Masterchef is back, and, quite frankly, thank god. Now that we are all stuck at home bored out of our brains and baking questionable sourdough, wholesome cooking content is clearly what Australia needs right now. And wholesome is the clear MO. Channel 10 slaps us in the face with nostalgia from the opening montage: a good five minutes set to a generic orchestral soundtrack featuring season one winner Julie Goodwin tearing up as she claims victory and dethroned former judge George Calombaris telling us all about the "joy and happiness" that food brings. I'm not crying, I'm chopping onions, I swear.
But this season, named Back to Win, because it features 24 past contestants who are all back to claim the title, also has a new set of judges. Andy Allen, winner of season four and now hatted head chef at Three Blue Ducks, and, as this clip would like us to believe, enjoys throwing shrimps on the barbie.
Food writer Melissa Leong comes in all red lips and hips swinging as the first female judge on the show. Praise be.
But hold up. Jock Zonfrillo has entered the building and every housewife in Australia just skipped a heartbeat. The sultry Scotsman introduces himself by pipetting some sort of jus on some sort of fine-dining frilly dish. He's the head chef of Orana, you see.
As usual, there are far too many contestants on this show to get proper air time, so thankfully we just get an introduction to some of the big names. Poh goes first sporting a new pixie hairdo. For some reason she is seen frolicking in a field picking flowers like a scene from Midsommar, but we get the message. Poh is a national treasure and definitely the one to beat.
Poh should just charge $1000 per hug and save our economy. #MasterChefAU— Adam Liaw (@adamliaw) April 13, 2020
Next up is Callum, who is older and wiser than the young lad he was in season two, and we know this because he has a wife and is tickling his baby's toes.
As the contestants shuffle into the hallowed judging hall, they all begin to have a collective meltdown because *gasp* Gordon Ramsay looms ominously in the shadows. "Reece, you look like you just shat an egg roll," Gordon says what we are all thinking.
The gang's all here. Photo: NETWORK TEN
Gordon and the judges give the contestants a briefing and we keep seeing dramatic shots of the trophy, a big steel plate that looks like it has been fished out of the Vinnies' bin. But we all know why the contestants are really here: $250,000. And seeing as how the hospitality industry is taking a hit right now, it couldn't have come at a better time.
Oh, we're starting. Everyone begins running around like headless chooks. Oh Amina's there, I love her! That guy from season one with the hat. I wonder what he's been up to? We'll never know because we never see him again for the rest of the episode.
Did you forget about Andy's bromance with Ben in season four? I had. Apparently they were called Bandy. Ben starts crying when he talks about how proud he is of Andy's achievements. Cute.
If 2020 contributes one good thing to the universe, it’s this Ben and Andy reunion #MasterChefAU— Joey Nicita ☀️ (@JoeyNicita) April 13, 2020
Hayden is cooking for us what he would cook for his mates. Scampi crudo with grapefruit segments….mmm… yeah I cook that for my friends alllll the time.
We speed through a few more less important contestants, Courtney, Tessa, Harry... But back to Poh. She's cooking abacus beads – her audition dish from season one. But in true MasterChef fashion, she is going to deconstruct it. If that wasn't ballsy enough, she proceeds to swear at Gordon! It's all happening.
Sarah tells Melissa she is cooking a prawn and ricotta agnolotti in a tom kha broth. "It's kind of almost like a fusion between Italian and Thai food." I think that's exactly what it is, Sarah.
Dani from season three is grating a coconut. Gordon is perplexed. But turns out it's for her Sri Lankan mud crab curry, sambol and roti feast. Gordon pats the sweat off her forehead somewhat lovingly.
Cut to Hayden, who says he "didnt come on here to fart arse around". Good for you, Hayden.
Meanwhile Reece is running around blowing up balloons like he's hosting a children's birthday party. Turns out he is dipping them in chocolate and, um, who let this guy in?
And now for Reece's first trick... Photo: NETWORK 10
Next we meet Laura, who after her stint on season six went on to work for Jock at Orana for two years as a pastry chef. She's out to prove how much she's changed, and she hopes her long list of native ingredients will do it.
