Masterchef Recap: Creamy Crabs, Failed Fish and Superfluous Soap

Previously on Masterchef: well, a whole bunch of crap, really. Obviously, rehashing everything that’s happened before is a cherished Masterchef tradition, as integral to the show as padding the running time to an obscene extent.

So let’s reminisce about the wonderful times we’ve had this year. Remember when Gordon Ramsay got bleeped? Remember when Prince Charles didn’t eat anything? Remember when Ben was so excited his voice almost changed slightly? Remember the time someone cooked a fish? Ah, memories so indelible that someday we will look back on them and say, “Was that the same year as the guy with the hat?”

Anyway, onto business. The morning of the grand final dawns dull and uninteresting, as Ben and Sashi are sped toward their destiny: one of them to have all his dreams come true, the other to have only one of his dreams come true; the one where a whole nation points and laughs at his miserable failure.

On the way to the kitchen, Sashi reflects on how good a friendship he has with Ben. Ben reflects on how he never thought he could cook so well, and how in the end, he hasn’t. Nobody is more surprised than Ben to see him in the final, unless it’s all the contestants who are clearly better cooks.

Gary greets Ben and Sashi, and tells them about the prize that they already know about. George asks Sashi how he’s feeling. Sashi is feeling so nervous that he forgets how sentences work. “Normally I’d take it day by day, but today is the last day,” he says cryptically. George tells Ben that he’s been in black more than anyone else, adding an ugly racial undertone to proceedings. Ben smiles and nods and speaks in a monotone.

“Take a look behind you,” says Gary, grinning like a sociopath. They look behind them and see their families running in. The winner will be reunited with his family, while the loser will have to personally execute his. It’s high stakes this season.

Sashi and Ben introduce their families to the judges in a mind-numbingly boring sequence. Imagine the sort of person you’d have to be to care even a little bit about who these people are. The only good bit is where Matt asks Ben’s wife a question and she forgets to answer for a few minutes while Aldo stares at her with naked lust.

“It’s time for Ben and Sashi to get cooking,” says Matt, politely ordering the families to piss off. Khanh opines that Sashi has plateaued. Still beat you, Khanh.

“Normally the finale takes place in three rounds,” says George ominously. “Today there’s only two rounds. Because we’ve combined round one and round two into ONE MEGA ROUND.” He says this like it’s some kind of astounding innovation. For George, combining round one and round two is the Avatar of cooking, a great leap forward after which the culinary world will never be the same.

Round one is entree and main. Round two is dessert and will, as usual, be the round that actually determines the winner, because for the last ten years Masterchef has been striving to eliminate all dishes that aren’t desserts from the cultural consciousness.

Ben and Sashi start round one. “They’re getting ingredients,” says one of Sashi’s sons, auditioning for a spot on Channel Seven’s football commentary.

Ben looks up at the balcony and sees his family cheering him on, with Khanh unfortunately ruining the effect by standing behind them leering at him. George and Gary ask Ben what he’s doing. He interprets this to refer to cooking, and answers that he’s starting with blue swimmer crab, served cold so that it will be as unpleasant as possible, and following with a main of deep-fried whiting, with peas to detract from the flavour. Gary looks exhausted already — it’s hard maintaining enthusiasm for these hacks and their terrible seafood.

“Dad, what are you cooking?” calls a youngster. “None of your fucking business,” Sashi should reply, but instead he says he’s making a fish curry. “Dad, what are you doing NOW?” comes the call from the balcony. Sashi absolutely does not need this shit right now.

“He’s still gotta shell that crab,” Ben’s dad shouts in the ear of Ben’s brother. Ben’s dad is very worried about the crab. He yells at Ben to shell it. You get the feeling that as a child, Ben failed to shell a lot of crabs and it caused much tension between him and his father. Meanwhile Sashi’s family simply will not leave him alone.

“I need to hero the chilli for my starter,” says Sashi, incorrectly: what he needs to do is use chilli prominently in his starer; “heroing” is not a concept that exists.

“It smells like home!” yells a child. Hopefully this is a good sign and Sashi’s house doesn’t smell like rotting meat or urine or anything.

Ben is still shelling his crabs. Brendan says he’s worried for Ben, but it’s easy to tell that Brendan has never cared about anything less in his life. “I’m really stuck between a rock and a hard place,” says Ben, but actually he’s stuck between a crab and some other things. Luckily, just when it seems like Ben is going to be stuck peeling that crab forever, he bursts into flames, and after the ad break things have settled down a bit.

Sashi needs to cook the prawns now. “Dad, what are you doing?” Jesus Christ this kid.

“You can do this, yeah?” says George. Is that a question? No, it’s not: “You CAN do this!” he continues. It’s not actually an assertion that he can back up. George slips off to the side to talk to Gary, who struggles to know how Ben is going to plate up his whiting and peas, given that’s a very bland and awful dish.

