on the loser is going to do.

We begin by raking over Josh’s backstory, which involves a stolen car and a traumatic brain injury, making it extremely difficult for anyone else to even compete. What have they got: a dead grandmother? Pfft, Josh is operating at a higher level.

Michelle’s backstory, of course, is that she lied about her age and is actually only twelve. How will she handle the elimination challenge, given that she’s not usually allowed around hot things?

“It’s home cooking week,” George reminds the amateurs, who may have forgotten the fact after yesterday, when they were forced to perform tasks that had nothing whatsoever to do with home cooking. He emphasises his point by saying, “everyday food, AL-A-VATED!” Nobody knows what he’s talking about.

The embarrassment of George’s monologue over, Matt shows everyone a potato. They applaud his masterful potato-showing ability. Where is this going?

Oh. They have to make chips. Well, George says, “the perfect hot chip”, but I assume that’s a figure of speech and they’ll be expected to make more than one. They must also make the perfect dip. And by “perfect”, as usual, they mean, “slightly better than the worst one here”.

Whoa, Aaron’s name is actually “Arum”. Did you know that? Who the hell is called Arum? Isn’t Arum some kind of liqueur?

Anyway here we go, everyone starts cutting potatoes up and it’s as fun to watch as it sounds. George asks Matt how he would make chips. Matt would be happy to bake his chips. Gary agrees. The judges exchange a series of manly handshakes and kisses to seal their solemn agreement that baking chips is fine.

Arum (!) is double-cooking his chips, which is pointlessly complicated and may not come back to hurt him, but should if there is any justice.

They have to wash the potatoes themselves. Why didn’t they buy washed ones to start with. Benjamin is using kipfler potatoes, which is the weird long kind. Gary is intrigued, as kipfler potatoes are apparently “waxy” — but hey, who doesn’t enjoy a bit of wax for a snack?

Benjamin is TRIPLE-cooking his chips. The decadence of late capitalism continues to appal.

CUT TO: scenes of Michelle at home, where she cooks for her family in between studying for her Year Five exams. CUT BACK TO: Michelle in the kitchen, where she’s already looking inept.

Josh is using a sebago potato, which he uses a lot in roasting. He’s a committed sebago man. Been a sebago man all his life. If sebago was good enough for the Anzacs, it’s good enough for him.

Meanwhile Eloise is questioning whether her idea of chips and aioli might be a bit too simple. Pity she didn’t think yesterday about whether her idea of not making any sauce for her pasta was a bit too simple. Still, she’s right, so she decides to make a different dip: lucky for her, unless she’s as bad at making dips as she is at captaining teams, in which case anything more than aioli might be beyond her.

Meanwhile Jess is assuring us that she is definitely not Eloise.

Back to Arum, whose name is Arum. Then to Pia, who is making a fresh salsa. But salsa isn’t Italian — how is she going to leverage her ancestry here? Does Pia even exist if she’s not talking about how Italian she is?

Ben is worried because Michelle has decided to fry her chips without parboiling them. His concern is touching but his intense interest in a five-year-old girl is disturbing. Michelle is fairly relaxed as she takes her chips out of the freezer, finds that they’re oily, and throws them away. Good on you, Michelle, don’t take any shit from those chips.

Meanwhile Josh’s chips are a little soggy — can his backstory overcome such a blunder? “Somehow I’ve got try and fix that,” he says, and returns them to the oven to make them crunchy, rejecting the idea of covering them in Ice Magic. Matt comes over to his bench to nag him like a big annoying sheepdog. Josh is panicking. “What’s a potato chip without crunch?” he asks. The answer is “fine”. They’re fine. Chips don’t have to be crunchy. Soft chips are frequently delicious. Everyone needs to get their hands off it.

“Come on cooks, ten minutes!” bellows George, shattering the idyllic existence of all of us who’d forgotten that he was there.

