Sundae Roast

Hugh Sundae adds some seasoning to Masterchef New Zealand

Sundae Roast: Excess baggage

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Kelly lets off some steam in Masterchef New Zealand.
Kelly lets off some steam in Masterchef New Zealand.

It's easy to forget that while we sit here watching this lot go through hell and back every seven days, in reality they're doing these challenges much closer together.

They are most likely rooted. Completely stuffed. Perhaps even delirious. This may explain why they all seem so ecstatic to have the idea of a trip dangled in front of them, even if it is flying Jetstar.

Looking back at that reaction and knowing what we know now, it does seem particularly bad luck for the eventual evictee, who looked genuinely floored at the idea of a first overseas trip.

"Seeing David from Jetstar was really good because I knew that it was real," Ella beamed. In fact you might even call him a celebrity, seeing how much he appears in the media, defending his airline against one thing or another.

Like some of his passengers, Jetstar CEO David Hall has arrived without any baggage, but he does have nine boarding passes, each with a different destination.

I misunderstand this to mean that each contestant will actually fly to a different destination and I'm rather confused.

Paula gets Thailand, uncanny of course as her husband is Thai. Jennis gets China.

"Probably the closest I've been is the takeaways."

The Aaronator gets Singapore, Vanessa USA, Kelly Vietnam, Eliott Australia, Ella Malayasia, Dana Japan and then Sushil rounds it all out with Fiji. He's beside himself and once again plays it down.

"It was the most amazing moment that has ever happened to me, I feel like I'm the luckiest man on earth today."

Then he starts crying. Later: "I've never been so motivated in my life." Oh Sushil, don't ever leave.

Contestants have an hour to create their dishes from recipes that don't have any quantities, so knowledge is paramount. Like Sushil, Paula is making one of her staples but isn't taking any chances.

"Just because you've done something a million times, it only takes one mistake and it's all over."

Dana could only dream of being in that position. She's making buckwheat noodle soup and her knowledge of Japanese cuisine extends to incorrectly stating that spring rolls are from Japan. Uh oh.

Kelly, whose wide-eyed expressions are reminding me more and more of ex-contestant Traceylee Hooton, may not have made Chicken Pho before, but she also hadn't made a sponge cake before nailing that challenge.

She's putting whole ginger and shallots on the gas flame, a great technique for de-skinning capsicum but I've no idea why it's being used here. Char flavour? I look forward to giving it a try but wish I didn't have a ceramic cooktop.

Eliott has an Australian seafood stew to brew, using several different types of fish, all with different cooking times. Tricky. In fact with just 60 minutes to make all this it's a tall order for everyone, including those who got the easy (ish) ones.

Over at the Aaronator's bench things seem pretty calm. The man is a great advertisement for yoga. He may not have made the Singaporean noodle dish before but seems on top of it anyway.

"I imagine hot, fragrant, tasty, delicious, I'm going to make it how I'd love to eat it," he tells Simon Gault and it's hard to doubt him.

At this point I realise that aside from a few "cleared for takeoff" puns early on, there isn't too much hamming it up going on. They're not really trying to create drama tonight, there just is drama. It's an enjoyable challenge. Please sir, I want more.

Kelly wants more. More time. The pressure cooker isn't cooking fast enough and she's starting to lose it. Gault, unwisely, approaches her to chat.

"Is that your nervous laugh?" He asks. "It's my you don't want to know what laugh it is."

He keeps prodding and finally gets this answer, and possibly the best line of any episode.

"It's the f**ked laugh!" Gault gets it now. "Right," he mumbles, eyes facing the floor. It's the moment we realise she may be in bigger trouble than we first thought.

But back over at Sushil's the only problem Gault can find is a messy workspace. The floor is covered in rubbish, off cuts and appliances.

"I try to be clean every time I come in but I admit it, I'm a messy cook," he admits. I'm quite excited about Sushil's Curry House, the restaurant I hope he opens. Earlier he said he just wanted to make the best curry in town. Well, I just want to have dinner there. Between his knowledge of curries, his feel good people skills and lack of cleanliness it could be the best night out ever. Like an Indian Fawlty Towers.

