Celebrity Masterchef – the penultimate final
This is my first ever episode of Celebrity Masterchef (thanks to Food +2 – I’ll be able to decompress with a session of Masterchef: The Professionals!) and… is that really Eamon Sullivan or has little Sam from the regular season made a comeback? It’s deja vu all ’round, as tonight’s pressure test is introduced: it’s the croquembouche challenge! Kirk Pengilly, Rachel Finch, Eamon Sullivan and Alex Lloyd will face Adriano Zumbo’s tower of pastry. One of them will be leaving.
We start with the traditional “how much do you want this” interview. Kirk still wants to win. Apparently winning Celebrity Masterchef would be up there with getting a Gold Record. Alex’s little boy Jake will be proud if he wins. (There’s more than one child in the scenes from the Lloyd household, but for some reason it’s only Jake who counts.) Rachel can’t believe she’s there, but she wants to continue. Eamon? “Eamon, you’ve done well so far. Can you smell the win?” “I can smell something.”
Matt’s building the tension for the pressure test. “Harder than anything that’s been attempted in this kitchen before!” Except, I guess, for the last time they did the croquembouche challenge. In this very kitchen.
George translates the French for us: “Literally means crunch in the mouth“, which is literally the first time he’s ever used the word “literally” properly.
Gary encourages Adriano to talk up the dangers of the dessert. You can get burnt! You can… I can’t be bothered typing this – I think the warnings are from the same script as the last time this was attempted. Except, of course, for the more difficult parts. Because this is so much more difficult!
“We are in a dungeon! They’re torturing us!” Oh, Rachel.
George has remembered that there is, in fact, a precedent for this challenge, so asks Adriano how difficult this iteration is compared to the previous version. His verdict? It’s twice as hard. It has a chocolate swirl, after all, and chocolate creme pat with chocolate profiteroles. Oh, and butterflies. My verdict? It’s twice as ugly.
Our celebs have three and a half hours to defeat this monster, with Adriano on the sidelines for advice and Gary and George no doubt distracting them at key moments.
They’re under starter’s orders. Alex starts on the creme patissiere and notes that others are starting with the pastry. Who’s right? Ad break!
Rachel explains that she decides to do the pastry first so she doesn’t run out of time. Can somebody explain this to me? Is there a break in the space-time continuum that is activated if you do pastry first? Kirk’s “flying blind” (except for having a recipe, and having Adriano on hand). Gary and George head over to harass Rachel, who seems to be following instructions and letting her pastry mix cool prior to adding eggs. Eamon hasn’t been so attentive to the fine print of the recipe and is worried about the consistency of his pastry. Zumbo comes over to give him some tips about rescuing his mixture (pop it in the fridge), but doesn’t offer any guarantees.
Gary asks Alex about his decision to kick off with the custard, given that the others are all on the pastry, which leaves Alex even more confused over the structure of the recipe. His creme pat does, however, get the nod from George. In the rest of the halftime judge discussion, Rachel’s doing well with the pastry, Eamon’s mixture could be too runny and Kirk’s made a beautiful choux pastry.
Judge confab is over, so the Gs and Adriano retire to the balcony so they can scream exhortations from there. I miss having real, invested onlookers. Surely they could have rounded up some of the ousted celebs to do the barracking. Or maybe some of the regular season competitors might have come along – Linda’s clearly hard up if she’s Ebaying her aprons…
Kirk starts piping out his chocolate profiteroles and his first attempts show that he doesn’t carry cash; he’s told it should be 20c pieces but he’s piping out huge discs. Eamon’s pastry’s too runny but he decides to go with it. Alex’s just comes flowing out of the piping bag, so he cracks the shits and decides to abandon piping for spooning.
Two hours are down, 90 minutes are left. George reminds the contestants that they’ll need at least half an hour “to assemble the most sexiest croquembouche EVER!”.
Kirk’s not happy with the consistency of his first puffs, but at least they don’t look like Eamon’s pikelets.
Eamon’s back from the ad break saying “it’s not important for me to win, it’s important to plate something up to stay in the competition”. Surely he doesn’t take this approach to competitive swimming: “It’s not important for me to win, it’s important for the rest of the field to drown.” Rachel’s taking her profiteroles out of the oven and says that half are burnt. Alex’s have no bottoms, but at least Gary thinks they could be made to work. Eamon pulls out his second batch and declares “Sullivan magic!”, which seems at odds with how they look.
