MasterChef recap: It's Rick Stein time! And 10 (or so) years later, we finally get our top 10

It's Rick Stein time!
It's Rick Stein time! Photo: Network Ten

The sun shines brightly on the MasterChef kitchen as the contestants arrive, ignoring the stench of death clinging to them. It's elimination day, and only Dan, who last week successfully created an abomination, is safe from the judges' lethal barbs.

Melissa, Andy, Alf - sorry - Rick, and Jock do their thang.
Melissa, Andy, Alf - sorry - Rick, and Jock do their thang. Photo: Network Ten

The judges introduce tonight's guest chef, one of Australia's most beloved personalities: it's Alf from Home and Away! Everyone is overjoyed to see him. For contractual reasons, because Home and Away is on another channel, Alf is going by a pseudonym, calling himself "Rick Stein", but it's a true joy to have him here no matter what he calls himself.

Today's challenge is to cook a dish that transports the judges and guest chef to a special destination. In other words the contestants must cook some kind of ship or aircraft. However, before that happens, "Rick" is going to cook a Madras Fish Curry, or as it's been officially known since 1996, a Chennai Fish Curry. He asks Montana to help him, and she's overjoyed, since he is the chef who, more than anyone else, first inspired her to try to monetise a social media presence.

Alf cooks the curry while telling a long and mildly interesting story about how he once met a man who had some fish. Everyone is riveted, because the show doesn't allow them to have phones in the kitchen so they have nothing better to do.

A dramatic twist occurs when Sarah reveals, against all expectations, that she is making an Indian dish.

Then it's right into the challenge! Keyma decides to make pasta, to transport the judges to Italy, which kind of startles everyone because she's Venezuelan and generally speaking the iron law of MasterChef is if you have a foreign accent you cook food from the place your accent is from. The producers frantically check her contract to see whether a Venzuelan cooking pasta is even allowed.

Meanwhile Michael is making a fish stew from San Francisco, in memory of his time in Alcatraz and his daring escape. Jock and Andy pop round to remind Michael that he failed last time he made fish stew, and that he came second last time he was on MasterChef, so wouldn't it be incredibly shameful to fail today? It sure would! Having delivered this helpful reminder, they leave.

Julie is making coq au vin, hoping it will bring to mind a trip to Paris, where she first learned the pleasures of coq. "Rick" comes round to engage in some sexy banter with Julie, who is rapidly gaining a reputation as the ultimate seductress of guest chefs. He points out that the other name of coq au vin is "love in a lorry", which spurs great merriment because hey, we've all been there.

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A dramatic twist occurs when Sarah reveals, against all expectations, that she is making an Indian dish. Apparently – and kudos to her for having kept this so quiet all this time – she has spent a bit of time in India. As such it is a huge honour to be cooking for Alf from Home and Away, whose diner is renowned for its Indian cuisine.

Montana is thinking of Christmas in New York. She had turkey, but there is no turkey in the pantry. Why is there no turkey in the pantry? What kind of lame, garbage pantry is this that there's no turkey there? Poor Montana is forced to cook chicken instead, her only consolation being that chicken is objectively better than turkey.

Oh hai Rick Stein.
Oh hai Rick Stein.  Photo: Network Ten

With half an hour to go, the pressure is starting to get to some contestants. Julie is sweating into her mashed potato, worried that she's going to run out of time to cook her chicken properly. It's a tense time: she knows just how much is riding on this coq.

Sarah is feeling much more relaxed: her gravy is making her cough, which is exactly what she's aFiming for. She gets more nervous when Andy comes around to tell her that her crab has to be perfect – a patent lie given all her crab has to be is slightly less bad than whoever's dish is worse. Nevertheless, the thought of improper crab begins to haunt her.

The judges meet to discuss the contestants' dishes. They all agree that every contestant is taking the risk that if they cook badly, their cooking will not be good. Melissa asks "Rick" is anything is bothering him. Besides the occasional appearance of Ailsa's ghost, he seems fine.

Montana is struggling. Her chicken is not looking how she expected: it looks kind of like a pavlova. Her pumpkin has been steaming and turned her chicken skin soggy, so she takes the skin off to serve on the side. This is unnecessarily unwieldy: the smart thing to do would be change the destination to some country where soggy chicken skin is a traditional delicacy. There must be one somewhere.

Meanwhile, "I'm feeling pretty good," says Julie, before remembering that she's on MasterChef. Beside her at the bench, Michael is nervous because his fish is overcooked, although that seems pretty appropriate for prison food.

With thirty seconds to go, Michael's fish still sucks, but what the hell is he supposed to do in thirty seconds, right? Meanwhile Montana has successfully caused some huge grease stains, so her confidence is sky-high.

The time has come for the moment all the judges dread: eating. Billie serves her Spanish seafood stew (why are MasterChef contestants so obsessed with putting fish in broth? Perverted if you ask me). "Stone the flaming crows, that's bloody marvellous," says Alf enthusiastically. "I haven't tasted as good a Spanish fish stew since filming in Spain," he adds, just lording it over us all how he's been to Spain and on TV.

Next: Aldo, whose homesickness is becoming one of the show's most distressing elements. The judges, however, find nourishment in his pain. "I need Aldo," says Alf, before accusing Melissa of having invented eggplants as the other judges begin to fear for his wellbeing.

Then there's Tommy, who is OK. Then there's Alvin, who is similarly fine.

Then Keyma, who is nervous about bringing Italian food to Jock, because he is half-Italian and knows what Italian food should be like. Unlike the other judges who've never had Italian food before. Her destination, like Alex Gaudino, is Calabria, but Jock soothes her nerves. "You could line up a hundred Italians and get them to make a tomato sauce with pasta," he says, and it's true, you could. Something to think about when deciding how to spend your next holiday. Anyway Keyma's pasta is, for all intents and purposes, food, so that's all right.

The time has now come for Julie to whip out her coq au vin. She tells the poignant story of how it rained the whole week she was in Paris with her husband, so the coq was her only consolation. "This is flaming excellent!" Alf cries, before bragging a bit more about how he's a big TV star, then noting that compared to Julie Goodwin, the French are absolutely crap at cooking.

In steps Michael, who feels he's been "overthinking", which is a technical culinary term meaning "cooking fish poorly". Today, though, after fretting so much that he overcooked his fish, he has in fact overcooked his fish. The music takes on a mournful tone as Michael's fate hangs in the balance.

In comes Sarah, who has, as you may have heard, restaurants in India, and for whom it is, as always, an incredible honour. Her dish is a huge crab that explodes and goes everywhere, but apparently tastes good. "She's been brave," says Alf, incorrectly. "I don't think we've ever been this happy," says Andy, depressingly.

Montana's turn, and her New York Christmas dinner without turkey because MasterChef is shockingly ill-prepared. No matter what happens, she's ticked "cook for Rick Stein" off her bucket list. She's also ticked off "disappoint Rick Stein", so it's been a productive day. The judges are unnecessarily harsh, though: who could deny that a disappointing meal effectively transports you to a family Christmas dinner?

When it comes to the crunch, crap chicken beats crap fish, so Michael must go home, dreams shattered for the second time. He says he's happy to have made so many friends, convincing nobody. Unlike most eliminations, this one seems genuinely sad, but the silver lining is Michael will now have more time to learn how to cook fish.

Tune in tomorrow, when Keyma shakes her maracas.