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Gordon Ramsay at MasterChef Australia

MasterChef Australia Recap – S12E01 – A Pin Drops

Aaaaand…we’re back. Back with the show that taught Australians that food wasn’t just something you throw in the bin: you can also eat it. It’s Masterchef, but not as you know it.

The premiere begins with a look back at the memorable moments of Masterchef seasons past, when the dishes were judged by three men whose identities have been lost in the mists of time. We cut to the new judges: two men and a woman whose identities are lost in the mists of now. One of them is Andy who was on Masterchef once. One of them is a woman who has the internet at home. One of them is some guy who cooks or something.

Luckily, in the absence of judges who anyone wants to watch, popular contestants from previous seasons have returned to delight us with their wacky antics once again. These include favourites such as Poh, Callum, Reynold, whatsherface, and thingy, not to mention that guy.

The returnees enter Masterchef HQ, where they find Gordon Ramsay, who has been living here since his wife threw him out. Scrambling to pay the wages bills of his failed restaurants, Ramsay has taken the job of harassing the contestants for the first week, to ease us into the new era of Masterchef.

Ramsay introduces the new judges in such a way as to falsely imply that he knows who they are. Jock Zonfrillo, Melissa Leong, Andy Allen: three legends whose names will live in infamy. “What a lineup,” Ramsay says, shamelessly, willing to say anything for money.

“What do you look for in a chef?” Ramsay asks Jock.

“Honesty,” Jock replies. This is the wrong answer: he should have said, “the ability to cook food that tastes good.”

Ramsay compliments Melissa on her articles, which coming from him sounds a lot like an insult. “This is the who’s who of Masterchef Australia,” Melissa says, a claim that is patently untrue, given that an actual who’s who of Masterchef Australia would include people who had won it.

Jock informs the returnees of their first task: cook a dish that’s worthy of winning the competition. This should save a lot of time, completing the series within the first episode. But there’s more: not only will the best dish today win the entire series, it will also win an immunity pin. Seems a bit redundant, but maybe I’ve misunderstood the premise of the task.

Andy explains that this will be the only immunity pin available for the entire series. Everyone gasps in horror at this terrifying twist. Does this mean that this series will not include the immunity challenge, the dullest and least compelling part of the week? Oh no!

The contestants rush off to the pantry to find food, which they will then subject to a process known to laymen as “cooking”.

Reynold, the famed dessert maestro, explains that winning the immunity pin will be his “jail card”. With the audience thoroughly confused, he goes on to say that his dish is called “white noise”, because it is a dish that helps you go to sleep if you listen to it in bed.

The judges discuss the contestants. Ramsay says that 90 minutes seems like a long time but maybe it isn’t. Melissa explains that the contestants are there to win — you can see why her insight is valued here.

Andy wanders over to talk to Ben, his best friend, who will gain the benefit of the judge’s naked nepotism throughout this series. We flash back to when Ben and Andy were on the show together and their hair was awful. Who would have thought, seeing them on Masterchef back then, that all these years later their careers would’ve stalled to such an extent?

Hayden, back on the show to provide the sex appeal, names several kinds of food, dazzling us with his knowledge. He says he’s been very busy since being on Masterchef, what with being handsome and maintaining his stubble.

It’s only fifteen minutes in and Poh is already making bizarre noises. Since coming second in Season One, Poh has established herself as one of Australia’s favourite TV personalities, but in recent times has apparently fallen on such hard times that she’s begun to cut her own hair. “I’m going to tell you something really important now,” Gordon tells her. “You’re the favourite.” This is disappointing, as we were hoping he’d tell her she’s a fucking donkey or something like that.

“Being back in the Masterchef kitchen is incredible,” says a woman whose face is completely unfamiliar to me. I think she might be called Sarah, because Melissa Leong calls her “Sarah”. Melissa asks Sarah if she’s going to make south-east Asian food, because Masterchef is nothing if not committed to ethnic stereotypes. Sarah dutifully agrees that she will be living up to cliched expectations.

Jock and Andy visit Chris from Season One, who still wears his hat and still enjoys handling meat, but has aged and now looks like Matt Preston. They all high five for no reason.

Gordon visits Dani and asks her what’s changed. She tells him that she’s now a mum of two kids and has a ponytail, and also she’s a lot sweatier than she used to be. Gordon tells her that he loves the idea of pineapple. Dani tells Gordon that she loves coconuts. They bond over these passions.

Amina is making a seafood broth, because she knows the mistake she made when last on the show was making food that people liked to eat. She is intimidated by being placed right next to Reynold, who is effortlessly cooking something good.

But Reynold is thrown off his stride by the appearance of Melissa, who is already carving out a niche as the judge who ruins everyone’s day when she shows up. He explains his dish: “everything looks all white until you break it open”: a subtle comment on the racist veneer of Australian exceptionalism. Melissa approves of his satirical dessert.