Eloise’s chips haven’t cooked properly, which seems pretty much in line with her trendline so far. Arum — ARUM — has removed his chips from the freezer. Benjamin has removed his chips from the freezer. Everyone is double and triple-cooking their chips. You can’t help feel they wouldn’t be racing the clock quite so much if they were satisfied with a single cook. Benjamin’s kipflers are still waxy inside. He has accidentally cooked an ornamental potato instead of a real one.

Michelle’s chips may not cook in time due to the amount of time she spent throwing the first lot away. Amazing how a little thing like completely discarding all your work halfway through and starting again can derail you. Meanwhile Eloise “never knew a chip could cause this much stress”. I bet she thought that was a really clever thing to say. I bet she sat back and smiled smugly about how that quip would definitely make it to air.

Time is up and all the strangers hug each other. Eloise couldn’t be happier with how her chips turned out, which proves she’s not trying hard enough. Jess is very unhappy with her chips, just to provide a point of difference.

“Who’d have thought chips and dips could be so exciting?” asks Gary. I did. I thought chips and dips could be exactly as exciting as they have turned out to be.

First up is Arum, or as I like to call him, Arum???? His chips are very crunchy and the judges are crunch-fascists so they love it. Next is Benjamin, whose sauce is great but whose chips aren’t crispy, so OH GOD BURN HIM AT THE STAKE. Gary seems genuinely angry. You sense he has in the past assaulted people who gave him soggy chips.

We whip quickly through the people who weren’t interesting enough to focus on in this episode. Then Josh, who is so nervous the soundtrack is trying to imitate his heartbeat. His chips are “not that crispy”, causing Gary to wonder if God is real.

Next Eloise, who is so nervous she is shaking like a leaf and talking incessantly. Her chips are great so whoop dee doo etc. “Put that on a menu in Scotland and you’d have a queue a hundred miles long,” says Matt fairly racistly. Next Pia, who isn’t sure if her chips are going to be crunchy enough. The answer is: no they are not.

Next, Jess, whose chips look OK to me but are apparently an affront to human decency. Weirdly, she made some really good chips and some really bad chips, and decided to serve the bad ones. Terrible decision as it turned out. Finally Michelle, who is worried and exhausted and up past her bed time. Her chips are soggy and Gary wants her dead.

George pauses to tell the amateurs a bizarre story about people scratching their plasma screens, before informing them that the bottom four, who must cook in sudden death, are Jess, Josh, Benjamin and Michelle. Pia survives yet again, her powerful sexual allure overcoming her culinary shortcomings.

The bottom four are tasked with creating a “delicious dish that heroes the potato”. The least impressive dish sends its maker home, although it could be a trick: maybe the only way to save yourself is to stand up to the judges and tell them that hero is not a verb.

Jess has decided to make a dessert based on salt and vinegar chips, which sounds disgusting. Michelle knows she could make a potato dessert, but wants to prove to the judges that she can do savoury. This is a terrible time to try to prove something to the judges, and it just shows Michelle’s inexperience: a girl of over three would know to play to your strengths in sudden death. Michelle speaks about missing her grandma, but she needn’t bother: Josh has got the backstory comp wrapped up.

Josh, by the way, is making gnocchi. He describes his perfect gnocchi, under the impression that we’re interested in this. He begins making gnocchi and instantly notes that it’s really difficult to make gnocchi inside an hour. So why is he trying to do it? Because everyone on Masterchef is always stupid enough to try the most difficult and risky dish they can think of when the price of failure is at its highest. See for example Jess, who is not only making something revolting but has no idea whether she can do within the hour. “It’s a risk I have to take,” she says. She’s wrong. She does not need to take any risk. Taking risks is the opposite of what she has to do.

Meanwhile Benjamin dehydrates his sweet potatoes in preparation for making some truly dodgy-sounding donuts. He has to do this because George is worried about the water content of sweet potatoes. Deeply worried. It’s been keeping him up at night. His wife keeps waking up to him tossing and turning, crying in the darkness, “What about all the water in sweet potatoes?”

