MasterChef – Tues, May 17 – Pass the popcorn

Ooh, this could be fun. Will anyone do a savoury dish, I wonder?
TV blurb says: The three best performers in the invention test must create a dish using popcorn as the core ingredient. The winner will then need to out-cook the professional guest chef for immunity.

So, is it wrong to be watching MasterChef while eating spaghetti from a can? Shh, don’t tell George. Betcha Gaz has done it, though.
Nicolette seems to be the only one who knows what she’s doing for the popcorn challenge. Con is blitzing popcorn with melted what chocolate – I hope he’s going to strain it. But then, he confesses he doesn’t even eat popcorn. Anastasia disappointingly faffed around and tried to cook a giant chook breast with only 15 minutes to go. She’s lucky it’s not an elimination challenge. And she does not know how to pronounce miso.
Con seems to have forgotten popcorn should be prominent, instead building a dessert he obviously had in mind and then trying to shoehorn the challenge to fit.
Do we need to add Not Another Bloody Parfait to the lexicon? Will Nicolette’s dish be too sweet? Anastasia has to fry her sliced chicken and loses her popcorn crumb in the process. She’s no chance. Sad, given she did so well the other day with her maple syrup squid and Spanish quail.
The judges taste and they love his jelly and mousse but there is no popcorn flavour. Is he being secretly paid by Pedro Ximenez?
Anastasia’s dish is tasty but there’s hardly any popcorn.
Nicolette’s popcorn parfait looks interesting and the judges like the plating. Shannon says she showed restrained use of salt and they state the bleeding obvious: she has won. Well, that was a bit of a letdown as it was no competition at all.

Guest chef immunity challenge
It’s the chef from Ricky’s at Noosa: Braden White.

Nic gets to choose from shellfish or fish. Nicolette freaks out because she loves desserts. And Ricky’s specialises in seafood. She picks fish and has 75 minutes to cook. Hopefully Shannon will give her lots of advice. She’s doing confit salmon and has to fillet a massive fish. She is working smoothly but slowly.
She is yet to start pin boning as Brayden – with the obligatory tatt sleeves – picks out mulloway.
The chef is chopping white onions at super ninja speed and he’s talking the contestants of the gantry through his cooking process.
Poor Shannon is doing his best to add tension by yelling stuff like “your reputation is on the line” – God love him.
With less than 20 minutes to go Nic hasn’t started cooking her fish. Her oil is too hot, so she takes some out and adds room temp oil. Now it’s too cold. It’s a Goldilocks moment. We know the judges eat the dishes cold, so why not have started cooking the salmon ages ago – if she stuffed up one piece she would have had time to do a second.
Up on the gantry the airline captain is worried Braden’s fish will keep cooking in the pan after he takes it off the heat.
Thanks to Braden I now know how to make fennel dust from carrot top and fennel fronds. I love a good bowl of dust for dinner.
Time’s up and Nicolette definitely kept her cool for someone who’s only 19. Perhaps she knows more about savoury dishes than she let on.
At least we went one day (probably really two days) in the MC kitchen without someone stacking it.
Time to judge

Nic’s dish looks pretty and delicate and I’d love to eat that crispy salmon skin right now. She got a bit lucky with the confit working. The judges love everything about it but note she hasn’t trimmed the brown bit from the salmon, which gives away who cooked it.
And then Braden’s dish is placed in front of them and it looks so beautiful – and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t believe in flowers on plates. The judges are in plating-up heaven just looking at it. George is itching to get the tweezers out but instead disassembles it with a fork and spoon. “What a clever dish,” George says. Matt loves the different textures but the fish is overcooked. So the comment from the airline captain wasn’t a red herring after all. Ooh. Gaz says it’s a minute overcooked but still delicious.
The scores
Braden’s mulloway
Gaz 8/10 George 9/10 Matt 8/10 and Matt’s the only one they show commenting on the overcooked fish.
Nic’s salmon
Matt 9/10 Gaz 8/10 George 9/10.
She won! That’s a surprise – well done, Nicolette. Braden must be dying inside but Ricky’s is definitely not short of customers.

Coming up
Tomorrow night two teams have to recreate dishes from Melbourne restaurants Huxtable and Pei Modern and have to memorise the ingredients and processes. I would suck at this. Sadly for Huxtable any publicity to be gained from being on MC is too late, as this message is on their website: We regret to inform, after 5 and a half years Huxtable Restaurant has closed for trading.
Sunday is the start of Nigella week, so expect lots of lingering shots of her licking spoons.



  1. The ads have been flogging this episode. It is either a good one, or they have noticed that their audience is starting to drift.

  2. Another ice cream (with out using the ice cream machine), because none of these cooks seem familiar with the equipment.

