PREVIOUSLY ON MASTERCHEF AUSTRALIA: A motley crew of people with varying culinary ability were funnelled through the reality TV equivalent of a pasta maker; some emerging as beautiful noodles, some being tossed out like the chewed-up dough they are. It’s MasterChef, dear friends. The boys are back in town.
AND NOW, LAST NIGHT.
Here’s the balls-honest truth about last night’s episode: Realistically, not a lot happened.
That’s always been MasterChef‘s great strength: Filling a 90-minute TV timeslot with pseudo-drama only to move the ledger forward a millimetre at the end of it. If television is pro-wrestling, MasterChef is Roman Reigns: It’s extremely good at what it does on a fundamental level, but only if the audience can look past the fact that the overall package being presented doesn’t hold any real interest or value. It just is, and sometimes that’s enough.
That’s an analogy maybe four of you reading this will understand. Samoa Joe for WWE Champion.
But I digress.
Last night featured the finalisation of this year’s Top 24, with the final 6 aprons being handed out to those stuck in temporary MasterChef purgatory; not good enough to go straight through from the initial judge’s audition, but not bad enough to be sent home outright.
They weren’t really good, but they weren’t really shit either.
The Second Chance Saloon featured a raft of rag-tag leftovers battling it out, but only a handful of contestants were actually brought into focus.
Firstly, there was Ben, a rough-and-tumble sorta bloke from QLD whose initial idea of a chilli-based dish was to hollow out some jalepeños and stuff whole, untouched prawns directly into them.
Shannon Bennett arrives to throw eye-daggers at him like Charlie and Mac gawking at each other from across a restaurant.
“Yeah dude, Shannon’s looking right at me.”
A whole prawn shoved inside a chilli. Did you learn how to cook from a 70s dinner party guide or what, champion? Maybe bloody fon-don’t next time.
Fortunately for him, he scrapes the whole thing together dutifully, and scores an apron come episode end.
Secondly, Michelle, whose skin-of-the-teeth efforts to score the last apron of the day are only really notable for the fact that precious, wonderful Aldo has apparently crowned himself the gatekeeper of pasta in this year’s class, and his nod of approval while watching Michelle work should’ve been enough to put her through alone.
Why the hell did producers make him stand by himself for that shot that is so weird.
Ahh bless his heart, but. I cannot possibly stay mad at him. Not yet, at least.
On the flip-side, we had our two great failures. Firstly, Bonnie, who while we certainly can’t fault the ambition, could probably have chosen a slightly better time to try making ice cream for the first time ever.
The deer-in-the-headlights look says it all, really.
You can’t run through the tape until you actually get to the tape, my friend.
Secondly, and in the first real “oh shit it’s all gone bung” moment of the season, there’s Fiona, a French Nanny who has spent so long in Australia that her accent has faded for all but two words: “France” and “flan,” both of which she uses liberally here.
In fact her Australian accent is so thick it just kinda sounds like someone who just got back from a two-week Contiki tour in Paris and now utterly refuses to pronounce it any other way that “Fronce.”
Kinda like that one knob coming back from Spain who insists it’s pronounced “Barth-e-low-na” with the hand flourish and everything.
We get it, m8. You’ve travelled.
The dichotomy of flan and “flon” is ridden so far into the ground by Shannon that it cannot possibly be anything other than taking the piss in a Freddie Quimby-like way.
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on which way you read it), the show was through demeaning the poor girl, and her disastrous tart sent her packing, rounding out our Top 24 for 2018.
So who exactly is in this season? Let’s bloody meet ’em!
ADELE ELLIOT 34, Student Enrolment Officer (NSW)
If she can keep serving up fried chicken and mac & cheese the calibre of which she served up in the judge’s audition, her food might finally cause Matt Preston to go completely cross-eyed on national TV.
ALDO ORTADO 31, Restaurant Manager (NSW)
A beautiful radiant ball of energy whose time on-screen results in no babies going hungry anywhere in the world.
BEN BORSCHT 31, Builder (QLD)
I just… I’m having a really hard time getting over the prawn-in-chilli idea. Like “Hey friends, here’s dinner. It’s a fish in a sock.” Come on.
BRENDAN PANG 24, Social Worker (WA)
A person whom I simply do not recall appearing in episode one.
BRETT McGRATH 29, Coffee Roaster (QLD)
Looks like Mom’s new boyfriend in a light-hearted romcom who gets forced into the role of villain because he committed the apparently horrific crime of “dating a woman.” Will have paint splattered on him by a selfish-but-loveable protagonist somewhere in Act 2.
CHLOE CARROLL 28, Nutritionist (QLD)
Coming into this competition as a nutritionist is a bold choice given that time restrictions on challenges usually demand all dishes carry the nutritional value of a rock coated in butter.
