Masterchef Australia Season 5, Episode 1
Our long, nightmarish wait is over, and season five of Masterchef Australia is finally upon us. The promotional materials have promised us many changes, such as a live audience, and a Guys vs Girls format that promises to set gender equality back by at least as many years as Masterchef: The Professionals seemed to run for. Also, Matt Preston is missing the cravat in some of the ads, which is freaking me the heck out. It’s like Jack Nicholson without the sunglasses, or Brad Pitt without… I don’t know, hands or something.
The 22 contestants are gathered at the iconic MCG, possibly because the first challenge is to rustle up some chips and a soft drink for less than ten bucks (GOOD LUCK).
Introducing the Judges
Outside the stadium, the contestants are addressed by our judges – George Calombaris, Gary Mehigan and Matt Preston. “You’re all here because the three of us believe in your dream,” says Gary. But all of them dream of winning, Gary, so that is bullcrap.
Matt offers a rundown of various rivalries that have taken place at the MCG – England vs Australia at the Ashes; Essendon vs Collingwood at the ANZAC Day match; the queue for beer vs the queue for the toilet – then lays down this season’s big twist: the men will be pitted against the women, to determine which gender is the best cook. As a man, I can say with great confidence, “Who really cares?”
Following this bit of “drama”, the contestants all rush into the MCG locker rooms, finding their aprons (red for girls, and – you won’t pick this one! – blue for boys).
We’re introduced to Michael, who drops an f-bomb or two to the camera. “Pardon my rancour, but I’ll speak the man’s language, if you don’t mind,” he says, making an early bid to be the contestant I most want to see lose. “This is going to be one of the greatest experiences of my life,” he adds, because he knows that failure can be very character-building.
They head from the locker room onto the ground itself, to find the judges and a couple of piles of eggs. Is this just going to be an egg and spoon race? Because I think that would make a better “battle of the sexes” then a cooking contest.
But no, each team has to make a family dinner for the other team. Christina explains that their team has a lot of mums who cook every day of the week, because Christina is here to chew bubblegum and reinforce gender stereotypes, and she’s all out of bubblegum.
The teams each get a budget, but there will be an egg-separating contest to determine who gets the bigger one. The men put forward Rishi, who has two degrees and so is way too good for this crap. The girls put forward Clarissa, who is a trained singer, and so was able to do this show because it’s not like she had a job to go to.
The egg thing gets underway, and Clarissa CRACKS under the pressure.*
*Like an egg cracks. Like, you know, its shell. See?
Rishi nails it, and the boys walk away with the larger grocery budget. The teams head off to the shops, and it’s not at all clear why any of this had to happen at the MCG.
We’re then introduced to Nicky, who says “I’ve been known to put everything under the sun inside my mouth,” but nobody leaps in with the dirty joke. It’s a real disappointment, and a bad sign for the boys’ team.
At Coles (FUN FACT this is my local Coles and I shop there all the time. I am basically famous now), both teams are getting their ingredients. “Men don’t shop, we BUY,” says Michael, actively willing me to hate him. Next time I’m there I’m going to rig some elaborate traps, just in case he comes back.
The girls grab some pine nuts, which is their whole two hundred dollar budget gone, right there. The guys are confident that they’re going to stay under budget – but what they don’t know is, Nicky wandered past the toy aisle, and grabbed three different Iron Man figures.
At the checkout, the girls bicker about what they do and don’t need. “The claws are out!” says Michael, because of course he does.
After some reorganising, the girls are still forty cents over. Faiza throws out half of their garlic and jumps behind the counter to process it all, because she works at Coles. It’s not made clear whether or not she used her staff discount card, but that would totally be cheating.
After Coles, the teams go next door to the Masterchef kitchen. The girls just get to work, but the boys have to sit through a weird pep talk by Nicky, who feels qualified because he spent some time in the military. He doesn’t specify what he did in the military, but it probably involved talking waaaay too much. Does the army still use a “I don’t know but I’ve been told!” guy? He was probably that guy.
Of the boys, Gary says, “These guys are a well-oiled machine. Lots of testosterone,” and I think Gary overestimates how oily testosterone is. This machine could grind to a halt at ANY SECOND!
Jules explains to the judges that the mums on the girls’ team are all doing their families’ favourite dishes. Liliana offers: “I do everything. I’ll pack schoolbags, I’ll make lunches. I don’t ask them to do anything,” because the best mothers are basically just slaves. Right?
On the other side of the kitchen, Michael is making a pumpkin soup. I love pumpkin soup, but I hate Michael, so I am very conflicted about this.
While they cook, Lynton tells us the story about how he grew up on a farm, and took a year off work to cook for his sister who was paralysed in a riding accident. Take note: if you don’t want Lynton to win, you are bad people. In fact, anybody who does better than him in this competition is a thoroughly bad person.
And, speaking of national heroes, Gary approaches. He takes Nicky aside and asks what exactly Nicky is doing, which is a very good question. The N-Man is doing a lot of yelling, but no actual cooking, which is an interesting approach to take when you’re on a cooking show.
Then there’s a bunch of cooking (by everybody except Nicky), which is always the least interesting part of the show. You know how it goes. Stirring and whatnot.
With fifteen minutes to go, Gary announces that there are fifteen minutes to go, because he has a keen level of attention to detail.
As the judges watch the dishes coming together, Matt wonders if the girls’ pasta will stand up to any “heavy action in the pan”. I desperately hope that “heavy action in the pan” becomes a catchphrase.
On the boys’ side, Andrew is feeling bad, because he made the sour cream too runny or something. You know, real problems.
To be fair, the rest of the dessert is a complete mess, too, so nobody will be worried about the runny cream. They consider making a dessert soup, which makes as much sense as a “breakfast pizza”.*
*Note to self: Trademark “breakfast pizza”.
Then time is up, and the boys’ unique “bunch of crap in a bowl” dessert is completed.
The girls plate up first, serving their fettuccine entree to the boys, who immediately criticise it like a bunch of pricks. As they taste, Nicky finds a piece of Band-Aid in his pasta, and everybody is shocked. It’s like they’ve never eaten at Hungry Jack’s.
The main is then served, and it has zero first-aid equipment embedded in it. The dessert is much the same, so it looks like the girls missed a chance to put a real signature stamp on all of their dishes.
Then the boys serve up to the girls and the judges, and George describes their pumpkin soup as “super thick” (he only eats foods that reminds him of himself). Then the chicken pie is served, and everybody raves about the smell. They know that food is also supposed to TASTE good… right?
The boys’ dessert is then served, and everybody screams and flails their arms, then jumps out of the windows to escape the chaos and despair. Once this dies d0wn and the girls actually taste it, they agree that it’s just regularly awful.
Post-tasting, the teams are gathered in the kitchen for judgement/telling Nicky that he is terrible. The judges go above and beyond, though, mentioning that other things are also terrible, like Juliana’s pasta. But the judges know that they also have to decide what was least-terrible, and name the girls the winners.
So, the battle of the sexes is done now, right? We can move on to other things?