  3. Anurstasia was full of overblown confidence at the beginning of the cook, but her chicken is undercooked, a bit like her delusions of being the next winner.

  4. Anurstacia was looking very jelly when Nicorette was getting all the praise and the win to cook for the pin.

  5. Nicorette looks like she can really cook.
    Have I missed something? Is her back story like Reynolds? Family that is in the biz? How does a 19 year old know this stuff?

    • The blurb on the Ch 10 website (which makes me think she knew Shannon before the comp – how do you swing work experience at Bistro Vue?): Cooking seriously since she was aged 11, Nicolette and her older brother enjoyed a childhood filled with many happy memories and lots of food enjoyed with their extended Greek family.
      Having worked in a cake store for the past five years, Nicolette juggled her job with her high school studies, plus activities including rowing and kayaking. Graduating in 2014, she excelled in hospitality and food and technology.
      In 2015 she began her tertiary studies at Monash University, undertaking a double business degree, majoring in marketing and management, which she has deferred in order to take part in the competition.
      Despite her tender years, Nicolette has clocked up many kitchen hours by doing voluntary work experience in some of Melbourne’s best restaurants, including Mr Wolf, Cutler & Co, Ginger Boy and Bistro Vue.
      She has also spent time in Adriano Zumbo’s kitchen in Sydney and at age 16, even managed a day in the kitchen at Rene Redzepi’s world-famous Noma restaurant in Copenhagen while on a family holiday after meeting him at a Melbourne book signing.
      Nicolette loves how food brings people together and sees this being a big part of what she wants to do with her life. With her sights set on travel to Paris to study patisserie at Le Cordon Bleu, Nicolette would love to one day have a pop-up dessert bar in Melbourne.

      • I don’t know how I feel about this. It sounds like borderline professional to me. Not TAFE trained but chef trained.

        • They get away with it by saying they don’t get paid. Most of the contestants will have been to cooking classes. Many of the contestants were picked from cooking schools

          • I’ve been to cooking classes, and I didn’t know how to cook that ‘simple’ dish.

          • Correct, was at Christen Tibbel’s special class at Savour school for the Louros dessert she made for an elimination challenge on Masterchef a few years back… and there was a lady watching the us in the class for the day and at the end she approached me and said that I look like a capable cook and if I was a professional. Told her no and she asked if I was interested in being on Masterchef. I was interested but couldn’t as I was contracted still to another network for a 6 more months.

            Happens with all these shows, they’ll send their scouts to hand pick people as it aids in the selection process by having 1000s of applications to wade through.

      • Tend to agree with Bob.

        This doesn’t sound like “home cook” to me.

        “Ordinary people”….. Fennel dust.

    • I think that’s tautology “George has gone very wanky this season”.
      The sentence was complete at ‘wanky’. I.e. “George has gone very wanky.”

  6. I call bullshit on this one. First, Nicolette is a dirty girl in the kitchen: hair swinging as usual, sticks her whole hand in her mouth to taste something, and, after plating for the judges, she licked her fingers. Licked her fingers. Aw, puke, Nicolette, that was disgusting.

    When she said she wasn’t thrilled with the choice of shell or fish because desserts are her thing, she should have been told that she was then eliminated from the challenge for whining, and the chance to win an immunity pin would go to Anastasia or Con, decided by a coin toss.

    I don’t believe that a professional chef would leave his cooked fish in the pan so that it overcooked, by one minute or any minutes. Tonight’s show was a load of crap.

    I’m annoyed.

    • I agree that this was a set up for a Nicolette win. Don’t get how her fish cooked when there was so little time left and the oil was not hot enough. In fact when George made the first cut it looked uncooked, more like sashimi. Professional chef would not leave fish in hot butter to keep cooking in the pan.
      Couldn’t believe her comment when she saw that it was shellfish and fish. Who cares if you just want to make desserts? For MC, you need to be well rounded.

      • I know, I couldn’t believe that either. Fancy going on MasterChef & only knowing how to cook dessert. Hasn’t she watched previous seasons & seen that has been their undoing. All that beautiful shellfish & she picked boring fish.

  7. Von, do you remember the year Pete Evans was on and was beaten? It was a while back – before MKR, and he was VERY put out that he lost.

    Since then, the losing professional has always been a whole lot happier about it, so it is my personal opinion that they are paid a whole helluva lot more if they agree to lose.
    Or to put it another way, yep, I agree with you.

    • I don’t specifically remember that episode, Rosie. But, given what I think of Pete Evans, I probably chortled and clapped when he lost. Chortles would have turned to guffaws if he was put out about losing.

      I, too, think that usually the fix is in if the professional chef loses to the amateur. Especially when a dessert diva wins on a savoury dish.

