Oh say it isn’t so! As we said farewell to the wonderful Callum Hann from the MasterChef kitchen, with these goodbyes getting harder and harder to take.
With Emelia through to the semi-final off the back of her Gordon Ramsay mystery box cook, Callum, Reynold and Laura were left to battle it out for the two remaining spots in MasterChef Australia: Back To Win’s penultimate round.
In the first round of the two-round challenge, the contestants had 75 minutes to cook whatever they liked, choosing from either an ordinary pantry using everyday ingredients you’d find in your kitchen at home, or from an extraordinary pantry which was strictly luxe. The only rule was, whichever pantry was used in round one, if they found themselves in round two, they must cook using ingredients from the opposing pantry.
Callum, Reynold and Laura all chose to cook savoury dishes from the extraordinary pantry leaving the judges with three absolute standout dishes.
Reynold chose to work with bonito in an attempt at redemption. In his initial series, cooking bonito was the challenge that sent him home. This time Reynold was out to prove to himself – and Australia – that he could cook with the fish. He flame-grilled the bonito, serving it with a bonito tartare and a bonito wine sauce, plus a delicate kohlrabi flower.
Laura’s humble turnip with celeriac truffle puree, shaved truffle and caviar and Callum’s wattleseed duck with smoked beetroot, quandong, Jerusalem artichoke puree and duck fat leaves were both amazing. But the judges deemed Reynold’s redemption dish the winner securing his place in the semi final alongside Emelia.
Round two saw Callum and Laura cook from the ordinary pantry, facing off for the remaining place in the semi final. It was an emotional cook for these two good friends from South Australia knowing that only one of them would make it through and the other must go home. Having both placed second in their respective seasons, they shared the hunger and the drive to go one better this time.
Laura decided on a simple and elegant interpretation of strawberries and cream, but she danced with disaster when her sweetened whipped ricotta made from scratch was grainy. This had never happened to her before and she didn’t have time to make any more, but some quick thinking to bring it back from the brink, saw her assemble a bright and textural dish for the judges. She had a strawberry sorbet alongside the whipped ricotta and then used the whey to make a granita before adding different textures of strawberry.
Callum dived into preparing a coconut-poached snapper with a shaved fennel and crispy ginger salad, roasted chilli oil and coriander nam jim dressing. It was a complex fusion of big South East Asian flavours that the judges had come to expect from him and it would not only come down to the balance of flavours and elements, but the cooking of the fish. He chose to cook the fish in a sous vide bath, in coconut stock and felt the pressure.
With 10 minutes to go he got his fish out and was happy with the infusion of the coconut flavours, though watching on, Emelia and Reynold worried that the fish may be overcooked.
When it came time for the judges to taste, they were delighted by Laura’s technically perfect dish, feeling that she had nailed every element, the different textures and the balance of sweetness and acidity. It was a clever dish, and while strawberries and cream might have seemed like a safe idea, the execution of it was very well done.
For Callum’s dish, Jock loved the flavours with coconut and coriander and chili, but the texture of the fish was unfortunately the negative element. Melissa and Andy concurred that while they loved the flavours, they just couldn’t look past the mushy texture of the fish.
As they broke the news that it was time for Callum to bid his farewells to the MasterChef kitchen again, Mel told Callum just how loved and revered he was not just by the judges and his peers, but by fans the world over.
Gracious in defeat, Callum bid an emotional goodbye to the competition, leaving Emelia, Reynold and Laura to battle it out in the semi-final.