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Masterchef – the dark horrors of the mystery box

What’s in the box? We’re leaping straight into the action as, once again, Matt explains that the judges will only taste five dishes, which I still think is a ridiculous rule. Skye’s hoping the box contains no frogs legs, snails or foie gras. I’m disappointed that she doesn’t do a happy little chicken dance when she reveals: duck breast, raspberries, pinot (I’m assuming noir), read cabbage, lavender, fennel and dark chocolate. Oh, what to cook?

Claire’s going for something simple with a glazed duck breast, Courtney is making pancakes, Matthew is making a lavender custard, Fiona is making a chocolate ganache tart with lavender cream and Skye is having a crack at crispy duck with raspberries marinated in wine with fennel fronds. Carrie is making chocolate and raspberry souffle with lavender cream. Gary and George meet to discuss the works in progress and give positive reviews to what they’ve seen so far. So, we’ve seen six cooks and five will be tasted. That kind of… reduces the dramatic possibilities, doesn’t it?

Tasting (and, perhaps, replating?)

  • Matthew – Gary is a bit dubious because Matthew didn’t sterilise the egg. He tastes it, anyway, and notes the “soupy” texture. George likes the flavour and Matt thinks it looks “magnificently outlandish”.
  • Claire – she wasn’t expecting hers to be tasted but, of course, we at home are less surprised. Gary thinks it’s clever cooking.
  • Skye – Rock’n’roll is George’s assessment and I think I’ll be trying the fried fennel tops.
  • Fiona – Matt likes the shortness of the pastry with the intense chocolate and the “loosening up” cream. He envisages a butterfly touching on some lavender and then the cream.
  • Carrie – Gary’s comments are positive, but seem to indicate that they chose her to see her smile.

Skye and Fiona are the two “finalists” after judges’ deliberations and Skye is announced the winner, after the obligatory fireball and commercials.

Invention test

Theme? Indian! Jimmy mugs “disappointed”, but fails to hide the glee. For the theme ingredient, Skye has a choice of chicken, goat (mmmm, goat…) and pulses. When these options are revealed to the cast, it seems obvious to them that she’d have chosen pulses, but she surprises them all when she reveals goat. Perhaps she realised that chickpeas would be difficult to soften within the timeframe.

The dishes

  • Jimmy is making a parsi curry which will be finished with fried paneer. YUM.
  • Jonathan’s trying an inventive curry with a yoghurt sorbet .
  • Joanne “Indian is not my thing” is blending spinach and hoping to have something to plate up, so her expectations are not high.
  • Courtney is doing a salad with naan bread hors d’oevres.
  • Matthew’s hoping that goat and lamb are interchangeable, which they are in some cuisines, but when he tastes it with half an hour to go the goat is chewy and he’s not confident that he has a winner.
  • Callum is doing something fusiony, and we all know there’s a fine line between fusion and confusion .
  • Big Dom is doing a Madras-y style curry.
  • Skye might not get her dish completed.

We’re still not seeing tattoo man, Adam, Aaron, or Marion. Did I miss them being turfed out?


  • Jimmy’s panfried goat looks dry, and Gary confirms that it is. He loves the curry with paneer, as does George. Matt is also a fan of the curry, but thinks the over-cooked goat might have lost it for him.
  • Joanne’s palak is chewy goat overwhelmed by spinach puree
  • Callum’s scattered bits’n’pieces get the thumbs down from Gary.
  • Jonathan’s dish is “a dead-set ripper”.
  • Dom’s flavours are too raw.
  • Matthew’s dish looks unappetising and is, according to George.
  • Courtney looks defeated as she brings her dish to the table, but she gets lots of positive adjectives from Matt.
  • Skye’s happy to be nominated and is hoping for a pass, but George is giving her some bigger compliments than that.

Gary now tells us that they’ve tasted them all, which we’re going to have to take on trust. We’ll find out who wins, and who is in the bottom three, after previews of Modern Family and probably some Glad or Handee wipes ads.

Jonathan and Courtney are the top two, and Jonathan manages not to sob when he is named the winner and Courtney is gracious in defeat on her birthday.

