MasterChef 2020 recap: A global cook turns emotional as one of our favourites fails

How do you stuff up fried rice? Just ask Reynold.
How do you stuff up fried rice? Just ask Reynold. Photo: NETWORK 10

There's a market stall set up in the MasterChef garden today, which causes the contestants to lose it; they are all squealing at the idea of attending an event in the outdoors like the pre-pandemic Good Old Days.

The judges explain that today's two-round elimination challenge is all about around-the-world cooking, and the first round is celebrating street food. There's a Chinese, Indian, Mexican and Lebanese stall, and the contestants will have to cook in pairs at one of the stalls. Reece won immunity on Thursday so doesn't have to cook and is wearing his best day-off board shorts to commemorate the occasion.

The contestants all draw tokens to see who is cooking what cuisine and with whom. Laura and Emelia both get Indian, which is convenient because after their previous MasterChef season they both travelled to India together. We see some old Facebook pics of their Eat Pray Love travels.

Tessa and Brendan get Mexican, Reynold and Khanh get Chinese, and Callum draws the short straw and has to go with Poh for Lebanese.

Today's special guest judge is Charlie Carrington from Melbourne restaurant Atlas, which changes the menu every few months to reflect a particular country's cuisine. Each team must make two street food dishes in 75 minutes and the best two teams will be safe.

Laura and Emelia are going to make pani puri with scallops and a naan with prawn tikka masala. Emelia says she has never made pani puri before, but how hard can it be? She has never worn red lippy before, but has borrowed some from Melissa today and is working it, so it is already all coming up "Millsy".

Advertisement

Poh and Callum are cooking Lebanese food – they say they are doing hummus but turns out it is a coriander and pistachio version, so I bid them good luck as they enrage the entire Lebanese community of Australia for butchering a traditional dish. They are also making flatbreads with slow-cooked lamb, because Poh would like to inflict her anxious style of time-bending cooking onto poor, innocent Callum.

Khanh and Reynold have Chinese food, so Khanh is making a pan-fried pork dumpling and Reynold is making a fried rice with lap cheong and chicken scratchings. Reynold is trying to prove he can cook everything from crazy fairytale desserts to student dormitory classics.

Tessa and Brendan are really concerned because they have never been to Mexico. Tessa says she will have to rely on her "Western knowledge" of Mexican cuisine. I thought Mexico was part of the "Western world", but I guess she just means she will take inspiration from her late night Guzman y Gomez orders.

Brendan is working on a corn taco with crispy fish, while Tessa is doing chargrilled quail with agave glaze and pineapple hot sauce. Melissa asks her if there is much quail in Mexican cuisine. Tessa says she isn't sure, but knows the flavours are Mexican and that is what matters.

There is no gantry in the garden so Reece is just allowed to roam around like a backyard hen. He clucks around to Laura and Emelia's stall, and Emelia is struggling on her pani puri, which are meant to be puffing up into shells, but are looking more like a Pringle gone wrong.

Andy has finally decided to dress up today and is in a maroon blazer and 50 shades of pink. He says he's worried about Emelia and Laura. Charlie thinks the pani puri is a risk and would definitely not have decided to make this today.

Callum is looking like the guy who got stuck with the most annoying person in class for the group assignment. He says that he and Poh have "reasonably different cooking styles", which is to say that Callum cooks like a normal, reliable person and Poh cooks like that friend who is always late, never replies to your messages, promises to shout you breakfast, but you end up paying the bill because she forgot her wallet.

Callum suggests to Poh that they drop one element because he thinks there is not enough time. Poh says "no, no, no, no, no", which Callum takes as a firm "no".

Emelia finally gets her pani puri to puff up and Reece clucks over in celebration. Laura says it's a "puffy dog", inexplicably. Emelia says "what a time to be alive" and why have the producers been depriving us of her bone-dry, Daria Morgendorffer humour all this time?!

