MasterChef 2020 recap: Emelia versus Laura in a grand final battle of the besties

MasterChef Australia grand final with Emelia Jackson and Laura Sharrad.
MasterChef Australia grand final with Emelia Jackson and Laura Sharrad. Photo: NETWORK 10

We've made it to the end. Despite 15 overly drawn out weeks, excessive hibachi use, Davidson plum overkill, Andy's school boy outfits and even a damn pandemic, we have finally reached the grand final of MasterChef: Back to Win, and thank god. Tonight, is the night, when two become one.

Laura's in the Uber, reflecting on being in this same position six years ago, and coming second. "It was absolutely devastating," she says, forgetting how far coming second got Shannon Noll.

Emelia's Uber has much better light and looks slightly less like we are watching her through night-vision goggles – five star review. Emelia says she lacked a lot of confidence at the beginning and underestimated herself, which is probably why she never got any airtime until about a month ago when she suddenly realised she is good enough for a red lip on national television.

Laura and Emelia walk into the kitchen and are welcomed by all the other contestants. The gang's all here and in their finest get-ups: There's Sarah C in a 1950s Marvelous Mrs Maisel outfit; Dani's in head-to-toe Gorman; Reynold looks like he didn't just have the most devastating night of his life last night and is doing his best Harry Potter impersonation in a brown trench and rimmed glasses.

The judges have scrubbed up more than usual, too, with Jock in his Scottish family tartan, complete with kilt and knobbly exposed knees; Melissa looks like she just stepped off a '70s dancefloor. But the best news: Andy's pants are the correct length.

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Andy says it's been amazing watching Emelia open up during the show, from the first half when she was just a personality-less fembot to now serving us lipstick looks as fierce as her choux.

Andy asks Laura what MasterChef means for her. Laura says she "grew up on this show", which everyone already knows not only because she says it every chance she can, but also because her smooth glowing skin makes me jealous of her youth every time we get a close-up. Laura says she has since opened up her own restaurant and wrote a cookbook, and, hmm, what have I done with my life.

Laura says she's so happy to be competing against Emelia, who was apparently a real sassy lassy when they were in the semi-finals together in season six. Laura thinks she's the sassy one now, but no one can beat Emelia's dry wit so acerbic it makes Davidson plums seem sweet. Emelia says from the start she always said if anyone was going to beat her it should be Laura, but hopefully that doesn't happen today because in her mind she's already spent that quarter of a mill.

Melissa tells them it's a service challenge – they have to cook a three-course menu for the judges and all the contestants. That's 60 plates, four hours, limitless annoying interruptions from the judges, and hopefully zero gratuitous shots of the hibachi.

The clock starts and Jock comes over to Emelia's bench flashing his epaulettes and clan tartan tie. Emelia rattles off her menu which is going to be a simple bright seared scallop dish, followed by a beef short rib for main, and a pistachio financier with Davidson plum and raspberry sorbet. Jock is disappointed he doesn't get one last choux, but at least he is getting Davidson plum because it's been about a minute since someone last cooked with that!

Emelia has decided to use the least reliable appliance in the MasterChef kitchen, the never-cooks-in-time pressure cooker, to cook her ribs. Did she learn nothing from Poh's multiple mid-cook crises!? She puts them into four different cookers for 50 minutes. "The pressure is on," commentates Reece, who we have missed dearly.

Laura's three course menu is inspired by native Australian ingredients and wild food. Entree will be a seared bonito with a "smoked emulsion"; Laura doesn't explain if this will be made out of cigarettes or burnt bushfire ash, but she did say this would be wild. She is also serving it with lilly pillies, fried salt bush and Geraldton wax, because we all know Jock loves him a native ingredient, and if there were ever a time to suck up, today is the day.

Her main is pork saddleback with muntries and a triple sauce. Dessert is going to be Jerusalem artichoke ice-cream. Jock is shocked there's no pasta, but can we please go back to that Jerusalem artichoke ice-cream? What now?

Laura looks at Jock knowingly like she's definitely read all of Twitter's vitriol for her pasta online and tells us all in one glance ARE YOU HAPPY NOW? Jock comments on all the native ingredients. On another completely separate note, hopefully the traditional land owners got all the profits for all of these native Indigenous ingredients!

