It’s culinary combat as Master Chef’s top three face their final reality
WHAT would a Master Chef competition be without contestants dishing some good dirt – not just serving it on a plate?
Billie McKay, Georgia Barnes and Jessica Arnott have remained firm friends through the contest; the desire to be crowned this year’s winner required each to put aside allegiances and get down to the business of winning.
It’s a focus they all possess in the kitchen but, away from it, can be easily persuaded to ignore in favour of good, old-fashioned fun. And they had plenty of that in the house.
Cocktail specialist Arnott led the way when it came to mischief- making – or so McKay says. “She made us mocktail mojitos one night – they were fun.”
Whether that was the same night Barnes danced around the kitchen “like a pony” the trio weren’t telling.
MASTERCHEF AUSTRALIA FINALS SUNDAY AND MONDAY, 7.30PM, TEN
JESSICA ARNOTT, 29, WA
PLAGUED by self-doubt, Arnott defied her own confidence issues to make the final. An awardwinning bartender, her food dream to open a “charcuterie deli, crossed with a bar” remains on track. Her standout challenge was the barbecue cook-off her team won.
“I love that kind of cooking and getting to work on those machines was not only a dream come true but just awesome.” But her perfectionist streak was both a help and a hindrance.
“It is a big part of the reason why I got so far. I chatted with the judges at one stage and they were always trying to push me to not be so hard on myself, but if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t reach the levels I have. It’s a double-edged sword.”
STRENGTH: Barnes says “big flavours and Asian cuisine” are Arnott’s strengths. “She cooked these salads and dishes in the house with Japanese flavours and they were spectacular.”
WEAKNESS: Barnes says “dessert and pastry”, while McKay adds “they both don’t believe in themselves enough”.
McKay says Arnott makes “a mean mocktail mojito”, while Barnes adds “she had this obsession with colour-coding the fruit bowl”.
BILLIE McKAY, 23, NSW
REGARDED as the one to beat, the Ballina restaurant manager admits her success has been “80 per cent mental strength and 20 per cent cooking”.
Cool under pressure, her creativity and time management will be key in the final.
“I’d always watched the show and dreamt about doing it, but never really, seriously thought about auditioning. My partner Hayden really pushed me to apply.
“The last [deadline] came up and he said, ‘What have you got to lose? You either get rejected and you keep going, or you get a chance at doing it’.”
Arnott says “Billie has grown exponentially. She’s the biggest person to beat. I tend to get a bit flappy under pressure, but Billie is an alien – she never gets flustered”.
WEAKNESS: “Does Billie have weaknesses?” asks Barnes. “Dammit, she’s the perfect human.” Arnott adds: “It will just come down to whether she picks the right menu.”
Barnes reveals “when we first moved into the house, Billie forgot her pyjamas and had to sleep in normal clothes. She’s also amazing at juggling”.
GEORGIA BARNES, 27, QLD
COMPARED to Master Chef’s first winner Julie Goodwin by judge Gary Mehigan, Barnes is the most personable, but also the most tested. Her unrivalled grasp of the basics, and brilliant track record when it comes to baking has earned her a rightful place in the final three.
Overcoming those challenges (including surviving more than nine pressure tests and eliminations) was helped by staying connected with her family through letters.
“Reading letters from loved ones I found really grounding and reminded me of where I came from and why I was there.”
STRENGTH: McKay says, “Georgia has a really good knowledge of pastry and all the basics. You can give her anything and she can make absolutely anything out of it and be really creative.”
WEAKNESS: Arnott says, “She’s a lot like me and can tend to get quite stressed and overwhelmed by things and a bit flappy like I do”.
SECRET: Arnott says: “Georgia is just bonkers when she relaxes. You can tell we’re having a good night when she starts running around the kitchen like a pony.”
Secret ingredients: Jessica Arnott, Billie McKay and Georgia Barnes have made it to the final three in MasterChef Australia.