CAL­I­FOR­NIA TURNS UP THE HEAT FOR CHEFS

Herald Sun - Switched On - - COVER STORY - BY COLIN VICK­ERY NA­TIONAL TV WRITER

MasterChef Australia’s Cal­i­for­nia Week is no hol­i­day. The seven con­tes­tants left on the Chan­nel 10 show know they need to step it up or face the in­dig­nity of be­ing sent home. One con­tes­tant could be fast­tracked to fi­nals week.

That brings enor­mous stress to what would oth­er­wise be the trip of a life­time. Who wouldn’t want to plate up in San Fran, the Napa Val­ley, Los An­ge­les, Santa Mon­ica and San Diego?

“Com­ing to Cal­i­for­nia, it (stan­dard of cook­ing) re­ally shifts up a gear,” judge Gary Me­hi­gan says. “There’s a level of re­newed en­thu­si­asm. It is re­as­sur­ing to know these con­tes­tants are cook­ing as good as any year, par­tic­u­larly last year, which was ex­cep­tional.”

Con­tes­tants are faced with a range of chal­lenges. In San Fran­cisco it is a Mystery Box and then an in­ven­tion test based around Cal­i­for­nia pro­duce, then a team chal­lenge set by world fa­mous chef Do­minique Crenn.

Fran­cis Ford Cop­pola’s ( The God­fa­ther) In­glenook Es­tate win­ery in the Napa Val­ley is the set­ting for an­other cook-off.

Cur­tis Stone makes an ap­pear­ance when con­tes­tants cook at his Maude restau­rant. A taco mas­ter­class fea­tur­ing Cal­iBaja mae­stro Javier Plas­cen­cia takes place on the beach ad­join­ing San Diego’s his­toric Ho­tel del Coron­ado.

But right now I’m stand­ing next to the Santa Mon­ica Pier watch­ing con­tes­tants get to grips with a dif­fer­ent chal­lenge — cook­ing in food trucks.

Teams have to cre­ate two items and pre­pare enough to feed the 200 peo­ple snaking along the board­walk. This is all done un­der the watch­ful eyes of the judges and Wes Avila from Guerilla Food Trucks — and con­tes­tants are clearly out­side of their com­fort zones.

Avila started in fine din­ing and his truck food is so­phis­ti­cated fare. “For me, it (the ap­peal of run­ning a food truck) is be­ing able to feed some­body and see their re­ac­tion in­stantly,” Avila says.

MASTERCHEF AUSTRALIA, CHAN­NEL 10, SUN­DAY TO THURS­DAY, 7.30PM

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