PREVIOUSLY ON MASTERCHEF AUSTRALIA:
Who will emerge from the heap bloody, bruised, and victorious?
Who will prove their mettle against the toughest challenge in global MasterChef history?
Who will tether themselves to the Stone of Triumph, forever etching their name in glory on a prop trophy plate that sits in a Channel Ten storage cupboard for eight months a year?
IT’S THE 2015 MASTERCHEF GRAND FINAL.
The final time inside the MasterChef Kitchen for the year. The final time we’ll see all the Top 24 all together in the one place. Perhaps the final time we’ll see Matt Preston‘s Russian Overlord coat, which makes a roaring return for one last hoorah – indeed, Baron von Goldentie lives to ride one last time.
On the line tonight: A $250,000 purse! A monthly magazine column! And a production-used Alfa Romeo with about 8k on the clock!
Our two combatants – Billie McKay and Georgia Barnes – arrive in sleek black 4WDs; it’s the finale, so the production has coughed the cash up for Uber Black.
They enter the kitchen for the final time to the rapturous applause of the eliminated contestants – all looking a little ragged from having to spend the night upstairs on the gantry. Uber Black is expensive, y’all. Financial corners had to be cut.
The Judges are all beaming like proud parents, and Georgia mentions that she “hasn’t stopped buzzing since last night,” which is why – my friends – you should avoid pounding coffees before you go to bed.
The grand ceremonial tradition of the MasterChef Finale is observed. George performs the Royal Bouncing-On-His-Toes. The Literal Silver Platter is brought into the room. A moment’s silence is observed for the careers of past winners. And Adam Liaw cackles from the rafters, face half concealed by a protective white mask.
Gary explains the makeup of the final challenge – Three rounds, each scored individually, highest score wins. Hand shakes are performed. Battle lines are drawn. The 2015 MasterChef Australia Finale is underway.
ROUND ONE: THE MYSTERY BOX RETURNS
Farmers and producers bring the goods into the kitchen for Finale Round One, a straightforward mystery box challenge. A neat looking lady carries in a giant basket of strawberries. A fisherman who looks like he got rescued from the Cast Away island no more than 10 minutes prior brings in a tray of Yellow Mullet. And a beekeeper misses a clear golden opportunity to kickstart his reign of terror by failing to bring in actual bees.
Those are the kinds of missed opportunities that keep you awake at night.
The Judges are absolutely frothing over the selection of ingredients. Of the Strawberries, Preston remarks “These strawberries, when you smell them… they just smell like strawberries used to smell,” leaving me to ponder what it is that strawberries smell like now. Is my whole concept of smell based on lies? This is terrifying.
It goes further, with Georgia stating that “I’m totally attracted to the beautiful strawberries.” These berries are doing some weird shit to people inside the kitchen today.
Billie immediately runs for a bottle of Pear Cider – and fair bloody enough too. She begins to soak strawberries in it, which is magnificent strategy. Future mistakes won’t be recognised quite as readily if the Judges are all sloshed.
Despite constant – and I do mean constant – reminders from the Judges that they don’t like sweet pasta, Georgia presses on with a sweet pasta. Did you hear they don’t like sweet pasta? I tell you, of all the pastas they don’t like, they don’t like sweet pasta the most. Sweet pasta for them? Absolutely not, no thank you. And hey, did I mention the fact that they mentioned they didn’t like sweet pasta? Because they don’t like sweet pasta.
Billie falls for a patented Matt Preston Jedi Mind Trick, and decides to add not one, not two, not three, but FOUR new elements to the dish at the last minute.
As they cook wears on, we get a look at the eliminated contestants on the gantry. The two notable looks?
Reynold & Kha, who look like 12 year old brothers on a Sunday about to head off to church…
…and Matthew, because if you thought once he was eliminated he couldn’t get any more Dad, that jacket comes along to blow your brain apart.
With a billion things prepared, Billie goes to plate up and has a sickening moment where she looks at everything and thinks “Shit, I have absolutely stuffed this,” but still decides to plate up all the things regardless. The Judges like some elements, but are largely confused by others. ARE YOU HAPPY NOW, MATT? IS THIS NOT WHAT YOU WANTED? ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?
Despite telling us AGAIN and AGAIN that they simply DO NOT LIKE sweet pasta, the Judges are into Georgia’s goat cheese raviolo despite themselves. And that is enough to hand round one to Georgia by a slim margin.
ROUND TWO: ALL IN THE FAMILY
For Round Two, just because the pressure wasn’t already great enough, the Judges click their fingers and magically summon Georgia and Billie’s families from across Australia, who suddenly appear at the doors of the kitchen, causing instant and torrential tears.
