You cry, I cry, everyone ugly cries as the families crash the competition

Today’s cook will be an extremely emotional one, which sucks because it makes it harder to make fun of everyone when they are experiencing genuine human feelings. Still, this is the life I chose.

With eight contestants left, it’s now getting to the point of the competition where deviousness and betrayal could really pay off. As such, a team challenge is the perfect opportunity to screw someone over. Today’s challenge sees the final eight split into two teams and asked to make a three-course meal using produce from the garden, because the Coles delivery van is late. It is a herb-themed challenge: each team picks one herb and the judges pick a third, and both teas must use all three herbs. The herbs selected are coriander, Thai basil and tarragon, none of which are very nice but then, what herb is, if we’re honest?

The judges dissect the dishes. Photo: Supplied

But the theme goes further: not only do they have to cook WITH herbs, they have to cook FOR their families; some of whom could conceivably be named Herb. As all the families run into the garden there are many embraces and tears and shameless emotional manipulation. Is this a cooking competition or a hugging competition, one might very well wonder. But whether you’re deeply moved by these heartwarming reunions, or you think this is a cynical ploy to manufacture artificial meaning in a frivolous reality show, one thing is certain: it sure does take a long time.

The teams will have two and a half hours before service begins, which is tough because they’re already exhausted from the ten-hour family reunions. On the green team, Mindy is feeling the pressure because she’s under the impression that they have to serve their families “some delicious food”, while actually of course your family is the one audience you can serve any old crap to without it mattering.

“They’re your harshest critics!” Andy yells, inexplicably. Why would their families be their harshest critics? Has Andy ever been on Twitter?

On the slightly different shade of green team, Julie has brought out an enormous fish, knowing that her sons are growing boys and only the biggest fish will do. Jock asks her if she would like to get a spot in the immunity challenge. Julie replies that yes that would be nice. Jock nods: he suspected as much.

Julie is on main and Sarah is on entrée. “Seeing my family here, I am in tears,” Sarah lies, her face completely dry. She calls up to the balcony and asks her son and nephew to spy on the other team for her, just like they do for rival restaurants in India.

“They’re your harshest critics!” Andy yells, inexplicably. Why would their families be their harshest critics? Has Andy ever been on Twitter? THOSE guys are some harsh critics.

On the other hand, in some cases maybe Andy is right. On the green team Dan is filleting a fish. He holds the fish up to show his father what a good job he did filleting it. His father steadfastly withholds any kind of approval. Poor Dan.

On the slightly different green team, Alvin is determined to make sure his curry is “Thai basil forward”, if you’ll pardon the expression. He knows he has to bring his A-game because Mindy and Dan “know flavours”: Alvin curses his luck that he has to be opposed to the two contestants who have functioning tastebuds.

Jock visits Aldo’s bench and tastes his breadcrumbs, if you know what I mean. Upon tasting, Jock gazes mournfully into the middle distance. These breadcrumbs have awoken something in him that he had hoped to keep buried forever: a deep, gnawing unhappiness that threatens everything he holds dear. Aldo agrees that it needs more salt.

MasterChef 2022.
MasterChef 2022. Photo: Supplied

Andy continues his weird yelling. “The last thing you want to do is let your family and friends down!” he bellows. Wrong again, Andy: the LAST thing they want to do is make something the judges don’t like. Letting their family and friends down is something they do on the reg: it’s no big deal.

Keyma’s kids ask her what she’s making. She replies that she’s making a tarragon ice-cream. They are shocked by what their mother has become. Keyma is nervous because she’s facing Billie, who is one of the seventy-eight MasterChef contestants to have been called “the dessert queen” at some point in the show’s history. For her part, Billie admits that with desserts “I tend to go a little bit wacky”, and today is no exception: she is making a coriander spider, which sounds about as tasty as an actual spider would.

Service begins. Aldo serves the green team’s entrée to the judges, a stark reminder of the fact that it does not matter even a little bit whether the families and friends like the food. They could’ve served them empty plates for all the difference it will make: only the judges matter. The green entrée is pan seared scallops with less-lumpy breadcrumbs. The judges taste. The breadcrumbs are still lumpier than they should be.

Sarah serves the slightly different green team’s entrée. Sarah is happy because coriander is forward, which is why Sarah is a bit weird. It is “cafreal with kingfish”, whatever that means. “I want to stick my face in it,” says Jock, losing all inhibitions. They taste. “Hooray!” they cry.

Back in the kitchen, Alvin is deep-frying eggplant in pursuit of his own sinister agenda, whilst his team squirts various liquids into bowls. “I just want to show off to my family,” he says, though to be honest he’s already managed that just with his glasses.

Alvin serves the eggplant curry to the judges. “I feel a little bit conflicted about this one,” says Melissa, who likes the taste but of the curry but is disturbed by its political stance. Jock thinks the sauce is great but as a dish, he just can’t get around the fact that it has eggplant in it.

Mindy steps up with the green team’s Thai basil fish curry. It has no eggplant, which is already a win. The fish is well cooked, shocking all three judges. It tastes of Thai basil, but not too much of Thai basil, which leaves only one question: what the hell is Thai basil?

With each team having won a course so far, it all comes down to dessert. For the green team, Billie has made her coriander spider, which might also be termed “sorbet and parfait with green muck poured over it”. The judges taste it. Andy declares that it made him think, which is a problem because it’s a dessert, not a roman a clef. Overall the dessert is not sweet enough, probably because of the coriander: could this be why nobody ever puts coriander in desserts? Because it’s horrible? Worth thinking about maybe.

Keyma presents her dessert, which is tarragon ice-cream and a piece of pineapple, but to make the playing field level also includes a certain amount of green muck. The judges think it’s just great. “The thing about herbs is they add so much to a dish,” says Melissa, as always unerringly putting her finger on the thing about herbs.

By two rounds to one, the slightly different shade of green team has won, meaning Sarah, Julie, Alvin and Keyma get to cook off for immunity. But that’s really just a sidebar: the important thing is that we never heard even one word from the families about whether they liked the food or not. And in the end, completely ignoring loved ones is what MasterChef is all about.

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