'Oh My God, It's Flooding': MasterChef Contestants Battle The Elements In Thai-Tanic Challenge
The MasterChef: Back To Win contestants had an extra battle on their hands as they raced to plate up a feast of Thai food for 100 diners.
After heading to the outer Melbourne suburb of Ringwood East, the cooks discovered they'd be split into two teams, with each group tasked with creating two entrees and three mains that nailed the sweet, sour, spicy flavours of Thai cuisine.
With Khanh heading up the Orange team and Tessa taking charge for Aqua -- the Back To Win cooks got cracking on their menus, keen to avoid tomorrow night's Pressure Test.
As fans would know, Thai food is right in Khanh's wheelhouse -- he runs The George in Melbourne serving up Vietnamese food, a cuisine that shares plenty of flavour profiles with Thai.
And as Khanh mentioned on Sunday night when stumped by the 'gooey' brief set by the judges-- he doesn't do gooey, he does crunchy, fresh, hot, fragrant.
So it was no surprise that he put his hand straight up to lead the Orange team, overseeing the production of the two entrees (kingfish on betel leaves with ginger Nam Jim, and a deep-fried soft shell crab with red Nam Jim) and the three mains (deep-fried bream with tamarind sauce, spatchcock chicken with green Nam Jim, and a three-eggplant green curry).
Khanh (and his team that included Sarah T, Chris, Brendan, Callum, Reynold, Tracy and Jess)) had the good fortune of having plenty of cooks familiar with Southeast Asian flavours -- but over in the Aqua camp, things weren't running as smoothly.
While Tessa loves cooking Thai food, she realised that a few of her group mates probably wouldn't list it as the cuisine they're most competent at re-creating.
Nevertheless, the underdogs of Aqua got started on their tasty menu with Poh's flavour packed glutinous rice balls, Simon and Rose creating a snapper and bitter gourd salad, and Ben, Reece, Amina, Amelia and Laura working on the three mains -- chilli basil clams, pork belly with tamarind sauce and chicken larb.
With just two and half hours on the clock until service, the teams crammed into the same tiny kitchen tent with some contestants underneath the tarp and others just outside.
Which would have been fine until storm clouds began circling above Ringwood East and the challenge got a whole lot more splish-splashy.
"All of a sudden, we're ankle deep in water," Tessa later explained of the kitchen downpour.
Rain gushed into the kitchen from all angles with Tracy noting that it was "pissing down everywhere" -- not an ideal work space for creating crispy fish or crackly pork.
Although Tessa noted that the weather did remind her of rainier times in Thailand, she was also concerned that the marquee was going to pick itself up and fly away in the powerful wind.
"Oh my god, it's flooding," noticed Khanh, later noting that the rain had come at the "worst possible time" as the teams prepared to send their first dishes through the pass.
"We still have to get our mains together, I don't know how we're going to do this," he said.
Huddling in close to the hot kitchen, the contestants stood closer than current social distancing measures would allow -- but had to keep working to plate up on time.
Team challenges on MasterChef have weathered plenty of similar (metaphorical) storms and mishaps over the years, the most recent during last year's Brisbane food truck challenge when poor Steph and Larissa started a huge blaze while prepping their Vietnamese menu.
The moral of the story? Larissa won the title of MasterChef 2019, proving that a trial by fire only makes contestants more determined.
Back in Ringwood East, the judges sat down to sample the two teams' Thai feasts and, while it was neck and neck after the entrees, Aqua's chewy pork belly and disappointing larb meant it was Orange who triumphed.
Melissa, Jock and Andy praised their perfectly cooked fish and punchy tamarind sauce, the textural and nuanced eggplant curry and the very sexy spatchcock chicken with green Nam Jim.
Which means that Tessa, Reece, Ben, Poh, Rose, Emelia, Laura and Amina will be heading into tomorrow's suburban-based Pressure Test.
Let's just hope this one's indoors.