Emelia had the chance to work a tandoor when she was in India, so gets to work slapping the bread in and burning all her arm hairs off. Is the tandoor the new hibachi?

Callum is passively aggressively complaining about all the things he has to do for his lamb dish – he has to take it out of the pressure cooker, then quickly shred it and put it back in the sauce so it doesn't dry out. Poh hopes it will still be moist when they serve it, if not, Poh better not expect a Christmas card from Callum this year.

Brendan says he is praying to the Mexican gods about pressing his tortillas. He says for the millionth time that he has never made them before. Melissa gives him a Kenny Rogers lyric:  "gotta know when to hold them, gotta know when to fold them", which makes Brendan even more confused than he was before.

Reynold burns Khanh's taste buds off by giving him some of his fried rice to taste. Khanh thinks it is too greasy so Reynold adds chilli and coriander to try and freshen it up.

Emelia tries to crush holes in her pani puri, but only one of them works – the other three haven't puffed properly. She says she is "happy with everything about the pani puri, except the pani puri itself", which sounds problematic.

She decides to fill the pani puri with her "scallop ceviche" and, Emelia, I think you are meant to be at the Mexican stall?

Time is up and Brendan and Tessa serve them their tacos and quail. Tessa says she is worried she might get "caned" for it, which I didn't know was a thing people still said, though I can imagine Jock wielding one.

Melissa says well done for their dumb luck because southern Mexico is actually known for using quail. She says it is tender and charred with fruity heat from the pineapple hot sauce. Andy says "props on the tortilla", which apparently means he likes it. Jock says Brendan's fish "looked anaemic" but tasted great. Charlie says he was sure the quail wouldn't work but he was happily surprised.

Laura and Emelia come up next with their pani puri with raw scallop and cucumber and their tandoor prawns with naan and tikka masala sauce. Jock drinks the sauce straight out of the jug, which is a disturbing sight in this post-pandemic world.

Andy says he loves the sauce but there was not enough prawn flavour. Jock says the pani puri texture was like a stale biscuit.

Khanh and Reynold bring their fried rice and dumplings. Melissa says it was good but not great. Charlie says the textures could have been better. Jock thinks it was too greasy. Everyone loves the dumplings though, so bad luck Khanh who thought Reynold was going to be a good partner.

Callum and Poh bring their grilled prawns with coriander hummus and the lamb shoulder with flatbreads. The judges love the prawns and Andy says the flatbread was good, but Jock says the lamb was dry and the "execution could have been better".

So the judges announce Team China and Team India are in the bottom. Laura, Emelia, Khanh and Reynold head into the MasterChef kitchen, where there is a world map at the front of the room. Emelia is worried that they will have to play darts, forgetting she is on a cooking show and that a map is not a dart board.

Melissa says that round two is all about modern fine-dining. The places on the map represent the 11 countries that Charlie has visited to learn to cook at Atlas. The contestants have to choose one of the cuisines and make a fine-dining dish inspired by the country's signature flavours.

Jock says that he has some ideas but that "Asian cuisines don't automatically lend themselves to a fine-dining dish". This is not only historically incorrect but also dismisses years of work by modern fine-dining Asian chefs around the world who have made it their mission to dismantle these cultural food stereotypes. Melissa, help!

Khanh picks Vietnamese cuisine because he's most familiar with it, but thinks it will be hard to turn into a fine-dining dish. The fact that he says he is making a "peasant" dish called ga kho may be the reason why. Charlie says it will be "tough" turning Vietnamese food into fine-dining, but it is lucky that "there is a lot of French influence" in Vietnamese cuisine. Wow, how lucky for Vietnam to endure decades of violent French occupation so it can at least now be blessed with fancy European food! I am really hating the last 10 minutes of this episode if you can't tell!

So, apparently everyone thinks that all fine-dining must be French, because all the other contestants decide to cook French dishes. Laura is doing a take on coq au vin, but also using quail instead of chicken. Small birds are fancy, noted.