Present are Georgia’s Mum Helen, her sister Belinda, and bestie whose name I *think* is Chi or something along those lines. Billie introduces her boyfriend Hayden, her Mum Alison, and her Dad David, who on face value alone is an absolute stone cold legend.
Seriously. Billie’s Dad? Dead set mad snake. They ask what Billie was like growing up on a farm, and he responds “She didn’t like milkin’. Always bagsed to cook the feeds. And she did a bloody good job.” I WOULD FOLLOW THIS MAN TO HELL AND BACK, I WOULD.
The Round Two challenge is to cook for the judges and their families with an open pantry. No limits other than time.
Georgia chooses to champion mushrooms. They were her most hated vegetable growing up, but her Mum and Sister love them. They must be a pair of fungis!
Billie begins sorting out a giant plate of fennel and scallops, much to the delight of the family. Wanting to remind everyone that the show is really about them, Matthew leans over the balcony and quips “She’s amazing,” to Billie’s Dad. Dad’s mouth might have said “I know!” but the eyes *absolutely* barked “Keep your eyes off my daughter, you tweed wearing gronk.”
This round is particularly torturous for a couple of reasons – firstly, the added pressure of cooking for the family is really starting to pile on, and we’re almost in danger of resurrecting Anxious Georgia. Secondly, the fact that the first point is true means that it is absolutely killing Georgia’s Mum that she can’t jump in and help out. It’s very sweet.
Again, Billie aims too low with her dish, but this time shows some restraint in only adding two extra elements. She goes to roast the fennel, and imagine my fatigued disappointment when I realise that means she’s not going to hold one up and quip “Y’know, I don’t wanna say this fennel’s old, but when it was growing up they called the Old Testament, ‘The Testament.'”
Georgia’s put together a mushroom custard that, in liquid form, kinda looks like the Amphitheatre floor from Splendour. Despite Gary getting in one last bout of doing that passive aggressive thing where he’s all “Is THAT what you’re doing? Hm. Ok” they come out of the oven looking spot on.
Owing to the rush job on some last minute elements, Billie’s plating is a bit off. But it doesn’t matter whatsoever, as she absolutely nails the dish’s DELICIOUSNESS, which – if we’ve learned anything from MasterChef – is the most important criteria of any dish.
Billie’s Dad is asked for his take: “I just love all the flavours; how it all mixes in together. It just seems to work.” David McKay, ladies and gentlemen. Casually strolling in from the farm and absolutely NAILING food criticism in a way few have in the past half a century. I. FREAKING. LOVE. THIS. BLOKE.
But even though he adds an extremely adorable “Good onya, Bill” at the end that’s done even the toughest parts of my emotional brick wall in well and truly, again Georgia’s dish is good enough to win out. She takes Round Two – again by a narrow margin – extending her lead by 2 points.
But before we move on, we need to take a brief moment here to talk about Matt Preston and his insistence on eating in an off-puttingly suggestive manner. I know that mushroom custard was probably super tasty. But god damn it man.
Could ya maybe not? *shudders*
ROUND THREE: HESTON IS HERE TO FUCK WITH YOUR WORLD
If Billie and Georgia thought rounds one and two were tricky, boy are they in for a rude shock. In walks Heston Blumenthal – that infamous, bald-headed, Aquarium-glasses wearing maniac – carrying a fearsome beast of a dish called the Botrytis Cinerea; a thing that seriously looks like God’s dick.
This thing makes the Snow Egg look like a fucking Kinder Surprise.
Heston states that – in terms of MasterChef challenges – it’s the longest recipe with the most ingredients. By far and away the hardest thing ever attempted in this contest. It’s got 55 stages – Hell only has 9. There’s elements and sub-elements, and elements of elements of elements. It’s the Inception of dishes.
Everyone focuses in on the magnificent golden sugar ball that adorns the top. Heston informs them that they’ll have to blow the sugar ball (guffaw), and that “A chef at the [Fat] Duck after three days of doing this, he had to go to a clinic after.” Comforting to know that the Fat Duck has a sound policy regarding employee mental health.
The FIVE HOUR cook begins, and Billie and Georgia immediately begin reading over the veritable War & Peace that is the recipe for this affront to God. Georgia states that she’s not even familiar with half of these methods and ingredients, so her plan is to follow the recipe to a tee. Y’hear that, Reynold? When in doubt, FOLLOW THE RECIPE. This could be you but you playin’.
Both contestants move off at a snail’s pace, being careful to be as precise as possible. Even at this early stage, Anxious Georgia is starting to take over, which is not a good sign at all.
30 minutes in, Gary stops them – literally makes them pause what they’re doing momentarily – to tell them that they’re behind schedule. Helping or hurting, Gary. Helping or hurting.
