MasterChef 2020 recap: A socially distanced dinner party decides who cooks in Finals Week

Laura got caught cutting onions again.
Laura got caught cutting onions again. Photo: NETWORK 10

Finals week starts tomorrow and the top five contestants are all competing for their spot, everyone except Reynold who is looking so relaxed in his day-off, all-white linen outfit he looks like he's about to board a yacht with Pablo Escobar, not walk up the stairs to the gantry with immunity.

The contestants feign their usual surprise as they comment on how the kitchen has changed shape – today it's a commercial-style kitchen with a long U-shaped dinner table at the front. Melissa says tonight they'll be cooking for six of the "hottest chefs in the country" so hopefully they all arrive with their shirts off.

Each contestant will cook a course of the dinner, and Jock pulls out a very sexy black velvet sack and tells each contestant to dip in. Sadly they are not swapping car keys for the night, just pulling out tokens with the name of their course on them.

Reece the sometimes-vegan is hoping for the vegetable course because he "loves vegetables so much" and wants to show off his plant-based cooking skills. Gwyneth Paltrow and the kale gods are smiling upon Reece today as he manages to win that vegie token. Emelia pulls out the fish course, Laura gets meat and Callum ends up with dessert.

Emelia's desserts are as great as her newfound skills in lipstick application, but she says she feels good about fish, too, and tells Melissa that "at this point of the competition, she should be able to do everything". She says she wants to redeem herself from the embarrassing Josh Niland incident of seven weeks ago.

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Jock says he has rules, because every Daddy does. They each get two hours, staggered in 45-minute starts. Reece is up first and is like" did I mention I'm on a plant-based diet" like every vegan you know. He is going to make a poached and roasted beetroot dish with shiraz vinaigrette and a goats' cheese foam. Hopefully someone told him that goats' milk is not a vegetable.

Jock tells the other judges that he thinks Callum "has the wobbles". Callum, Laura and Emelia are all lounging about on the couches like they are now all members of the Big Brother house. 

Laura says she is excited because "service is the favourite part of her day", which is like the nerd kid in school saying that homework is their favourite part of their day. Emelia does some light trolling by sarcastically saying, "me too", because Emelia has spent the last six years only making cakes, and also just loves a little bit of sass.

We get a flashback to the last time she cooked fish with seafood master Josh Niland, and a clip of Melissa calling her dish "undeniably overwhelmingly overcooked". Emelia is calling this her redemption cook, because if you haven't cooked a "redemption dish" on MasterChef, have you really been a contestant on MasterChef?

Emelia's redemption dish is going to be a crispy skinned barramundi on a bed of wilted fennel with Geraldton wax oil and a Japanese inspired broth. She says each element has to be perfect. One could also say, "there's nowhere to hide".

Reece tells Jock and Andy about his beetroot snoozefest and Jock tells him that beetroot and goats' cheese sounds like a "safe combination". Reece is having none of this negativity thanks and says yes, they are a "known" combination, but he knows the flavours are "super delicious". Andy says he wants to see development from Reece and doesn't want him to fall back on a dish he found in a 2010 issue of Women's Weekly.

Jock and Andy's little visit has Reece all riled up now, so he decides to steer away from being so classic. He makes another dressing, a lemon myrtle vinaigrette. He runs out to the garden to pick some of the herb, apologising to the lemon myrtle tree for trimming it like the good occasional-vegan he is.

Laura is making "peas, mint and lamb" and, finally, after weeks of Callum going on about his wife and baby, we hear something about Laura's husband, who Laura outs as a lamb addict. She says the rules of marrying him meant she needed to learn to cook him a good roast lamb every Sunday, because apparently she married him in the 1950s.

Melissa asks Laura if her roast lamb dish will be exciting. Laura says yes and Melissa decides to believe her rather than make her second guess herself the way Jock likes to. Laura tells the rest of us listening that she will elevate it in a "really cool interesting sauce" using spatchcocks, blackened onions and Marsala.

Emelia's broth is not looking good, it's cloudy and a particularly beige shade of baby spew. Andy asks her if she has a plan B. She doesn't. Andy looks like Emelia just told him she got her period, and awkwardly walks off hoping no one notices.

She says her broth is too cloudy to serve to the judges, so decides she needs to clarify it, which apparently you can do by making a "raft". Unlike her girl guides raft training, this type of raft is apparently made using eggwhites, which you blitz into a paste and put into the broth. The eggwhites pull the sediments to the top and make a sort of omelette. Where was Leo's eggwhite raft when he needed it in Titanic?!

Melissa announces that our guests are here! Slightly disappointed it's not the shirtless Hemsworth brothers, but we are in a pandemic so must make do with Melbourne peeps only. Six of the guest chefs from this season enter: Matt Stone and Jo Barrett from Oakridge, Shannon Martinez from Smith and Daughters, Peter Gunn from Ides, Darren Purchese from Burch and Purchese and dessert queen Kirsten Tibballs.

The judges make their way to the shared table, which is so socially distanced it's like they are seated at a wedding and no one in the bridal party likes each other.

Reece is making a chocolate hazelnut and puffed rice crumb to go on top of his beetroot slumber party. He says it will be the seasoning because it adds sweetness, saltiness and crunch. Jock tells him he has five minutes left and asks him what he is doing. Reece tells him not to worry because his "dessert is cold". Jock reminds him that he is making vegetables not dessert, but who can blame a man for having chocolate on his mind 24/7.

