The Mantra That Got Jess Hall Through That Epic Dessert Marathon
It was the diabolical dessert that cracked Jess Hall's 'MasterChef'dream in half.
The pear and lemon verbena vacherin created by legendary chef Clare Smyth looked more like an eco-friendly architecturally designed house in a forest than it did a dessert.
"I’m not a technical cook at all, it’s not my forte," Jess told 10 daily after she was eliminated, defeated by that pesky meringue shell in a pressure test against dessert buffs Derek and Leah.
Jess said she wasn't exactly surprised by what was under the dreaded pressure test cloche when she saw Smyth walk through the 'MasterChef' doors, a woman whose culinary skills she's admired for years.
"I was like, ‘Oh my god, it’s Clare Smyth!’ and then I was like [with added foreboding] ‘Oh my god, it’s Clare Smyth’."
After a stressful cook, Jess said she was actually pretty happy with what she plated up and was blissfully unaware her dish was about to implode in front of the judges, causing Matt Preston to cover his face in horror.
"I had no idea about the shell so I went in quite confident," said Jess, adding that she's been avoiding watching the disaster unfolding again and again during the 'MasterChef' ads on TV this week.
But despite the fact that it was the cook that sent Jess home, she entered it with a newfound sense of "calm, confidence and capability" -- words she repeated throughout the pressure test to keep her mind focused on the job at hand.
I was disappointed with how I’d cooked in the previous elimination. I was positive I was going home, I wasn’t in a good headspace.
She vowed to embrace the pressure test and "not freak out about it", adding that she probably repeated her mantra about "50,000 times" in her head as she was putting the vacherin together.
She said that 'MasterChef' isn't just about mastering knife skills or finicky dessert techniques, explaining that it's all about getting out of your own head and avoiding the voice that makes you second guess yourself.
"If I was to give any advice to anyone applying next year, I would say, ‘it’s a mental game as much as it is a cooking game’."
The Elimination Hotel
Jess told 10 daily that the night she got out, she was taken to the ‘elimination hotel’, which we were not aware was an actual place because it sounds like some kind of ‘MasterChef’ purgatory. But it was where she began to adjust to life outside the competition with a little help from former contestant, Monica Mignone.
“I cracked open a bottle of wine and Monica rang and three hours later, I’d finished that bottle of wine and we were still on the phone to each other," she said. "I started off the call sober and I finished it not so sober.”
Monica, who was eliminated the week before, told Jess that ‘MasterChef’ was only ever going to be a few months of their lives, and “just because you don’t come first, it doesn’t mean you can’t do anything with this [experience], it’s what you make of it”.
Which is exactly the energy Jess has taken into her post ‘MasterChef’ life, committing 100 percent to focus her life around the thing she’s most passionate about -- food.
She told 10 daily that, before the show, she was “stuck in a rut of life, caught in the daily grind” and wasn’t loving her work as a travel agent.
“I don’t want to be mediocre or just get by for my whole life,” she said, adding she’d rather be “in a tougher spot financially or comfort-wise, but be doing something that I love".
MasterChef was a way of acknowledging that I do have somewhat of a talent for it and other people saw something in me, so I actually feel safe in backing myself.
Jess quit her day job and gave up her flat to move in with her mum in pursuit of her ‘MasterChef’ dreams and is now studying small business operations so she’ll have all the practical know-how and culinary smarts to open her own compound butter company, The Well Fed Co.
She’s also been killing it with stints at Firedoor in Sydney, under the tutelage of Lennox Hastie and at the esteemed Biota in Bowral where she got to forage for mushrooms and cook fresh produce from the local farms of the Southern Highlands.
Jess told us her plan to take over the culinary world is “still on paper” and also, inside her fridge.
“I’ve got a lot of butter in my fridge,” she laughed.
But Sydneysiders might just see her popping up at farmers markets with her tasty wares in the near future.
“I want to make this work, and if I can get onto MasterChef, then anything’s possible!”