But, as it turns out, that’s exactly the kick up the backside they both need, as they begin absolutely hooning – Billie in particular. They quickly move on to making the grapes – I assume the wrath is to come.
This whole cook is an absolute mess and requires every fancy kitchen appliance you can think of. Sous vides. Dehydrators. Thermomixes. Blasting horns. Ablation socks. A culinary bottle rocket. Everything.
And this is when things start to absolutely fall apart for Georgia. With Anxiety mode in full swing, she continually compares her progress to that of Billie’s. She silently mouths “No I’m not” through tears when someone from the gantry tries to insist she’s doing well.
And then she accidentally spills most of her grape fluid right as she was about to put it in the fridge.
That’s it. Someone call the RAC, because we’re in the middle of a fully-fledged breakdown. And it’s a heartbreaker. It’s made even worse by the fact that Mum is upstairs and can’t go down to help out. The tears are even permeating through into the talking head. This is as low a moment that the show has put on air this year.
George arrives on the scene to pick up the pieces, and he starts poorly. “Get it together! What’s wrong with you?” he barks. Oof.
But he rallies, and so does she. This isn’t the end, Georgia. This is just the beginning! You’re a superstar. You can do this. You’ve just got to believe, Georgia. BELIEVE. Hear that swelling inspirational music. Feel the power inside you. The night is always darkest just before the dawn, and that brilliant golden bastard just cracked the horizon. Come on, Georgia. Summon the courage! Storm the tower! Let me hear you feel it! “Yes George! YES GEORGE!“
And suddenly, she’s back in it with a flurry. She has to improvise a little bit, but there’s not a person on the planet who would blame you for ignoring Heston’s billion-step blow torch jelly and just throwing some goddamned Aeroplane into the fridge instead.
Georgia legit challenges the dish to “come at me,” and also asks if it even lifts. This dish might get the better of her, but she refuses to die mirin.
Billie, meanwhile, is through the chocolate balls and onto the sugar ball. It’s a ball-heavy dish, this one.
She ACTUALLY HAS A DRINK, proving they really are human beings and not Replicants fuelled by hope and granita.
This sugar blowing is a finicky, tedious task that apparently has broken many a professional Chef. In fact, Heston even suggests “The sugar blowing, is not necessarily a Chef’s job.” THEN WHY MAKE CHEFS DO IT YOU FUCKING PSYCHOPATH.
The golden sugar is malleable, but an absolute pain to inflate. And so time and time again Billie’s attempts end with it snapping open like a Chestburster.
Whilst Billie is on this ridiculously difficult last step, the Judges try to ramp up the drama by suggesting that Georgia is now catching up. Come on blokes. Blokes pls.
And then, the unthinkable happens. Billie actually starts to get a sugar bubble going. Heston is in absolute shock. But right as she’s about to separate it from the blower, it shatters. And so does Billie.
Having spent some 50 minutes on this, it’s easy to see now why some poor sod had to go have a wee talk with a shrink after three whole days of it. Billie is just about broken. Hell, even Dad’s tearing up now. And me? I am just about done. I know I signed up for an emotional roller coaster, but I was expecting a gentle old wooden guy, not the goddamned Thunderloop Thriller.
But she rallies, and somehow actually manages to pull off this ridiculously, insanely, unfathomably difficult thing. Gary and Heston gather around the heat lamps to watch like they’re Alan Grant and John Hammond watch a Raptor egg hatch.
Georgia gives it a crack, but she doesn’t have nearly enough time to do it.
And with that, we reach the end of MasterChef Australia 2015.
Heston is absolutely gobsmacked by Billie’s dish. The sugar ball is absolutely on point, and her fluid gel is almost note perfect. In this round – and in the finale – that ultimately proves the deciding difference. Billie lands the knockout blow in round three, and manages to pull an incredible 6 point turnaround in the process.
Your winner, and NEW MasterChef Australia Champion: BILLIE McKAY
Billie’s Dad is beside himself with pride. And if you’re not even the tiniest bit moved by this image…
…then you need to call 000 immediately, because your heart is clearly made of stone.
So impressed by Billie’s performance today is Heston, that he immediately offers her a job at the Fat Duck. If it’s just blowing sugar balls all day, I’d honestly tell him to jam it.
For her efforts in picking up second place, Georgia scores $20,000. Jessica picks up $10,000 for third. Anna gets a cold lamb sandwich for 15th, and Kha gets a pat on the back and an expired Dominoes shop-a-docket for 22nd.
And that is all she wrote for the 7th season of MasterChef Australia. We now all march together into the unknown wilderness, free from the clutches of reality TV for the rest of the year, and free to live and prosper and love and laugh as boldly and proudly as we all possibly can. For that, my friends, is the true essence of life.
Unless you’re keen on The Bachelor too. Which starts on Wednesday.