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Masterchef Australia – New York New York

I thought Masterchef Australia segued a bit into a semi-scripted or “structured” reality TV show tonight. Not saying I didn’t enjoy the episode in New York, however the challenge where they contestant’s had to go to different boroughs for inspiration and where they went when there were clearly set up.

In Hayden’s case Top Chef Masters winner Marcus Samuelsson of Red Rooster just happened to be there camera ready. Also Hayden was so relaxed he took the time out to get a shave, which left him with a moustache that screamed ’70’s porn. And that is not a good thing.

Anyway scene one of the script was Anthony Bourdain who is the Hunter S Thompson of reality TV complete with cowboy boots and all, arriving at the house to announce they were off to his home town, New York City, and they were leaving that day….

Just an aside I wonder what Hunter S Thompson would have thought of the phenomenon that is reality TV, I suspect he would be scathing, however he would have been the perfect candidate to be on a show.

The contestant’s were told they were to go to Liberty Island as soon as they arrived. Considering the Qantas flight arrives early evening this is impossible, however I am getting into semantics, they were up close and personal with the Statue of Liberty without the hoardes of tourists that was cool.

The contestants were sent to different parts of the city, and were to use it for their inspiration. They have three hours to explore, and $200 to spend and 90 minutes to cook at the French Culinary Institute.

Dani quite rightly was having a whinge about the challenge, saying they were jet lagged and did not know where they were, and now she had one of the city’s biggest boroughs to try an work out a dish from sustainable ingredients. Lucky for her the producers had mapped out where she should go, otherwise she might have stumbled over the Russian enclave at Coney Island.

She went to a soda shop for an egg cream, a restaurant to talk rhubarb, and a Cookie shop where there were whoopie pies and cup cakes.

Which brings me to my next point the point of the challenge was to be inspired by what they saw not replicate it. To be fair I think this was difficult for some due to the cuisine.  Was Kate’s ginger and scallion lobster on fried rice, really that inspirational, as it would have been something that would have been on the menu at the up market chinese restaurant she visited.

Guest judge Eric Ripert did like the nuances in her dish but would have liked more sauce.

Which brings us to Sun who was sent to the Lower East Side which traditionally has been filled with Deli’s and therefore a lot of jewish cuisine. She tried to meld the modern style of the modern contemporary art museum building with a traditional roshanna honey cake. She did this by using the cake as a building material.

It was a disaster, and special guest judge Eric Ripert cracked up laughing. As Sun said “It was not one of her proudest moments.”

I noted when in Katz’s Deli former vegetarian Sun did not get the iconic pastrami sandwich.

Dani who replicated an egg cream and cupcake had to ditch the whoopie pies as they were burnt. Dani who ten minutes before the end of the challenge knew she was stuffed started crying as she did in front of the judges.

The judges did gush over the egg cream. Eric appeared to concur but he only took a small mouthful and had looked horrified when she was making it for them.

He was used to the professional chefs of Top Chef not this.

However, she did come up with one of the best lines of the night when she said “I am walking into judging to serve one of New York’s best chefs, a tray of cup cakes and a glass of milk. This could be the most embarassing moment for me on Masterchef.”

The other six did a great job.

Billy who had to go to the Italian Bronx did a dished up an original take on some traditional dishes. The pepper spray clams were fun, as was the “blood splatter” beneath his osso buco.

Alana got sent to Astoria which is NYC little Greece precinct, and even though she over cooked the lamb, her Lamb with honey thyme custard and cucumber essence got great reviews.

Michael got food carts so could pick any cuisine he wanted. I thought he had the easiest task. He went with Mexican.

He served 43rd st Taco with corn and black bean salad. Eric thought it was missing avocado. However they thought he had turned a low end dish into a restaurant dish. Basically he met the brief.

Matt Preston said he did a great job of turning street food into high end. George wanted to pay for it, so he handed over a one dollar bill. Yep that looked staged as well. I hoped George tipped better then that when in NYC otherwise there might be some peeved waiters there.

Ellie who had to mix the old world of meat with the trendiness of the Meatpacking District, went with dry age beef with ravioli and a coriander pesto, I think the chef at  Spice Market might have helped her out with that inspiration. The steak was cooked well.

Hayden who was up in Harlem went with spice-encrusted cat fish with pickled collard greens and candied yams. The judges loved the collard greens, mixed with the sweetness of the yams.

Top three were Alana, Michael, and Billy and the winner was Michael.  And Sun was judged to have the worst dish and was going to the elimination challenge. For her sake I hope they don’t really have her in lockdown, with the implication she was not allowed to leave the hotel room, that would be a bit harsh.



1 Fides { 07.16.11 at 8:14 pm }

Sun’s admitted in her exit interview that her week of lockdown in NYC meant she could freely visit museums and go shopping while the others endured long filming days. Sounds like a pretty good lockdown.

2 littlepetal { 07.16.11 at 9:22 pm }

Fides – If you read correctly, Sun couldn’t do those things. She can only spend her time in the hotel.

3 EH { 07.16.11 at 10:27 pm }

@littlepetal – Sun did say that she visited museums and went shopping in her exit interview.

“I was in New York, in a hotel I never could’ve afforded, in Times Square,” she laughs. “Anyway, can you imagine if you were Hayden and Dani, and got put into an Elimination at the end of the week when I’ve spent mine larging it up in museums and shops and they’ve been working their butts off for 12 hour days?”

4 littlepetal { 07.16.11 at 11:03 pm }

Sun is trying to say that if she had been spending time in museums and shops while Hayden and Dani were cooking their butt off, they will be pissed off.

This is what she said in another exit interview:

Etheridge, who was in lock down for most of the week after losing the first New York challenge, even sees the silver lining in her confinement.

“It wasn’t bad. I got to go to New York and I can’t complain about that even if I spent most of it in a beautiful hotel room,” she said.

“I do understand why. If four people end up in elimination then it definitely wouldn’t have been fair if I had been larking around New York and they’d been working their butts off and ended up in the elimination anyway.”

5 Fides { 07.17.11 at 11:28 am }

Thanks EH – that’s the one I read.

I guess what littlepetal’s quoted makes it sound like the sightseeing was more hypothetical. I would have thought it would be punishment enough to know you’ll face an elimination challenge days away, so why not let her enjoy the city?

6 littlepetal { 07.17.11 at 2:37 pm }

Fides- Yes, what Sun said is hypothetical. She also mentioned this on Vogue forum (under the name of Alice30):

I came home with a producer 2days before everyone else. Being locked in the room was ****, but at least I was locked down with Billy. Shame we didn’t have super Mario tho – and we were joking about packing it too!

Peter is a DOLL! If it wasn’t for him, Billy, Craig and Adam I would have gone nuts. Although I may still have gone a little nuts..