MasterChef recap: A chocolate temper trap gets the contestants in a flap

Judge Melissa Leong, Vue de Monde's Hugh Allen and judges Andy Allen and Jock Zonfrillo prepare to be impressed.
Judge Melissa Leong, Vue de Monde's Hugh Allen and judges Andy Allen and Jock Zonfrillo prepare to be impressed. Photo: Supplied

There are only five amateurs left and it is becoming increasingly difficult to watch as each one is dragged screaming from the kitchen. The final five walk to MasterChef HQ on a grey and drizzly morning, looking up into the sky as if scanning for snipers. Today is a pressure test, which means they will have a recipe to follow, making the task incredibly easy and any complaints they might have easy to ignore.

Guest chef Hugh Allen is introduced by Andy, who explains that Hugh began cooking professionally at the age of 15, for a gang of singing pickpockets in London. "I couldn't even spell pressure test when I was 15," says Justin, raising a whole bunch of disturbing questions. Hugh enters and Melissa asks how old he is. Hugh says he is 26, making everyone in the room hate him.

The annoyingly young, handsome and successful Hugh Allen from Vue de Monde.
The annoyingly young, handsome and successful Hugh Allen from Vue de Monde. Photo: Supplied

The dish Hugh is making the amateurs cook is called bottlebrush, mum's gum nuts and billy buttons. It is a green thing with red spikes sticking out all over it, with fake nuts and balls around it. Like all great desserts, it looks exactly like something nobody would ever want to eat. Whoever is the worst at reading the recipe today will go home.

"My strategy in today's pressure test is to make a minimal amount of mistakes," says Justin, demonstrating why he has gained the nickname "Patton" among his friends. With that sort of innovative genius, how can he possibly be beaten?

The hardest part of the recipe will no doubt be tempering chocolate for the bottle brush quills. Tempering chocolate, as any MasterChef viewer knows, is a delicate and difficult technique that was invented solely to frustrate MasterChef contestants. Pete has never tempered chocolate before, having wisely decided to spend his life on more enjoyable pursuits, and is a little bit worried that his bottlebrush might end up looking like a hideous slug rather than a hideous sea urchin as it is supposed to.

Justin has hit a major road block. His scale is set to ounces instead of grams, and he has made his first three elements using an erroneous weight measure. This is a real rookie error, although to be fair to rookies, even they probably wouldn't have done anything like that, so it's not so much a rookie error as a nitwit error. His strategy of making minimal mistakes is in tatters, and he must immediately switch to a strategy of making as many mistakes as possible and hope that works.

Pete heads to the liquid nitrogen station. He has never used liquid nitrogen before. Has he ever done anything before? Hasn't tempered chocolate, hasn't used liquid nitrogen, yet calls himself a "cook". Everyone is using liquid nitrogen as Hugh's recipe requires the snap-freezing of an enemy agent. Elise's sorbet is too runny, a problem which affects many women of her age.

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Suddenly the mood turns sombre as Justin relates a poignant tale of his family's struggles. The other four shudder in the face of Justin's scintillating backstory game. He ups the ante by turning to Pete and assuring him that no matter what happens today, he's still his best friend. Pete gapes in awe: this dude means business. If pushed, Justin is perfectly willing to burst into tears, or if necessary, into labour.

Melissa visits Linda's station. Linda doesn't tell her to leave her the hell alone: she lets her tone and body language do that. Linda has fallen well behind and her caramel sticks are shattering. Is this a problem? Apparently. Jock comes around and helps her, because he is the judge who helps people, as opposed to the other two judges, who are fully devoted to breaking people's concentration.

Time for the chocolate-tempering. The key to tempering chocolate is to get it to exactly the right temperature and then scrape it across some plastic, for no other reason than society's expectations. Elise disastrously uses the wrong side of the comb to scrape her chocolate, a sentence that seems to be completely meaningless yet in context might be somehow significant. Meanwhile Linda has too much chocolate and it's made lumps and she needs to start again.

Kishwar is still there.

Linda is too far behind. She is doing her chocolate over again and there's only twenty minutes left and the editor has put her into slow motion, which is hardly going to help. Meanwhile Justin's chocolate won't come away from his acetate and he's run out of family photos to cut to. He has not tempered his chocolate properly and life has lost all meaning. Back to Linda, who has used the wrong colour food colouring for her glaze and will now have a bottlebrush the wrong shade of green if you can imagine such humiliation.

Time is almost up and panic has overtaken the kitchen. Elise has cocoa butter on her glasses. Pete has forgotten how to open a fridge. Nothing is the right colour.

Time's up. Linda is in tears. Elise is gloomy. Sadness permeates everything, just like in real life.

The first to serve to the judges is Pete, who is very nervous. Each amateur has 15 minutes to plate up at judging time, so he carefully sticks his spikes into his bottlebrush and arranges his nuts attractively. "I'm happy," he lies, to himself as much as anyone. The judges think he did all right.

Next, Kishwar, who has barely been on screen tonight and will therefore be fine. And she is.

Next, Justin, who will have nightmares about tempered chocolate for the rest of his days. Despite his doubts, his chocolate sticks this time come away from the acetate and he assembles his bottlebrush and declares himself happy, unconvincingly. The judges love it, finding his technique of infusing the dessert with sad stories about his family especially skilful.

Here is Linda, who believes herself to be in serious trouble as she has no chocolate coating for her gumnuts and has no time to consult a doctor for the problem. The judges don't ask Linda whether she is happy as the question itself would feel sarcastic. Jock notes that Linda's mousse has given up, which is just typical of mousse isn't it.

Elise enters and serves her dish with its imperfectly-shaped chocolate sticks, impertinent as such an act is. "How are you feeling?" asks Andy. "It's done," says Elise, as though she has just committed murder. The judges are scathing about Elise's big deformed chocolate sticks, the result of using the wrong side of the comb like some kind of damn rube. But Melissa believes the dish "ate well", so whatever. "It's a bit rustic," says Jock, and the last thing you want native Australian flora to be is rustic.

Judgment has arrived, and though three amateurs have excelled, two have brought shame upon their names. Elise has the big clumsy sticks, but Linda has the nude gumnuts, and that's the greatest sin of all. Linda is going home, and a nation falls to its knees and cries "WHY?" Lovely Linda, no more shall we delight in your shy smile and your nervous energy and her barely-veiled hatred of the people on the balcony. Farewell.

Tune in tomorrow, when a jewel heist is pulled off.