The three contestants with the least impressive dishes are not, as I suspected, Marion, Adam and Aaron (who? I know!), but Dom, Joanne and Matthew and they will face off in tomorrow’s pressure test.

Some points I’m pondering:

  • Is winning the mystery box really a good set-up for the rest of the week? I remember the claim being made a lot last year, but can’t remember evidence backing it up.
  • Did everybody else hate the editing on the mystery box challenge? The Gs only looked at six cooks, so it was evident that five of those would be chosen for tasting. No tension, no will-they-or-won’t-they, apart from Courtney, but I figured she was only in the mix because she was the birthday girl.
  • Has Gary caught the bouncies from George? I saw him bobbing up and down on the balls of his feet while he was explaining the rules of the invention test.

Gary’s dad joke of the night: “turn up the throttle on this world’s fastest Indian”
Matt’s dad joke of the night: “the only father in the room – Poppa Dom”
Sound effect of the night: the whoosh-ding that accompanied Matt calling Callum’s name after the bottom three had been announced.


1 Wurstsemmel { 05.09.10 at 10:12 pm }

You’d be forgiven for thinking we were done to the final six or so. I’d really lime to see all dishes tasted. Someimes things loom great, taste dire and vice versa. I want to see the successes but the devil in me wants to see the stuff ups too.

Where’s Alvin? Seems to have gone off the boil while others are currying all the favour. Dire pun but after Matt’s poppa Dom comment….

Great recap, Injera, thanks

2 dmc { 05.09.10 at 10:14 pm }

I’m amazed at how poor the editing has been.

3 Injera { 05.09.10 at 10:15 pm }

Oh, see, I’d completely forgotten about Alvin! Also no sign of Jake, apart from seeing him limp in on the crutches. Awesome puns, too, Wurstsemmel – far better than either Matt’s or Gary’s.

4 Anthony { 05.09.10 at 10:22 pm }

Surprised, but happy that Jonathan did well tonight!! I would have been equally happy if Courtney won, though! Her dish was the most well-presented! With her cooking aside, I’m not really warming to her yet (personality).
I’m becoming a big fan of Skye, so really happy about her screen time tonight!
I really don’t want Joanna to go home tomorrow! Losing Matthew or Dominic wouldn’t be a loss! But Matthew seems favoured by the judges and usually is a good cook, so it will probably be Joanne or Dom who’s eliminated.

5 Wurstsemmel { 05.09.10 at 10:23 pm }

Ah yes, Injera, but to be fair I’m not multitasking and bouncing on the balls of my feet at the same time.

Thinking about it, perhaps this is how Gary got his injury, hay?

PS for Wordsnob, spelling of hay intentional

6 seepi { 05.09.10 at 10:28 pm }

I think they are all better cooks than last year, so we are actually missing some of those real disaster dishes.

I quite liked tonight’s show. I don’t really think getting to choose the ingredient is that useful – except if there is something you really didn’t want to cook (like a whole fish, or offal) you would not choose that. It does build a contestant’s profile tho.

7 Rusty { 05.09.10 at 10:53 pm }

Why do we never see Sharnee actually cook anything, but still somehow survive?Could someone explain the where the line is between the competition and reality TV – please? I’m not much into reality TV normally and can’t follow its psychology.

8 CG { 05.09.10 at 10:56 pm }

This week’s first conspiracy theory: a guy will be eliminated this week. We’ve lost two girls and the MC producers won’t want things to get too lopsided as they seem to have a girl-boy balance obsession. So it will be between Dom and Matthew. Now isn’t Dom the oldest remaining contestant? I think Dom is dust ’cause (conspiracy theory #2), they are trying to move away from the middle age image of Julie and focus on the 20-30yrs olds. Jono could beat the celeb chef, giving him immunity and furthering his “evil” image! Tonights ep was boring and dragged on. And I agree with all that cutting down the number of dishes tasted sucks. It seems unfair to the contestants and the audience who have their favourites and eliminates any kinda suspense. I’m losing interest in the series and not sure I can maintain the 6+ hour per week commitment.