Jock calls all the judges attention and has to use his outdoor voice because everyone is so far away from him. Matt notices that Callum has a lot of extra time to think about his dessert, but Jock says that this is not necessarily a good thing for Callum, who overthinks everything. A montage of Callum looking like The Thinker statue ensues, minus all the muscle definition.

It's finally Callum's turn to cook. He says his strategy is "less is more", but then proceeds to tell us a million elements that sound pretty complicated: chocolate aniseed myrtle cremeux, davidson plum sorbet, aniseed myrtle and white chocolate rocks, and toasted shaved macadamias. He starts with the davidson plum sorbet and becomes a davidson plum salesman telling us how versatile they are. They are sweet and sour! Swap them for regular plums! Buy them at Coles! 

Reece has two minutes to go and starts plating up his dish with little blobs of beetroot gel, roast beetroot, goats' cheese mousse and the chocolate crumb. It looks pretty, but also like a serving portion for ants and/or vegan people.

Andy says the beets were cooked perfectly, but it needed to be elevated by more acid, because Andy is an acid fiend. Melissa said the plate was a little bit timid. She liked it but didn't love it. Jock says the beetroot was under seasoned. Matt says what we are all thinking and says a hazelnut cheese would have been more interesting than a goat's cheese from Reece the so-called vegan. Shannon, who cooks vegan food for a living, says he 100 per cent didn't smash it. Savage. Is this going to be another vegetarian failure elimination, a la Simon's broccoli of death.

Emelia is giving a whole new meaning to the term "life raft". She strains off her gross eggwhite omelette raft to reveal a clean, clear broth. The raft worked; how about that. Now it's time to cook the fish, which Andy helpfully tells her not to overcook. He warns her that the other judges are harsher than he expected, that is to say we have not heard one "bangin" or "crackin" from them yet.

Laura has 30 minutes to go so starts searing her lamb in the pan. Jock asks her if she is feeling nervous and she says she is always nervous. Jock says there's nowhere to hide and that someone is going home today, because he loves to kick them when they are down. Laura says she can't have negativity so kindly rack off. Laura starts tearing up and tells us that she has so much to prove.

Emelia is plating up and calls for service. The broth looks cloudy again but she says she is happy with it and besides, there's no time for another eggwhite raft. She says she'll never forget this tie (??) to the waiter, who pretends not to hear her.

Jock says fish was a big risk for Emelia and asks her what led her down this path. Hmm... maybe it was the token you gave her, Jock. HYBPA??? 

Emelia says she wants to prove herself and makes us all start crying, even Mel looks like she's just found out lockdown has been extended and Christmas is cancelled. Emelia says, with lots of girl power Veruca Salt gumption, she is an "exceptional cook". She doesn't want the judges to think she can only cook cakes, and wants to prove she is more than just a Josh Niland fish disaster.

She doesn't have to worry: the crowd goes wild. Jock says the skin was perfectly crisp, Melissa says the fish was cooked perfectly. Andy says the broth had "a lot of flavour going on". Kirsten says she would pay money for it.

Callum is ahead of his schedule so thinks he might add a few extra things to his "less is more" dessert; a little anise myrtle oil here, some davidson plum sherbet there. Someone check the props cupboard for some handcuffs and stop this guy already!

It's time for Laura to plate up. She cuts into the lamb and it's perfectly cooked. She tells the judges it's a take on a Sunday roast based on a childhood memory and wisely leaves out the awkward gender role backstory.

Mel says she has achieved what she set out to do and the jus was "magical" and "turbo-charged with flavour. She says it has nostalgia in bucket loads but with finesse and flavour. The rest give varying takes on the same sentiment proving you can, in fact, cook classic dishes without criticism.

So Callum is the last man standing and Jock comes over, presumably to give some of his trademark negativity during high-pressure situations. Callum lists off all his elements and Jock notes that this is all sounding "more is less". Callum starts sweating so much he needs to use seven wads of paper towel to pat his face dry.

Callum plates up and has a taste; he says it has a "native Cherry Ripe" vibe. He brings over his dessert to the judges and says that his "growth" in this competition is "doing less", which is an outright lie. His plate looks like a a bowl of soft serve you'd make yourself at the all-you-can-eat Pizza Hut dessert bar, piled with as many marshmallows and jellies and sprinkles you can fit on. You can't even see the cremeaux anymore, it has cre-moved on.

Jock says there was a lot to love, but too much of it. Melissa says all the elements are all vying for attention and there was a lack of cohesion. Jo says restraint can be a hard thing for a young chef, and restraint here would have been better.

So it's time to reveal who is going home. Jock says it's out of two: one did too much and one did not enough.

Emelia is first in the top four; Jock says he loves her classic combination of fish and fennel. So that's one classic combination he does love then, take note remaining contestants.

Laura is next in with her perfect, wife-worthy Sunday lamb.

So it's down to Callum and Reece, and the contestant whose dish wasn't "finals-worthy" was...Reece . Melissa says to strut out of here like he means it because he is "tens across the board". Reece says he is heartbroken, but will appreciate every moment. Reece, you'll always be the tits. Tits out for Reece!

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