“I’ve finally got my crab meat deshelled,” says Ben, which only leaves him with…absolutely everything else to do. He pauses in a cutaway to say how amazed he is about how much he’s learned over the course of this season, and in his voice you can hear the emotion that indicates that this competition is at least as important to him as finding a good parking spot at the shops. But his wife has enough emotion for both of them: up on the balcony she is a quivering puddle.

It is nearly time to serve the entree, which is the course that nobody cares about and which doesn’t matter. Ben brings his starter to the judges’ table and puts it down with an air of contempt. Sashi is still struggling to get finished, due to having to stop every ten seconds to tell his children what he’s doing.

The judges taste Ben’s crabs. Gross. “I think it’s gonna taste great,” says George, who is Nostra fucken Damus all of a sudden. They eat the cold gloopy mass in Ben’s bowls. Matt has a problem with the texture: not enough chunks of crab meat. George wants more acidity and crunchiness. Gary is sad that Ben has smothered his crab with creamy stuff, a clear violation of the Wildlife Protection Act.

Finally Sashi is ready to plate up his starter. It looks good, if you like prawns. If you don’t like prawns it looks utterly foul: I guess that’s the gamble he’s gotta take. The judges stuff the prawns down their slavering gullets. “WOW! Look at that!” cries Gary, who has forgotten what food looks like after Ben’s. Matt tastes the starter and has a minor seizure. Gary ejaculates right there in his chair. George is so overwhelmed by flavour that he needs to pop a few Swisse to recover. They love Sashi’s starter. Sashi has basically won the final, might as well call it now.

But no, we have to carry on with this farce of a contest.

“Come on Ben, keep going!” someone calls from the balcony, settling the debate raging in Ben’s mind as to whether he should keep going or not. Ben is at the point where he is ignoring the balcony: he has the steely facial expression of a man who has had enough balcony bullshit to last him a lifetime and will not allow the balcony to steal his bliss any longer.

“The pressure is huge at the moment,” Ben says, in the voice of a man who has a reasonably important letter to post. He is busily boiling his peas, stubbornly ignoring all conventional wisdom that says peas are not worth bothering with. “Remember to hero those peas, Benny!” Sarah calls, in what is a strong contender for the title of Most Useless Advice Ever Given To Anyone In The History Of Time.

“Five minutes to go,” Matt warns, strutting around the kitchen and revelling in how much his suit resembles the velvet coating on the action figure of Skeletor’s pet panther. Ben frantically stirs his gross baby-diarrhoea pea glop. Sashi’s wife paces the balcony, giving some the impression that she’s nervous, but actually just really loathing the company.

Suddenly disaster strikes, as Matt puts his head in his hands and Ben abruptly has a feeling, before exploding. Ben has fucked up his whiting: one of the fillets has lost some of its batter. It’s the most tragic event on Australian TV since Molly died. But it’s time to plate up and Ben can’t stop to think about how inept he is at the most basic tasks. “Get it on the PLATE!” his wife screams, his incompetence getting on her last nerve.

Time is up and mains are to be served. Sashi and Ben hug, a hug of pure hatred. Sashi looks at Ben’s dish and tries to hide his delight at how crap it looks.

Sashi serves his main first. The judges make sure the curry gets even colder than it already is, by making small talk with him for no reason. Finally tasting, they declare that it is a quite nice thing to eat. They use a lot more words, of course, but they didn’t need to, because that’s all they said.

Ben serves his main of a piece of fish next to a blob of pea slop. It looks like the kind of meal you get at an extremely cheap boarding school. “Ben, what have you cooked?” asks George, trying to keep the horror out of his voice. Ben admits that his starter took so long that he didn’t have time to do anything good for main. The judges taste. “It’s a difficult one for me, because I’m trying to pick out the positives,” says Gary, hilariously. “The batter’s not right,” says George, sinking into a deep depression. All of the judges are bummed right out by Ben’s garbage fish and peas nightmare. It’s ruined their whole day.

It is time for the judges to deliver the tragicomic saga of the scores. Ben’s starter gets a six, a seven and a seven as the judges manfully hide their detestation of it. Sashi’s starter gets a ten, a ten and a ten, and the room explodes with glee at his triumph and Ben’s abject humiliation. “Perfect marriage, sweet, salty, texture,” says Gary and it takes a while to realise he’s describing the entree and not Sashi’s actual marriage.

Scoring the mains, Ben gets a seven, a seven and a seven, the judges being kind in the manner of a vet putting down an elderly labrador. Sashi gets a nine, a nine and a nine as the whole thing starts to look kind of cruel.

