MasterChef recap: A burnt bottom sends a MasterChef legend packing, pass the tissues

Tonight, is the night, when Julie, Dan, Billie and Sarah become three.
Tonight, is the night, when Julie, Dan, Billie and Sarah become three. Photo: Supplied

The top five cooks arrive on the banks of the Derwent River, knowing that as this is an elimination day, one of them will soon be thrown into it. Keyma, of course, is immune thanks to her magical truffles, meaning that it's Dan v Sarah v Billie v Julie for elimination. Therefore, as the ads say, ONE OF YOUR FAVOURITES WILL GO HOME. Unless, of course, it's actually one of the ones you hate and have been death-riding since day one.

It's a service challenge at Lawrenny Distillery, makers of award-winning whisky and gin and one of Tasmania's foremost enablers of Tasmanians trying to forget they live in Tasmania. "Interestingly, this year Tasmanian distilling celebrates 30 years of fine whisky-making," says Melissa, keen to emphasise that she does not know what the word "interestingly" means.

The judges grapple in front of some apples.
The judges grapple in front of some apples. Photo: Supplied

The challenge works thusly: the four cooks draw tokens to decide who is cooking which of four possible courses: vegetable, fish, meat or sweet. In each course the cook must showcase one of the spirits of the distillery. The alcoholic spirits, that is. They're not cooking with ghosts. Thought that would be good. Anyway. The worst cook today goes home, if they can find their own way back from Tassie, as Channel Ten has slashed its travel budget. After drawing tokens, Dan gets fish, Sarah gets vegetables, Billie gets meat and Julie gets dessert.

As the challenge begins, Sarah delivers a sudden curveball by declaring that she loves Japanese flavours. What? Japanese? As in…the country that isn't India? Well this will be an adventure. Meanwhile Dan has chosen to prepare a salmon, which, like sadness and painful memories, he will be curing with gin.

Jock and Andy begin their ritual confidence-undermining. Jock interrogates Dan on his plans for removing the bones of his salmon. He informs Dan that it'll take ages to prepare all his portions, and that only a complete maniac would try. Dan decides he should probably change direction rather than spend the rest of his life in Tasmania picking out fish bones. Suddenly he has a brainwave: instead of curing the salmon, he'll confit it! Of course! That will work! Or maybe it won't! I don't really know! I only barely know the meaning of these words!

"There's a lot going on, isn't there," says Andy, reading the paper as he eats.

Billie gets to work on her lamb, which she will be soaking in whisky even though it's underage. Then Julie begins the dessert course, in which she will make a sugar syrup with whisky, but boil the alcohol out of it, but then compensate for the lack of heat by putting in chilli, then compensate for the chilli by making ice-cream, then compensate for that by repentance and confession before God.

Sarah is struggling with the vegetable course, mainly because in order to make it she has to cook vegetables. It's a challenge to celebrate whisky in these circumstances except by simply serving a plate of carrots next to a bottle of whisky and saying go for it. Meanwhile Billie has fallen behind having spent most of her time butchering the lamb, as her bloodlust begins to cloud her judgment. Elsewhere Julie is infusing her dates with whisky, which is generally the best way to handle a date.

Dan's salmon is cooking, so he has a whole hour to spend running madly around the kitchen looking for sugar. Sarah, though, has just five minutes, because diners are arriving at the distillery, with high expectations of how free their meals will be.

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There is sudden drama as Billie's hot oil boils over, spilling over the bench and repelling the besieging army below. She attempts to stop the oil bubbling, but there is hot oil everywhere and she must now complete the meat course with a Worksafe prosecution hanging over her head.

Service time, and as Sarah says, "This is the funnest part of the whole challenge" – yes, even more fun than pickling mushrooms! She sends her vegetable course out to the diners, whose opinions are, as always, worthless. Only three plates matter: those served to the judges. And so the judges taste Sarah's mushroom and whisky broth. "There's a lot going on, isn't there," says Andy, reading the paper as he eats. The judges enjoy the mushrooms but have a problem with the togarashi, which is a…food…of some kind. The togarashi has negatively impacted the dish, proving once again that you should always stick to Indian.

Judges in Tasmania or crime drama in Scotland?
Judges in Tasmania or crime drama in Scotland? Photo: Supplied

Back in the kitchen, Sarah's failed togarashi pales in comparison to Dan, who has forgotten to turn his fish down and now finds that it is far too loud. It's nearly service time and he can't serve overcooked fish. He runs to the pantry and finds a squid, hoping he can strangle himself with it. Failing that, he decides to try cooking it. Julie helps by telling him to breathe and smile, both vital components of correct squid preparation. In a frantic flurry, he cooks the squid, gets it drunk on gin, and shoves it into the judges' mouths. "It would've been nice with the salmon," says Jock, "but it's better with the calamari". The judges are agreed: it's a great dish, and Dan is a complete idiot for trying to make it with salmon in the first place. "I can't believe he's done that," says Andy, boiling with rage.

In the kitchen Julie hugs Dan, who is likely to soon be revealed as her long-lost son. Then Billie wheels out her lamb. She's a bit worried about the cook on the lamb – or to put it a more normal way, she's a bit worried about how the lamb is cooked. She is relieved to see that the lamb is blushing: her decision to expose it to frontal nudity has paid off. The judges chow down. "Beautiful cook on the lamb," says Andy, meaning, "the lamb is cooked beautifully". Everything is good about the dish except the texture, which Andy says is "too tight". What this means, nobody will ever know. Jock dislikes the crumb. "Is that going to see her in trouble today?" he asks. "Maybe," he answers. "Maybe we are actually that petty."

The moment of truth has come for Julie's sticky date pudding. Her cakes are quite dark on the bottom, but who hasn't been there? There's no time to make more cakes, so she runs to the pantry and grabs a squid and…

Nah, actually she just tries to use the best bits of the cakes and crosses her fingers. As her dessert is sent out, she engages in an emotional monologue about how proud she is of what she's done and how far she's come, whether she's eliminated or not. The inclusion of this speech means, of course, that she is about to be eliminated. Unless there's a surprise tw – nope.

The judges eat the sticky date pudding. The bottom of the cake is burnt. "We've all got a burnt bottom," says Andy, and nobody even giggles because it's so sad. Julie has made a beautiful sauce and wonderful ice-cream but the cake is burnt and she is absolutely screwed.

And so, in the most heartbreaking moment MasterChef has seen since Matt Preston spilt hot minestrone onto his naked crotch, Julie – the OG, the GOAT, Australia's sweetheart, the woman who taught us all to like eating things – is cast out into darkness, doomed to wander the Tasmanian wilderness subsisting only on wild apples and contemporary art. Never has an elimination kicked the guts so hard, especially considering – let's be honest – the state of what's somehow managed to still be in the competition.

Tune in tomorrow, if there is even any meaning to anything anymore.