MasterChef recap: Five hours, four judges, three finalists, two dishes and one surprised winner!

Andy Allen, Melissa Leong, Peter Gilmore and Jock Zonfrillo judge the final challenge.
Andy Allen, Melissa Leong, Peter Gilmore and Jock Zonfrillo judge the final challenge. Photo: Supplied -

And so we enter…endgame. The finale is poised at a delicate juncture. With Pete a couple of points ahead of Kishwar, who is one point ahead of Justin, who is just really happy to be there. There is just one round remaining, and yet it is the most daunting round of all, as the amateurs are challenged to make a single cook stretch out for two and a half hours of prime time viewing, with only saturation advertising to help them.

We begin with a flashback montage and an intimate personal interview with Jock, who reveals that the season began with contestants cooking delicious food, but then to his everlasting surprise, continued with contestants cooking delicious food. We remember the good times and the bad times, the moments of triumph and the moments of failure and the moments when eliminated contestants said they'd enjoyed every single moment of their experience even though that is obviously a lie. And finally we relive last night's first two rounds, when Justin and Kishwar let Pete streak away to an early lead before Pete generously served Melissa a raw quail to make it a little closer.

The three finalists prepare for their last day in the kitchen. Pete stares in a mirror. Kishwar stares into space. Justin reads a book. A bee buzzes in slow motion around a flower. The symbolism is baffling.

And so to the kitchen, where Melissa explains that the winner today will win. "We are so proud that you three are standing here," she says, making it clear that she is overjoyed that none of the other contestants made it to the final. She despises them all and only Kishwar, Pete and Justin are worthy of her love.

Having dispensed with the runtime-padding preamble, everyone pads the runtime a bit more with pointless conversation. Finally Andy introduces the guest chef, who has had a long and storied career in the food industry, but these days only works one day a year, on the MasterChef finale. Yes, it's Peter Gilmore, creator of that cake and the egg and the other thing.


Peter enters with two cloches. Pete notices that Peter has a "friendly face", but he is not taken in: he knows this man is here to kill him. He is presenting two dishes: a savoury one and a sweet one. They will have to do both "simultaneously", but presumably he doesn't mean this literally: they won't have to, like, make one with their right hand and one with their left.

The first dish is shaved squid, shiitake custard, koji butter and pinstripe peanuts whatever the bollocks those might be. "Did he say shaved squid?" asks Pete, who doesn't even like shaving himself, let alone random cephalopods.

The second dish is a golden crackle, which is as far as I can tell a really big Ferrero Rocher. It took three months for Peter to develop, but this is MasterChef finale night, so the amateurs will only have two months to make it.

The finalists taste the dishes. Peter notices that one of the pressure points of the savoury dish is the custard, and another is not rolling your eyes too hard at the idea of "puffed quinoa". Peter breaks open the golden crackle and reveals that it is full of stuff. "It's definitely for adults," the chef says, pointing out the pornographic photographs scattered throughout. There are many layers to the crackle: cake, mousse, caramel, jam and ganache. The finalists will also have to individually coat rice krispies, and make a golden dome, assuming of course that they have not already decided that it's really not worth it and their old jobs weren't so bad.

"Good luck guys," says Peter Gilmore, chuckling like a Disney villain. Melissa explains the rules: they have five hours to replicate both dishes, plus 25 minutes for plating and 15 minutes for emotional monologues about their journey. The doors of the kitchen will be locked and anyone attempting to escape will be shot.

And so the challenge begins, a mere eight hours into the final episode. From the balcony, all the losers watch, suddenly realising how lucky they are to have been eliminated. Jock brings his kilt to Pete's bench, hoping to distract him with its alluring hem. Pete explains that he doesn't want to make any mistakes. Peter Gilmore thinks this is a good idea.

Cut to Kishwar, who also doesn't want to make mistakes: a theme seems to be developing. She is confused by the different kinds of chocolate in the recipe and has accidentally melted the wrong kind. Luckily she has not combined it with her eggs yet. Jock and Peter and the kilt visit her to tell her she needs to hurry up and stop wasting time talking to them.

Meanwhile, Justin reveals that his nickname is "Captain Consistency". He hopes to live up to this nickname today, sadly not realising it was given to him sarcastically.

Pete's mousse is becoming a gluggy mess. He doesn't know what he's done wrong. He looks at the recipe. He still doesn't know what he's done wrong. Up on the balcony, everyone somehow knows what he's done wrong. Pete curses the day he decided not to learn how to read. He starts again. He realises he needed to mix the chocolate into the cream or something like that. He does so. Justin tells him he loves him. It doesn't help. Meanwhile the judges gather to tell each other that winning MasterChef is a big deal in case we hadn't caught on yet. Andy pops over to Justin's bench to tell him to keep moving, throwing a spanner into Justin's plan to sit down and read a book for the next hour.

Melissa begins roaming the kitchen, providing crucial pieces of expert advice, like "You have to put the cake in the oven" and "concentrate on doing it right". It really makes a difference to have such wisdom available when cooking under pressure.

From the balcony Elise calls out, "Caramel?" and is proven right. Pete is working on his caramel, and his squid. Tearing bits of squid apart is a tricky process: you have to, like, pull the thing and cut the bit and separate the part of the squid from the other part. All without tearing the thingy. It's all got to do with membranes, and it is genuinely disgusting. From the balcony, Justin's parents have become concerned: their son seems to have forgotten the countless hours they spent with him when he was a child, teaching him the proper way to turn a squid into noodles. Was all that meticulous parenting wasted?

