MASTERCHEF DRAMA: Contestants Battle To See Who Is The Biggest Spud

PREVIOUSLY ON MASTERCHEF AUSTRALIA: The first team challenge for Season 2017 saw the gang split in twain to take over celebrated pizza joint Gradi and sling up a few piping hot ‘zas. One team completely fucks it by failing to recognise the fact that the judges are all secretly Arno the Almost Omnivorous constantly either demanding “MORE TOPPINGS!!!!” or bemoaning “something on there I don’t like!
Thus, it’s black aprons for approximately half the cast. The *shame*.

While the smug victors from the Big Pizzy challenge sit safely upon the gantry, on the killing floor of the kitchen we have Pia, Eloise, MichJess, Arum, Samuel, Benjamin, Sam, Nicole, Josh, and Tamara all lined up black, all waiting to see what horrors are being hidden from them underneath a menacing black cloth.
It’s a tense moment for all, except Ben up on the gantry who takes this opportunity to admire his own performance at the gun show.
Aww yeah. Your boy got his pump ON today.
Matt Preston builds up today’s mystery ingredient by stating that it was first cultivated in the Andes way back in the day, making it sound like there’s gonna be some gnarly herb or a slab of llama meat or a dead and basted sherpa under there.
It’s a spud.
The hero ingredient today is a potate.
What the hell is going on? Is the budget for the show that thin? Did you have to backend it to afford Heston‘s pay rise? Did an intern hear about Channel Ten‘s financial strife and so he took all the budget down to Atlantic City to try and win enough cash to buy it back? Damn the man, save the empire, etc.
This is like that one time on ‘Iron Chef‘ when the secret ingredient was an arse-load of curry powder.
The first half of today’s elimination challenge is a chip-off. The judges demand chips and dip, and they demand it now. Presumably because they all got on George’s home made grappa the night before and tied one on in a severe fashion, and now if they don’t get chips immediately the hangover they’re shouldering might actually be fatal.
Four people immediately trip up on this arduous frying task, and their outlook is bleak.
Firstly, there’s Benjamin, who takes Gary to heaven by mentioning the fact that he’s making a curry sauce.
Then almost immediately bewilders a pre-assault charge George by asserting that kipfler potatoes are good for chips.
Benjamin’s justification for using kipflers boils down to “well, I went to Berlin once.”
Ahh yeah? Cool. Let me know how that works out for you (spoiler alert: poorly).
Elsewhere in Struggletown, we’ve got Mich (who has literally never seen a chip in her life), Josh (who thinks drowning potatoes in butter is going to yield him anything other than a greasy mess), and Jess (who cooks perfect crisps almost on a whim and somehow leaves them off the final plate).
In the race for best dish, Eloise makes a spectacular pivot when she realises that the extremely dusty judges would probably like a little hair of the dog, and thus she bungs enough whisky into her sauce to get an entire Scottish village rosy cheeked. And then there’s Arum who, given the pomme-like qualities of his head, is unsurprisingly excelling in a potato challenge.
Josh attempts a hail mary by cooking his chips not once, not twice, not thrice, but… fourice? Quadice? Quartice?
Four times. He cooks them four times. And it doesn’t work.
Meanwhile in a talking head, Benjamin has a remarkable moment of clarity.
Mate, it’s not that you’ve chosen the wrong potato. It’s just that they asked you to go pick a potato and instead you grabbed a flour-coated candle.
At the end of round one the clear stand out is Eloise, who sends the judges into fits of rapture and causes George to reveal one of the secret assessment criteria that they score dishes on: “dippiness.” How important that ranks alongside others like “yumminess,” or “scrumptability” is yet to be determined.
Up on the gantry, Callan and Ray apparently must’ve overheard someone whisper the phrase “sixty-nine,” because they gift us the most perfect reaction GIF of all time.
But while everyone else is spared, Jess, Josh, Mich, and Benjamin are left to face the dreaded ROUND TWO.
It’s open pantry this time, meaning they can make any dish they want as long as potato is the hero.
For about the millionth time this episode, Jess refers to it as “the humble potato.”
The humble potato.
The humbo potat.
Josh, apparently, decides that his interpretation of this brief is going to be “whole boiled potatoes, skin on.”
Ahh yeah? Cool. Let me know how that works out for you (spoiler alert: poorly).
Jess, absolutely filthy on herself for her chip mishap, responds by going into beast mode and launching a thousand different elements all at the same time. In ordinary hands this would cause someone to cave in on themselves like over cooked spaghetti. But somehow Jess morphs into an Australian cooking version of Parvati, sprouting limbs from where limbs should not be and embarking on the cook of her life.
She’s got so much on the go that it causes Matt Preston to approach her bench and get a little weirdly sexy.
In seasons past that might’ve come across as a wee bit creepy. But with that beard on him, man… It’s ahh. It’s really something else.
Throughout the course of this round two cook, Benjamin keeps claiming that he’s making potato doughnuts. He says this to the point of putting mash into a piping bag and swinging it like the last note at an AC/DC concert.
I’ve cooked in a lot of kitchens, but no kitchen rocks harder than the one right here in… *checks spatula*… FLEMINGTON!
The only problem with these quote-unquote “potato doughnuts” is that they do not look a damned thing like doughnuts.
If anything, those are dim sims.
What you’ve cooked up there? They’re dim sims.
No one’s going to be upset about a big plate of dimmies, m8. Just don’t look me in the eye and try to tell me they’re doughnuts.
In this round, Jess has thrown herself and everything she has headfirst into the bench, and after she somehow pulls together what looks like an utterly glorious plate of food in the minute amount of time given to her, she collapses to the floor, resulting in one of the most artful and moving shots the show has ever managed to capture.
Oh, buddy! Take a breath. You did real good today. Rest, be proud.
Unsurprisingly it’s Jess and Mich – who must’ve seen Gary’s eyes light up at the word “curry” earlier so she decided to go nuts on it – who are safe.
Though dim sim in appearance, Benjamin’s “doughnuts” scrape him through by the skin of his teeth.
And ultimate it’s Josh’s lumpy gnocchi – yielded from whole boiled unwashed potatoes – that sends him home.
You know what they say, folks. If you can’t potato, then it’s time to pota-go.
*adjusts tie* Still got it.
NEXT TIME: The contestants are put to the test in an “Australian Mystery Box” challenge which has absolutely no chance of being ever-so-slightly racist.
Meanwhile, the will they/won’t they between Samuel and Diana looks set to continue, following on from this week’s weirdly flirtatious exchange of smiles.

Photo: Channel Ten.