Emelia has decided to make a classic French pastry, a Paris brest, despite having a choux catastrophe on Thursday and failing at making that same dish. For this challenge though she plans on making it into petit fours to make it fine-dining, so it will just be a single bite of food. Small plates are fancy, noted.

Reynold wants to do a savoury dish because he thinks French pastries are too particular compared to magical rabbit holes. He is going to confit a blue eye and serve it with celeriac puree. Jock is shocked he isn't doing a dessert. He reminds Reynold that he was kicked out last time by cooking a fish dish, to which Reynold is like, thanks Jock.

Reynold says last time he overcooked the fish, so this time he is making sure he won't be doing it again because he will be cooking it in the sous vide.

Emelia puts her choux pastry in the oven and gets onto making the hazelnut praline filling. Jock comes over and Emelia gets a bit emosh talking to him. She says she is not ready to go home. She was reserved at the start of the show, but she was intimidated by everyone and didn't think she was good enough. She says she wants to be seen, which I guess is hard when Poh is around. Jock doesn't really know how to deal with a crying woman, so he just says "you can do it" and backs away slowly.

Laura adds bone marrow into her sauce and begins to debone her quail before putting it on the hibachi. Khanh also cooked his quail on the hibachi, so this has now become a small bird grill off.

Reynold takes his fish out of the sous vide and it is just cooked. He decides not to play around with it – he just hopes it is cooked on the inside.

Emelia's choux pastry comes out of the oven and it's perfect. She fills them with the hazelnut praline and tops them with a chocolate disc. I guess the choux finally fits.

Khanh is serving his quail with pickled persimmon. He thinks the flavours are fine-dining, but he is not sure it will look fine-dining. He has pulled the tweezers out to plate, so I guess he is halfway there.

Reynold is up first with his confit blue-eye with potted peas, celeriac puree, pickled eschalot, white wine sauce and chive oil. It looks like something I would pay $49 for. Charlie thinks he nailed it. Andy says it's "technically perfect French food". Jock says the fish melts in your mouth and makes his mouth water, which he says is "quite rare". Don't lie, Jock, we all know how you feel about HP sauce.

Khanh is up next and he says he is not sure if he met the brief for "fine-dining". Khanh gets a bit teary talking about how the gho ka is very representative of his family food. Bad news for Khanh, though, we get a painfully long clip of Jock chewing his piece of quail before pulling out a bone! Charlie says Khanh tried his best. but not everything worked and the persimmon was a bit lost. Melissa had a breast piece and it felt dry. Jock is not happy about the bone.

Laura is super happy with her dish, even though her plating isn't great. For some reason she has decorated it with some grass she found outside. Jock says it does not look fine-dining. Charlie says he loves the bone marrow and cognac sauce. Melissa says while the presentation was "rustic", there are "wonderful elements".

Emelia is up last. She is proud of what she made today. Andy says she "has balls" to do choux pastry again, but no Andy, it's a Paris brest. Jock says the choux was as light as a cloud and that it was "textbook perfect" Paris brest. Charlie says every element is perfect.

It's time to announce who is going home, and Jock prefaces the announcement by saying this challenge "gave them an opportunity to spread their wings and fly" because apparently he thinks he is a preacher or something now. Reynold and Emelia were the top two and are safe.

Khanh and Laura are the bottom two – so it's quail vs. quail. Melissa says that Laura's plating wasn't amazing, but the flavours were. But Khanh's quail was cooked less than perfect, which means he is the loser today.

Khanh says it's a sad day, but there are a lot of people who are going through a lot worse than him right now and says he wants them to know "they are loved".  Shhh Khanh just let us cry for you!! Melissa says it is heartbreaking, but it is time for him to go. Khanh says he has fallen in love with his Vietnamese heritage again and he is so proud of it. Khanh, thank you for your always impressive gantry outfits, but it's time to sashay away.

Read more of our MasterChef recaps here and follow Eloise Basuki on Twitter @eloise_baz.