Pete's sliced his squid. Kishwar is on her second squid. Justin's squid is falling apart, as is Justin. All of a sudden he has a brainwave: he'll change the soundtrack to more upbeat music. It works: his squid is fine. Now it's Kishwar who is under pressure. She has 79 grams of squid. She needs 80. Will her recklessness cost her?

The finalists have already done heaps and heaps of stuff and there's still heaps and heaps of stuff to do. Now they have to make prune jam, which seems like it might be the part of the recipe that is a trick: like to win you have to recognise that the prune jam is a joke and you shouldn't actually do it.

Kishwar stirs in her caramel with cream. Peter comes round asks her if she used single cream. She says yes. He asks her what the recipe said. She says double cream. He waits for her to recognise the discrepancy here. Kishwar has no caramel left. She is screwed. Unless…she isn't! But maybe she is. We'll wait and see.

Justin discovers that someone has taken his juicer. It was Kishwar. They engage in some good-natured banter that sounds a hell of a lot like bitter hatred and anger. Can they ever be friends again? I wouldn't trust a woman who used my juicer, that's for sure.

We're now at the point where they must make the golden outer dome of their golden crackles. The dome is made from potato starch, which makes it all even more disturbing. There is something about turning potato into gold that is unwholesome, like it's part of a plot by an evil goblin to steal a baby.

Justin finishes his golden dome. Jock gives him a warm kilted cuddle. It's a nice moment amid the general horror and misery of a typical MasterChef finale. Kishwar finishes hers too, but nobody gives her a cuddle, kilted or otherwise. Seems unfair, particularly as Kishwar is clearly prettier than Justin.

It is time to coat the rice krispies. There is not enough time to coat the rice krispies. They will have to coat some rice krispies but leave some uncoated. But Justin is going to try to coat them all. I think he is, anyway. It's actually pretty hard to figure out what's going on with these rice krispies. It involves tempering chocolate, which means everyone is literally in Hell.

There's still more than half an hour left of this. Bloody hell.

Pete is struggling. He's feeling a pressure and anxiety he never felt in his old job of permanently altering the bodies of strangers in ways that they could do nothing about if they didn't like it. He suddenly falls over, providing a moment of high drama and/or comedy depending on how funny you find it when people fall over. Justin cries out in anguish seeing his brother fall, but he can't worry too much as he has more rice krispies to turn slightly different colours.

Oh god they have to shell peanuts too. It really is all too much.

Justin has done all four chocolates. Kishwar has done three. Pete has two, but decides to try one more, with bare minutes to go. He decides to do it "like a chef", which is a great time to start on that.

Suddenly time is up. The three finalists embrace, each hoping the other two end the day in utter misery. Kishwar is in tears, and no wonder after Jock didn't hug her. Pete is also in tears, as is his wife on the balcony. "He did so well," she says, even though she has not tasted his dish and has no evidence of this. His wife comes down on to the floor to embrace him. Justin's fiancée does likewise, as does Kishwar's husband. It's a poignant moment, that reminds us all that no matter what happens in our lives, what truly matters is winning MasterChef.

It's plating time. The moment of truth. Or rather the several thousand moments of truth, because no way are they not stretching this out as long as they can.

Kishwar goes first. While she prepares her dish, her butter splits. Butter is so stupid. As she carefully assembles her dishes, the judges continually tell her to hurry up, which helps her in no way whatsoever. Finally all is ready. Kishwar tells the judges that finishing this dish is a lot like having a baby or climbing Everest, and she's as proud of this as she was when she did those things.

The judges and Gilmore taste the dish and talk for a really long time about it. The upshot is that it is very good.

Pete is next. He only has one dome, which means if that dome doesn't work, he's in a right pickle. But this is Pete we're talking about! Of COURSE that dome works. Although not before he drops it and everyone has an aneurysm. But it doesn't break and it's fine. His custard isn't set, but it might set before it's served, if it can be made to understand that this is PETE. Pete's hands are shaking like Keith Richards, but he's getting it done somehow. "I can't look," says Jock, and it's true: squid is horrid to look at.

The judges taste. The judges talk. Pete's dishes are pretty good, but his squid is slightly overcooked and his crackle is a little soft and uneven. They're still really good and better than most could do, although if I'm being honest I reckon I could've done it better. And quicker, probably. Looks pretty easy. He had a recipe to follow, after all.

Finally, Justin. He doesn't drop anything or split his butter. He does, however, cry and talk about his father, because he knows how this show works. The judges taste. The judges talk. Justin's squid is perfect and Melissa points out that Justin is as good as Peter, whose years of experience don't mean much now. Justin's dessert is "really tasty", but his cake is slightly undercooked so he is a disgrace.

And so to the scores, and the moment when the three finalists find out whether they are good or bad people. Everyone applauds as the finalists come back into the kitchen, both the ones who are proud of them and the ones who are just jealous.

For the squid noodles, Kishwar gets 32 out of 40, putting her on 83. Pete gets 36 out of 40, putting him on 89. Justin gets FORTY OUT OF FORTY, and moves on to 90. Justin, against all expectations throughout the whole year, is in the lead.

For the golden crackle, Kishwar gets 31 out of 40, putting her on 114. Stick a fork in her, she's done. Pete gets 36 out of 40, putting him on 124. Justin needs 35 or better to win. And he gets…

He gets…

He gets…




Not from the very first day has the possibility of Justin winning occurred to anyone. It seemed an impossibility from beginning to end, and yet here he is, MasterChef 2021! The ultimate underdog victory has come to pass, and I won't even make a joke about that, because bloody well done.

Tune in next year, when they change the rules to incorporate wrestling.