MasterChef 2020 recap: An emotional South Aussie showdown reveals the final three

A socially distanced look of love for these two South Australian mates.
A socially distanced look of love for these two South Australian mates. Photo: NETWORK 10

Today's challenge is all about the extraordinary versus the ordinary, and I'm not just talking about the difference between Mel and Andy's outfits.

The contestants have to choose between the "extraordinary" pantry (Wagyu! Truffles! Caviar! Expensive fungi!) and the "ordinary" pantry (Onions! Pasta! Tins of tuna!). Other names the producers thought about calling this challenge: Rich people vs. Poor people. Prue and Trude vs. Kath and Kim. Pre-pandemic vs. Panic-buying.

Callum, Laura and Reynold have to choose a pantry to cook from in round one, and will need to cook using the other pantry if they lose the round and need to cook in round two. Emelia doesn't need to cook from either of the pantries because she won immunity last night and is looking down on everyone like the superior queen that she is.

Everyone decides to cook from the bougie pantry, because they aren't dumb. Reynold also takes some prosciutto as a snack, because he is definitely not dumb.

Callum says he has a really good idea for the ordinary pantry, so his strategy is to use the extraordinary pantry first and know that he'll still have a winning dish if he has to cook in the second round. Obviously he just wants to cook twice because this seems like a not so smart idea to me.

Callum's extraordinary cook is going to be pan-fried duck breast with beetroot quandongs and jerusalem artichoke puree. He says he is cooking duck because he beat Reynold in a previous challenge so hopes he can do the same this time. "No room for error!" he says, for the very first time this season.

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Laura says she is doing a dish based on humble flavours: "turnips, caviar and truffles". Ah, the classic humble combination of caviar and truffle. So blue collar. So family-friendly.

Reynold is staring into the abyss wondering what intangible concept he can cook today. On season seven he was eliminated because of overcooked bonito, and it has haunted him ever since. Dry, flaky bonito come to scare him in his nightmares. He says he has learnt from his mistake and decides that now is the time to try again. He smokes the bones on the hibachi to make a sauce then lightly grills the belly. Though they usually drop this phrase in every chance they get, no one calls this a redemption cook.

For some reason Laura and Callum both don't know how to use a corkscrew. They hand it to the producers to open because today they are fancy people and don't have time for these servant contraptions!

Callum explains to us all the Indigenous ingredients he is using in this cook, quandongs, ryeberries and pepper berries, and says he is so happy to have learnt more about native foods from Jock this season… *tugs collar*.

Andy and Jock come over and comment that he, as usual, has a lot of flavours going on. Jock tells him to "tame his brain" and to make sure the ingredients sing harmoniously rather than fight. Callum says there is no better motivation than to prove them wrong. Also the $250,000. You can tame your brain for $250,000.

Andy comes over to Reynold to kindly remind him that he went home on this dish. Thanks Andy, says Reynold, now please leave me alone while I make a delicate kohlrabi flower.

There's 15 minutes to go and, in what is no surprise to anyone, 100-ingredient Callum thinks he needs something else in his dish. He decides to add a wattleseed salt to the duck breast. He says wattleseed can be overpowering, so he wants to pull it back. He then sprinkles copious amounts of it all over the duck, so I hope the judges enjoy mouthfuls of wattleseed.

It's time for Reynold to cook his bonito belly on the hibachi. Emelia is sports commentator today and explains that bonito is like tuna and is best when it is only lightly seared. Reynold moves the grill across the hibachi because you can't control the heat and he is trying to avoid too much of the flame. He goes to flip it and the skin is stuck on the wire rack and tears off. How great and easy to use is the hibachi?

He says he feels like history is repeating itself and he can't use a piece of fish with torn skin. He has one more fillet of bonito left so puts that on to try again.There is high amounts of drama, but it's all just hibachi smoke and mirrors – the fillet comes off perfectly and is crisp and charred just as Reynold wants it.

One minute to go and everyone starts plating their dishes up. Laura puts her celeriac and turnip puree on the plate and puts the salt-baked turnips on top. She then coats it in so much truffle you would think we aren't on the brink of a recession.

Laura brings her bougie turnip to the judges and they love it. Andy says turnip was the star and the flavour was "unreal". Jock says the caviar brought the whole dish together. Melissa says it was "wonderfully sophisticated". Wow, that must have been one good turnip.

Callum is next with his wattleseed duck with quandong-smoked beetroot, duck fat leaves, Jerusalem artichoke puree, yada yada yada. But wait, there's more! He then proceeds to sprinkle on more wattleseed salt like he's friggin' wattleseed salt bae.

Andy says he's upset… because Callum has made the judges' job hard! Classic misdirection there, Andy! He says Callum did a "really, really awesome job" and the sauce had "bags of flavour". I think I just became more stupid.

Reynold brings up his barbecued bonito with bonito tartare and kohlrabi flower. Melissa says "redemption is yours" dramatically like she thinks she's Khaleesi from Game of Thrones, and calls it "triumphant food".

Mel tells the contestants that this was a really hard decision, but the best dish was….*insert dramatic ad break pause here*... Reynold's!

