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Masterchef Australia – What Is More Important Innovation Or Good Cooking?

PREDICTION – At the finale next week PETA is so going to gate crash it to flour bomb Matt Preston to protest about cruelty to animals on the Masterchef series. Last week it was the squab ie baby pigeons not allowed to fly, and tonight crustraceans killed live on TV. George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan will be so mesmerised by the naked girls running past poor Matt will have no chance to withstand the attack.

Tonight was one of the highlights of the two seasons with Iron chef Sakai as guest judge. He is a culinary and TV icon. Ok so he looked a bit old but who cares.

But first the top six received letters from a loved one like they do on Survivor. And wasn’t Alvin’s letter from his partner just gorgeous. I noted Claire’s sister was the person who wrote to her not her partner, as was the case with Adam. I am presuming language barrier might have been the reason in Adam’s case.

The top six were split into two teams for an invention test. The challenge was to design a menu that showcased the crustaceans. And that raises an issue of how inventive should the dishes be. The blue team of Callum, Adam and Claire were definitely more innovative, whereas the blue team of Alvin, Jimmy, and Courtney kept it to more classic dishes.

Both teams decided on an asian theme.

Highlights from the prep were:

  • Courtney wrestling with the lobster;
  • Callum pinching their lobster;
  • Courtney being the leader on the red team;
  • Jimmy not doing a lot but making the prawn stock, he did oversee the steaming of the lobster tail, but had to defer to Courtney about when it was cooked.

The blue teams menu was Asian style mud crab salad with crepes, Lobster dumplings with a sake and soy broth, and prawn scotch egg with chilli coconut sambal.

Iron Chef Sakai thought the dough a little bit too thick on Callum’s dumplings, and Gary thought the flavours were too strong and the lobster meat chopped too finely.

Adam looked like he was about puke with nerves when they were tasting his scotch egg. He had not made the dish before. George thought it was brilliant, and Iron Chef Sakai said he had never tasted anything like it. Which I think he meant as a positive thing.

Claire’s crab salad got the thumbs up, but Gary did not like the crepe, and he thought the onion was too salty. There was more spank then fluff from Gary tonight. He was very stern tonight at judges table.

Matt was disappointed the blue team had not showcased the crustacean in its shell.

Red Team – translucent prawn dumpling  with crustacean broth, Prawn Conjie and, Chilli mud crab with Xo sauce

Iron Chef Sakai loved the broth for the entree. But Gary did not think the congee was great, and Iron chef sakai said it might have been better with roasted peanuts in it. Huh? Maybe that is why I have never bought the Iron Chef cook book.

George thought the lobster served with the congee was cooked beautifully. He also was in raptures with the chilli crab, saying it gave some of the ones he has had in Singapore a run for their money. I had not realised how badly George sweats when he had chilli, he was like Callum incarnated, it was pouring out everywhere.

The red team won because they were obviously cooked better, but I thought for the start of final’s week their dishes should have been more creative.

By winning the red team got to see Adriano Zumbo’s cake that they will all have to make in the pressure test tomorrow night, and also the recipe to study. From last year I remember this not being a huge advantage.


1 Angel86 { 07.18.10 at 11:38 pm }

Not sure why but I found tonight’s show quite boring to be honest. It will be interesting to see how helpful the advantage is. It could just psych them out now that they know exactly how hard the challenge will be.

2 AnonyMousse { 07.18.10 at 11:42 pm }

Meh, (almost) nothing’s worse than foie gras when it comes to doing bad things to animals for food, so offing some crustaceans doesn’t compare in my book. Funnily enough, the Iron Chef show wouldn’t have bothered with the freezer before finishing off Mr Crab or Ms Lobster – their ends would have been much more direct there. I’m sure there’ll be some complaints, but sometimes (non-vegetarian) people need a reality check on how food gets to a plate.

I was also pleasantly surprised that Masterchef didn’t make a big deal about the orientation of two of their finalists – they didn’t go out of their way to point it out but they also didn’t really hide it either (by saying one’s name, obviously a girl’s name, and by showing the picture of the guy for Alvin). Considering how they often milk things in this show, it was nice to see being gay being treated as a non-issue. Perhaps they were just hoping the less tolerant viewers wouldn’t notice.