After round one, Sashi has 57 out of 60. Ben has 41. But as we all know, dessert can change everything, because this show’s priorities are just moronic. But there you go. “Ben, your back’s to the wall,” says George, “but we know you’re a fighter. Twelve months ago you were off work, look where you are right now.” Well I mean, right now he’s also off work, technically.

Ben vows to “claw back every inch”, but he’s going to have to count on Sashi fucking up royally, and that’s a long shot, because Sashi isn’t Ben.

Anyway, time to introduce the dessert challenge, and it’s a pressure test. “You know how good Ben is in a pressure test,” Matt says to Sashi, and…I suppose he does? I suppose we all do? I guess Ben is pretty good in a pressure test? I take it we’re supposed to think so, anyway.

The pressure test will require the two finalists to recreate a dish by the world’s most feted culinary masturbator, Heston Blumenthal. He’s been crouching in a bush outside the building for five hours, but now he’s here, strutting in like the lovechild of Elton John and Truman Capote, waving to everyone and causing all sorts of fluids to drip from the balcony.

Heston sets the final challenge, which he claims is “as complex as any dish I’ve ever developed,” which is saying something because Heston really is a gigantic tool.

He reveals the dish. Everyone gasps. The kitchen explodes. Russell Coight promotes the new series of All Aussie Adventures. We get a look at the dish.

It appears to be a white pillow with two bars of soap on it, floating above a white cushion, with with some little sponges in a sink next to it. But actually, the soap is meringue with ice cream inside, the little things in the sink are cake and mousse, and the pillow is…oh, it’s just a pillow. And the sink is a weird dumb plate. The dish is called “Counting Sheep”, because listening to Heston describe it is such a great way to get to sleep. All in all, it’s a great example of the “there is no reason whatsoever for this to be so fucking complicated” school of cookery that Heston has pioneered. You wouldn’t know it’s food at all unless someone told you, and if they did you’d be so annoyed at the wankery of it all you’d throw it away. And they have just five and a half hours to recreate this blatant nonsense.

Ben and Sashi begin making the stupid things, beginning with what Heston called the “pillows”, but which look much more like soap and are in fact meringues.

“These meringues need to go in the oven as soon as possible,” says Sashi, and who am I to argue? George orders the finalists to be meticulous. “You don’t get to three-star standard by not being meticulous,” he says, and he would know — he’s spent his life not getting to three-star standard.

“Watching a Heston dish being cooked is so precise, it’s amazing,” says Khanh, who has no idea whether this is how it’s supposed to be cooked.

There are four hours to go: the first ninety minutes have been compressed into about three screen minutes and thank God, because contrary to Khanh’s claims, watching a Heston dish being cooked is pretty dull.

Sashi starts his coconut ice-cream. Whoop-de-doo. Oh it involves liquid nitrogen, how frigging original.

Ben starts his coconut ice-cream. Yippee. “I don’t know what I’ve done,” he says. His ice-cream mixture looks like bread dough, which is a bad thing unless your ice-cream is actually bread, which according to Heston’s recipe, it isn’t. Jess is really worried for Ben, which is a slap in the face for Sashi, who thought he and Jess were friends. “Shit,” says Ben’s wife, who can’t believe her husband’s habit of turning ice-cream into bread, which has been the running sore of their marriage, has yet again ruined everything.

“It feels like time has stopped,” says Ben, but actually if time had stopped everything would be fine, because he’d have infinite time to fix his mistake. Alas, time is still moving and Ben is still fucked.

“I have never dreamed in my life that I’d be cooking a Heston dish,” says Sashi, whose dreams have always been surprisingly monotonous. He pulls on his gloves to begin work with the liquid nitrogen, a crucial part of the process of becoming a pretentious knob.

Ben has figured out what he did wrong: he put something else in his ice-cream instead of the thing he was supposed to put in. This is a common occurrence: statistics show that over 87% of cooking mishaps result from putting things in that are not the thing that was supposed to be put in. Ben swears he’s not going down without a fight, which is great, if it weren’t for the fact that he IS going down without a clue. Anyway he starts his ice-cream again and everyone admires his pluck and tenacity and refusal to accept reality.

Sashi is piping the caramel and coriander yoghurt, which honestly sounds just like the worst thing ever. “Oh the coriander yoghurt, oh yeah, OK,” says Ben’s dad on the balcony, not needing to actually make the wanking hand gesture because it comes through clearly in his voice.

“I cannot make any more mistakes,” says Ben, but I reckon he’s selling himself short: I think he definitely can. Gary and George have a chat to Heston about how great it is to watch two amateur cooks being put through horrific torments in the name of making something so incredibly stupid as this dumb pillow thing.

