MasterChef recap: Service, s'il vous plait! Which team's French menu is smooth as silk?

Jock Zonfrillo (left) and contestant Tommy sit tonight's service challenge out due to illness.
Jock Zonfrillo (left) and contestant Tommy sit tonight's service challenge out due to illness. Photo: Supplied

A new week means it's time for un challenge nouveau. Yes, it's a French service challenge. The Fans and Faves teams split into three teams each, to cook a French-inspired entree, main and dessert for 20 diners, plus the three judges. In other words, they must cook an entree, main and dessert for two diners, and if they feel like it, they can do it for another 20 people, even though those 20 people's opinions count for literally nothing. Unusually, there is no elimination tonight: instead the worst team in each course will have to do tomorrow's mystery box to avoid elimination, while the best team in each course will be safe from Tuesday's pressure test. This is confusing but I'm almost sure it'll sort of make sense in the end.

Of course, as it's a French challenge, the judges will also be French-inspired, and will be incredibly rude to the cooks. As it happens, Jock is absent with illness today, and so in his place comes Shannon Bennett, the inventor of French food. He will be acting as a mentor by walking around the kitchen making unhelpful comments throughout the challenge.

The teams begin planning their courses. Keyma says "bouillabaisse" and Daniel is already utterly lost. The fans' entree team decides to make steak tartare because they're too lazy to actually cook. Max draws a picture of a steak tartare to ensure that everyone knows what they're doing: illustration is in many ways the most important part of cooking. 

The kitchen becomes a hive of activity as the cooks run around gathering ingredients, pouring things from one bowl into another, and laughing hysterically as they suddenly become aware of the absurdity of human existence. The fans' dessert team explains to Shannon that they have a very stupid idea. Shannon suggests that maybe they should do something that isn't stupid. The team ponders this: although they want to take Shannon's advice, they really believe in their own stupidity.

Shannon wanders over to the Faves' dessert team, who are doing a tasting plate: always a tricky thing to master, as getting the plate to taste the food without eating it all can be difficult. It's all about training your plate correctly.

On the Faves' main-course team, Sarah, who is still maintaining that she was on the show previously, explains that as a massive fan of Indian food, she is also a huge enthusiast for French cuisine, France being, as everyone knows, the India of Europe. Today she will be cooking a snail curry.

Over on the Fans' entree team, Matt has given himself a blister, and nobody wishes to inquire exactly how. Matt explains that because Shannon is in the kitchen, he really wants to make a great dish and beat the Faves. This is quite a departure from Matt's usual goal, which is to make a bunch of crap and lose. "Steak tartare to me is quintessential French cooking," says Matt, contradicting Sarah who believes true French cooking should involve naan.

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On the Faves' main team, Minoli, Sashi and Christina are making a lamb navarin, which Sashi explains is a "celebration of vegetables and meat", This could be a problem, as the challenge actually requires them to make food. Shannon notes that the team is making the dish in a single pot, and casually lets them know that only deeply broken people do this, before walking away.

Back to the Fans' dessert station, where Montana explains that they have numerous ingredients. In fact the ingredients are too numerous, so they get rid of some, which causes them to fear the dish is too simple. Taking a long hard look at themselves, they realise they have wasted their lives.

As service grows closer and Shannon continues to wander the kitchen telling everyone they suck, the diners arrive, fully expecting a meal they do not have to pay for.

Meanwhile, Max attempts to place egg yolks on the steak tartare without breaking them, a task which he is vastly under-qualified for. If he fails all is lost, since a tartare needs an unbroken egg yolk, for reasons nobody is willing to divulge.

"We want to see food flying off that pass in five minutes!" shouts Andy, casting doubt on just how well he understands the operation of a professional kitchen. Meanwhile, Sarah puts the finishing touches on her korma mignon and makes the shock revelation that Aldo has been there this whole time.

The judges sit down to eat. Andy explains the rules of the challenge to Melissa, who is shocked. They eat the Fans' steak tartare, which is fairly good although not, obviously, as good as meat that has actually been cooked. They eat the Faves' entree, which is salmon that has been delicately cooked until raw. The judges cut into the fish, causing a fireball to tear through the kitchen, destroying everything in its path.

After an ad break, we come back and they cut into the fish again. According to some rule about fish that some weirdo made up a thousand years ago, it's the way fish should be, so that's nice. Melissa gets to call it "silky", which is her favourite thing to do in the world.

As everyone involved in the show staunchly refuses to care in any way whether the public diners like the food or not, something goes horribly wrong with the Faves' dessert. The creme pat is not thick enough, which is more than you can say for the Faves' dessert team. Meanwhile, Montana tells the Fans' dessert team that they need to trust their instincts, proving she knows nothing about MasterChef.

Main course is imminent, and as Minoli gets her peas out and Sashi strains his liquid until it is severely bruised, Shannon urges the fans to use more butter, secretly trying to assassinate the judges. Dan takes his fish out of the oven, only to discover that unbeknownst to him, he actually doesn't know how to cook fish.

It's time to plate the lamb navarin, and Minoli is nervous, wondering how they will take the dish from a home-style dish to a restaurant-quality one. Suddenly it hits her: she'll over-charge for it. All is well. Sashi declares that the sauce is thick and glossy, and he immediately enters in a dog show.

After several days, main course is served to the judges, while the other diners receive Hungry Jack's. The Faves' lamb navarin could have done with a touch of acidity according to Andy, but look who's talking. Melissa admits that it is elegant to look at, so the taste really doesn't matter.

The Fans serve up their barramundi en papillote, which is French for "barramundi that has been swallowed by a butterfly". "Wow," says Melissa, "the beans are amazing", which is almost certainly a lie given the beans are, you know, beans. She says "silky" again, so this is definitely a winning dish. Andy says "silky" too: the Fans have made their puree so silky it's practically a Persian kitten.

After about an hour of watching people taste their desserts, the desserts are finally served. First the Faves, who have made a macaron, lemon tart and choux pastry, which are very good of course, but the base of the tart is a touch blonde which the judges dislike due to racism. The Fans serve up their dessert, a brown disc with red things on top. The judges love it and think it's silky. It's also both bitter and sour, which is exactly what you want in a dessert: everyone hates sweetness at the end of a meal.

Judging time. The Faves beat the Fans in entree because their salmon was simple. The Fans beat the Faves in main because the Faves' flavours didn't jump off the page and Melissa thinks food is a book. And the Fans beat the Faves in dessert as well, because Shannon told them what to do.

And so the three winning teams are safe from elimination, while the three losing teams must tear each other apart in a savage manner to avoid a fate worse than death: returning to their families.