DENISE VALDEZ 37, Stay-At-Home Mum (VIC)
The first of a string of stay-at-home Mums and Dads dotted throughout this year’s competition, and a person appearing to completely defy the ravages of time. 37? That can’t be bloody right *taps screen*.
GENENE DWYER 49, Recruitment Co-ordinator (VIC)
Really stretching the limits of how the name Janine/Jeannene can be spelled there, but god help me I’m fully on board with it.
GINA OTTAWAY 54, Disability Support (NSW)
The woman with the incredible Nonna for a Mum, whose continued presence in the competition heightens the chances of putting said Nonna back on TV where she bloody rightfully belongs. Give the Nonna a Logie. Give her all the Logies. Now.
HODA KOBEISSI 32, Social Worker (NSW)
Does some incredible work with disadvantaged communities in her day-to-day work life, meaning it’s going to be very, very difficult for me to hang shit on anything she cooks this season. I’m a professional, however. So on we press.
JENNY LAM 28, Entrepreneur (WA)
I once had a cab driver in Launceston look at me and, before I told him our destination, barked at me “ARE YOU AN ENTREPRENEUR?” before revealing he’d developed a non-addictive non-harmful alternative to tobacco that was somehow being held up by his friend who was a Vice President at Caltex and he was coping with the interim period by… driving cabs.
Anyway, here’s Jenny.
JESS LIEMANTARA 19, Waitress (VIC)
This year’s self-taught dessert wunderkind who will no doubt create borderline devil’s magic with sugar but will almost certainly come unstuck when tasked with the challenge “grill this fish.” There’s always a Reynold.
JO KENDRAY 46, Travel Manager (VIC)
Nope. Not ringing any bells here either. She cooked a… cake? I don’t know.
KHANH ONG 25, DJ (VIC)
The second of two beautiful, precious angels sent from heaven to grace our TV screens this season. If there is any justice in this world, Aldo and Khanh will be teamed up together at some point this season, and for those shining few moments, nothing in the world will be wrong or bad.
KRISTEN SHEFFIELD 27, Urban Planner (SA)
Judging by everything presented about her in the first two episodes, here’s your early odds-on favourite.
LISA DIEP 33, Senior IT Analyst (NSW)
One of the survivors of the Second Chance Saloon who, in all probability, will populate the early elimination challenges. It’s a big cast, after all. Someone’s gotta finish 18th.
LOKI MADIREDDI 34, Stay-At-Home Dad (VIC)
Presumably only on the show at the directive of MasterChef‘s web team to catch SEO overflow from people Googling various Avengers characters.
METTER CHIN 54, Project Manager (NSW)
The joint-oldest competitor on this year’s series, and a man carrying the first name “Metter” who is very much not Ron Artest, which I have severe mixed feelings about.
MICHELLE WALSH 47, Writer (NSW)
For those of you keeping score at home (and those of you with encyclopaedic knowledge of Australian fishing shows, I guess), yes, that is the very same Michelle who served as a presenter on Escape with ET for four years in the early 2000s. The more you bloody know.
REECE HIGNELL 28, Recruitment Consultant (NSW)
Mr. Splat, who will work tirelessly to gain Gary’s approval through his creative plating and presentation ideas, which will Gary will not be forthcoming with until finally, at long last, Mehigan’s walls come tumbling down and he gives Reece a knowing nod. And on that day we will cry. Oh, how we’ll all cry.
SAMIRA DAMIROVA 36, Stay-At-Home Mum (WA)
I’m not saying she’s going to be the quietest contestant ever seen on MasterChef Australia, but I will say that whoever’s mixing the sound for these episodes is gonna have their work cut out for them.
SARAH CLARE 33, Stay-At-Home Mum (NSW)
Much to my chagrin, not a Tasmanian. But due to a lack of Tasmanians in this competition, and the fact she name-dropped Bruny Island during her judge’s audition, I – as an authorised Tasmanian – hereby claim her as one of our own for the purposes of this MasterChef season. Welcome to the Apple Isle, Sarah. Your passport is in the mail.
SASHI CHELIAH 39, Prison Officer (SA)
An extremely Rad Dad who, owing to his profession, I would not cross. Give them the task of making sangria in a large silver bowl and watch old mate lay waste to the competition.
TIM TALAM 28, Butcher Shop Assistant (NSW)
Henceforth to be referred to as either Meat Bae or Big Hoss the Meat Boss, depending on how the day’s going. A man with scary good knife skills. Guns for show, knives for a pro.
There you have it, mates. Full credit to them: That’s a hell of a diverse cast that they’ve assembled for this year’s series. Wildly varied backgrounds and experiences. It should be an absolute corker.
Also before we go, shout out to Matt Preston for rocking up to the episode looking like a walking Eggplant Emoji.
And doesn’t Gary know it.
NEXT TIME: The competition is underway! Who will win! Who will lose! Who will survive, and what will be left of them!