I have to wonder whether Courtney’s early elimination worked in her favour – she seems to cook what she cooks very well, but she doesn’t seem all that inventive. If she’d been in the competition all the way through, that would have probably been more glaringly obvious to viewers.

It would have been nice to see them get more of Sakai’s opinions about the food, it seemed like a wasted opportunity – even ignoring Iron Chef, the guy’s got decades of experience (he’s 68, btw, so he is getting a bit on the old side).

3 Injera { 07.18.10 at 11:46 pm }

I found the splitting up of teams interesting. Was it Callum who said “oh, well, we should just split down the middle”? At first, I thought that was a shitty deal for Alvin as he was “stuck” with the returnees. I guess the apron-colour mojo worked for him!

Also thought it was potentially disastrous for the Reds to have Jimmy as he struggled with Rick Stein’s seafood platter and didn’t have a peanut gallery to assist this time. I wonder if he went home and spent some quality time with crustacea?

Sakai is gorgeous! Seeing him did make me realise how old the Iron Chef eps we see are. Was confused that the prods labelled the congee conji, but the other couch occupant googled it and found that the word comes from Tamil, where it’s “kanji”. Also discovered via the same search that Japanese congee is generally thicker than Chinese, which is possibly why Sakai made no comment on the rather bizarre texture.

Callum? Appears increasingly out of his depth. Loved the end of the challenge when he was trying to get Adam to taste his broth. DIS-missed!

4 GeelongDeano { 07.18.10 at 11:49 pm }

RR – “Calvin” pinching their lobster??? Is that a combination of Alvin & Callum or are you buying Calvin Klein’s 2moro?
I thought it was a great episode and would vote for conservative good cooking over failed invention. Love your blogs.

5 Fides { 07.18.10 at 11:52 pm }

I thought the red team worked much better as a team – Courtney really stood out as the leader there. Blues were irritating me as it didn’t look like they cared what the other team members were doing. Poor old Callum admitted he’s not that good with Asian flavours, but it didn’t look like Adam was giving him much help. Course it could just be the editing, but reds were much more cohesive.

Don’t know why they couldn’t do it as an individual challenge though – at finals week they should be judged on their own merit.

How much Adam did they show tonight? I’m never gonna complain about that, but he’s getting most of the screen time that it is almost lopsided, like Poh towards the end last year. Think Matt favours Adam too – it’s the second time he’s made a point of mentioning how innovative and clever his dish has been.

Loved Iron chef Sakai, though my personal favourite is Michiba. So cute to see them all so excited.

Agree Angel86, knowing what Zumbo creation you are due to cook in the pressure test could actually be a disadvantage because it would play on your mind a lot. I think that’s what happened to Poh last year – she only just scraped through that challenge. It’s not like they could go home and practise some of the steps without the other three finding out.

6 Aussiegal { 07.18.10 at 11:53 pm }

Highlight of the show I want to add was :

Callum trying to get re assurance and checking every single thing with Adam… truly shows that him and Jimmy were out of their comfort zone. Adam very rightly said that this is the final week and there is no scope now for doubt.
If I were at Jimmy’s or Callum’s place, I wouldnt have shown that to my team mates. It also looked so silly when Jimmy mentioned Courtney as the boss … this was a team effort with no leaders selected … Good for Courtney though as she got recognised for her dishes and was able to carry the team to winning. Good on her.

7 Aussiegal { 07.18.10 at 11:54 pm }

Is Sakai San going to cook somethng in the show??? It would be lovely to have him make a dish or two in the finale masterclass.

8 Injera { 07.18.10 at 11:54 pm }

GeelongDeano: I’d take flavour over fanciful any day, too! The judges had their work cut out to try to conjure up some tension over the result – as though Adam’s egg alone could trump all the successful dishes of the other team.

Fides and Angel86: Good point. They’ll probably be up all night agonising over it whilst the reds will sleep in blissful ignorance.

