Well, here we are! The contestants are in chef’s whites, people are walking in slow motion, the judges are in bow ties, Mel’s wearing chartreuse silk: it’s finally time to decide who will be the final three.
Elise, Justin and Kishwar enter the chook shed to discover the bodies of those they’ve vanquished on their path to glory positioned upon pikes … uh, the eliminated contestants cheering them on from the gantry. “These guys were once your competitors and now they are your cheer squad,” Mel announces, as Elise promptly bursts into tears. Not yet, Elise!!
Our team in white have been tasked with creating a three-course, fine dining menu that represents their personal brand. They’ll have to feed 23 diners – 20 guests plus the judges – and they have four hours to do it.
Justin is doing a cauliflower taco, a lamb backstrap with curry spices, and a brie ice-cream. Up on the gantry, The Boys look psyched. Sorry but I’m just so happy to see them :’)
Elise is doing Italian, but with a native ingredient spin: she was super inspired by the trip to the Northern Territory. She’s also individually wrapping each of her beetroots in foil, which seems like a lot of work.
Justin is living it up, cooking off the alcohol on his lamb by summoning the fires of Grayskull, declaring “It looks sick!” NEVER CHANGE, KING.
Kishwar is doing A LOT. Andy and Jock seem excited but slightly scared about the number of elements she has planned, particularly as she’s doing a goat main that usually cooks overnight.
They’re also worried about Justin’s entree tacos seeming “fine dining” enough, but I can’t take them seriously because they look like the penguins from Mary Poppins.
Ninety minutes in and the music editor has already cracked out the Bay Area thrash riffs, which makes me wonder what’s about to go wrong. As if by fate, Elise’s parsley and cream anglaise has turned to butter with giant chunks of parsley in it.
Her attempt to “rinse” it with milk goes even farther south: it’s turned into parsley soup. She’s changing her semifreddo flavour with two hours to go: time for pistachio paste out of a jar.
With an hour to go, wheels are starting to fall off left right and centre. Pete watches over Elise’s chaotic semifreddo prep like the ghost of a skateboarder she once did a hit and run on.
The diners start to file in as Kishwar begins to prep her kingfish ceviche. “Ohhh my god,” says Jock as Mel dies of stress in the background. Who would’ve thought there could be a MasterChef service challenge experience tenser than Laura setting fire to her own hand?
Just to rub salt in the wound, the entire cavern full of diners and judges do the countdown to service, which will soon enter my anxiety dream repertoire. Justin and Elise’s entrees are out, but Kishwar is still slicing up kingfish.
Justin’s tacos send the judges into a deep depression. “Promised the world, delivered an atlas.” Andy is ready to call Lifeline. “I’m devvo.”
It’s bad news for Elise, too, whose lentils and mushrooms were cooked separately and have undermined the flavours.
Thank god, Kishwar’s kingfish ceviche in green water is a winner.
Justin’s lamb hits the table and the judges’ eyes come out on stalks: he’s nailed it.
Jock says it’s “solid, seamless, delicious piece of lamb”, declaring the curry spiced sauce has sent the dish into another stratosphere. “The big fella’s back,” says Andy as Mel cheers.
Meanwhile, Elise is “regretting some of the choices made earlier in the cook”: unwrapping and peeling her beetroots is driving her bananas, and her venison doneness is inconsistent. The judges damn it with faint praise. Is it enough?
Kishwar’s main is ready. It’s her dad’s goat nihari recipe and she’s super proud to send it out. The judges like it so much they get angry. “Come on!” Jock yells.
Finally, it’s dessert time. Elise’s pistachio semifreddo has set perfectly …
… but her flavour combination suffers from overthinking: the judges can’t taste the pistachio and the “birdseed” brittle has overpowered the other flavours.
Justin’s brie ice-cream has gone hard and I’m checking myself for signs of a heart attack. But the judges love the flavour combinations and the storytelling behind his dessert (inspired by having a cheese plate with his fiancee) even though the ice-cream is icy.
Finally, Kishwar’s “after dinner mint” completes the service.
They love it. Jock is so excited he does it “in one”. The mukhwas sprinkled on top makes Mel feel “soothed and refreshed”.
Kishwar is first through!!
The judges reckon Elise won entree, Justin won main, and it’s come down to desserts. And … it’s Justin!!
That means Elise is going home. “It was a bloody great ride,” she says. Now let’s all go home, have a cup of tea, and recover from that hellride in time for another two nights of the same!
• Clem Bastow will be liveblogging the finals on Monday and Tuesday from 7.30pm