“Things are just getting worse and worse” says Alex, on the verge of quitting. And crying. George tries to buck him up by reminding him how proud his boys’ll be. At least George has remembered that there’s more than one child.
Fortunately Gary’s there to break the tension with his improbably throaty bellowing.
Rachel’s toffee is too thick so Gary steps in to the rescue. “It’s like I’m on a rollercoaster. One minute I’m happy and the next minute I just want to give up.” Except what she means is “and the next minute Gary comes to help”.
George is giving Alex a helping hand with his bottomless pastries, suggesting – logically – that he can sandwich them together. Two halves make a whole! I hope he’s got enough halves.
Kirk’s soldiering on. Base? Done. Profiteroles? Filled. It’s now time for the toffee dipping. Rachel’s reached the same point: “I coat my buns with the caramel”. I’m imagining a Ralph spread where this is the caption for one of the photos.
Alex burns himself on the toffee and the high-vis vests come in with balms. They salve the burns, but can’t heal the ego. He walks out. Eamon musters up Gene-Wilder-as-Willy-Wonka levels of enthusiasm when he monotones that “I’m hoping he’s ok. It’d be a shame to see him throw in the towel”.
George, practiced in the art of talking contestants down, tells him that the others might turn out desserts that don’t taste good. As he returns Alex to the fray, Gary’s also in the process of lowering expectations: “it doesn’t have to be ten feet tall. Just do something you’re proud of”.
“What does not kill you? Makes you stronger!” Gary’s modelling his delivery on Russell Crowe in Gladiator. It’s annoying, but it will be worth it when he tells them to “UNLEASH HELL!“. Unfortunately, George steps in: “Unleash the croquembouche within!”. Eeeew.
Eamon’s crock is out! Rachel’s is too – hers looks pretty good compared to Eamon’s. Alex’s plops out and he somehow manages to burn himself again, which distracts attention from his hideous mound of profiteroles. What about Kirk’s? Ad break!
Kirk turns out a leaning tower of crock. Fortunately, he’s got some leftover profiteroles and toffee, so he props it up and it looks pretty good. Alex is using the caramel swirl in an attempt to polish his crock. He and Eamon both have butterflies on, as does Rachel, but for some reason Kirk hasn’t got one.
“I’ve finished! My masterpiece!” Alex’s attempt at levity is edited with a shot of his short tower falling apart. Snigger.
Rachel’s first in front of the judges. Matt tells her it looks perfect, in fact “astounding and amazing”. “Wrap a sash around it and it would win Miss Universe” is George’s take. The judges even enjoy eating it!
Eamon thinks it’s all about taste, which is just as well, since the judges have nothing to say about its appearance. “I think it takes a lot to be a great swimmer… and hence you’ve replicated this with this croquembouche.” I have no idea what George means, either. Matt ticks off Eamon’s accomplishments and notes that he forgot the swirl.
Kirk pre-empts the appearance issue, telling the judges that his butterfly flew away. They laugh and Matt goes on to compliment the tower. “It’s definitely edible” doesn’t seem like a glowing endorsement from George. Matt likes the creme pat and the construction but is not a huge fan of the profiteroles. Overall, Kirk’s happy with the balance of compliment and condemnation.
Kirk’s strategy of opening with a joke seemed sound. Alex’s dish has the judges creasing up. “We have a saying here: it could look amazing, but if it doesn’t taste good it’s not going to get you through.” The judges are making positive faces. I call shenanigans on this if he gets through. “You don’t judge a man by how he handles success… you judge him on how he handles the other days.” What is this? He’s a celebrity – why are they treating him as though he needs their approval?
Who’s going home? Well, I’d say it’s obvious. Unless something simply AMAZING happens, it’s gotta be Alex, no? No?
First person safe: Rachel.
Second finalist: Eamon.
Last minute fakeout has me worried… but Kirk is through.
Matt says it’s been a privilege to watch Alex cook. I’m off to look up “privilege” since it clearly doesn’t mean what I think it means.