9 AnonyMousse { 07.18.10 at 11:58 pm }

It’s not the first time Adam’s dish was the only one given praise on his team, too. He must be getting sick of having his side lose when he’s personally getting praised for his dish.

10 GeelongDeano { 07.19.10 at 12:08 am }

Injera: Yep, I thought Alvin was dead when he was with the returnees but he really works well in a team. Alvin is my fave (was Marion)
I remember Chris Badenoch got the recipe and a look at the dish the night before the pressure test last year and he lost the challenge, so no real advantage.

11 Anon { 07.19.10 at 12:23 am }

Thought it was slightly rude that the translator was at the table and did not get to taste the meal (unless of course allergic to seafood)

Both Adam and Claire were a bit annoyed with Callum tonight. Noted the cold shoulder he got from them as they came down the stairs and back into the kitchen.

Jimmy would have being up the proverbial creek without Courtney and Alvin tonight. Scary that Zumbo rates him so highly.

12 AniMotek { 07.19.10 at 12:24 am }

* I was yelling at my TV when they announced this would be a team challenge – at this stage of the competition, I think everyone should be judged individually and not either dragged down (Adam) or lifted up (Jimmy) by others. At least it didn’t result in anyone being up for elimination but I still think it’s ridiculous at this stage.

* I thought that the Sakai comment was that he wanted the congee to have more texture and something like peanuts would add texture. (Frankly, cute as Sakai is, at our house the consensus is that most of what they cook on Iron Chef looks like cat sick, although we love the sheer campiness of it all.)

* And speaking of campy, I agree that the show should get some credit for not making a big deal out of the gay issue, with either Courtney or Alvin. (I was surprised that some people on Twitter were surprised that Alvin is gay. Wouldn’t have thought there was any doubt!)

* Adam is starting to look more and more like the frontrunner for the final to me.

13 KC { 07.19.10 at 12:25 am }

This episode annoyed me for one reason because they really shouldn’t be calling this an invention test when the winning team had nothing inventive. It really should have been a mystery box challenge. I felt so sorry for Adam, I wish they would have waived the winning guidelines for him because his dish was the only inventive dish from the whole lot.

It also made me annoyed how boringly Callum and Clare performed for the last week of Masterchef. They let Adam down and I’m not even an Adam supporter. But yea, the red team’s food looked gorgeous and delicious but again, not deserving of a win of invention test. They were all dishes that you find in a good basic Chinese restaurant. It was definitely banquet and feast and looked delicious but not inventive. I have to agree with their win though because the blue team only had Adam’s dish and like the judges said, seafood is an expensive produce and if you use it meagerly and not well in that form, you are wasting it incredibly.

I don’t find the peanuts idea in congee that bad because in Chinese congee, there’s a type of congee that uses peanuts along with shallots, crispy bits and meat which is extremely popular and although Japanese congee is probably different, I see where Iron Chef Sakai is coming from with the whole peanuts in congee.

From the looks of things I think Courtney is in with a shot and I agree with AnonyMousse’s assessment of her. She’s one of the better cooks but I was supporting Marion before because she was more inventive and had more creative ideas. Now that she’s gone, I’m stuck on who to go for. Its been Adam, Alvin and Callum so far but Callum’s dropping a bit because he does seem a little out of his depth. Hopefully the dessert challenge from Adriano Zumbo will help him build back his confidence again but I doubt it since it is Adriano Zumbo 😀 Oh man I wanna go to his patisserie so bad!

14 Pollywaffle { 07.19.10 at 12:45 am }

How to piss off a crustacean 101:
Take one lobster that seriously doesn’t want to leave the tank, blast it, mistake it for another inferior lobster, then let Callum disrespect the poor creatures meat. The final insult? Serve it to Matt P . And so my friend, there is a great kalma in tonight’s result

15 Jason { 07.19.10 at 12:58 am }

Matt Preston said on Twitter that the interpreter was offered food, too, but she declined it.

It’s weird how they’re making the Red Team’s “advantage” as being such a big deal when, last year, Poh had won the same benefits, and it was decided that it wasn’t really much of an advantage at all.

