Well god damn, we did it. One week of MasterChef down, about five million to go. What have we learned? We learned that it’s good to have actual first-time contestants back in the kitchen, rather than returning favourites all hell-bent on protecting their ~brand~. We learned that Andy, Jock and Melissa remain the best decision the show has made ever since floating a block of white chocolate under John Carasig’s nose. And we learned that big weird screens do absolutely nothing to replicate the experience of having an actual celebrity chef stand in the kitchen in person. But that’s the world we live in now, and we adapt to it as best we can.

That said, of course Heston Bluemangroup was the one that had to have the whacky multi-screen setup so he could pump smoke in and float menacingly like Zordon from Power Rangers even though he was off halfway around the world making candied tax returns or whatever.

Of COURSE it was him, that did that.

Week One Power Ranking coming at ya. Strap in.

ELIMINATED: Trent Vu

The MasterChef Kitchen simply ain’t for everyone. And that’s fine! It’s a horrible pressure cooker. Bastard place. Too much stress! Too much stress! There’s studio lights fucking your pastry shit up, a million other bodies flinging themselves around the place, several lit gas stovetops surrounding you at any given point, and you cannot – you CANNOT  – tell me that producers don’t secretly have control over everyone’s oven and appliances. You cannot tell me they don’t have that.

But even so, Trent Vu was simply too much of a hot mess for MasterChef to fully contain him, and thus he becomes our First Gone in 2021. The ultimate chaotic good. We barely knew ye.

ELIMINATED: YoYo Yang

Honestly you could’ve eliminated about 10 other contestants on day four and I wouldn’t have cared so much. But YoYo? You rats take YOYO away from me? Who else is going to stand in the background of every group shot and aggressively clap like a legend, thereby maximising their TV minutes while slowly working their way into the hearts and minds of all Australians?

WHO, I ASKETH YOU.

ELIMINATED: Katrina Dunnett

If anyone ever had a legitimate case to make for an elimination redo, it’s Katrina. In a bread-based challenge, she whips up a perfectly fine Bread Pudding that, look, had maybe a smidge too much creme anglaise in it. Alright? Maybe a smidge overboard, with the anglaise. Maybe went just a little too buck-fucking-wild with the anglaise on this one. Maybe lined a baking dish with trimmed brioche and just bloody waterboarded it with anglaise, is what I’m saying. Maybe took a hatchet to the dam wall of the River Anglaise until it burst and inundated the low-lying Village Bread, in this one. Sure, I’ll concede that. But to plate up a dish that was, from all accounts, entirely fine, only to bomb out because someone else put up a plate of bready testicles is… look if it were me, I’d be calling for the video ref, is all I’m saying. Run the DRS over that shit real quick.

21) Maja Veit

There’s certain food crimes that are borderline unforgivable in the outside world, let alone on MasterChef. Putting cream in a carbonara is one of them. And Maja served that up to a man whose entire job is “pasta”? Does Channel Ten provide religious counsel for contestants on-set? Because some Jesus is needed.

20) Dan Dumbrell

Fair play to him, sometimes on MasterChef you simply have to roll the dice. It doesn’t always work out. Sometimes you strike culinary gold. Sometimes you… wind up dunking bread testicles into a pot of hot broth. No one’s really at fault. Other than, maybe, an insane Italian who convinced everyone that bread noodles were just a normal thing that you can do. And in that extraordinarily specific case, sure. Bread testicles. Why not.

19) Scott Bagnell

In my previous Power Ranking I stated that Scott is the contestant who exudes the most Youth Pastor energy. And upon reflection I think that’s entirely unfair on him. Private school vice principal energy? Possibly. Penny farthing bicycle enthusiast energy? Getting warmer. Owns several of those jumpers with the leather elbow patches energy? Now we’re getting close. But Youth Pastor energy? Maybe a bit much.

18) Eric Mao

It’s week one. There’s twenty-four contestants in the cast, and only so many minutes of the show to fill. Not everyone can get a full spotlight in the early stages of the competition. But good grief were there ever a lot of Not Appearing In This Episode’s this week. Eric? Barely saw him.

17) Amir Manoly

Amir? Might as well have just not been there.

16) Justin Narayan

Justin? Still not convinced he’s actually on the show.

14) Jess Hodge

And Jess? You could tell me she spent the whole ass week fashioning a hammock out of corn husks in the pantry and I would believe you. Honestly, just let these people openly drink at their work stations if they’re not going to cop a feature. Imagine seeing Melissa and Andy grill someone in the throes of absolutely fucking it, and then someone in the blurry background lifts up a cheeky marg. You’d bloody love to see that. You’d lose your mind.

13) Elise Pulbrook

With Trent gone, a new series narrator emerges! There’s one in every season. Someone who strolls into the studio camera ready and more than happy to start nattering away in a talking head, describing out loud the things that are happening on screen at any given moment. With Trent gone, will it be Elise? Is that now her role for the season? Or is the narrator role a poisoned chalice this season that will mercilessly mow down all who dare venture near it? Time will tell, friends. Time will tell.

12) Wynona Davies

Won an Immunity Pin on night one and then spent the rest of the week casually resting on various laurels in the background. That’s efficiency, folks. Absolutely no need to bust your ass and win everything when you’ve got a Yeet Me Out Of Here card tucked away in the top pocket.