We’re halfway through the challenge. “The energy is incredible!” cries Gordon, disappointingly. If this was Hell’s Kitchen he’d be telling them they were all fucking morons and quite possibly throwing rissoles at them.

There’s some guy called “Reece” on the show. He has a balloon in a bowl. He tells Gordon his dish resembles fireworks. This is worrying, as most pyrotechnicians are agreed that fireworks are not edible. I have no idea who Reece is, but I get the feeling I won’t ever have to find out.

There is also some woman called Jess, and another one called Laura. A hell of a lot of former contestants must’ve said no. Apparently Laura used to work for Jock, which is nice, because she’s not working for me right now.

Dani declares that she is making a taste of Sri Lanka: a risky move sure to enrage Melissa, as Dani is not Sri Lankan. She explains that her pineapple curry relaxes you and takes you to another place, seemingly having mistaken curry for cannabis. Jock tells her that he had pineapple curry on his honeymoon, which petrifies Dani, as her chances of success really rest on the judges never having experienced her dish cooked correctly.

There’s another woman called Sarah. That’s confusing. There’s also Lynton, possibly Masterchef’s handsomest ever contestant, looking extremely dapper. He describes to the judges the pleasure he takes in dismembering ducks, and they struggle to hide their concern.

Gordon visits Season Nine runner-up Ben and does an incredibly convincing impression of someone who knew who Ben was before reading his bio ten minutes ago. Ben has opened up a “range of ice-cream parlours”, which doesn’t seem quite right. Someone should look into the story he’s spinning.

“Everyone’s got ovens on, everyone’s got stoves on,” says Emelia, who’s been away from Masterchef so long that she’s forgotten that turning on ovens and stoves is actually quite a common occurrence in the kitchen. “The Masterchef kitchen’s really hot,” she says, referring to Hayden.

Jess is trying to temper chocolate. I’m not sure if this is the same Jess as was mentioned before — Jesses do tend to blur into each other. It’s hard to temper chocolate because of the heat in the room as cited by Emelia. Frankly, her decision to temper chocolate was a stupid one, and she will regret her hubris.

Back to Poh, whose dumplings have the wrong texture, but now’s not the time to be bringing that up: this is a cooking competition. The 90 minutes is almost up, and despite what Ramsay said, it really feels like much longer. To the viewer, anyway.

“I’m making a taste of Sri Lanka,” says Dani, having said exactly the same thing earlier. Has the show gone into repeats already? She tastes her crab — well not HER crab, the crab she’s cooking. “It tastes like crab!” she exclaims. We are left to speculate on whether this might be a good or a bad thing.

With time nearly up, Gordon tells people to get a move on, but demonstrably does NOT tell them to “FUCKING MOVE, YOU FUCKING DONKEYS”. So I don’t see the point really.

Meanwhile Poh has fixed the texture of her dumplings, which is an enormous relief. “It tastes good, but not familiar,” she muses, and then suddenly realises she forgot to make the chilli sauce, like a goddamn amateur. Shame rains down upon her and her descendants unto the seventh generation.

Time is up. Strangers hug for no reason. “Look how much it means to them” Gordon sneers, contemptuous of these pathetic povvos.

Hayden is first to plate up. “I’ve never doubted my ability so much in my entire life,” he says, but he may have a short memory. He doesn’t cook in a restaurant, so he’s very unsure of himself, as someone told him that Masterchef is a restaurant. Hayden thinks he’s screwed his steak up Andy tests his hypothesis. “Looks pretty good mate,” says Jock, and indeed, the steak does look a lot like a steak. “Fit for any steakhouse in the world,” says Gordon, confirming that it’s steak.

On the negative side, Melissa tells Hayden he has too much on the plate, and Jock tells him, “You need to fuck us.” Wait, no, FOCUS. “You need to focus,” he says. I thought he seemed a bit harsh.

Reynold serves his plate of white things. “It looks breathtaking,” says Gordon. “It makes you want to dive into the bowl.” His suicidal fantasies thus elaborated, the judges try the white stuff. It’s fantastic, as you’d expect from Reynold the teacher’s pet. God knows why anyone else even bothered to turn up. (note: the judges go into raptures over Reynold’s bowl of about seventy different elements, after bitching that Hayden’s five things was too much to have on one plate)

Jess is in tears. Reynold has done so well that she knows she is not the best Asian in the room. She brings up her pathetic failure of a dessert. Jock hugs her, the big sleazy lech. Her dish is called “Pink Petal”. “What’s missing?” Gordon asks. “The tempered chocolate,” Jess answers. “Pink petal without the petal. Is that why you’re upset?” says Gordon, and hurls the dish savagely against the wall, screaming in blind fury.

Not really. He actually tells her it’s delicious. “Fuck the petal,” he smiles. Even when he says fuck, he says it nicely. This is bullshit.

Brendan serves his dumplings. They’re OK but not interesting enough to spend much time on.

Short-haired Sarah serves her dish. “That’s what I think of this dish,” says Melissa cryptically, holding up a napkin with lipstick on it. We never find out what this means.

