Dani Venn Eliminated From The MasterChef Kitchen Wearing The Only Immunity Pin
It's the question almost everyone will be asking Dani: why didn't she play the season's only immunity pin?
In order to up the ante for the returning chefs, in the first episode the judges revealed that Back To Win would only have one immunity pin for the season.
Dishing up a Taste of Sri Lanka, Dani Venn scored the one and only coveted pin -- making it her third pin win during her time in the MasterChef kitchen after she became the first ever to win two pins back in 2013.
Each week only one chef would be safe from elimination, with Dani now given the option to use her pin whenever she liked. When she told the judges she once again wasn't going to use the pin to keep her in the competition for one more week, Dani said, "It could just be the best day I've ever had in the competition."
Sadly, things didn't go her way, and speaking to 10 daily via the phone after her elimination Dani answered the question on everybody's mind. Did she regret not using the pin?
"Of course, on reflection, I could have used it [but] I think what I'm more upset about is... I could have cooked a different dish!"
"I didn't play the pin because I felt like if I'm going to play the pin at this point in the competition there's not really much point in me being there," she said, "there's still 20 people in the competition."
Not only did Dani want to stand by her cooking and show the judges what she can do, she also may have been influenced by another kind of immunity strategy.
"I guess I had been watching a lot of Survivor as well," she said with a massive laugh, "I was like 'You don't just use the pin! You don't play it until the end!'"
Split between two rounds, the chefs were tasked with first cooking a crunchy dish. That's it. It needed to taste good and have a reality-shattering crunch when Jock, Andy and Melissa took a bite.
Dani first cooked a gorgeous eggplant dish that both Mel and Andy loved -- but Jock was missing that all important crunch which sent her to the second round where the judges demanded a gooey dish.
Deciding on the Thai street classic son-in-law-eggs (or kai loug kheuh), Dani again laughed when she thought about her strategy for the elimination cook.
"I thought I had it in the bag with the first round because it was such a good dish. It was so yummy but slightly under-crunchy," Dani said, adding, "The egg was a stupid idea."
"The whole thing was stupid, like why chose something so risky?"
Unfortunately the risk didn't pay off, with the eggs slightly underdone, sending Dani home wearing the pin.
"I still have the pin... and it's going straight on eBay," she said bursting into laughter before adding, "I'm kidding. They tried to make me give it back and I was like nope, this is mine. I'm taking it."
It was a tough week for Dani in the kitchen and despite looking back with such good humour, she admitted seeing herself break down earlier in the week was tough to watch.
During the Mystery Box challenge, Dani became overwhelmed, feeling the pressures of the competition and being so far from her kids, she tearfully struggled to plate up a dish.
"To watch it back and relive it is hard," she said, "I think the pressure just got to me."
"I work in food, but I think I process information a little differently," she said. "I don't know if I can use the excuse of two kids making me lose some brain cells... but I have been sleep deprived for five years!
"You don't put yourself under that much pressure in normal life, and to just go from your home kitchen where I enjoy pottering around and cooking, creating delicious meals for social media or my clients -- all of a sudden you've got less than 10 minutes to think of a dish that's supposed to be one of the best dishes! And looking around at all this talent. It's overwhelming."
"I felt disappointed in myself because I started doubting myself."
Despite it still being relatively early in the season, unlike in Season 3, Back To Win has no settling in period for the chefs. "It was game on from day dot," she said.
"At that point in the competition everyone's starting to get a bit tired, I'm starting to miss my kids, there's the pressure from the immunity pin, you want to prove to yourself and to other people that you belong there and -- I just didn't know what to do!"
But Dani proved herself early on in the competition when -- in the very first cook of the season -- she plated up her now infamous Taste of Sri Lanka, a dish which has since gone viral in Sri Lanka.
"I was very overwhelmed in the days following that episode," she said. "There was a video circulating with hundreds of thousands of views and so many comments!
"I think it's quite beautiful and I'm really happy that it happened because Sri Lanka is such an incredible country and [has an] amazing food culture... to highlight a special place to me and, I think a place that people should definitely go to when we can travel again, is really great."
Though the episode hasn't aired yet, Sri Lankans living in Australia rallied around Dani -- even Gogglebox Australia's own Delpechitra family went absolutely wild seeing the spread Dani plated up.
"I've had a few emails [saying] Dani Venn's a household name in Sri Lanka now," Dani said, right before she erupted with laughter again she wondered, "I'm like... am I the new Ricky Ponting?"
Returning to the MasterChef kitchen for Dani was a no-brainer, the "money-can't-buy" experience allowed her to fall in love with food even more, pushing her to her limits, teaching her so much more about how the food industry has changed.
"I met some incredible people and I learned a lot in a short period of time," she said. "I learned what a gastrique was! Everyone kept doing gastriques... and how to cook on a Hibachi."
Though she had an incredible experience it was clear how tough it was for Dani to leave her kids back at home. A silver lining to her elimination was that days after she got home she was able to celebrate her son's birthday.
Soon, she began working on a book that she described as "part cookbook, part storytelling, part self-helpery".
"I think it was more like a way to process what had just happened, as well as being a fun activity. It's about being a mum," she explained.
"When you leave your kids for a certain amount of time, I don't know, I just had a clearer perspective on what it means to be a mum.
"I've got a lot of friends who are pregnant and I feel like there's not a good resource out there for them that's honest and funny and gives recipes that are achievable and relatable," she said.
While she's working on the book, she also joked that she wouldn't rule out a different challenge in the future.
"I am a Survivor fan so, you never know... 2021? 2022? You might see me on the beaches of Fiji," once again roaring with laughter, "Can you imagine?"