At 20 minutes to go Dani seems to be losing it. This is further evidenced by the fact she has a bandaid on almost every finger.
Reece blows more balloons.
We meet a few more contestants. Khanh is roasting bone marrow, Brendan is folding dumplings, Lynton is cooking duck. Reece is back with another balloon in his mouth.
Reece probably needs some tips from Reynold on how to make chocolate spheres #MasterchefAU— Daz 🐯🐅 (@dcpchiu) April 13, 2020
Emelia is complaining about the heat: "Everyone's got ovens on. Everyone's got stoves on." You know what they say about standing the heat, Emelia….
Poor Jess is a hot mess. Her 'Pink Petal' dish is complicated and all over the place. The judges cringe.
Surprise, surprise, Reece's balloon chocolate trick thing didn't work out. Reece says he's "completely deflated" and who knew he was so witty.
Reynold's wearing goggles so it must be good. Photo: NETWORK 10
Reynold is making a fancy dessert he's called 'White Noise', which sounds boring, but he's got the liquid nitrogen out so it must be good. As he carefully dips the strawberry gel pebbles in the liquid nitrogen and coats them in white chocolate, Andy, who is breathing down Reynold's neck, asks if he needs some space. Reynold politely laughs, which Andy takes quite accurately as "please get away from me".
Uh oh. Two minutes to go and there is trouble in the house of Poh: she forgot to make her chilli sauce! She sprinkles some spring onions on top of her taro dumplings and calls it a day.
Hayden is first up for judging and cements himself as an overachiever, presenting a spread of five different dishes. Hayden's sweating cos he reckons he has screwed the steak. But it's perfect, apparently. The judges love it.
Reynold's up with his White Noise. Jasmine gelato, coconut ganache, white chocolate crumble, strawberry gum jelly, and something else I missed. It looks great and the judges think so, too. White power?
Reynold's all white dish is called "Australian Breaky TV" #MasterchefAU— Nath Valvo (@nathvalvo) April 13, 2020
Jess knows she's messed up her 'Pink Petal' dessert. But she gets a hug from Jock, so she's a winner anyway. "F@ck the petals," says Gordon.
Some speedy clips: Brendan's dumplings were so good Jock drops it out of his mouth; Rose's lamb shoulder looks like ultimate #brownfood, but apparently the judges like it; Courtney is now the caterer for Sydney Swans; Gordon delivers a fierce Scottish burn to Andy about his manliness.
Jock's protege Laura comes over with her dessert. Yoghurt with davidson plum and melaleuca. Laura starts getting emotional and stressed because Jock takes about an hour to deliver a verdict. But, phew, Jock loves it so much he also starts crying. Andy feels like he has witnessed some sort of holy union. The onions are getting to me again.
I haven't felt this much emotion since Ratatouille. #MasterChefAU— Adam Liaw (@adamliaw) April 13, 2020
Poh's next. Will the judges care that she's forgotten her chilli sauce? Will they care that it is now 90 per cent spring onion? Of course not, it's Poh! Gordon admits it needs the chilli but says the elements are great. Melissa wants to dive into the broth. But sadly, no immunity pin for Poh.
We whiz through a few more, because otherwise this is going to go on all night. Amina presents her Korean seafood hot pot; Callum's Aussie barbecue was a hit; Tessa's Moreton bay bug with savoury doughnuts deserves way more air time; Ben does some pyrotechnics on the judges table; Melissa reckons Emelia's pistachio and strawberry eclair could be on the cover of a magazine; more unnecessary glamour shots of the trophy.
Last but not least (and not really last, because we haven't seen like half of the other contestants – what happened to Reece and his balloon dish? We will never know) Dani comes over with her Sri Lankan mud crab. Andy gets cracking despite his expensive suit and everyone grabs a spoon. The moment of truth: Jock reckons she's nailed it. Melissa is transported to a beach in Galle. They love it so much, Dani wins the challenge, no big deal about Reynold and his thousand-technique lab-worthy dessert. The curry is the champion! Gordon fastens the immunity pin on Dani's apron, Dani swoons, we all go home. Until next time.