Laura looks really sad. Callum says this is going to be tough. The two of them are both from South Australia and so have worked with each other in the past. He says that Laura and him have been "mates for six years". He says Laura is a really deserving person. You're a deserving person, Callum!

Callum is cooking snapper poached in a coconut broth served with roasted ginger and a fennel salad. He says this cook is a hard one, but he is going to "cook bloody good dishes out of respect". Nah, just oversalt her dish when she's not looking, Cal!

Callum makes a fish stock using the snapper bones and adds coconut cream. The judges ask Callum if he's worried and he says the only thing he is worried about is "that sassy young lady", proving yet again that Callum is a 70-year-old in a 30-year-old's body.

Laura says she has heaps of respect for Callum and "grew up" watching Callum on MasterChef, proving yet again that Laura is a teenager in a 20-something's body.

Laura tells us she's going to do a fancy spin on strawberries and cream, with strawberry granita and homemade ricotta. Andy asks the age-old question: is it going to be enough? Laura says yes, are your sneakers going to be enough?

Forty-five minutes to go. Callum has a taste of his sauce and says "it's delightful" (thanks, gramps). He puts the sauce in a bag with the snapper and throws it in the sous vide machine. He says his reputation is on the line, though pretty sure he has proven he is a great cook and there will be no damage to his reputation unless he says something politically incorrect on Twitter soon and gets cancelled.

Laura strains her ricotta and uses the whey to make a granita, which sounds like a flavour I would never order, and I'll try anything. She whips the ricotta, but says the texture is wrong and it's all grainy. Things start to get dramatic. She says this has never happened to her before! She's not sure what to do! She feels like a deer in the headlights! No time to make more ricotta! Intense orchestra!

Despite some fairly unhelpful comments from the gantry, she manages to pull herself together and says she's going to fix it by whipping it again in a smaller container. She puts it in the stick blender processor and blitzes it. Chef's kiss – it works.

Andy yells that there is 15 minutes to go and "don't leave anything in the tank!" like he thinks this is F45 training and not a cooking competition.

Callum is making his shaved fennel and apple salad. He says he owes this cook to his wife Crystal. He says he has a baby girl at home, too, in case you had forgotten, which of course you haven't, because he tells us every episode.

Callum pulls out his fish from the sous vide machine, and Emelia and Reynold think he left it in there for too long. "I would have taken it out 10 minutes ago," says Reynold, king of everything. "Yep," agrees Emelia, queen of everything.

Callum says the hero of the dish is the poached snapper and "overcooking it is a one way ticket not to the semi final". A one-way ticket not to the semi final? Are you as confused as I am?

Laura plates up her dessert with macerated strawberries, whipped ricotta, crumble, strawberry sorbet and the whey granita. She says the flavours and techniques are there, but she can't stop thinking, "has she done enough?" This show has given all these contestants a serious case of self-worth anxiety.

As the seconds count down and Callum and Laura both finish off their dishes, everyone is starting to look a bit splotchy-faced and emotional. There are lots of deep sighs. Callum has gone red. Even ever-stoic Emelia squeezes out a few droplets in the gantry, and hopefully her tears don't fall onto Laura's dessert.

Callum asks for a couple minutes to compose himself, and wipes his tears away with paper towel. The producers are like, sure, but keep filming anyway. This is good TV! He goes over to Laura and they elbow bump in solidarity, but look at each other solemnly like they both know what is coming – a fight to the death in the gladiator arena.

Laura is up first. She says it was a weird cook, staring Callum down the whole time. Jock says that she is going back to a very different restaurant industry than when she left. Laura doesn't seem to find this concerning and says she has dreams to open up a restaurant on the coast where she can grow her own things and make her own wine.

Andy says it looks like a "Laura special", and even after 59 episodes of this show, I have no idea what he means. Andy says it is simple, but done well. He says the sorbet "has a good old whack of strawberry flavour". Someone needs to give Andy a good old whack with a thesaurus.

Melissa likes the different textures of strawberry. Jock is impressed she made her own ricotta and says the granita whey was very clever. Clever? Yes. Gross? I'm guessing also yes.

Callum brings over his coconut-poached snapper. He says he owes a lot to this kitchen and gets all blotchy again.

Jock says there are great flavours going on. He loves the coriander sauce and the chilli jam. But the negative was the fish, which he says the texture was "off-putting". Melissa says the dish makes her proud to be Australian. Not sure why, she doesn't explain. She says it's delicious but "there is no getting around the fact that the fish is mushy". Nooooooo.

Time to reveal the bad news. Jock wants to say that Laura and Callum are both incredible, as people and as cooks. Their dishes have been nothing short of amazing and he is so glad to have been able to get to know them. Laura has tears in her eyes, but don't worry, babe, it's not gonna be you.

Andy says one of them had a technical flaw they couldn't get past. It's the mushy fish, bish. Time to leave, Callum. Melissa is ready with her usual inspirational, heartfelt comfort speech, and says "the name Callum Hann is synonymous with this competition". I love him, but is it? Really? She says he is famous around the world, which, again, is a lie.

Laura says she's always been a fan girl about cooking with Callum and he should be proud. We love you Cal, now go be with your wife and baby!

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