16 Duke nukem { 07.19.10 at 1:33 am }

Interesting to hear that Sakai was on the show.
I always suspectEd the masterchef concept was inspired by the iron chef series, so nice that they paid homage to it.

17 anon { 07.19.10 at 2:49 am }

tell me again what’s inventive about a scotch egg? had a bit of prawn wrapped round it, did it?


18 Anonymous { 07.19.10 at 4:29 am }

RR: if PETA are chasing MC-how about TC(did you see the recent TC washington crab cook off?)
Jimmy and Callum are the only real contenders of this cooking comp(kiding-appalled they are still there and that it was a team challenge!MC fail)
Courtney, Adam, Alvin I like…Claire sometimes grates…Jimmy I dislike greatly and Blinky Bill is bloody frustrating(if I was Adam I would have ignored him too)
Thank god its almost over

19 Anonymous { 07.19.10 at 4:35 am }

oh and George wiping his sweaty head and then they ramp it up a few minutes later with his tubby bros rubbing his head-Iron Chef Sakai must have wondered what kind of show he was on…was it a prawn or a porn challenge?

20 Pinto { 07.19.10 at 7:07 am }

I love your PETA comment RR. I did ponder how different it would be if it were a lamb challenge and they were leading a bucking defiant lamb to the slaughter then plunging the knife in how they’d edit that one.

Matt P’s sister sent the tweet of the night for me – hey Bruv prawn scotch egg sounds mingin’

Callum struggled but I expect him to do well tonight due to Zumbo’s comments and he is adept at desserts.

21 dmc { 07.19.10 at 7:52 am }

I didn’t need an iron chef to tell me who had won last night. Pretty obvious.

And what’s with the congee being called average, and then Matt Preston praising the ‘four brilliant dishes’?

Adam is the one to beat. He’s the most consistent and inventive cook left. Gosh, Jimmy and Callum had better go soon…

22 AniMotek { 07.19.10 at 8:10 am }

@Duke nukem: MasterChef Australia is a bad reformatting of MasterChef UK, which is nothing at all like Iron Chef

23 MrSwinger { 07.19.10 at 8:50 am }

I think Matt Preston tends to grant the win to the team with some really spectacular dishes and one or two flops over the team with consistently pretty good dishes. (The French challenge is the particular example that occurs to me right now.) I think that if EITHER Claire or Callum had managed to put up a good dish, their team would have been awarded the win due to the creativity displayed.
It’s a shame Adam didn’t get rewarded for his efforts, here’s hoping he does as well in the challenge tomorrow as we expect.

24 wallah { 07.19.10 at 10:08 am }

I have to admit, the red teams effort looked like a nice Banquet D Minimum 4 Persons $40 per person that you’d get in a really nice Chinatown eatery. Inventive?

I just can’t trust the editing on this show, they made it look like Jimmy was a real dumb arse who didn’t do anything but watch a lobster tail cook… underwhelmed I am of his talents now, surely he did a bit more than was shown? Same goes for Callum. The sooner these two go the better, but I will laugh if that doesn’t happen until the final night hahahahahaha……..they seem to be showing Jimmy crapping on about how ‘one of us will be the next Masterchef’ etc. an awful lot!

Also, it looks like they’re tempering chocolate tonight. Now, by this stage of the comp, after all of the failed attempts at the method, one would assume that they’ve practiced this little number a bit. I can’t wait to count the amount of times they crap on about tempering, never done this before, heat in the kitchen etc. tonight. I vote to replace all commentary with Jono’s London dessert commentary in its place.

25 Culinary Boner { 07.19.10 at 12:19 pm }

Had both Adam and Alvin been on the losing blue team this could have been renamed the crushed-asian challenge.

26 Wurstsemmel { 07.19.10 at 1:01 pm }

LMAO @ Culinary Boner.

Just as I LMAO at Courtney trying to get that lobster out of the tank. That was a true highlight of last night for me because the rest of it was pretty mundane, although Iron Chef Sakai was cute.

Isn’t it a true reflection of the fact that Callum should not be in the top six when he spent most of the episode asking Adam to double check things or for reassurance. The holding out the spoon for Adam to test taste at the last moment….totally out of his depth.

