Who’ll get the chop?

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Television -

IN a sea­son which has seen a con­tes­tant booted for cheat­ing, the Dalai Lama drop in for a bite, a trip to the Big Ap­ple and claims of favouritism, tonight’s an­nounce­ment of the MasterChef Aus­tralia 2011 win­ner could al­most seem an af­ter­thought.

But for judges Gary Me­hi­gan and Matt Mo­ran, it’s any­thing but.

Mo­ran con­fesses he likes one of the fi­nal dishes so much, he has taken home the recipe.

Tonight’s MasterChef fi­nale is an act in three chal­lenges and two parts. The last two con­tes­tants stand­ing hit our screens from 6.30pm to 7.30pm for two of the three fi­nal chal­lenges. TDT will then broad­cast The Ren­o­va­tors un­til 8.30pm be­fore re­turn­ing to the MasterChef kitchen for the fi­nal chal­lenge.

Then the judges will give their ver­dict, be­stow­ing $ 100,000 and a cook-book deal on the win­ner.

But win or lose, Me­hi­gan and Mo­ran say this sea­son has been one for many of the con­tes­tants’ own bucket lists. Pos­ing for a fi­nal ver­dict shot on the eve of the fi­nale piece de re­sis­tance, the pair re­flected on a sea­son in which Matt Beyer was given the boot for hav­ing a phone in the MasterChef man­sion while con­tes­tants ( and, af­ter that par­tic­u­lar episode, a few fear­less home cooks) tack­led the most dif­fi­cult burger recipe ever – a He­ston Blu­men­thal cre­ation that re­quired not only mak­ing your own cheese and burger bun, but triple-cook­ing the chips to go with it. Along the way, Mo­ran and Me­hi­gan met more of the world’s top chefs than they have en­coun­tered in a com­bined 45-plus years as chefs – the likes of Blu­men­thal, Nigella Law­son and David Chang. And then, there was the Dalai Lama. ‘‘ That was one of the most un­be­liev­able ex­pe­ri­ences,’’ Me­hi­gan says.

‘‘ I mean, when you’re asked that ques­tion about who you’d want at the ta­ble at your dream last din­ner party, well, the Dalai Lama is on it for me.’’

Tak­ing con­tes­tants to the food mecca that is New York was an­other sea­son high.

‘‘ I think for any­one, any chance to spend time in that city is a high­light,’’ Me­hi­gan says.

The pair says the hard­est con­tes­tant to see exit the show was love­able life­guard and one-time favourite Hay­den Quinn, who is al­ready in talks for his own TV show and a book deal.

‘‘ He’s a huge tal­ent and a great bloke. He took the de­par­ture on the chin,’’ Mo­ran says.

Me­hi­gan pre­dicts that Quinn ‘‘ will be an ab­so­lute star’’.

‘‘ He’s the new Jules Lund or Cur­tis Stone, or the Aussie Manu Feildel,’’ he says.

For Me­hi­gan and Mo­ran the judg­ing role is an ex­ten­sion of, rather than a move away from, their ca­reers in the food in­dus­try. Both still spend time in their restau­rants. ‘‘ Kitchens are a young man’s sport. This keeps us fresh,’’ Me­hi­gan says.

‘‘ Each year to­wards the end of the se­ries the con­tes­tants de­light in pit­ting Ge­orge [ Calom­baris, fel­low judge] and I up against each other in a Mas­ter­class.

‘‘ What they don’t get is that it’s what we’ve been do­ing for years and love do­ing. It’s like com­ing home.’’

DEB­BIE SCHIPP MasterChef Aus­tralia grand fi­nal TDT, tonight 6.30pm and 8.30pm

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