Back over at f**kvile Josh Emett is beginning to see Kelly's problem. The pressure cooker is still pressure cookering. "I've got nine minutes left," she says of the stock that she still has to poach her chicken in.

"I'll back the hell off then and leave you to it," Emett says. He doesn't want to be there when it blows. The pressure cooker or Kelly.

Turns out it's the pressure cooker that goes first, spouting fat and steam high into the air and making the stove a no-go area for Eliott. He looks pissed. Gault's starting to look pissed too and once again tells Kelly to harden up.

But there is no getting past Dana's struggle. As Emett explains to Gault "there is just a total look of confusion on her face whenever she's tasting, she really looks like she's not getting the answers she wants."

When it's all over, every dish seems to have had a makeover since they were last seen. Despite Kelly's stress-bomb the dish looks amazing. Again. "My chicken is just cooked." Even Dana's looks ok. Elliot's stew looks amazing. "Probably the best presentation I've ever done in my life."

Vanessa is first for judging and despite feeling she got the raw prawn on the destination, her American Jambalaya sounds faultless.

"I've got a little voice in my head saying just put the spoon down," Emett says.

Despite it looking great, Kelly's dish has drawn criticism we haven't been used to hearing about her these past weeks.

"Kelly has today good reason to be worried about and unsure about the flavour of her broth," Gault says. "I find it just a little insipid."

Emett also finds himself unfulfilled. "I want more balls," he says. I think he said something else too but by then I was giggling like a seven year old and couldn't hear.

Jennis is an easy pass. The airline guy was obviously so confident in the outcome he was happy to speak first and was full of praise.

Aaron's Hokkien Mee turns heads. He'd never tasted the Singaporean dish before but still nails it. "I can't believe this guy's never tasted this," Ray McVinnie says. "How does he do it?"

Ella's prawn Laksa smells good and tastes okay but there isn't enough broth. It sounds kinda bad, but we all know who's ahead of her in the elimination line.

Whatever Eliott has been drinking lately is still paying off. His Australian seafood stew gets his best comments to date. Emett best sums up my thoughts. "Wow.. Eliott... I mean... "

But the challenge was Paula's for the taking. She had everything going for her by getting Thailand and Pad Thai, and didn't waste the opportunity. "That is my idea of heaven," gushes Emett. "Best Pad Thai I've ever had and that's all I have to say," adds Gault.

No surprises for Sushil either, being the other lucky bugger of the day. "I've got a symphony of curry flavours going on in my mouth," Gault says. I think that was meant to be a good thing.

So to Dana. Her Japanese buckwheat noodle soup with prawn tempura wasn't sounding great and no amount of wanting to go on her first overseas trip would give this story a happy ending.

"That's a little bit unpleasant really," says McVinnie. Emett goes further. "It's vile. For me it's a complete and utter disaster."

When Dana is joined in the final two by Kelly, Gault sees no reason to cushion the blow. "Insipid is better than inedible." Ouch.

But for Dana those harsh words may have been made easier to handle given her fellow contestant's reactions. "It's going to be SO weird with her gone," said pretty much everyone.

I just hope Dana's flatmates will forgive her for repeatedly describing their flat as "crappy."

A few weeks ago it looked like the Aaronator was going to win every challenge. That's being shared around a bit more now, Paula won tonight and the trip to Thailand that went with it, but Aaron still definitely has one hand on the MasterChef title.

It's not the final eight I would have predicted, but each of them has shown at least some moments of brilliance over recent weeks. We're at a stage now where every elimination has the potential to be an OMG moment. We're on the home straight.

Episode 10

Best line: "It's the f**ked laugh." Kelly
Worst line: "I want more balls." Josh
Current favourites: Aaron, Ella, Paula, Kelly.

Episode 1: Fourteen grand up
Episode 2: A route of pleasure
Episode 3: Keep blowin' brother
Episode 4: Wake and shake
Episode 5: True colours
Episode 6: Dropping the ball
Episode 7: Get your ship together
Episode 8: A journey of dumplings
Episode 9: All you need is love

-nzherald.co.nz

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