9 Laura { 05.09.10 at 11:10 pm }

Annoyed that Fiona was top 2 for the invention test. Her tart was so simple and boring. At least she didn’t win.

I hope Dom goes.

10 injera { 05.09.10 at 11:12 pm }

dmc – I’m amazed at how easy it is to spot the top competitors of the challenge is due to the way it’s been edited this year. Maybe I’m looking through rose-coloured glasses at last year, but the way tonight’s episode was cut, there was really nothing left to the imagination.

Anthony, I’m yet to really “commit” to one particular contestant and haven’t got a favourite amongst the three up for elimination. Courtney’s dish sounded a bit odd, but when it was plated and tasted, I’d have been happy with it for dinner.

Seepi – that’s a good point about picking the ingredient being more important for the contestant’s profile than as a strategic advantage.

Rusty – I’m not surprised that you’re struggling to get to grips with why/how people who are in are in, given the scant attention some of the contestants have received. Hopefully we’ll start to see a better spread of dishes now that the tears seem to have settled down.

CG – I’ll be keeping your theories in mind tomorrow! Won’t put any money on Dom, but it’s an interesting idea. To be honest, I’d be surprised if anybody beat the chef this year, although Matt was really talking up Jono’s technical skill tonight… Hmm.

Laura – agreed. In fact, I thought a number of the dishes tasted were pretty safe. Would have been good to see the others, even as a glimpse, so that we could understand why something that simple was top five.

11 Laura { 05.09.10 at 11:12 pm }

(Coincidence that Fiona and Carrie, the bottom two from last week, were in the top 5? I think the judges favour the people who have stood out in the past – whether for good or bad reasons – and totally ignore others. Redemption makes for good tv.)

12 Pollywaffle { 05.10.10 at 1:11 am }

Well Im getting a little jack of the show – I keep giving it another chance and it keeps falling short without getting to the crunch of who is really consistent week-to-week and who is P-F’ing about. And as others have mentioned, this is no light investment Channel 10, we don’t want to be overly confused by the 20 or so still there, but we don’t have to be handed the 5/6 better ones on a platter either – tease us a bit or we will bugger off to Hey, Hey….well thats a possibility, yes maybe, thats if Jake the Peg starts winning.

To echo others thoughts….

• There is a mighty lot of contestant wallpaper who we hardly ever see cook. We saw Phillip kissing his cross in the birthday challenge to avoid elimination and those prayers weren’t answered in tonight’s challenge either. I hope he doesn’t spend too much time in front of the mirror preparing for each session, it would be very disappointing, plus a hell of a waste of hair pomade.[ On that note, the bunch this year is pretty coiffed and plumed compared to last year’s scruffy crew . Is this where the money is going rather than thought into the show?}

• Jonathan cant really carry the show on his own, and it appears he might be MC’s Atlas at the moment. For instance after a glass of wine or two, I cant recall more than about 5 contestants. Brand Alvin has taken a dive, Dom is old, thats why you remember him, and Claire is in danger of being eaten by Matt Preston if she doesn’t utter more words at her food station

Matt’s butterfly wafting across the scenery is a pretty good analogy for how I’m finding the show, MC this year feels like a butterfly has flown by and dropped a hint of cooking challenge into the recipe, the remainder is heavily produced and edited by the makers of a ‘reality show’

13 Muru { 05.10.10 at 1:12 am }

Anthony: If you think Matt won’t be eliminated “because the judges like him,” then how can you explain Adele’s elimination? Pretty sure the judges liked her too.

Wurstsemmel: How can you expect the judges to taste all 20 dishes in TWO challenges in one hour? What they’re doing at the moment is to save time. I’m not sure if you or anybody else has noticed, but this is a common ‘technique’ across many reality TV shows. For instance, look at Project Runway; you’ll notice that when there’s lots of contestants left, they’ll give the contestants who will be in the top and bottom 3 the most airtime while glossing over the rest of the contestants. I don’t see many people complaining about that.

