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MasterChef Australia – The Croquembouche Pressure Test

“There is about a million things that could go wrong with it.” said Andre tonight when he was talking about the pressure test. It was about the only intelligent thing he has said in awhile and almost makes up for him chomping on a piece of star anise last night. Almost.

Tonight’s episode of MasterChef Australia had more suspense then a Hitchcock movie, even right at the end I had no idea which of the four was going to be eliminated. As Gary Mehigan might say it was a cracker hour of TV.

Tonight the bottom four of Tom, Julie, Poh and Chris had to cook a croquembouche, and not just any croquembouche but an Adrian Zumbo one. Now when you look up the meaning of food porn in the dictionary it is normally defined as Adrian Zumbo. Here is a post by by one of my favourite food bloggers Grab Your Fork which outlines his brilliance in both photos and words.

They had 2 hours and 15 minutes to produce something that takes Mr Zumbo himself 1 and 1/2 hours to do.

To say it was complicated was an understatement, and anyone who has tried to cook choux pastry and failed would be feeling for them. Let alone having to back up and cook creme patisserie, and caramel toffee as well.

For someone who normally looks like she needs a Xanax before a pressure test even starts, Julie was calm and quick out of the blocks.

Tom was his usual methodical self but can someone get him a Richard Simmons headband as the amount of sweat that must have gone into his food would almost merit a visit from a health inspector.

Chris was calm, clean and clinical. But would his first mistake of the nouvelle cuisine quail be his last?

Poh was having a disaster, she did not leave her choux pastry on the stove long enough before putting them in the oven. She was trying everything putting the heat up to 300 degrees it looked like she was down and out. Luckily she put in a second batch, which were not quite as bad. George Calombaris was trying to be of assistance and give advice, but at this stage she was flipping out. Points to Poh for not just standing there and weeping. Minus points to George who looked like he was perving on her.

My heart nearly broke for Julie who had been going so well and then her ‘bouche would not come out, and it ended up being the worst presented of the four. The judges however thought her profiteroles were close to perfect.

However tonight there were only two judges Gary Mehigan, and George Colambaris. Who knew where Matt Preston was? But why not put in a special guest judge? Adrian Zumbo brought the cake in why not let him sit on the panel? Or host Sarah Wilson – though I did read somewhere she does not eat sugar due to her illness.

Tom’s which looked good at the beginning, was going like the Leaning Tower of Pisa with its tilt. Gary Mehigan said “Really good job but not an exceptional job.” 

“Flavour nice, presentation not quite there. Did let himself down with the colour of the profiteroles.” said George Colambaris.

Chris managed to salvage what looked like was going to be a disaster when he took it out of his cone. In fact in the last five minutes he must have been working very quickly as it was the best presented of the four. The judges however thought the profiteroles were a bit soft and his caramel a bit light.

 He said it would take him quite some time to get over getting eliminated if he was to go tonight. I think he thinks he is a good chance of taking out the title.

Poh who had a Lazarus like revival actually presented a croquembouche and quite a nice one at that. The judges said the caramel was absolutely bang on.

Even when all four were sitting there to find out who was going to be eliminated. I had no idea.

Poh and Julie were the first two to be told they were safe. The girls probably got the sympathy vote due to the amount of burns they sustained on their fingers. This also meant the editors/producers could not pretend the interviews were being done in “real time” due to the amount of bandages on Julie and Poh’s fingers.

At this point I thought holy toledo the beer man is going to be gone. But it was Tom that was eliminated. He was philosophical and said he was going to miss Julie and the friendship they have developed. He was a sweetie.

This challenge did raise the issue on whether the judges Gary and George should be observing the contestants when they are doing a pressure test. What they see during that time must influence their decision making process either consciously or subconsciously. Also I think they should blind taste it, which would mean they would have to judge on the dish alone and not past endeavours or personality type.

17 comments

1 Helen { 06.08.09 at 10:56 pm }

Definitely the most exciting episode so far, and we too were perpelexed by the unexplained absence of Matt. I think a blind taste test is a good idea although methinks that surely their past performance (and stress under pressure) must also be factored in (and the cynic would suggest the producers may have a word in their ear as well?). Definitely would not have objected to Adriano being a fill-in judge and aww…. thanks for the plug too :)

2 Injera { 06.08.09 at 11:04 pm }

There’s obviously a lot of footage that’s edited out, but to be fair to the contestants the judges just need to back the frak off when the challenges are on. From tonight’s edit, it seemed – yet again – that Poh was being given a huge amount of help, but we didn’t see anybody stepping in with advice to Chris when his toffee solidified in the pan, or when Julie couldn’t get her profiteroles out of the cone. Neither did we see them checking out Tom’s slightly overcooked buns and advising him to have another crack. If they didn’t give the same time to all, then I hope Gary and George are going to be able to take up positions in Poh’s kitchen if she wins and opens a restaurant, because it’s unclear whether she can produce consistent food on her own.

Can anybody help out? Is it patisserie or patissier? I heard both said tonight and google wasn’t much help. I’d ask the oracle, a.k.a. Andre, but he’s incommunicado right now.

Oh, and Gary? When you tell the contestants who are up for elimination that they are among the best cooks left in the group? It just tends to underscore how arbitrary the “bottom three/four” selection is, so… don’t do that anymore.

