Now they’re cook­ing

Af­ter months of non- stop cook­ing the MasterChef fi nal­ists are ready for the ul­ti­mate cook- off, writes Colin Vick­ery

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE -

EMELIA Jack­son, Laura Cas­sai and Brent Owens are about to hit the wall. The three have en­dured six months of non- stop 14- hour days as they fi ght it out to get into to­mor­row night’s grand fi nal of rein­vig­o­rated re­al­ity cook­ing show MasterChef.

All ad­mit they se­ri­ously un­der­es­ti­mated the men­tal, phys­i­cal and emo­tional toll of plat­ing up ex­tra­or­di­nary dishes episode af­ter episode for judges Matt Pre­ston, Ge­orge Calom­baris and Gary Me­hi­gan.

They sur­vived the tough He­ston Blu­men­thal week, when Amy Shields was elim­i­nated, and fi nals week, which saw the ex­its of Ben MacDon­ald, Tracy Collins, and Jamie Flem­ing.

Tonight is sud­den death. The trio face off in a ser­vice chal­lenge cre­at­ing dishes they would serve in their dream restau­rant, each pre­par­ing a main and a dessert for 20 din­ers and the judges.

The con­tes­tant with the least im­pres­sive dishes is elim­i­nated, and the re­main­ing two are through to the grand fi nal.

“I re­ally ex­pected MasterChef to be eas­ier than it is,” Jack­son, 24, says.

“I never con­sid­ered how ex­haust­ing, men­tally drain­ing and emo­tion­ally charged the ex­pe­ri­ence would be.”

Some of that emo­tion ex­tended to the MasterChef house – a mul­ti­mil­lion- dol­lar property in the Mel­bourne bay­side sub­urb of Brighton.

Elim­i­nated con­tes­tant Tash Shan ac­cused her fel­low com­peti­tors of mak­ing her feel marginalised and lonely in the house.

But Owens says the big­gest sur­prise was how well he got on with con­tes­tants out­side the com­pe­ti­tion.

“A ma­jor­ity of them have helped me get through this in their unique ways and I hope I did the same for them,” Owens, 24, says.

Un­til now, Cal­lum Hann is the youngest con­tes­tant to make the MasterChef grand fi nal. Hann was 20 when run­ner- up to then- 31- yearold Adam Liaw in 2010.

Cas­sai, 19, hopes to be the fi rst teenager to com­pete in the grand fi nal. She has been a stand­out from the start. “To make the top three is just in­sane,” Cas­sai says.

“One of my big­gest strengths is ex­tract­ing fl avour out of min­i­mal in­gre­di­ents.

“The downside is that I can some­times get re­ally fl us­tered when things go wrong. I’m go­ing to have to work to keep my cool.”

Mar­ket­ing co- or­di­na­tor Jack­son – aka the dessert queen – plans to open a cafe in the fu­ture.

“My strengths are my abil­ity to be re­ally or­gan­ised and effi cient,” Jack­son says. “My weak­ness is prob­a­bly over- com­pli­cat­ing things.”

Owens lives with his girl­friend of six years, Madi­son, and works as a bob­cat driver for her fa­ther Lau­rence’s ex­ca­va­tion busi­ness. Af­ter MasterChef, he has tele­vi­sion in his sights, want­ing to make his own foodie travel se­ries.

“As the com­pe­ti­tion has pro­gressed, my plat­ing has con­tin­ued to im­prove,” Owens says.

“My weak­nesses are fol­low­ing recipes and get­ting in­gre­di­ent anx­i­ety. When there is an open pantry, I man- scan with no ideas.”

MASTERCHEF AUS­TRALIA 6.30pm, Sun­day, TDT

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