Australian television has never recovered from the time MasterChef judge and cravat aficionado Matt Preston loved a meal so much that he smashed it on the ground.
It was, in almost the most literal sense of the word, a ground-shattering moment. Chaos erupted in households across Australia as the ads hyped up this very moment all week long.
When it finally happened, it was somehow better than we could have ever imagined.
Things kicked off with a mystery box challenge where contestant Aaron Harvie plated up fennel and prawn tortellini with chipotle truffle oil.
Gary Mehigan was the first judge to give it a try as the camera panned right over his bald spot. He loved it, despite not being able to pronounce “chipotle.”
Then it was Matt Preston’s turn. A wave of anxiety suddenly overcame viewers as he approached the table.
“There are some dishes that are freaky, Frankenstein disasters,” Matt Preston snarled.
“And quite frankly, that… [smashes plate] is DISGUSTING.”
You could hear the repugnance roll off Matt Preston’s jowls and splutter all over the MasterChef kitchen. You couldn’t do that nowadays. COVID took that joy from us.
The room froze in awe. Everyone was visibly gobsmacked. The show cut to an ad break.
When the show returned we got to rewatch Matt Preston as he smashed the plate. MasterChef is nothing if not dramatic.
The only upside here – and this is the benefit of hindsight – is that wage thief George Calombaris wasn’t able to get his grubby paws on the totalled meal.
We cut away to Aaron, who is giving his confessional.
“For me, from it leaving his hand and travelling down to hit the floor, that took about an hour,” he said.
The show then cut to a shot of the smashed plate, which held up remarkably well after falling from two-thirds of the way up Matt Preston’s impressive 192cm frame.
The biggest casualty here is a single, garbled tortellino which has ended up on the floor.
Then the producers, in all their devilment, take the opportunity to replay the plate smashing in slow motion, as if each shard of ceramic were a fault line running deep through Aaron’s heart.
Matt Preston’s eyebrows raise ever-so-slightly as he locks eyes with Aaron. He puts the whole of Australia in a state of sudden, chronic whiplash with this kicker:
This gag toyed too much with Aaron’s emotions for him to shake off the numbness.
The poor guy just stared at the ground, eyes glazed.
“I destroyed that because I don’t want any of these guys over there to taste it, ‘cos that is absolutely brilliant and inspired,” Matt Preston said.
“Man, that is a really, really, really clever, clever dish, well done.
“That is brilliant, you have hit upon one of the very, very rare things: a unique combination of flavours that I’ve never seen anywhere else in the world, and it works!
“That, man, is a cracking dish, and you know what I love? Now they’ll never know quite how good it is.”
Good, then. Pasta king Aaron dished up something super unique and inventive, and Matt Preston goes and smashes it so nobody else can see it. Thankfully, Aaron did come out as the winner of this particular mystery box challenge.
But the psychological damage, not only on him but on all of us as viewers, had already been dealt.
Aaron concluded in his confessional: “Thanks a lot Matt […] that’s just really full-on.”