MasterChef recap: Hibachi granita? It's the vibe of the thing

Judges Melissa Leong, Jock Zonfrillo and Andy Allen with some of their 60 mystery cloches.
Judges Melissa Leong, Jock Zonfrillo and Andy Allen with some of their 60 mystery cloches. Photo: Channel 10

It's the final immunity challenge of the season. After this, no more immunity: everyone gets infected. Yesterday's "Everything Box" champs Elise, Linda and Justin enter the kitchen to discover a dazzling array of cloches. Sixty of them in all – but only one cloche contains the key to freedom. The other 59…certain death.

No, of course not. Actually under each cloche is an ingredient, a cuisine, a food word or a piece of kitchen equipment. Each amateur must pick two cloches and cook something combining the two elements found under them. Like if you got "ice-cream" and "human flesh" that'd be easy, but if you got "Japanese" and "third drawer down", it might be a bit trickier. If they don't like their first two choices they get to pick a third, but they'll have to give up one of the first two if they do, and they won't have any choice but to use the third choice.

And they're away, walking through the forests of cloches, looking at their distorted reflections in the metal surfaces and wondering where it all went wrong. Linda begins sniffing the cloches out of either desperation or insanity, hard to say. She smells something attractive beneath one. Something keeps bringing her back. She chooses it. It's preserved lemon. Disappointing.

She's drawn to another one. It's lemon verbena. She is going to have to make something really frigging lemony. "I'm going to play to my strengths," Linda says, those strengths apparently being making everything taste like lemon.

Elise has a different system: going by lucky numbers. This system leads her to select dark chocolate and pistachios, which are a great combination, apart from the dark chocolate which as we all know is the bad kind of chocolate.

Justin eschews both the sniffing and lucky number methods, instead just wandering around aimlessly like a typical man. He notices a cloche that he thinks looks "lonely", and picks it. It's a hibachi, which pleases him as he is a slave to fashion.

His second cloche has "Italian", which is a disaster because hibachi is Japanese, causing a clash. Of course they were allies in WWII, but still.

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Justin decides to make a third pick pretty much just for fun, which is a really unwise way to behave, but he always was a thrillseeker. Under his third cloche he finds the word "sweet", thus sealing his status as a bit of a twit. He must now cook something sweet on the hibachi and live forever with aching regret and Melissa's mocking laughter ringing in his ears.

The actual cooking starts, which is always a bit of a downer. Linda immediately brings out her secret weapon: photos of her Nanna. It's clearly time for the big guns. Meanwhile Justin, fresh from banging his head against a wall, is making a popcorn ice-cream. "Andy hates popcorn," says Jock, trying to get Andy and Justin to fight each other, as he has from the first episode. 

From the balcony, Sabina advises Elise to put her pistachios in the oven. Elise, who had been planning to simply lay them on a tray and hope they turned into something good on their own, sees the wisdom in this and yet again thanks God Sabina is up there to direct her.

"In my mind it kind of makes sense," says Justin as he places two halves of an orange on the hibachi as a kind of modern art installation. He explains to Melissa what he's trying to do: char the orange in order to make his granita smoky.

Melissa finds his plan cute, like a child making a car out of toilet paper rolls. She walks away with the look of a woman holding in hysterical laughter until she can find her friends and tell them all about the nut she just met.

"What are you doing, Elise?" calls Sabina, but honestly it's none of her business. It's none of ours either, really. We should stop snooping.

Meanwhile Linda is fondling a duck breast and it's quite a sight. She plans to use her feature ingredients by infusing the duck with lemon, then adding a lemon flavour to it, and finishing it off by covering it in lemon. It sounds delightful.

Justin tastes his charred orange. "It has this taste of just…like…fire," he says, wondering idly whether he has discovered the flavour of Hell. But he needs a hibachi element, and there's literally no other way to use a hibachi other than charring oranges, so he's kind of stuck.

Meanwhile Elise is putting whisky in her dessert so that it won't even matter how it tastes, the judges will have such a nice buzz on.

Linda is busy with her broth, adding more lemon, but also adding sugar and salt and vinegar in large amounts, her intention to simply pour every flavour in there and let them fight it out. "Linda, you're a machine!" yells Sabina, pulling the old trick of undermining a cook's confidence by making them suddenly question their humanity.

Justin pulls his popsicle moulds out of the freezer and finds he can't get his popsicles out of them. There seems to be a really strong possibility that he has at some point in his life angered a witch, but suddenly the curse fails and the popsicles pop out. He will indeed be able to plate a dish, which could end up being an even worse curse.

Finishing touches are applied, and plates are up. Justin drinks from a large bottle of milk because he is just done caring about society's rules.

Justin's weird popcorn popsicles on top of fire-flavoured orange granita are first. Justin ups the weirdness factor by suggesting they could eat them while watching The Lion King. Jock tries the dish and notes that Justin's brief was hibachi and sweet, neither of which are to be found in the dish. "I think the idea was born from something really lovely," says Melissa, and she's right: it was born from Justin's lovely inner fury that he gave up Italian. Overall Justin has failed and immunity will not be his.

Linda serves her lemon duck and lemon rice and lemon broth and lemon lemon, and adds a little extra flavour by crying about her grandmother – this could make her unbeatable. Jock says she's met the brief, inasmuch as everything tastes like lemon. Everyone loves Linda's duck and Linda's backstory. She's looking good.

Up steps Elise, with her pistachio gelato and whisky chocolate mousse. "You've got this really strange look on your face" says Andy, which seems a bit uncalled for. Elise is extremely nervous and may have taken a few belts of whisky into the bargain. Odd looks notwithstanding, Andy loves the pistachio ice-cream, but loves the mousse less. Melissa says the same thing but with more words and a tinklier piano accompaniment. Jock repeats it.

There is no mystery whatsoever about the final judgment here. Linda has spanked her opponents thoroughly and with style, and will be immune in Sunday's elimination. This means she's the first contestant into "finals week", which as usual is a fairly rubbery concept, but it's a nice moment for nice Linda.

Tune in on Sunday, when tragedy will strike for one unlucky chef.