Close up of A2 milk in the fridge because no one is using it but we need to fulfil the contract.

Dani's up in the gantry with Ben, who seems to have gone a bit grey in the locks with all the Covid stress. (Milbourne, that is, not the other Ben, who has been cancelled for being an alleged letch.)

Emelia finally reveals she is Macedonian, which would have been nice to learn earlier, but hey the girl loves French stuff.

Jock talks to Sarah Clare and Chris Badenoch about whose menu they prefer. Chris says Emelia's short rib because he is the meat guy never forget! (But apparently not the fedora guy as he is now wearing a cap that says "shade" and I don't have time to unpack the meta-ness of it all.)

Emelia checks her beef ribs after 50 minutes, and the reliably unreliable pressure cooker has expectedly done the unexpected – they are still tough. She thinks they need another 20 minutes, but says she "can't afford it" because she needs the stock to make her sauce. Honestly can we just throw all the pressure cookers in the bin with the hibachi?

We get a scandalous close-up of Jocks legs as he announces there's 90 minutes to go. I wonder if his little purse is filled with worry beads?

Laura says the Indigenous ingredients remind her of going out foraging with her hub Max. This menu is inspired by the pop-up restaurant she opened with Max, because back then she couldn't afford to buy ingredients so just had to pick them off the side of the road.

Jock says "there's no room for error today", so we can tick that off our bingo cards.

Emelia checks her beef ribs after another 20 minutes and they are Still! Not! Cooked! Andy comes over to see what's the haps. He asks her if she can think about a Plan B in a primary cut, whatever that means. Emelia says "nup". Andy looks like she just slapped him in the face with a tough beef rib, but Emelia says it's not what she wants to present today. Andy says it's up to her, but she's a dummy if she doesn't prepare something else. "It's a disaster," he says, throwing a box of matches into the burning house as he walks off.

We get a glimpse into Emelia's brain with a flashback to season six, where she was eliminated on a dessert because her curd didn't work and her Plan B threw off the balance of the entire dish. She doesn't want to make the same mistake, she doesn't want to lose with regrets. She tries to keep it together by passing some Davidson plums through a sieve.

Andy gives Jock the lowdown on Emelia's beef drama and says if he was her he would prepare another cut of beef just in case, "but she's diggin' her heels in". Jock puts his head in his hands and clutches his rosary beads, which are in for a workout tonight.

Laura's pork is in the pan, she wants to render it while she gets onto the dessert. She's doing several things at once, and I see an imminent disaster in my waters. Imminent is right, suddenly Laura shouts, "I need the nurse!". She's burnt her hand on the saucepan handle of her caramel which was sitting over the pork.

The nurse comes over, who luckily has had her hair done just in case she needed to go on air tonight. Laura wants to get her pork off the pan before the nurse tends to her wound, because burns heal but shiny trophies live forever.

The nurse slaps some savlon cream on her burn with a glove and tells her she'll be right. Laura says the pain is getting worse and worse, and she can't grab anything. She swigs some coconut water in desperation. She doesn't know what to do, but hydration is essential.

Enter: Jock. Cool, calm, collected, kilted, Jock tries to be a voice of calm and reason. Laura tells him she doesn't care about her hand, she only cares about the pork. Jock asks her if she can do this one-handed. She says yep, but her teary eyes say, help me, daddy!

Jock tells her to stop for a second. He says he can see the wheels are starting to come off and she needs to take a break and recalculate the cook time with just one hand. Laura takes a breath and requests one of those grabby hand tool things.

Meanwhile, Emelia is calmly drifting around the kitchen making sorbet like she doesn't have 60 servings of beef rib at the mercy of a temperamental pressure cooker. She checks on them again, and, finally, they are cooked. Jock tells her to smile, which is what every woman wants to hear when they are focused and working. Please never do this.

Emelia doesn't have time to cool them in the pressure cooker like she had planned, so transfers them to a tray instead even though it risks them drying out.

Tessa comments that she never seen Laura look this rattled before. Her bandage is hefty. Tessa tells her to deal with the pain later and just get a grip, a painful one-handed grip.

