MasterChef recap: Unroasted nuts send a top contender home from Australia's flashest new restaurant

Andy Allen, Jock Zonfrillo, Martin Benn and Melissa Leong glam it up at new Melbourne restaurant, Society.
Andy Allen, Jock Zonfrillo, Martin Benn and Melissa Leong glam it up at new Melbourne restaurant, Society.  Photo: Supplied

Renowned chef Martin Benn – a man I have DEFINITELY heard of – is opening a beautiful new restaurant in Melbourne, called Society. And what better way to introduce the sophistication and elegance of Society to diners than by getting amateurs to run its first service? Yes, the wacky Masterchef Six will be rolling out this high-end eatery's first batch of munchables, and if Benn is risking a certain level of bumbling in the cooking, at least he's saving on labour costs.

The six amateurs emerge from Society's shiny elevators in slow motion, ready to battle the terrorists who have taken the restaurant hostage. "If somebody had told me a year ago that I would be a part of finals week, there's no way I'd have believed it," says Pete. He also probably would've asked them to elaborate – finals week of what?

The amateurs will be making a six-course service for 20 diners plus the judges and chef Benn. So it's not a real service at all, just a gimmick, which should take the pressure off. Each contestant will take charge of one course, and the maker of the worst course goes home to beg for a job at KFC. "It is crucial that your cooking upholds Martin's reputation," lies Melissa: the only crucial thing is that being on TV gets his restaurant free publicity.

Pete is making the first course, and Martin shows him the ingredient he must cook with: Nori, one of the 13 dwarves who accompanied Bilbo Baggins to the Lonely Mountain. Pete has never cooked with a fictional Dwarf before, so must think on his feet. Outside the kitchen, Martin shows the judges a selection of Society's most sophisticated dishes, all of which look like they are made from Lego.

As Pete works to slice celeriac with sociopathic precision, Elisa is brought in to begin the second course, and confronted with her ingredient: yuzu, which is a lemon only angrier. Almost immediately Justin comes in for the third course and is given tarragon, which is a bit boring. Justin runs to the pantry and begins eating turnips from the sheer stress of his situation.

Pete begins to find that making celeriac thin takes a really long time, as it doesn't like to exercise. "I'm doubting everything," he says, flustered, repeatedly touching the stove to make sure it's real and calling Jock "Gary". As if he didn't have trouble enough, Kishwar comes into the kitchen and is given pink peppercorns. She immediately selects quail from the pantry, going by the old aphorism, "When life gives you peppercorns, mutilate a small bird".

Justin asks Pete what he's cooking. "I don't have time, sorry bro," says Pete, warming the hearts of every MasterChef viewer who's waited all year for this moment. Justin goes back to his bench to cry into his lobsters. Andy tells Pete he's very worried about him, as he is tying celeriac slices into little parcels and nobody can figure out why.

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Justin has covered his lobster tails in butter. Frankly, that seems enough to me: what more could anyone want? But he keeps doing things for some reason: apparently lobster tails swimming in a trough of butter isn't "fine dining" enough. Even though anyone who was being honest would say that's the ideal dish.

Pete has 15 minutes before his dishes start going out, and he's still…I don't even know. He's cutting strings off his celeriac, it's hard to tell whether even he knows what he thinks he's doing. But here comes Sabina to begin the first dessert. Her ingredient is macadamia nuts, which is easy: just pour chocolate over them and put them in a bowl. In fact they're already in a bowl, so just pour chocolate and serve. But no, Sabina has to over-complicate things as usual. "I have no idea what to do," she says, several hours after the service is finished. Back in the present she starts making sorbet, the coward's ice-cream.

Back with Pete, who has taken the strings off his croissants – and by croissants he means "odd little piles of celeriac" – and has made a big mess of revolting green gunk to put in them. He is ready for service, and the diners have no idea what is about to hit them. The judges eat the "croissants" and are blown away by how he has combined an unpleasant vegetable and horrible sea-garbage to create something genuinely weird. It's perfect for a place as  extra as Society.

Linda enters the kitchen to make the final course. She is presented with sweet miso, also known commonly as Yellow Goo. She declares that she will need to work her palate, which could mean almost anything. Meanwhile Elise is happy with her pearl barley, for what that's worth. Her second course is heading out to the diners.

The judges taste Elise's barley shiitake and yuzu, a dish Andy declares to be a "cracker", but which everyone else finds entirely edible. The judges are in raptures over Elise's ability to combine Japanese flavours with her own stubborn refusal to ever make anything that isn't Italian.

In the kitchen, Kishwar is devastated to find that her quail is grey. The quail should not be grey, it should be blushing pink. But this quail has seen too much of the world, has suffered too many blows and disappointments. Its blushing pink days are over, and Kishwar deflates. Sabina tries to cheer her up by calling out, "Kishwar, when the tough get going the going gets tough", but even Sabina's adorable mangling of common phrases is not enough to lift Kishwar out of her gloom.

But then! It is Jock to the rescue! He comes in and cuts open another quail, to reveal that it is in fact pink! It was only the first quail that was grey, because that was the one that Kishwar burdened with financial worries. Everything is fine and Kishwar moves on with her life.

Meanwhile Justin adds a bit of caviar to his lobster and sends it out, kind of smugly. "This is the most expensive plate of food I've cooked in my entire life," he says, which makes it amazing just what a puny and unsatisfying portion it is. The judges have a taste – which is all it's possible to have, as the whole dish is bite-size – and declare it officially Fancy As F---, the highest classification a dish can have.

And so to Kishwar, who must serve the quails that have given her so much angst over the years. The judges eat. "My tastebuds are dancing," drools Martin. "The flavours are insane," Andy dribbles. Kishwar's idea to add LSD to the quail has paid off in spades.

In the kitchen Linda puts on her gloves and goggles and begins using liquid nitrogen to make her ice-cream as potentially lethal as possible. But something isn't working…her ice-cream is staying runny. Has she accidentally used liquid neon instead? She begins beating faster, and everything is all right. Crisis over: in fact, crisis kind of anti-climactic.

Sabina must now serve her macadamia sorbet, or else. She grates macadamia on top. Jock asks if she toasted the macadamias first. Sabina says no, she does not roll that way. Jock looks at her like she just confessed to infusing the sorbet with mashed gnu bladder. Too late to turn back now: it's service time. The judges eat the macadamia and citrus sorbet. Jock does not like it, because the macadamias were not toasted. The macadamias were raw and the flavours are not there. In the kitchen Sabina declares herself happy, and everyone watching has a good chuckle at the dramatic irony.

It's time to serve Linda's dessert, but Linda is not ready, so Jock heads into the kitchen to harass her. Her ice-cream is softer than she would like, but as they say, soft ice-cream is like a soft heart: it makes you vulnerable, but also allows you to love freely. Or something like that. Anyway the judges eat her ice-cream and it's rather nice, but a bit too soft and the various dishes didn't all look the same. The question is thus, does soft inconsistent ice-cream beat raw macadamias? Only time will tell. Not a lot of time, though, it's coming up right after the next fireball.

Lined up after service, the judges tell the first four amateurs they are good people who deserve to be loved, and then move on to Sabina and Linda. As it turns out, raw macadamia sorbet that tastes bad is worse than soft ice-cream that tastes good, and so Sabina is going home.

We will miss Sabina: her energy, her vibrancy, her constant yelling of useless advice from the balcony. Hopefully she will soon pop up on her own cooking show, From Pantry to Gantry, where she selects ingredients and then shouts at people to do things with them. Till then, farewell Beans!

Tune in tomorrow, when guest chef Hugh Allen challenges the amateurs to recreate his hairdo in edible form.