Masters of their own des­tiny

Ever since that scary cro­quem­bouche struck fear into the hearts of the sea­son one con­tes­tants, MasterChef Aus­tralia has served up the tasti­est – and most dif­fi­cult – of chal­lenges. ANDREW FEN­TON re­ports

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - TV Guide - - News -

MASTERCHEF Aus­tralia

is back do­ing what it does best – pit­ting the most tal­ented cooks in the coun­try against each other with the em­pha­sis on skills, rather than the abil­ity to make snarky com­ments.

The sea­son six con­tes­tants are “the best cooks we’ve ever had” ac­cord­ing to judge Ge­orge Calom­baris.

“Lit­er­ally af­ter the first week meet­ing these con­tes­tants we had to rip the paper up for what we had planned, and raise the ante like you would not be­lieve,” he says.

“These people are in­cred­i­ble. We de­lib­er­ately said to our­selves we wanted to get back to the core value of what MasterChef is and that’s great cook­ing. We’re not a soap opera.”

Here, Calom­baris lists the five tough­est chal­lenges in MasterChef his­tory.

THE CRO­QUEM­BOUCHE

UN­TIL Adri­ano Zumbo un­veiled the im­pres­sive dessert in June 2009, most Aus­tralians had never even heard of the term cro­quem­bouche. Tom Mosby, Poh Ling Yeow, Chris Bade­noch and Julie Good­win’s strug­gle to recre­ate it saw it be­come syn­ony­mous with en­velope­push­ing dif­fi­cultly. “Vis­ually it looks spec­tac­u­lar and then you say you’ve got three hours to pop this lit­tle baby out from scratch and people s--- them­selves!” laughs Calom­baris. Vari­a­tions on the chal­lenge have turned up in most sea­sons of the show, and even in Calom­baris’s own Press Club kitchen. “When we em­ploy some­one at a se­nior level we say, ‘Right, make 100 prof­iteroles and let’s see how good you are’,” he says.

WHEN IN ROME …

MAK­ING pizza and pasta to the lik­ing of Ital­ians in Italy is harder than sell­ing ice to the Inuit. Ital­ian pizza bears lit­tle re­sem­blance to the pineap­ple-strewn Aussie ver­sion, and their pasta is al dente to the ex­treme: “In Italy it’s lit­er­ally crunchy!” says Calom­baris. In se­ries four, Alice Zavlavsky, Wade Drum­mond, Mindy Woods and Ju­lia Tay­lor were thrown into a cramped kitchen and told to serve the dishes to 120 Ro­man din­ers. “I had to run the kitchen that day and if I could have pressed a but­ton to eject my­self off of Earth I would have done that,” Calom­baris says.

SNOW EGG

MORE than 4.5 mil­lion view­ers tuned in for sea­son two’s fi­nale be­tween Cal­lum Hann and Adam Liaw (forc­ing the elec­tion de­bate be­tween Ju­lia Gil­lard and Tony Ab­bott to a dif­fer­ent times­lot). The chal­lenge was a monster: recre­at­ing four of Quay restau­ra­teur Peter Gil­more’s in­fa­mous snow eggs: a poached meringue filled with cus­tard ap­ple ice cream on a granita snow base, in three hours and 20 min­utes. “It’s tech­ni­cally so dif­fi­cult – a dessert com­ing out of one of the best kitchens in the coun­try,” Calom­baris says. “But they pulled it off.”

MUM KNOWS BEST

MARY Calom­baris put sea­son three con­tes­tants through their paces with five tra­di­tional dishes: pita, tzatziki, koupes (pastry and meat), hum­mus and shamishi (fried pastry with semolina cus­tard). To make life more dif­fi­cult, they only had three of five recipes. “I love her to bits but hav­ing her come on the show, not only boss­ing me around but the con­tes­tants, would have been dif­fi­cult for them,” Calom­baris says. Mary told the na­tion she was a bet­ter cook than Ge­orge for one sim­ple rea­son: “I don’t bas­tardise my food.”

HE­STON BLU­MEN­THAL

THE world’s most in­ven­tive chef has made nu­mer­ous ap­pear­ances, chal­leng­ing con­tes­tants to repli­cate his dry-ice and magic, molec­u­lar gas­tron­omy. Last year, he tor­mented them for a week cul­mi­nat­ing in a me­dieval feast fea­tur­ing his sig­na­ture ed­i­ble gar­den – cooked and raw veg­gies “planted” in “soil” made of dried olives with may­on­naise un­der­neath, ta­pi­oca for sand and “vol­canic stones” made from pota­toes. “Give me a break – that’s so hard,” says Calom­baris. “I have a de­vel­op­ment kitchen cre­at­ing stuff like that and it takes six months to a year. Here we are, you’ve got an hour – can you pop out an ed­i­ble gar­den?” he says.

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