There's 30 minutes to go and Emelia is ready to start her entree. She plans to lathe apple and turnip, and if you don't know what a lathe is, you need to read yesterday's recap, because we are all about the lathe now.

The dinner table is set and I guess social distancing restrictions have been eased because the contestants are actually allowed to sit next to each other and it's not the strange awkward dinner party that occurred last week with all the semi-famous chefs.

Laura looks like she is hating life. She fries her salt bush with one hand. She cuts lemons while cursing her flappy bandage. She gets a bowl of ice to ease the pain as she plates up. This must be what it's like to be a professional hand wrestler, sort of not really. Emelia somehow missed the hand burning drama and asks her what happened. Emelia, keep up!

Service starts and Emelia places her turnip celeriac puree, caramelised scallops and lathed ribbons of apple and pickled turnip on the plate. Jock says it smells "epic". Melissa says the scallops are "meltingly tender" and the ribbons are "gorgeous". Andy says it's "a ripper of an entree" and has "bright vibes from the apple". Jock says there was nothing he didn't like and it was one of his favourite entrees he's eaten all year. Well how do you like them apples/turnips/scallops?

Laura's entree is out, too. Smoked fish emulsion (not cigarettes, good choice Lozzy), topped with seared bonito and as many native ingredients as Coles had stocked.

Jock says the Geraldton wax oil was "pure genius". Andy says the bonito was technically perfect. Melissa says she's used Indigenous ingredients as the seasoning not a garnish and her mouth is still zinging. But is it zinging like all the burns from my 40 recaps? I don't think so.

Back in the kitchen, Emelia gets her beef out from the blast chiller and hopes there's enough moisture. She needs to "motor" through this (tick, shot, bingo, whatever). She starts a schnitzel factory dipping her beef rib in her fried onion crumb. She says she's rushing a bit, but she needs to make up for lost time. At least she has two hands though, so we are still one hand ahead of Laura.

"Mamma mia," says Laura, who is channelling her Nonna to get through this nightmare.

She is concerned about her pork, which she needs to make sure isn't dry. She opens the oven door and gets blasted with the same fireballs that appear during every ad break – it's hot. Laura says she wants the pork to be medium-rare and the internal temperature needs to be 52 degrees. She tests it and it's 51.8 degrees. "Nailed it," she says, and pats herself on the back with her one good hand.

Emelia is deep-frying her crumbed beef. She says she won't know if the beef has dried out until it is sliced on the table. Probably master chefs should be able to be confident that they aren't serving overcooked meat to customers, but ok, just wing it Emelia.

Laura is slicing her pork and says it's blushing perfectly. Her pork fat looks like the extra layer of lockdown fat we have all gained in quarantine, but she says she's happy and it keeps the meat juicy.

Plates start fanning out to the dining room. The judges say they love the trio of sauces. Andy says it's really sophisticated, and the sauces made it a challenging plate of food, "but in such a good way". Jock says it is beautiful. Melissa says the pork texture was lovely and she liked the sweetness of the fat. "The muntries were magical", which is not a sentence you hear every day.

Emelia sends out her potentially dry mains to the judges. This is reinforced by lots of intense chewing shots. But, editing! Andy says it's perfect, and there's still moisture coming out of it. Jock says meat and two veg has never been so magnificent. "It's a schnitzel on steroids." He also says he is "in a state of cat-like happiness". I never pictured Jock to be a cat guy, but I like him 10 per cent more now.

Melissa says her commitment to the dish paid off, and that this means the competition is neck and neck. Jock says "whoever brings up a belter of a dessert will win the trophy". Please no one bring up a "belter". Just a really delicious dessert will do.

Emelia says that being eliminated on a dessert the first time around was quite devastating and the moment has haunted her to this day. We get a flashback to the final three back then, with her, Laura and some dude with an undercut and a man bun (if you're wondering what he, Brent Owens, the winner of that series is doing now, his Instagram profile says he's into "cryogenics").

Emelia has a loser's complex and feels intimidated by the calibre of everyone else. She thinks she's not good enough, but has never wanted anything more in her life. She has a little cry by the sink to process all of these feelings. Thankfully Jock is not standing by to tell her to smile again.

She says she has tried to take her pistachio financier to another level by surrounding it with a white chocolate mousse and some sort of chocolate coating I don't understand or care about.