11) Tommy Pham

I don’t know if it’s the fact that I have a fussy three-month-old at home and thus haven’t slept since January, but I heard the word “congee” in passing the other day and nearly burst into tears outside a Lord Of The Fries. So thanks a lot for that, Tommy.

10) Minoli De Silva

I can’t for the life of me remember what she did at all through this entire week of episodes. I just cannot, and will not, ever feel good about ranking Minoli any lower than here. No one who radiates that much sunny energy should ever feel bad. Even on a completely arbitrary comedy ranking article through which I bitterly exorcise my own failed culinary ambitions by railing on the creations of earnest hopefuls whose skill far exceeds mine. I can’t do it, man. I just cannot.

9) Sabina Newton

At this early stage of proceedings, it doesn’t take much to land yourself high up in the rankings. Anything that sticks yourself out from the crowd works. Openly admitting that both you and your Mum are wantonly horny for Yotam Ottolenghi on national TV? Buddy, that’s an instant top ten placement.

9) Therese Lum

One of three immunity pin winners on night one who then proceeded to do… well, not heaps throughout the week. But you get the feeling that, of all of them, Therese is the one that’s building towards something. I’m not entirely sure what, of course. Could be a spectacular meltdown over a croquembouche for all I know. An all-encompassing brain collapse that results in profiteroles being pithed around the place. Could be anything, really. But whatever it is, it’s coming.

8) Tom Levick

Tom is good at desserts. Tom sticks to desserts as much as he can. Tom may run into trouble with this at some point, but for now? Keep slinging up those treaties for sweeties, my frosty King.

7) Linda Dalrymple

Started the week by Knowing The Most Biscuits, which is a title I’d gladly put on my LinkedIn profile, and ended the week by nearly poisoning Jock with an avalanche of Earl Grey tea. Swings and roundabouts. It’s probably worth noting that it’s not that Jock hates the taste of Earl Grey so much, as it is more that giving a Scotsman that much of anything English is toxic. Two Yorkshire Puddings in one sitting is an LD50 for Glaswegians.

6) Conor Curran

Don’t get me wrong, Conor had an overall bang-up week. An absolute belter, by most MasterChef standards. But also, out of 18 biscuits he correctly identified four.

And one of them was “rose,” somehow.

He picked rose from somewhere vaguely orbiting his own ass, and yet whiffed on 14 others.

That gets even more embarrassing when you consider he only got three others right, and any combination of ginger, chocolate, lemon, and vanilla was in play. Dude got at least one of those wrong.

Still, overall? An above par week.

5) Brent Draper

Imagine Nigella Lawson looking you dead in the eye socket, via virtual video screen, and telling you you’ve won Cake Of The Day. That’s an illustrious crown. That’s the cream of the crop. You can keep your Immunity Pins and your Mystery Box wins and your Safe From Eliminations and whathaveyou. But baby, you get awarded Cake Of The Day? That’s worth writing home about. And that’s doubly impressive given Brent just winged up to the kitchen and threw random handfuls of flour into a bowl and it worked? Brother didn’t even know half the words in Nigella’s needlessly sexy recipe poem. “Sumptuous”? Sounds like a mine shaft that you want to fuck.

4) Depinder Chhibber

Avocado ice cream, hey. An ice cream, made from avocados. Avocado, put into cream, and then having ice applied to it. Dunno about it. I see the appeal, but I dunno about it. Looked great. Looked fantastic, even. But I would never stand in line for it. Can’t explain why. I can appreciate that it is probably delightful, but I cannot abide it. I had a full on Knives Out moment watching on.

It do compel me, it do.

3) Aaron Sanders

There’s always one suspiciously calm character who immediately understands the MasterChef Kitchen in all its anxiety-pumping panic. The whole point of the early weeks is that it chews through those who don’t have the constitution to make it all the way through. It’s like funnelling a tree branch into a wood chipper. We rip through the bigger early product, and whittle it down into something more useful. Aaron’s been swanning about like he’s already wood chips, and I’m suss on it. What’s he doing, taking secret swings of whiskey from the surprisingly well-stocked liquor shelf in the pantry? Because that’s what I’d do. I’d make a beeline for it. How else are you supposed to cope with Melissa Leong swishing up to you mid-cook, taking a test bite, and flowing away without saying a goddamned thing?

2) Kishwar Chowdhury

Oh good god you can already see Kishwar’s confidence growing in leaps and bounds and it SO GOOD and SO NICE. Those who manage to go deep in the MasterChef competition all inevitably have a lightbulb moment where everything suddenly clicks into place and they begin firing on all cylinders, having washed off the self-doubt and easy mistakes that plagued their earlier efforts. When Kishwar smashes that lightswitch, the soul enlightening I will glean from that will separate my body from its relationship with gravity. I will FLOAT, I will FLOAT, and NOTHING will ever hurt again.

1) Pete Campbell

My dude out here speaking softly and dominating challenges. The quiet boy with the dagger-like dishes. The molto bene sotto voce. You don’t need to speak loudly when you pack that much flavour. This tattooed King, hair shimmering in the studio lights like a beautiful Andalusian, is speaking in soothing dulcet tones and putting up absolute spun gold. You wanna talk early contenders? Buddy, he’s right here.

Calling it an “American fry-up” though? Bit weird. Said it out loud, felt weirder.