On Monday night, millions felt the adrenaline rush while rooting for their favourite contestant once again, as the eighth season’s finale of Australian cooking show, MasterChef Australia aired. The opening credits with the judges talking about contestants Matt Sinclair and Elena Duggan, and how far they’ve come through the competition was enough to give viewers goosebumps. We have seen it all before and yet it intrigued us, the grandeur experience of the whole thing.
The past contestants cheered wildly as the two finalists walked in, and the audience was left with a sense of excitement mixed with impending doom. The two, widely liked contestants, were then told by the judges trio, Gary Mehigan, Matt Preston and George Calombaris that they will be competing in three rounds, leaving us wondering about the horrors they would have in store for them.
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The first round began and we saw all the beautiful fresh ingredients the finalists could hero. And as Sinclair chose the quail again we wondered if he was playing too safe. Elena, on the other hand, picked marron and appeared as if she had a solid plan with interesting Asian flavours to complement.
Few minutes into the cooking, the crackers Elena’s was making looked divine until, of course, the judges arrived and told her that she had bitten off more than she could chew and well of course, she fell to pieces and wondered if she could get anything on the plate at all.
Sinclair, on the other hand, cruised through the dish, not making a single mistake. He was calm and confident, and worked the flavours and techniques to his favour. He gave viewers some serious kitchen goals with his thorough understanding of the techniques he mastered, and the poise with which he carried himself throughout the cooking.
The tasting of the first course was quite obvious and routinely, except there was one little change: the judges were seated at their majestic table in plain sight rather than in the tasting room. All their comments could be heard by everyone present. The scoring of the round left Sinclair with a three point lead and Elena pumped to do better. Surprisingly enough, never has the scoring on the show been more précised than this.
Contrary to the first, nerve-wrecking round, the second left the contestants with the opportunity to go all out crazy and they did – Sinclair created a picture perfect Crispy Barramundi and Elena a scrumptious-looking twice cooked lamb.
With all her apprehensions forgotten, Elena worked with precision and clarity like an artist painting a very elaborate miniature. Each step went through served its exact purpose, creating a dish that could not be faulted even by the judges.
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Sinclair worked with clarity too, until Gary threw a spanner in the works and made him question his smart choices. But Sinclair made the bold decision to stick with his original idea and showed his very clear understanding of flavours. And the persistence paid off. We witnessed history being made as the two achieved a perfect score on each of their dishes. The cherry on top: the families showed and left everyone teary-eyed, including us.
With dessert and the flashbacks of last year’s traumatic Heston Blumenthal dish in mind, we settled into a hopeless feeling of doom as the hype for the final dish was created by Preston, in his very booming voice. The feeling it can’t be worse than last time did hit us for a second, but then we realised it can and most definitely will. Our fears came true as Heston’s dessert challenge dish was unveiled. The monstrous egg hatched and everyone, including the contestants, their families, the people in the gantry and the worldwide viewers, dropped their jaws in bewilderment. The mammoth task took five hours to complete and through it, at least twice it looked as if Sinclair and Elena would just give up. But they don’t of course, and it was totally worth it.
The final tasting, however, was one of the most clear-cut we had seen in the season. We already knew exactly who would score the final round. Nonetheless, the extended episode packed enough of a punch to give regular MasterChef Australia viewers the daunting feeling of a finale. We went through all of our regular set of the show’s emotions.
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The finale was as good as that of a few previous seasons, and the genuine friendship between Sinclair and Elena made it even better. But we can’t help but ask, has the finale become too clichéd? The contestants always fumble in very obvious ways and there are those ten minutes of hyperbolic expressions of emotions in the final round, where everyone just stops and cries for a bit. The families of the finalists always show up towards the end and yet their entrance appears as a surprise for the contestants, the same contenders who clearly have watched MasterChef Australia before, and probably know that happens.
But the answer to these routinely finales is probably that it is the best way to get it done. The familiarity of it makes it special for the viewers. And we know that’s true because when all is said and done, we have just one thing left to wonder about – who is next!