CALIFORNIA TURNS UP THE HEAT FOR CHEFS
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