14 CuriousTom { 05.10.10 at 1:55 am }

@ Injera
All of the chefs and judges seem to be talking about John technical skill etc and yet he’s been in two eliminations so far…that doesn’t make sense. Given he’s not well liked by contestants and viewers are they hoping that everyone likes to see the underdog win?

15 Injera { 05.10.10 at 7:55 am }

Laura – interesting angle, although Ten would also have to factor in people like me whose memories don’t always cast that far back!

Pollywaffle – awesome take, as usual. It certainly doesn’t have the pull of last year (yet), but I remember watching the first few weeks last year with gritted teeth, too. Love the butterfly analogy!

Maru – conspiracy theories are how some people manage to stay tuned in during the boring bits. Agree that all reality shows edit, but with the mystery box challenge it’s not editing that takes away the tasting of all the dishes – the judges only taste five. And in Project Runway, we do get a look at all the designs, even if some are featured more than others during judging.

CuriousTom – it’s a bit of a mystery, really. Although perhaps the blinis that landed him in bottom two were brilliant, but just didn’t appeal to the partygoers? I can’t remember what got him in bottom two the week before – was he the leader of the losing team?

16 kate (not THAT Kate!) { 05.10.10 at 9:05 am }

I didn’t see all of last night’s but overall they really seem to have lost the idea of a cooking show to the reality competition thing. That’s a shame, because a lot of the attraction last year was the encouragement to get people cooking – going out and seeing the featured ingredients selling out of supermarket shelves. I doubt that is happening as much this year, despite the product pushing (I mean really, Friday night’s masterclass with Gary and George suggesting truffle sausages to keep the adults happy at a kid’s birthday?!! ).

Not seeing all the dishes is a large part of this change of emphasis – at the kid’s birthday challenge for example, I’m betting lots of parents would have liked to know how many votes each dish got as guidance for their own catering efforts. And the mystery box (when it has at least some vaguely normal ingredients – I mean lavender!) simulates that ‘what can I make with what’s in the fridge’ challenge we all face from time to time – seeing the variety of what is possible (and the less sterling efforts) added some infotainment components to the show.

I think it would really be better to separate the mystery box and invention test challenges, and reward each appropriately – winning the mystery box clearly doesn’t count for much, and yet it should.

Personally, I’m much more interested in seeing who can come up with interesting cooking ideas than who can best recreate an existing top chef’s recipe.

I agree Donna Hay is a good choice to add as a judge – I’m finding the emphasis on how beautiful your quennelles are quite tiresome. I get that a five star restaurant devotes a lot of effort to presentation. But far more important for most of us – and for amateur chefs who can’t really be expected to come out of three months or so of competition as Michelin starred chef – is producing and eating something that tastes delicious.

But what really took me aback last night was Matt’s rather cutting comment to Callum, saying ‘you’re a good cook, but not that good’ -you could see Callum gulp. I didn’t see the prep, but seemed a bit harsh given that his main fault seemed to be attempting to make his dish and plating mimic Gary/George’s style, even if that didn’t really quite work.

17 Wurstsemmel { 05.10.10 at 9:16 am }

Yeah. Maru, maybe I should have said I would like to have seen more than 5 dishes, seen what people were cooking up…and if we had less time spent on pointless recaps from before the commercial breaks, perhaps they could fit more in.

The cooking ability may be better on the whole than last year but it’s hard to tell when you see so little of what more than a handful offer. Even with the things I disliked about last year’s effort (contestants voting each other off and a few other things), I think it was largely more exciting than this years. Brand MC is going down….

18 skye { 05.10.10 at 10:14 am }

Seriously, this time last season I wasn’t even watching yet as the few eps I had seen were naff and unengaging – and neither were most people watching at that point. The momentum only started to build once a few of the contestants had been kicked to the curb, and they were able to give more time to the remaining contenders. I’m happy to give this show more time to really hook me in.

19 ericg { 05.10.10 at 10:43 am }

Fiona’s simple tart was on the top 5. Kidding me?

Finally we have seen those ‘unimportant’ contestants like Claire, Skye, Fiona. A bit of a change from weeks back but I think the editing has gone bad seeing they totally ousted Alvin, none of Phillip, not to mention where was Marion?

