Sundae Roast
Hugh Sundae adds some seasoning to Masterchef New Zealand

Sundae Roast: The Olympic of intense

Cameron Petley.
Cameron Petley.

Show of hands. How many of you really, and I mean really thought Cameron was going to win? The heart always said yes, the head, not so much.

The signs were there. I pretended the first sign was an emotion and bottled it up. In an interview - I forget where - Cameron said that not even his family knew if he had won or not.

Now this could have been the kind of white lie that you tell when you're trying to keep a secret (so I'm told), and maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I immediately thought about how the families of the winner and runner-up get rolled in at the end of the finale, for hugs and tears.

If they didn't know who won, then they can't have been there.

Then there was the Spanish challenge, when the dream run came to an end and he found himself in the bottom three as Sam and Michelle went home in a double elimination.

More recently, Simon Gault appeared to be preparing us for the worst.
"I'm blown away by him," he wrote in his weekly magazine column. "But the question is, will his lack of knowledge eventually trip him up?"

As well as the signs, a Cameron win was simply too good to be true.

Reality TV is full of try-hards, wannabe celebs and the vacuous, and that's just the hosts. Here was a man who was the opposite of the tragic types that are all over prime time. Humble. Unassuming. Not from Auckland.

We wanted him to win from the moment he said of his wife's cooking "she ain't too good at it, I must admit," and our enthusiasm for him was rewarded when he kept coming up with the goods.

"Today will be the day you see people cry," said Jax. Turns out she was talking about my wife.

"There's no point watching anymore," she sobbed - and I do mean sobbed - as Josh delivered the words "Cameron, I'm sorry, we judged your dish the least impressive of the day." But surely now there is even more of a reason to keep watching.

Just as after odds-on favourite Marion was knocked out of the last season of Masterchef Australia for a bad satay, the competition is now wide open. I'm excited about not knowing who will be annoying the hell out of me as a life-size cardboard cut-out at the supermarket a year from now.

The king is dead, long live the king. Or Queen.

TLee (with the confusion over how to write her name, I've decided to rock the street version) giggled as she lifted the mystery box to reveal cupcake ingredients.

"I have this group of girlfriends, our, like, little collective symbol, are cupcakes," she said. I have no idea what this means.

But I'm familiar with terror, and they pulled out all the stops when it came to up-sizing the terror-factor as Mathew Metcalfe carried out the chocolate tower. Of terror.

They even went so far as to slow-mo his entrance. But with Metcalfe in chef's whites, the slow-mo-ing had the unfortunate side effect of making him look like the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters.

Cameron was also channelling fictional characters.

"Look at my hands," Cameron said. "They're like Sasquatch hands, not for dainty stuff."

Stu, increasingly confident over recent weeks, had the best start. He was forgetting the big picture and just methodically going through each step. Treating it like any other recipe - going against what the tower was designed to do.

While a work of art, I don't really think it's a dessert. They simply wanted something with wow factor that would strike, what's the word, terror into the contestants. Just as Adriano Zumbo's croquembouche did on Masterchef Australia.

But the croquembouche is a big tower of profiteroles, which can be broken off and eaten. The chocolate tower is an edible stand. A garnish.

"No one said winning Masterchef was going to be easy," Gault said to a flustered Cameron. The tower was having its wicked way.

Despite having "a crack in my big one", TLee wasn't giving up and was considering a second attempt. "Have I got enough chocolate though?"

"It's your call." Gault said. The rules about how much judges can suggest had clearly changed in the three minutes since he came up to tell her to go and check the fridge.

While most were struggling with the cooking, Michael Lee was struggling with the concept. Admitting he had no theme, judge Josh then pointed out that with them all following the same recipe, it could be the decoration that put some out in front.

"I don't know, that's for you guys to decide when I make it, right?" Lee laughed. McVinnie clearly thought they'd tried hard enough and moved on.

You don't need to have watched every competition-based show ever made to be familiar with the tricks. Someone sounds worried? They're probably fine. Not much camera time? Probably made it through. Seems like an irreversible disaster has taken place? Probably reversible.

Despite all this savvy (some might say cynicism), seeing Cameron's cupcakes rise so high they become one, gave me a terrible sinking feeling.

Surely not, I thought. Luckily Michael was getting a grilling from an increasingly headmaster-like Mathew Metcalfe. "I bet Michael goes," I said to my wife, or perhaps she said it to me. It's hard to be sure. It was an emotional night.

Jax agreed, "it was the Olympic of intense."

Those last few moments looked intense alright. TLee and Jax looked ready to collapse. "Wow," said Michael. "F**k," said Cameron.

"Do you think this is the last time we'll see Cameron in Masterchef?" Gault asked. When Cameron came back with, "quite possibly" I stopped worrying. They wouldn't leave that in if he actually went, I thought.

Metcalfe seemed impressed with the colour scheme. "Chocolate. Gold. Brown." But he thought the cupcakes were slightly undercooked, "but I'm still happy to eat it". That's nice of you.

After universal praise for TLee's effort - and they did look great - Nadia tried to explain her theme to Josh who didn't seem to want a bar of it.

Sure, Nadia's cupcakes were a mess, but while others had done "colour schemes" she had actually done what was asked and made it a theme. A canopy of trees, then the sun, clouds, clouds with silver lining. Bless.

Stu? Nailed it. Long live the king.

Michael didn't get the dressing down that Anthony got last week, but it was obvious the judges have lost patience with him. It's a long way since the heady heights of his golden apron, but I'm wondering if the plain disappointment from the judges will give him a much needed second wind.

It took me a moment to accept Cameron was out, more than likely you're still having one as you read this. Don't despair. In some ways (not including the prizes - I want a hob that rises out of the bench too) it's better not to win.

How many times have the also-rans gone on to have equal or even better success than the winners in reality competitions? Sounds like Fiona is already doing well, spending some time in the Euro kitchen, just as Kelly Young did last year.

So, money on the table folks, who will be the two finalists come May 8th (the Sunday before the final)? Leave your guesses in the comments, I'll see if I can track down a prize for the first person to leave the right answer. Maybe some courgettes. But do leave at least one sentence on each person rather than just their name.

You can always tell when the judges are truly sorry to see someone go. Josh, Simon and Ray obviously had a great deal of admiration for Cameron.

"I know I speak for all of us when I say, we're really going to miss you," said Josh. But it was Simon Gault who summed it up best.

"You've come up to the big smoke, and you've kicked arse... I think you're awesome and I'm going to miss you."

Episode 9

Best Line: "F**k" - Cameron Petley sums up the mood of the nation.
Worst Line: "Kia kaha, bro" - Awkward attempt at familiarity from Mathew Metcalfe
Current favourite: Stu Todd, Nadia Lim

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