3 Wurstsemmel { 06.08.09 at 11:12 pm }

I think anything with any hint of suggestiveness in it – bouche – probably meant that Matt had to be secured out back, probably with several of his own cravats.

Excellent viewing tonight. I don’t like Po but have to hand it to her for the proverbial rising of the profiterole from the ashes.

Why though didn’t the judges pick up on her lack of base?

I thought LaLa AMA Julie was a goner when her bouche was decapitated after such a fabulous effort. She really showed relatively good control of her nerves for such a demanding challenge.

Alas, Tinkywinky, in the guise of Tom, went home. Shame really. I was hoping for Chris – for some reason he irritates the hell out of me. Maybe it’s the hat?

4 Reality Raver { 06.09.09 at 12:06 am }

Helen – no problems I hope you get some link love. And I would say the producers would have some opinion about who should stay if it is a close vote. And I suppose you would hate someone to go home for one catastrophic dish if there other stuff has been of very high quality.

Wurstsemmel – ROFL re: Matt Preston and bouche. What would happen if you put that man near an oyster? It seemed the judges put taste over presentation.

Injera – Well put why does the advice only come at certain times in the challenge. They should have to do the pressure test without any assistance or advice. Did Chris actually get the caramel out of the pan in the end?

Doesn’t Gary say each week that they are some of the best cooks in the competition? He said it the week of Sam, Tom and Trevor.

5 Batterly { 06.09.09 at 12:42 am }

@RR – If memory serves, Chris did actually pull the caramel base in the final moments of the pressure cooker.

Chris wasn’t sent home? “Rip off!”

Gary mentioned that if he didn’t see what was going on he’d not know otherwise that Julie’s effort was missing its top. So it’s not unlike or unfathomable that they’re putting in some kind of prejudice with the eyes wide tasting.

6 Anonymous { 06.09.09 at 7:09 am }

Ugh at Tom leaving before Sam, Sandra, Geni, Andre, Julie.

Sigh.

7 CG { 06.09.09 at 9:22 am }

Anon, agree that it is not right Tom is leaving before many of the others. I would include Poh in that list as well.

But George’s comments in TV Week summarised by RR in a separate entry sum it up for me. George has basically confirmed there is bias and favourism in the judging. There is no way Poh should have gotten assistance and support – mental or otherwise – from the judges during the pressure test. If she had been left to her own devices she would have lost, no doubt about it.

Her food in the challenges has often been crap. The dessert she baked in the last invention challenge was an inexcusable mess. It was a pretty simple baked custard-like dessert that anyone can make and she blew it, it wasn’t cooked.

It is actually getting uncomfortable to watch how she tries to flirt with George and Gary who just lap it up.

I think the outright bias in judging this week is why the guest chef was not on the judging panel.

I had a feeling Tom would go this week (not sure where rumour came from that he was seen in Hong Kong). But given the way the pressure test played out, Poh should have gone had she not been assisted and Julie should have been in “second last” place for presentation which in the case of this particular dish is very important and a big part of the challenge.

I’ll continue to watch the show but if this is the way judging is going to go through the final weeks I am going to be really disappointed.

One other comment I’ve been meaning to make re Sarah. She seems nice enough but what is point of having a host (and potential judge) on a cooking show if she has an illness that restricts her from eating various types of food. Not her fault but just seems silly and means she will never expand her role to judging like Padma on Top Chef.

8 Jacqui { 06.09.09 at 12:42 pm }

Did you all notice that when the contestants were doing the interviews, that Tom was not shown? Is that right or did i just miss it? Thats how i knew he was gonna go…

9 RetroGirl { 06.09.09 at 12:49 pm }

All 4 contestants were racing against the clock to finish on time, so how on earth did Poh have time to wait for her first lot of pastry to cook, realise it was a disaster, mix up another batch, wait for the second batch to cook and STILL FINISH AT THE SAME TIME AS THE OTHERS? The other 3 contestants only had to cook their pastry once and only just finished in time – is this just a result of the editing process, or was Poh given a second chance (again)?

10 Sandie { 06.09.09 at 1:09 pm }

To Injera: it’s “Crème pâtissière”
The Pastry chef is the “Pâtissier”
:-)

11 Wurstsemmel { 06.09.09 at 2:17 pm }

I don’t think Sarah’s illness is anything that dramatic or that requires any food changes. She has Hashimoto’s (low thyroid function) which is very, very common and doesn’t require any particular dietary changes.

12 Injera { 06.09.09 at 4:36 pm }

Sandie – thanks for clearing that up (and I’m in awe of your ability to include the appropriate diacritics!).

13 Sandie { 06.09.09 at 5:42 pm }

No worries! Being French helps, he he :-)

14 CG { 06.09.09 at 5:55 pm }

My understanding is that Hashimoto disease has a link to Celiac disease and many Hashimoto patients practice gluten-free eating. I understood from an interview / article on Sarah that follows a very specialised diet.

15 Injera { 06.09.09 at 10:09 pm }

Wurstsemmel, I hope Matt’s not going to go all David Carradine on us with his cravats and food-porniness. That would be taking the Kill Bill resemblances to an awkward extreme.

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