Entertainment TV MasterChef: a former contestant’s predictions
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MasterChef: a former contestant’s predictions

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It’s been almost three years (and three seasons) since I became “The One with the Glasses from MasterChef”, and a lot’s changed in my life. For one thing, I don’t have to deliver all of my stories in present tense anymore (though the force is still strong).

For another, I now judge my own cooking show contestants as part of hosting duties on Kitchen Whiz, which, incidentally is back on the air this week (yes that was a shameless plug, and no I’m not sorry about it).

But the thing about being part of the juggernaut that is MasterChef Australia, is that no matter how much time passes, tuning in will always take me right back there, to the MasterChef kitchen, home of The Food Dream™ (FD from here on).

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That description is even more appropriate this week with the arrival of Marco Pierre White, The Godfather of Modern Cooking, whose opening address gave me actual goosebumps, and delivered truth-bombs that belong on bumper stickers – or, at the very least, motivational Instagram posts.

One that particularly stood out was his declaration that “if you have a dream, you have a responsibility to yourself to make it come true; because if you don’t, you’re just a dreamer”.

British chef Marco Pierre White is
British chef Marco Pierre White is known for dishing out tough love. Photo: Channel 10

Marco’s words resonated with me so deeply, because what many people who go into the program come to realise is that making the choice to quit life and join MasterChef isn’t just about winning the trophy – it’s about making a conscious decision to dedicate your life to food – and if you truly want it, you make it happen, regardless of where you come.

With that in mind, I have decided to assess this year’s batch of contestants based on the feasibility of their FD, as well as their capacity for cooking food that makes me want to lick the screen (and I tell ya what, this season has delivered more of those moments than ever before).

Confessions

Now, before we continue, it’s time to make a few admissions from the get-go.

1. My friend Anna is a contestant this year, BUT I’m not allowing nepotism to cloud my judgment.

2. I still wasn’t planning on watching the show this year, because, to borrow a particularly apt observation from my buddies Vikki and Helena Moursellas (the #twinning twins from MKR), “it’s like watching your ex-boyfriend hanging out with his new girlfriend, night after night” (also, the word “beautiful” on repeat still makes me shudder).

3. My dog Leopold Tolstoy and Gary Mehigan’s dog Molly are basically dating, and he told me this batch of contestants were “seriously good cooks”, which didn’t help the jealousy situation one bit.

Therefore, when I was asked to give my predictions, I knew I’d have to assess the crew quick-smart, resorting to braving TenPlay ads for HOURS to catch up. The things I do for you guys.

After HOURS of catch-up, I came to the conclusion that this year’s model of dual-episode Top-24 selection wasn’t floating my boat. I knew heaps about some, and zilch about others.

Following on from these “getting to know yous”, the next week reminded me of my own frustrations in early season-four eps, where it wasn’t humanly possible to showcase all of the dishes, which meant I never got to screenshot my sick-as bagels in the bread challenge.

Which brings us to now, where I’m still not quite sure who Billie is, but I know she makes a mean duck breast with raspberry jus.

Now, with all of that in mind, here’s where I’m at with who’s left … Hopefully we’ll get to know more about The Others in the coming weeks.

Alice's friend Anna gets caught in the heat of the moment.
Alice’s friend Anna gets caught in the heat of the moment. Photo: Channel 10

Ones to watch

Ashleigh Bareham

The Nougat Glace with Cumin Praline did it for me – and I reckon if she snuck herself onto the next season of Junior MasterChef, she’d have it in the bag.

Jessica Arnott

Her flavour pairings are impressing me … also her glasses.

Sara Oteri

She’s an advertising creative, so it’s no surprise that she’s been killing the Mystery Box challenges, which are all about The Sizzle. I also figure that a girl who can smash out perfect liquid eyeliner for 5am call-times has got to have the staying power to make it all the way.

Matthew Hopcraft

He seems like such a sweetheart – but he might need to take some tips from Sara on the plating front.

Reynold Poernomo

It’s no secret that this guy can kill a dessert challenge, but we’re still yet to see what he does with savoury. Worst-case scenario, he may well be MasterChef’s next fully operational pastry chef (along with Julia Taylor and Kylie Millar).

Jessica hard at work during the Mystery Box challenge.
Jessica hard at work during the Mystery Box challenge. Photo: Channel 10

Ones I’d like to see more of

Billie McKay

I’ve already mentioned her duck breast – but I feel like her restaurant manager past will mean she’s going to be a force to be reckoned with in team cooks. Also, no matter what happens in the competition, she’s already well on her way to a lifelong career in food. And I respect that!

Jarrod Trigg

He lives in Fitzroy AND he has a beard … Surely the guy’s secretly a chef already?

Anna Webster

Obvs. We’ve been friends for 10-odd years, bonding over our food-nerdiness, and she asked me first before signing up to date my ex-boyfriend (read: go on the show, duh!). But also, I know how hard she worked to get her skills up to scratch before going on the show – spending time with butchers, fishmongers and former Michelin-starred chefs.

Melita Tough

I’d love to see Melita do well for selfish reasons – she wants to open an organic local produce café near her home of Korumburra, right down the road from my in-laws, and they (along with many other regional spots in Australia) are crying out for great places to brunch!

Jarrod has a moment of doubt with judge George Calombaris.
Jarrod has a moment of doubt with judge George Calombaris. Photo: Channel 10

Some parting words…

Ultimately, no matter who takes home the prize (which, based on the tried-and-true MC algorithm, is going to be a girl), I hope that Marco’s words ring true for all of the contestants, and that they grab the opportunities that present themselves once the show is over with both blue-bandaid-ed hands, while keeping true to their original aspirations and values.

It’s easy to get caught up in “trying to prove (whatevs) to the judges” and crossing fingers, but the magic of MasterChef isn’t the show itself, it’s what happens after the cameras stop rolling.

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