A slip of the knife handed the bookie’s favourite Diana Chan the MasterChef Australia crown on Monday night – but only by a point.
The 29-year-old accountant from Victoria beat Queensland’s Ben Ungermann in a nail-biting finale 90-89 to secure the $250,000 prize money.
But only after the 32-year-old father of three sliced his thumb during the first of three challenges when his concentration waned for a split second.
Ben had to stop working twice to have it treated by medics. It meant his presentation let him down and gave Diana a four-point lead as they went into the second challenge.
Watch the incident below:
It was a genuine cliffhanger as both had major crises of confidence.
First up, the Mystery Box and, in a twist, the contestants could revisit any of the previous Mystery Boxes in this series.
Ben had earlier made an unimpressive start with the box from Elena Duggan – last year’s winner – so he chose it again to do better. He presented lemon myrtle ice cream with macadamia shortbread, pickled grapes, baked grapes, a goat cheese mousse and charred cucumber.
Diana chose one by Peter Gilmore that she had done well with and she created a masterpiece using the abalone, spatchcock, nasturtium from the garden and Chinese broccoli.
For the second challenge, the finalists had to create three plates of whatever they wanted – within 75 minutes.
Diana could feel her win coming closer.
“The trophy is looking at me, screaming. I’m so close.”
She created a Malaysian-inspired prawn dish but Ben won that round with his Cardamom coffee ice cream, Dutch biscuit and butternut cooked three ways.
He was weepy as he presented it to the judges.
“This journey has shaped me as a person and I’ve just done things I’ve never thought were possible,” he said.
Possible became close to impossible by the third and final round when world champion chocolatier Kirsten Tibballs presented a ridiculously complicated challenge.
To create three lifelike fruit which defy description.
— #MasterChefAU (@masterchefau) July 24, 2017
In amongst the plethora of elements there was something particularly complicated. A sugar-crusted liquor for the centre of the pretend apple – and it had to be created in a mould made from starch.
Ben tried three times to get it right and gave up. Diana wasted 90 minutes on her first attempt and then her second attempt failed.
Both had moments of extreme panic. Ben found hidden depths when his son Phoenix cheered him on.
“You can do it Dad. Go for it Dad.”
Diana recalled her mother’s advice.
“My Mum’s always said reach to the top. Don’t be mediocre. Not second best. Push for the top.”
And, in the end, that’s what she achieved – with strong praise for Ben as she won $250,000, the title and a column in Delicious magazine.
“It feels unreal. I’m so proud of you Ben. You’re an incredible person.”
Ben, who earned $40,000 for his efforts, had similar praise for her.
“Diana you have been the most consistent cook in the competition. What you can do with the flavours. I take my hat off to you.”
As did the judges – who were already spruiking next year’s competition in the last ad break.
Roll on MasterChef 2018.