Matt tells Jess she’s making him nervous, but he’s only joking: he could never care enough about Jess to feel nervous about her. Jess keeps on reiterating how important it is for her to put herself under pressure. It’s not us you have to convince, Jess. We already know you’re full of it.

Speaking of full of it, Josh is giving an extremely lengthy lecture on the making of gnocchi. He is concerned the potatoes won’t soften in time. Gary asks him why he’s boiling his potatoes whole. Josh replies that that’s how he’s always done it. Gary makes his meaning a little more explicit, saying, essentially, hey, cut your potatoes up to cook them faster, dickwit. Gary finally takes the hint and does the bleeding obvious.

Meanwhile Benjamin starts swinging a piping bag around above his head, having succumbed to potato madness.

There is now some frenetic cooking action, which is pretty tedious. Josh would like his gnocchi firmer, but then wouldn’t we all.

Michelle is doing a little twist. She swears she’s not going home today to see her mum. She hates her mum. She never wants to see her again. She will plunge her head into the fryer if need be to avoid it.

Jess’s dumplings look beautiful — if you know what I mean. What I mean is, her dumplings look beautiful.

Josh is not completely happy with the crunch of the gnocchi. Everything today has revolved around crunch. It’s bloody annoying. But while he’s happy, Benjamin isn’t even sure his donuts are cooked or not. And Jess assures us she has cooked with her heart. The involvement of her brain is yet to be confirmed.

Time is up, and everyone on the balcony claps for the losers. Jess sits on the floor and has a drink. Michelle thinks her grandmother would be proud of her, but that’s purely speculation. Benjamin might be serving raw donuts. Josh is not a hundred percent sure on the texture of his gnocchi, and thinks he needs to see a doctor about it.

Michelle serves her vegetable curry and talks about her grandmother some more. Matt calls her curry “a warm fuzzy bowl of Indonesian love”, which is bizarre and upsetting. But I think he means it was good. Michelle seems safe.

Next is Benjamin and his possibly-cooked donuts. “My biggest worry with this dish is that these donuts aren’t cooked,” he says, and to be honest that’s probably enough to worry about. The judges taste, and immediately burst into flames. When they recover, it is found that Benjamin was right to worry: Matt got an undercooked one. But Gary likes the idea, and after all cooking is all about abstract concepts.

Jess comes in and doesn’t even know what to think anymore. “Maybe I could stop talking” is one thing she could think, but she’s rejected that as an option. She serves her gross salt and vinegar dessert thingy and talks emotionally about how terrible her life is. Her gross dessert meets with approval from the judges and is totally cooked unlike Benjamin’s gross dessert. Gary asserts that the ingredients are having a party in his mouth, as if we needed to hear that.

Finally, Josh, who isn’t totally happy with his gnocchi and whose future looks grim. “It’s all about that gnocchi,” says George, accurately describing the main issue to be confronted when judging a dish of gnocchi. Josh’s gnocchi is…

<edgy, paranoid strings>



He’s undercooked it, which many might have predicted back during the cooking process, when he was undercooking it. This spells trouble for Josh, and he might have to work his backstory like never before. Still, the fact it’s either him or Benjamin, and we saw a montage of him and not of Benjamin early on, is extremely ominous.

And for good reason. After a brief interlude where Matt once again bafflingly refers to Michelle’s dish as “fuzzy”, the judges announce that…Josh is going home. If only he understood potatoes and their eldritch ways. Off he goes, to learn more about the behaviour of tubers. “I’m really gonna miss Josh,” lies Michelle. Postscript informs us that Josh “continues to follow his passion for wine and coffee”, which I assume means he’s spent the whole time since the show drinking.

Then Masterclass starts so we all change the channel.

Ben Pobjie

Written by

Aussie Aussie Aussie in all good bookstores NOW!