I hate surprises. Just when you think some MasterChef contestants are all right and their cooking might be reaching reasonable restaurant standards (as Simon Gault raved last week after they pulled off five courses of great looking food for his Euro re-launch), in come the real chefs to knock them off their high horses.

First it was the French Cafe's Simon Wright on Friday night's master class, who taught the 10 remaining competitors about cooking duck. His mastery of carving, rendering the fat and creating a crispy-skinned breast of duck with kumera and mandarin made you realise what top chefing requires - impeccable knife skills, hands that seem to be able to "feel" the food and detail, detail, detail to produce such clean and precise dishes. I reckon the 10-course, $145 tasting menu, in which it stars, would be worth every penny.

Then Peter Gordon of London and Auckland's Dine got the 10 would-bes to dig into the meaning of fusion food. Much to Michael's dismay, he meant not Asian-fusion, but that tricky new darling of the food set, Spanish. The invention test sure sorted the foodies who travel, taste, research or read about good food from the mere cooks who cook what they know.

The top two, eventual winner Taupo homemaker Tracey-Lee and marketer Fiona, had clearly loved and cooked this food until it was in their bones. They got that plates of tapas are about rich flavours and interesting techniques.

I wanted to lick the TV screen for Tracey-Lee's manchego cheese potato croquettes or Fiona's pea soup with crouton and chorizo. Peter Gordon said he would serve such dishes in his restaurants. But here's hoping Tracey-Lee lays off the wide-eyed gushing about each celebrity chef - it's worse than a 4-year-old at a Wiggles concert and not becoming to such a smart cook.

It is hard to know if Nadia would have produced equally mouthwatering tastes, as the usually disciplined and confident cook had a mind fade in the pantry dash, grabbing 10 more ingredients than allowed, which were swiftly taken from her. Tough to do Spanish without paprika or saffron. She tearfully fell to pieces, even as judge Ray McVinnie praised her potato dish ("I think I'm on a hot day in Andalucia ... Nadia, that is a compliment").

Jax and Antony had been to Spain enough to get the drift of the cuisine, but others were floundering. Cameron, until now unshakeable, drew a blank which landed him in the bottom three. But it was obvious from the get-go meat eater Michelle, baulking at cooking vegetarian and reverting to home economics 101 thingies-wrapped-in-bacon, and builder Sam producing "deconstructed" tacos would get them sent home.

Stu and Micheal scraped through (but, oh the hubris of youth; young Michael may not have a clue where Spain is on the map, but if he reckons knowing baba ghanoush puts him above the non-foodie masses, he has a bit to learn).

Tracey-Lee's winning the role of team leader in next week's challenge is a bit of a Clayton's prize (we know what happens to leaders who fall apart from previous MasterChef series), but I sure know which three I'd be picking for my team.

I guess the surprise quotient is going to build as we flick off another six cooks before the finals.

Catherine Smith is deputy editor of Weekend Life and a member of the Food Writers' Guild.