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'I Should Have Expected The Worst': Tessa Tears Up After Pressure-Filled Elimination Cook

The first part of Sunday night's elimination challenge on MasterChef: Back To Win seemed as though it was going to be a breeze.

Standing in front of a dozen or so cloches, Melissa, Jock and Andy revealed that contestants would have to correctly identify the popular takeaway dishes underneath each one, and their country of origin, with the first four contestants to get an answer wrong heading into the second round.

While the first couple were no-brainers -- Pizza (Italy) and Pho (Vietnam) it was the third and fourth dishes that tripped up a few unlucky contestants.

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When the judges surveyed the MasterChef contestants to find out who often gets take-out delivered to their houses, one hand that was not raised was Chris Badenoch's.

With Ben incorrectly identifying Peking duck pancakes and Tracy, Chris and Tessa getting the wrong country of origin for laksa, the first challenge was over as quickly as it started, even though we really wanted to see the other dishes that were yet to be revealed.

While Ben and Chris have both landed in the second round of an elimination this season, it was both Tracy and Tessa's first time in getting dangerously close to exiting the kitchen.

The laksa four. Image: Network 10.

To save themselves from elimination, the four cooks found out they'd have to prepare their own takeaway dish that could survive travelling 20 minutes to be eaten by Melissa at her home -- as well as sampled by Jock and Andy on a plate in the MasterChef kitchen.

"I'm doing curry today because I eat curry all the time, it's my go-to takeaway so I had to make it today," Tessa explained at the beginning of her cook.

"I've been to India, I know the flavours well, I just have to go with my instincts," she added.

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It was the takeaway food challenge that we've spent months in isolation life preparing for.

Tessa strategically picked a "saucy dish" that wasn't going to dry out en route to Melissa, telling Andy that she would be plating, and packing up, South Indian fish curry with a lachha paratha (flat bread), coriander chutney and some rice.

"I'm going to attempt four elements in the 70 minutes, which is pushing it," Tessa explained in a confessional, adding that she was "fighting for her place in the competition".

The second side of the snapper was tough to watch. Image: Network 10.

But the MasterChef kitchen has a funny way of building pressure to the point that it can block contestants' normally razor sharp instincts -- and knife skills.

Of the Back To Win contestants left in the competition, Tessa is undoubtedly the most talented when it comes to filleting fish -- it's her (fishy) jam.

But after taking her first snapper fillet off in one easy swish of her blade, when she turned the fish over, it was another story with the knife refusing to glide easily through the flesh.

"I'm just having so much trouble filleting the second fillet," she said. 

"I'm feeling the pressure, you know, something I can do quite easily is just becoming this mammoth task and I'm starting to get a little bit frantic," the normally very cool customer said.

An emotional cook for Tessa. Image: Network 10.

After the Deliveroo drivers zoomed up to the MasterChef kitchen doors, Tessa managed to plate up all the elements of her dish, but she was clearly rattled.

"I don't want to go home, I just really worked hard and I've got so much to prove -- not only to the judges but myself and I just want to get to that stage," she said, wiping back a tear.

When she presented her dish on a plate to Jock and Andy, Tessa explained what was going through her head during the cook.

"There's so much pressure and I just didn't expect to be in round two so, I don't know, I always hope for the best and I should have expected for the worst," she said.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself, pretty much."

Mel was working from home even before the pandemic hit. Image; Network 10.

After Jock and Andy tucked in and Melissa tried the dish at home -- they all came to the same conclusion.

"Tessa, your fish could not have been cooked better by anyone, anywhere in the world," Melissa said.

Tessa's sigh of relief carried with it a wave of emotions and gave us a visceral understanding of how much is at stake in MasterChef: Back To Win. 

And, after coming second in last year's season, it's clear that Tessa is not going to leave the competition without a tremendous fight.

MasterChef: Back To Win Airs Sunday-Thursday at 7.30 pm. Only On 10, 10 Play and WIN Network.