MasterChef NZ judge Vaughan Mabee questions a contestant on their use of butter in the first elimination cook-off.
If the MasterChef NZ judges ever feel a bit down, or need a bit of an ego boost, may I suggest they watch the first few minutes of the show’s third episode over and over and over again?
“Every time I see the judges, I think, oh the Gods are here.” Out of the mouths of babes – or in this case, Sam the coffee trainer.
And as Gods are wont to do, it was time to trim their flock – MasterChef NZ-style (AKA using a box of ingredients, almost no useable bench space and a stressful time limit to sort the good from the bad).
When the stopwatch indeed stopped, it was dessert people Jose and Eve who proved not every MasterChef experience is sweet (sorry, I couldn’t help it).
It was the top 16’s first time in The Kitchen – except for the six that didn’t have to cook because their application dish was so good, and there is literally no chance of fitting 16 benches in that place. What a time to shine up there in the winner’s balcony.
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Instead, it was the 10 other hopefuls who took on the mystery box, where all contestants get the same ingredients and an hour to make some magic, with two people heading home.
The season’s first mystery box had a very “sponsored by Central Otago’s sheer brilliance” vibe: wild rabbit from judge Nadia Lim’s farm, duck breast, stone fruit, mushrooms, pumpkin, wild thyme, golden beets, blackberries, goat’s cheese, walnuts, honey, pinot noir – plus the usual pantry staples.
Jose, who promised in an earlier episode he could make a savoury dish as good as his first sweet offering, had a bit of a ducking disaster. He’d never pan-seared duck before and figured this was a good time to try.
Reader, it was not.
The fat on his bird was not rendered (a key ducky component, if you’ve ever watched a show like this, or in fact eaten duck, before) which added an “annoying” texture. That, teamed with throwing too many things on the plate, meant it was an early exit for the nurse and dad-of-one.
Eve stayed in her sweet lane for a second time, making a lemony, cakey, fruity situation, which was a bit safe. Or as Mabee put it starting a habit of, “Cake today, cake tomorrow”. But in Eve’s case, the cakewalk was over.
While she wasn’t the only baker in the kitchen, she was the least adventurous, and her cake was a little overcooked.
Mabee (who you will see is the most quotable judge this season, clearly) said, “if you’re going to bust out a cake, at least put more butter in it or something”, mortally wounding every baker who knows it’s actually quite hard to just “bust out a cake”, thankyouverymuchsir.
The whole shenanigan was a close call for Lance who overcooked his chook (or duck) and tried to hide the duck jerky-like disaster with some mushrooms rather than extra sauce (always biff on some sauce, mate). And hunter-gatherer Felina (she of the pre-season allegations) put up a duck dish that was solid, but boring.
It wasn’t all bad though. Farzana’s cake was ‘crazy’, transporting Mabee to the pastures of Otago, like some sort of wild drug trip and Naomi made a good go of her first time cooking duck.
So far, it’s very much MasterChef bread and butter, but at least we shouldn’t see another duck breast/pumpkin purée for a few weeks.
And in case you care what are they even fighting to win – it’s a book deal, some kitchen gear and 6 months worth of groceries, which, given the current state of the world, is worth some burnt fingers and near misses with a potato peeler, don’t ya think?