      • I remember Julia beating him in a Chinese dumpling cookoff. She won a shortcut to finals week which was bad for her, as she missed out on weeks of challenges where she could have honed skills. Pete did offer her training on his restaurant, though. I do remember the three judges look a bit panicked when they realised it was Julia’s dish they’d scored highly.

  8. I met Alessandro Pavoni at his restaurant. He lost to Dani in the immunity pin challenge I was asking him whether he will be on MC again since they moved the filming from Syd to Melbourne. So we started talking about MC and I even mentioned that he lost to Dani. He said it was o.k. Just a bit of fun !!!!!

    Did you noticed how Matt thanked the guest judge for sharing and teaching the contestants. Just to make him valuable.

  9. Fish is getting close to pannacotta in overuse, in my opinion. It feels like at least half of the savoury dishes are fish (fried, either slow or fast) and some variation of salad. Sounds like Jenny Craig fare.So boring, especially teamed with “I have to cook this fish perfectly or I am going home!”.

    Time for somemore interesting meats or other sources of protein.

  10. Thanks for the great recap Juz.
    I’ve never seen a big pan of hot oil put in an oven like that. Seems a bit risky. I was sure when they cut that fish that it was still raw. It looked it. I was shocked when they said it was perfectly cooked. Why didn’t Shannon point out to her that the brown bit should be cut off? He was supposed to be mentoring her. Or even the people on the gantry. They noticed it & commented among themselves but none of them told her. I thought for a minute she was going to forget the crispy skin, but she remembered it just in time.
    Tonight’s a memory challenge. I hate them, I would be hopeless at that.

  11. As if a 19 year old amata beats the professional chef.
    I also call bullshit on this result too.
    And to add, Nicorette is pretty messy in the kitchen, with all that finger licking , I would’nt want to taste her food or clean her bench after her ‘cook’.

    • I liked how George was a bit hesitant in hugging her…. scared she might “hug him and kiss him and call him George”….

  12. I’ve thrown portion control out of the window too. Every time I want to cook a piece of fish I fillet and pinbone the entire catch.

  13. Firstly.. Con must be slow or an idiot…. yeah I know I’m using strong flavours with popcorn, but I saw this coffee stuff and I have to use it….. just cause you saw it why would you use it for a popcorn challenge?? keep it in your arsenal for another challenge you moron!

    And secondly… he’s never eaten popcorn??? I call BS.

    Now with the professional chef losing… I also call BS as his dish looked far more superior to finger licking goods dish.

    You have 3 chefs as judges/mentor… they bring in a guest chef that one or more of them secretly have a gripe/dislike with… best way to discredit them is to give them a bad score, “all in the name of a fair (really rigged) competition”.

    FLG’s dish looked underdone even by confit standards and it was lacking something like a sauce to also accompany the salad to cut the fat from the fish and skin.

    Wanted to smack Shannon walking around carrying and playing with the crisp skin too…. surprised he didn’t take a lick of it.

  14. I am so disappointed in MC this year and the amatas are falling into the trap more each season of specializing. So you cook desserts, big deal, doesn’t mean you don’t know how to cook savory.

    • She should be in The Bake off series.

      She has won some awards for baking in her young age. I think she even did the Shannon dessert.

  15. A “worm” of butter? What is Jowl$y on?

    Nicorette is a grub but when the amatas have a group hug at the end of a course , it’s Con’s hands in ponytails et al. $harin’ it round in the Ma$terchef kitchin.

    I just don’t believe that Nicorette could only have done confit of salmon once before but she flogs the real chef. The fennel went into the oven …but not sure if it came out. Call Inspector Barnaby.

    I’m seeing a lot of corn and not much pop on this encore.

    Braden had “Faith” tattooed on his neck. He too needs the fish to be perfect. Yawn. Welcome to Ma$terchef. Worst season evah!

  16. Without Shannon’s timely prompt to get the fish in the confit, Nicorette was gawne! We are to be force fed the Work Experience Queen.

    George had to legitimize the whole shebang by saying: “You won it fair and square.You deserve it, blah blah” Fail.

  17. So the 19 yr old Greek Queen of Popcorn beats the pro.
    Definitely fishy.

    First, she puts in an Oscar winning performance about not knowing how to cook savoury, then carries on about all the seafood, looking at it like they’re creatures from outer space.
    Next thing you know, she’s banging on a confit like a pro and organising contrasting flavours etc. with the utmost confidence.

    If this large, sloppy girl has been cooking since her umbilical cord was cut, then fine, but don’t pretend you’re a blubbering novice. It’s disingenuous.
    And I agree; the chef would’ve been given an ‘incentive’ to ‘lose.’

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