Rose serves a shoulder. It’s fine. Courtney serves some yellow goop. It’s fine. Andy tells Gordon that Courtney is the chef for the Sydney Swans and can therefore be blamed for their terrible recent performance.

Lynton’s…whatever it is…is good, sort of, but he hasn’t rendered the fat on the duck breast, making his dish a hate crime under federal law. If this were Hell’s Kitchen Gordon would spit it out and make retching noises, but he’s gone soft.

Laura serves “A Native Winter”, which appears to be a bowl of popcorn with confetti. “What does this dish say about you?” asks Gordon. Laura gives a long answer that could’ve been cut for broadcast. The dish tastes like something that is food and we call that a win. Jock gets a bit emotional, as Laura is the first person ever to have worked for him who has gone on to make one edible plate of food. Everyone talks about Laura for about four and a half hours, during which the audience heads off to catch a movie.

When they come back, Poh serves her unfamiliar dumplings. “I just wanted a big hole to swallow me up,” says Poh, her dark side threatening to overwhelm her.

When Poh serves it up, I’m pretty sure she says it’s “abacus beads”. That can’t be right, can it? Abacus beads aren’t food, surely? Anyway, she tells Gordon that she’s very upset because there’s an element missing. Always a great tactic: telling the judges your dish sucks before they taste it. She doesn’t care, she’s got a good job anyway.

The judges taste Poh’s nightmarish abortion of a dish. “It’s missing the heartbeat,” says Gordon, even though serving a still-beating heart is generally considered a culinary no-no. The judges agree that even though the dish wasn’t very good, it’s important that they all crawl right up Poh’s butt and tell her how amazing she is.

Next is Ben, Andy’s best friend who is going to win. “That is the kind of surf and turf I can get on board with any day of the week,” says Melissa, confirming our suspicions that she literally never says anything interesting. Andy likes Ben’s dish, what a fucking surprise.

Amina serves something or other. “I’m shocked,” says Gordon, raising fears he’s about to say something racist, but instead he just says it tastes nice.

Callum has cooked some kangaroo in order to show his hatred of Australia and all it stands for. “What I’m seeing here is this sort of journey,” says Gordon, not being paid enough to make sense.

Next, Tessa’s Moreton Bay bug. It tastes good and the editors are public-spirited enough to not let much of her voice stay in the show.

Next, Ben — not that Ben, the other Ben — brings up his dish and sets fire to it. Apparently this is deliberate. “That plate just screams determination,” says Andy, displaying his innate knack for coming up with compliments that sound like insults.

Next is Emelia: efficient, in control, and utterly ruthless. She has served some kind of fancy eclair with chocolate and green and red bits everywhere. It looks frighteningly professional. “Can you guys see that?” says Gordon, emphasising to the other contestants that they are just not good enough. “That is flawless,” says Andy, so if she doesn’t get the immunity pin he’s got some fucking questions to answer.

Dani serves the taste of Sri Lanka that she’s been talking about for the last week. “My style of cooking is really rustic, it’s not refined,” she says, making excuses already. “What’s your connection to Sri Lanka?” asks Melissa, making it clear that “I think they make nice food and I like to cook it” will NOT be an acceptable answer.

The judges stare at Dani’s enormous crab for about half an hour and then finally decide to try to eat it, as monumental a task as that will be. “Oh my god,” says Jock. “Shut all of the doors, it’s a lock-in.” I have no idea what this means, but apparently it’s good. Dani has made a nice crab, so that’s a relief. “The best food in the world has the magical ability to transport people back in time,” says Melissa, who is deeply confused after falling asleep in the middle of Back To The Future last night.

The judges gather to discuss who will win the immunity pin. Their deliberations are completely uninteresting and unnecessarily lengthy, inasmuch as they would, ideally, not be included in the show at all.

It is time to find out who has won. Frankly it has taken a really long time to find out. Four contestants stand out above the rest: teacher’s pet Reynold, who steps forward with the look of a man who doesn’t know what it’s like to not be chosen first; Dani, who is still sweating like a senator; Laura, who we already know too much about; and Emelia, who has the steely determination of a Mossad hit squad.

Gordon says nice things about all four, and tells none of them to pull their head out of their fucking arse. “If I could give four pins out tonight, you four would be wearing them,” he says, which is a pretty logical conclusion.

“You four have marked yourselves out as the ones to watch,” says Jock, causing Callum to furrow his brow, as he was sure that he was one to watch too. Jock goes on to say that two of the four were better than the other two: Reynold and Dani. This despite the fact that Emelia’s dish was “flawless”, exposing the entire process as a complete fucking sham. We can no longer have any faith whatsoever in the integrity of this competition.

Anyway, Dani gets the pin and everyone cheers and applauds to an extent far greater than the circumstances objectively merit. You can already tell that this pin will turn out to be colossally unimportant in the long run.

Tune in tomorrow, when the people who were too boring to even show serving their dishes tonight might get a bit more screentime.

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