I do not know why Skye would have chosen goat. Really? To cook goat or lamb curry in 90 minutes? Maybe the contestants can use pressure cooker to soften the meat, but do they have the time? It would be nice for her to either choose chicken or pulses. Chicken = Making the judging interesting. Pulses = How would the rest cook them?

Very subjective judging at the Invention Test last evening. I don’t think if you are an Indian, you can cook superb Indian food – especially under pressure from the time given, limited ingredients, as well as judges’ pathetic comments. I pity Jimmy.

Jono for being the bottom 3 and in two pressure tests was the pick of this week’s Invention Test. I know he did well, but only six were being aired on TV last evening and we have not seen how the other ‘unaired’ ones faired. A way for the judges to show that even though you are near of failing, you can still climb up the stairs and be the top (from one of the many thorns to a rose bud?).

Matt P’s comment made last to Callum was nasty and contradicting. What did he say again? If I am not wrong it was like this, “Callum, you’re a good cook but not that good a cook” HUH??? What the h3ll?

I think I have given up on this reality show. I have been giving it second chances, yet it has failed to impressed me, especially the three judges! *sigh*

20 TDK { 05.10.10 at 10:52 am }

My observations:
– Boring episode
– Where’s Alvin and his funny comments?!

21 josie { 05.10.10 at 11:10 am }

Ditto…. I missed Alvin last night : (

22 wallah { 05.10.10 at 11:32 am }

Hmmm…I find more and more being distracted from the cooking by George’s wardrobe. I swear the producers are trying to make him look like he should be standing outside a strip club or a kebab shop dealing heroin and talking on his mobile.

23 reality raver { 05.10.10 at 12:21 pm }

Injera – great recap I feel like I actually saw the episode. I have to confess I think I could become a fan of Jonathan.

Interestingly enough this time last year Injera was not loving Masterchef but again a strategically timed holiday meant she watched it and became hooked. I wonder if that will happen again.

Also I think having a top 24 rather then a top 20 will mean it will take longer to get to know the characters. What about Peter we have barely seen him.

Rusty – I think the difference IMO between a competition and reality tv, is a reality TV show will manipulate events to make it more entertaining. Or you may get a second chance if you are more entertaining. Others may disagree.

Wallah – Hey I watched your Youtube clip of Carnivale, it is like the Twin Peaks of the 21st century.

24 KC { 05.10.10 at 12:46 pm }

Its only third week isn’t it? So its not surprising that some people get more camera time on some eps than others. And it makes sense that not everyone gets their dishes tasted on camera even though I really wish it was but it’ll be like that when more people leave. I actually really wanted to see all the dishes in first week because I really liked that childhood memory challenge 😀

I felt sorry for Callum. One week on a high and the other week barely passing. And Matt was so brutally honest when he said, “You’re a good cook but you’re not THAT good a cook.” OUCH. I can’t say its true but maybe Callum got a little up himself which is why he made a really simple curry and tried to spice it up with plating it up? Just a thought, I’m not saying Callum is really up himself or anything.

I reckon Jono will win the celeb chef challenge since they’ve been building him up as a really detailed and good chef. I don’t really mind if he does but I do wish it was someone else who won the very first immunity card. Like Marion 😀

Aaron is the beanie guy 😀 He was so funny in Top 50 I just wish he got more camera time now.

I remember hearing Curry in a Hurry and groaning with its lameness but its actually really funny LOL 😀

25 Fides { 05.10.10 at 2:08 pm }

Like everyone else, I’m disappointed with the editing – it’s too predictable. I did watch from the early stages last year and can’t recall that it felt like this, where you can pick the top and bottom three by how much attention is given to each contestant. But I do remember that Justine and Andre got just about zero air time at this stage, so I’m hoping some of the others getting very little attention are amazing cooks who will surprise us all. I seriously doubt it’s Sharnee though.

Also, what is with how chummy all these contestants are? They beam away at each other when they’re getting complimented, and they’re there to console each other when their dishes get rubbished. I get it that they all love each other and I’m not heartless, but it makes it much more interesting to see the dagger eyes of Chris and Poh. It does make Jono the most intriguing person there though, and I was impressed at his insincerity when he offered condolences to the bottom three.