And Jimmy? Well, another shouldn’t be there. Much as he seems a nice guy, he seemed a little crabby (ha!) when the team elected an asian theme. Thank goodness else they’d have plated up lobster marsala, crab tikka and butter prawn.

And for whoever mentioned Peta? I’m surprised they haven’t raided already given that Gary seems to have some kind of dead animal on his head.

27 Anonymous { 07.19.10 at 1:10 pm }

Wurstsemmel LMAO @ the lobster marsala, crab tikka and butter prawn. Only too true though-he could only cope with a prawn stock which contributed to a crap congee and steaming a crayfish with supervision…I don’t blame Adam for looking like he was going to stab Blinky Bill with the spoon when he was playing airplanes and feed him as the time ran out-what a clown. The finalists are on The Circle…
Oh RR menioned PETA-I was referring to the latest TC here they were cooking crabs in the most inhumane way I have ever seen.

28 Fides { 07.19.10 at 1:14 pm }

I think next year they’ll have to get rid of the cursed blue aprons. Blues won one challenge last season, and one again this year. So blues were beaten before they started planning their menus – wise of Adam just to accept, rather than fight, it and make one brilliant dish!

Also, I was looking at the letters the contestants received : you can see Courtney’s partner signed off as “your girl, Chrissie”, but Courtney just said “Chrissie”. I wonder if she didn’t say the “your girl”, or it was edited out…

29 Culinary Boner { 07.19.10 at 1:52 pm }

Forgot to add *boom, tish* to my previous post.

Hey Raver, perhaps Claire did receive a letter from lover-boy but it was intercepted by the BB House censors.

30 MrSwinger { 07.19.10 at 1:54 pm }

Didn’t Jimmy do all the mise en place?

31 sourkraut { 07.19.10 at 2:25 pm }

Course they had to get iron chef french!
Would much rather have seen Chen Kenichi (or Ken Chenichi, cant remember which, as they were both in Oz recently and i heard an interview with both of them on 2GB i think it was) whose character and cooking are both delightful.
Poor ickle Callum. I was wondering how he was going to make a Calummity dessert out of those ingredients. HAH. Time to go mate!

32 Anonymous { 07.19.10 at 3:51 pm }
33 kingfisher { 07.19.10 at 4:10 pm }

boring, dull, no spark, what the hell has happen here and why did they have to bring that old guy in from karate kid “wax on wax off ” . snoresville .

34 rusty { 07.19.10 at 4:37 pm }

are you all still watching then?

might tune next Sunday to see if the least objectionable amata wins.

35 Matt { 07.19.10 at 5:25 pm }

Some thoughts on strategy – last night’s episode actually had a couple of interesting bits, despite being (thankfully) more about the cooking.

With no immunity on offer tonight, it was, on the surface, a night where strategy didn’t matter. If the contestants had watched last year’s Masterchef they would have known that they’d get to see the dish for Monday night, or something similar, but nothing of immediate consequence.

But their strategy should have also been about positioning themselves to be picked ahead of their competitors in a line-ball, subjective, decision (ie, not a points-based one).

This is the last chance to impress the judges – not about how good you are, but that you’re just that little bit better/more saleable than the person sitting next to you in an elimination.

Best strategic move of the night: Callum “picking” the teams. He wasn’t to know, of course, that they’d get to do it themselves, and who knows if the contestants were told to stand in that order by the producers.

In any case, Callum quickly realised that there were six people, he was third in line, and to his right were the two best cooks in the competition – including one who’s lived in Japan for six years – not a bad help when Sakai is the judge.

It was quick thinking by Callum to suggest a split down the middle, before someone came up with a “girl’s against boys”, or over 25s against everyone else.

It also left the two “worst” cooks (although I rate Courtney, she’s a returnee…) with Alvin. The end result may not have been favourable, but the strategic rationale was sound, and Callum gave himself as much chance as possible to succeed.