Sashi is making the Earl Grey lavender mousse, something nobody on earth has ever wanted to eat. Meanwhile Ben has got his inserts out of the blast freezer, so bully for him I guess.

Sashi is squirting things into a mould. Ben is doing something slightly different with a mould. Khanh knows someone is doing something wrong, but he doesn’t know who, which is strange because doing wrong is Khanh’s special subject.

It’s Sashi. Sashi has done something wrong. He hasn’t put his inserts into his mousse before putting the mousse into the blast chiller, which, I am assured, is a massive cock-up. Sashi has made a right Ben of himself, but I guess after round one it would’ve been unsporting of him to not make a horrible mistake at some point.

Sashi gets his mousse out of the blast chiller. It’s frozen. “Come on dad!” his son calls, tactlessly. Sashi lies and says that his family’s encouragement gives him the strength to push on, rather than being honest and saying that their incessant squawking is probably what caused him to screw up in the first place.

Ben gets onto the frozen yoghurt snow, which also involves liquid nitrogen why not. Sashi gets back to his thawing mousse and tries to shove his inserts in. It works, apparently. But he’s still worried, because the music hasn’t gotten any less tense.

There then follow some incredibly dramatic close-ups of white substances. As sequences of white substance close-ups go, it’s definitely one of 2018’s most memorable. Ben pops a mousse dome out of a mould and it rolls across the floor a la the legendary meatball on top of spaghetti which, as you’ll recall, was all covered with cheese. He then sprays some stuff and then squirts some stuff.

The moment of truth has arrived for Sashi’s mousse. It’s not good news: Pointless is on weeknights at six. Also Sashi’s mousse is not solid enough. He puts it back in the freezer, raging impotently against the Fates.

Ten minutes to go and the massive discrepancy between the amount of time spent making this dish and the amount of pleasure anyone could possibly gain from eating it is more obvious than ever.

“I’ve got builder’s hands, I can’t believe I’m plating up so delicately,” says Ben, almost in awe of the terrible power coursing through his limbs. His awe is interrupted by George waddling up to his bench and blathering about four-by-twos, destroying the magic expertly.

The final assembly of the pillowy representation of late capitalism’s inherent tendency to carry the seeds of its own destruction takes place. Sashi whips out his mousse domes. They come out perfectly. Everyone cheers because honestly they hate Ben deep down inside.

Time is almost up, followed swiftly by time being up. Applause rings out. Sashi and Ben hug with hatred again. “It’s beautiful, Ben,” calls Ben’s wife, looking in a mirror. Sashi’s kids come down to the floor to harass him some more. Both men are smiling the carefree smiles of men who know that soon, they will never have to talk to George again.

Tasting time. Sashi serves first. He places his soap on the stupid floating pillow. “Are you happy?” Gary asks, impertinently — what business is it of his? The judges eat. “It’s very fresh,” says Gary, refusing to explain what he means. Everyone thinks it’s good, unless they’re lying.

Ben serves his absurd pillow-soap-sink-puff thing. “How do you feel?” asks Matt. “Elated,” exclaims Ben, like a man who just got twenty percent off on steel wool. The judges eat. “Those pillows are spectacular,” says George in a really creepy way, before saying “mouth-feel” to complete the effect. Heston says it’s wonderful how the meringue tastes like Ovaltine. So that’s what all the effort was for: to make a dessert that tastes like Ovaltine. Anyway they all reckon it’s good.

Barely sixteen days after the beginning of the episode, it is time for final scores, in the presence past Masterchef winners who have apparently arrived through a trapdoor in the last few minutes.

Ben gets a nine, a nine, a nine and a nine, which visibly pisses Sashi off. But Sashi needn’t worry, because Ben’s incapability to cook things that aren’t edible soaps means he’d have to score less than 20 out of 40 to lose. And obviously he doesn’t: he gets a nine, a nine, a nine and a nine.

So Sashi has absolutely flogged Ben, and he is 2018’s Masterchef, as the prophecy foretold. Ben, just glad he didn’t end up serving a loaf of sourdough for dessert, hugs Sashi happily. Sashi’s score is the highest ever in a Masterchef final, meaning he is officially King of the Masterchefs and now gets to command the loyalty of all other Masterchef contestants past present and future.

Ben’s wife is crying, whether with sadness at her husband’s failure, or happiness at her husband’s failure, who can say? But the good news is, Ben gets $40,000 from our friends at Canstar.com.au. Also, Khanh gets $10,000 from Canstar, which is generous, but also a potent reminder of how far Khanh is from real success.

And that’s Masterchef done for another year. Tune in next year, when we will see our first televised Heston-induced death.

Sashi got $250,000. Ben got $40,000. Khanh got $10,000. Like Jess, I got nothing, so if you can chip in a buck to my Patreon, it’d be appreciated.

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