Agree with wallah about George’s wardrobe again. I was really distracted by the sleeves of that polo shirt much like last week’s hoodie. Next thing George will have a fashion line out.

26 sourkraut { 05.10.10 at 3:00 pm }

Missed the misty box. who cares.
Was pleased they finally had an Asian specifically Indian contest BUT:
Didn’t hear anyone mention the Indian spices normally used, Coriander, Cumin Turmeric, Fennell Fenugreek etc etc. (only heard the word chillis and garlic)I suppose they all used the soap powder, sorry keens handy dandy curry powder.
Then as I commented b4 the judges obviously knew very little about curries. Gary mixed up Dom’s Madras with a vindaloo, And WTF is with Jonathon’s curry praline which scored so highly? Curry BAH!
Actually Dom’s curry LOOKED the best of a very sad bunch, but he SEEMS to be getting edited badly (I actually don’t like his edited character) and Gary’s body language and looks when addressing him gave the game away. Does he secretly have some mistress or debt to come out?
ALSO How did the judges fairly judge the curries? By the time they have tasted 25 curries the last few would be tasting either cumulatively hot or weird. Not fair on ALL contestants, and too easy to manipulate to the favoured ones.
And who decides which dishes we get to see? Is it based like last year on purvability?
Am beginning to see less and less point religiously watching each ep this time round

27 TDK { 05.10.10 at 3:31 pm }

sourkraut – would be fairest if:
1 – taste test one dish
2 – gouble water, spit
3 – repeat steps 1 and 2


28 ericg { 05.10.10 at 3:48 pm }

TDK – Warm water with Lemon/ Lime does a better job.


29 Pollywaffle { 05.10.10 at 3:55 pm }

Sourkraut – absolutely agree, the judges are as subtle as a brick, not only the body language is a giveaway, just watch the eyes when someone is being eliminated – you can plot a trajectory from Matt’s eyeball’s to those heading for the bottom three – when his fringe isnt in the way

Wallah – Yes George needs a good stylist – I think he’s trying to do a ‘hairless Manu’ but failing badly. Spending too much time in Mykonos might also be party responsible for tragic dress sense.
I am worried though if Matt ever finds himself in another country surely he’d be arrested as a pimp in that getup.

30 Recapping Masterchef — …blah blog blah… { 05.10.10 at 4:15 pm }

[…] and has entrusted the Masterchef recaps to me. This means that I’ll be busy blogging over at Reality Ravings, trying to cover most […]

31 Vic { 05.10.10 at 7:38 pm }

“I am worried though if Matt ever finds himself in another country surely he’d be arrested as a pimp in that getup.”

I love that comment Pollywaffle!

32 Emily { 05.10.10 at 7:53 pm }

I really want to like this show but i am almost at breaking point. i just dont get it… what is the point of all these contestants cooking their hearts out if (1) their dish is not shown and described on air (2) it is not even tasted by the judges????? That makes no sense. Is the truth that the judges are actually tasting them all as they cook and then deciding on their faves to officially taste?? If that is the case, then tell us so! If no, I am baffled. You can’t judge anyone’s cooking solely on what it looks like. If they don’t appreciate that then there is no hope for them, or this show.
oh and I like Aaron and he gets zero airtime :(

33 Fides { 05.10.10 at 9:27 pm }

What they should do is a “behind the scenes/making of” special to explain how it all really happens. The whole tasting issue for mystery box, what happens in that one hour between the contestants finishing the dish and the tasting, replating etc – even the fact that it requires a few takes of each contestant walking up to present their dishes so all the camera angles are covered.

Viewers don’t want to be treated like fools, Channel Ten, are you taking note?

34 sourkraut { 05.10.10 at 10:43 pm }

I sadly doubt that they are. Actually your para 1 would be a very good idea!
a better step 2 would be skull a schooner of new. that would make for some interesting viewing!
Matt could always go back to selling acme ajax handee dandy enlarged bum wipe, sorry paper towels to the gentry.