Second-best strategic move of the night: I really want to think this was strategy, rather than Callum’s ineptness in the kitchen, but – stealing the lobster. The puppy-dog eyes and “oh, was this your lobster?” was classic. Probably just a mistake, but the Survivor fan in me wants to believe it was a Rupert-like “We’re pirates – so we’re going to steal things” moment.

Worst strategic move of the night – Jimmy slipped up here. He’s been pretty good with team picks and recipe selection strategy (and let down by his cooking), but when you’re in the finals week, don’t give other cooks – Courtney – credit in front of the judges. ESPECIALLY don’t call her the team captain. If she wasn’t already, Jimmy’s just made her a top-two favourite. If it’s an elimination between Courtney and Jimmy later this week, and they ask her why she should stay, she simply has to say “because Jimmy told you I was the better cook”. Strategic moron.

Second-worst strategic decision of the night? The Blue team’s decision to take everything out of the shell. If they’d thought back to the Rick Stein challenge, they’d remember Gary and George harping on about respecting the seafood etc. A small mistepp, but this is finals week and those missteps add up.

Rest of the week? While they need to impress, the optimum strategy is to not fail, and let others be eliminated, so a play-it-safe strategy can work, to an extent.

And hope that Marion and Jono aren’t parachuted back in.

36 Custard { 07.19.10 at 5:58 pm }

Does anyone else think it is slightly strange that one of the Masterchef events this week involves cooking for the Governor-General and her guests? The Queen’s representative getting in bed with Masterchef???? State sanctioned TV????

37 Chris { 07.19.10 at 6:13 pm }

> Rest of the week? While they need to impress, the optimum strategy is to not fail, and let others be eliminated, so a play-it-safe strategy can work, to an extent.

> And hope that Marion and Jono aren’t parachuted back in.

Now this could be a ratings winner. Systematically eliminate on technicalities Claire, Adam, Alvin and Courtney, leaving Jimmy and Gollum standing for the final. Introduce the Grand Finale with “one of you could be Australia’s next Masterchef… only kidding – you’re both cr4p, now p1ss off.”

And then bring in the two ‘real’ finalists.

38 CG { 07.19.10 at 6:34 pm }

Matt, mate I’ve enjoyed your earlier strategic analysis of events but this time its pure fantasy. Callum, strategy? Like looking like a complete tool trying to get Adam to taste his sauce when the whistle was about to blow? If anything, I thought Jimmy had a spark of strategy in putting blame on to Courtney for the non-inventive seafood banquet in case the red team had lost even though there was no official team leader.

Custard: I am similarly appalled that the GG is participating in a reality “game show”. But I am not surprised. This is the same GG that happily went knocking on doors all over Africa to bid her mate “Kevin from Queensland’s” case for inclusion on the UN Security Council.

Also, Ms. Bryce is likely to be the last GG Australia has. Once QEII kicks the bucket, Australia will vote for a Republic. So like the other MC contestants, Ms. Bryce is jumping on the MC bandwagon and looking for future career opportunities..perhaps a royal sauce line?? LOL.

39 Kate { 07.19.10 at 6:42 pm }

The lining up of the contestants was pretty deliberate. Claire (female, strong), Adam (Asian specialist, strong), Callum (dud); Jimmy (dud), Alvin (Asian specialist, strong), Courtney (female, strong). Like a mirror.

I would have preferred Jimmy and Callum on the same team. lol

40 pluck a duck { 07.19.10 at 11:07 pm }

Chris – as the old saying goes, “be careful you don’t get what you wish for”.

The way MC is going the chances are you’ll get one of Jimmy or Gollum in the final. Even though to date Jimmy has largely been a one-trick pony on the cooking front, at least he has a sense of humour and doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously. As for Gollum, he may have stuffed up on the cooking front often enough but he has for some reason, appeared to know how to push many of the otherwise relevant buttons.

On the other hand, it is for example, hard to work out why someone such as worldly Claire has only seemed to know how to push the sympathy button.

Of the now 5 remaining contestants, Adam is probably the best cook, not that that seems to count too much in MC as all we punters know.

41 sourkraut { 07.20.10 at 2:24 pm }

Dont count on it!