Laura says her dessert is very savoury. Hmm. The Jerusalem artichoke will be across three elements – a gelato, a caramel and the deep-fried crispy skin. She decides to add crunch with a caramelised chocolate crumb with wattleseed. She's also adding a cumquat gel that is so lurid yellow it looks like she squirted a few bottles of Masterfoods mustard into a container.

There's a mystery beeping noise echoing in the kitchen. Emelia wonders if her fembot batteries are dying. Laura checks all her appliances, but can't find the source. But then, she realises it's the freezer door. The door has been open and she's worried her gelato might have melted slightly, which might make it icy when it refreezes. Remember, there's no room for error, especially for a gelato in a warm fridge!

Laura starts plating up her dessert, which looks like every dessert she's ever plated up: a blob of puree here, a scattering of crumble there, a quenelle of ice-cream and something crisp teetering on top. Good on her for choosing the wackiest flavour combination she could think of though. She's come a long way from the days of cacio e pepe.

The plates go out and Andy says this is a grand final dessert if he ever saw one. They dig in, and Jock immediately recoils from the texture of the ice-cream. Andy says even though it's "not a Jerusalem artichoke party", it's not in a bad way? Can someone translate?

But Andy does acknowledge a couple of things haven't gone right – the texture is icy and he says he "did not dig the texture of the chocolate crumb". Melissa says the flavours were good but the sandiness of the crumb stuck in her teeth. Jock says it was unfortunate because the flavour combination was perfect.

Emelia plates her financier with sorbet and a flamboyant shard of ruby red raspberry meringue. She's worried about the balance, though I'm assuming she's tasted it so is probably just saying this because the producers need her to say something concerning after Laura's sandy disaster. She asks the age old MasterChef contestant question – has she done enough to win – after 90 episodes, yes, I think she's done enough.

Melissa says it's gorgeous and loves the meringue shard fascinator on top of the dessert. Take note for Melbourne Cup 2021, ladies, if the world still exists then.

Jock says he really enjoyed the dessert and it was "elegance". Andy says the balance was perfect, the Davidson plum sorbet needs to be sold somewhere, and there were "bags of pistachio flavour". You know, I hated it every episode, but personally I was hoping for one last "bangin" to see out this season, you know, for nostalgia's sake.

So it's time to wind things up. Laura and Emelia get a few seconds to share a heartfelt socially distanced moment together in the kitchen. Laura says she doesn't want this to end. I do, Laura, I really, really want this to end!

A chorus of angels sing as we get a shiny shot of the plate in all its glory.

Andy tells the girls their entrees were incredible, and Jock says for the mains, the hits kept coming. Laura's pork was flawless; Emelia's a revelation. He says her puree was silkier than Khanh's shirt, which does look silky and also like pyjamas.

Mel says the dessert course decided the winner. Laura's artichoke was delicious and balanced; Emelia's was equally delicious and balanced. "Laura's texture and crumb had some issues, but.... Emelia's had none." Millsy for the win!

Emelia has to ask about 100 times if Mel is being serious. Screw Dan Andrews, she thinks, as she hugs Laura because let's face it she is only human and has pretty much been living with Laura anyway!!!

Andy says it was so close, which is kind of not what Laura wanted to hear. Laura has to have a very un-private moment with her back to the cameras (surprise there are cameras behind her, too!). She says she can't breathe, but forces out that she is gutted through some sad hiccups. Laura goes out on a high though by saying that Emelia deserves this.

Melissa whispers "we love you" or "wheel oven juice", it's hard to hear. Jock says he has watched Laura come a long way. She has grown so much as a chef, and a woman.

Jock surprises her with a sneaky $30,000. Reynold even gets in on the action with a not-shabby $20,000. Hopefully this comes out of Channel 10's budget and not Jock's native ingredient fund, just saying. Emelia, well, she gets the best prize yet. That plate. Good luck fitting that in your kitchen cupboard, Millsy! She stands on the podium and holds the plate above her, half proudly, half crying in fear of the frightening fireworks that are spraying sparks all over her.

Thanks for sticking with me on this journey to scratchy vintage plate glory. Signing off to go never think about hibachis again.

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