'We Had To Raise The Bar': Darren Purchese Brings One Of His Toughest Pressure Tests Ever To MasterChef
Throughout the years Darren Purchese has delivered some of the most memorable pressure tests in MasterChef history, and this year he's taking things to the next level.
He's been a guest chef in almost every season so far, but walking into the Back To Win kitchen for Twists Week, Darren had his work cut out for him.
"I've certainly done a lot of pressure tests, this year we obviously had to raise the bar because normally I'm presenting dishes to people who are not really that experienced in the kitchen," Darren told 10 daily.
With a kitchen full of returning chefs, Darren decided to come up with a challenge that would deliver not one but two twists.
"We're celebrating one of Australia's most iconic desserts, but it's not as easy as all that. We trick it up and give them a challenge that will cause a whole heap of trouble for some."
While he couldn't tell us too much without revealing the twists, Darren has created a spin on the humble pavlova, one he's very proud of.
For the pressure tests, Darren talks to the MasterChef producers and finds out a bit more about where in the competition the show is at when he gets there, designing challenges specifically to put the chefs to the test.
"The longer I've got, the trickier it's going to be," he said with a sly laugh, "I absolutely take it to the maximum amount of time.
"Say I want the contestants to cook for three hours, I will make something that takes me just on three hours to make -- so I'm definitely pushing them."
It's become somewhat of a signature for Darren to bring in his take on a classic -- from his Peach Melba to his Bombe Alaska -- but these aren't the simple treats from your childhood.
"I like taking classic desserts and turning them on their head," he said, "I take great thrill in presenting something that's totally unexpected. If I come back and do a pressure test again next year, I'll be looking to another classic Aussie dessert.
"I've done a few now so it's kind of becoming a trademark of mine," Darren said.
Though it was a blast to see so many familiar faces back again, one of Darren's favourite moments any time he steps into the MasterChef kitchen is when he gets to lift the lid on the cloche and show off his latest delightfully difficult and astoundingly delicious creation.
Giggling when asked if he gets a perverse kick out of seeing the faces in front of him fall when they see the challenge in front of them, but this is far from an impossible task.
"I like revealing the dish and seeing the trepidation, but just as much I like seeing that trepidation turn to triumph," Darren said.
"There's no point in making something that no one can make, I think the real joy of a pressure test is seeing someone get to the end and produce something absolutely fantastic they didn't think they'd be able to do," he continued.
"We want to make it as hard as possible but we want to see it conquered at the very end."
When he plates up the pav tonight, Darren will also be kicking off pavlova week in his Melbourne store, Burch & Purchese.
"Usually whatever I come up with for MasterChef we run a theme of in the shop," he said promising classic pavs alongside versions of the pressure test dish fans can taste for themselves.
Since filming his appearance, the world has changed dramatically with the coronavirus pandemic -- and for Darren and the shop things too have changed.
The shop is still up and running, swiftly introducing contactless, click-and-collect and drive-through options for customers.
And one surprising change the Burch & Purchese team had to make: reducing the size of their cakes.
"We're doing more cakes that feed two to four people because obviously people don't want to order a big one, there's not enough people to enjoy it.
"But we're still here, we're still trying to serve the community with amazing cakes and desserts in these tricky times. What we've found is people still want a small little luxury."
When panic buying of toilet paper first began, Darren jokingly whipped up a batch of white and dark chocolate cakes to look like loo rolls. Posting a photo on Friday night, he woke up to thousands of likes, and a high demand for the cakes.
"I just thought it would be a bit of fun... and I said to the team we better start making these because people were banging the door down. We sold literally hundreds that weekend, we carried on until the joke wasn't so funny anymore."
Though there's been a lot of drastic changes to the food industry, Darren has continued to serve his customers a wide range of treats, pivoting to home-style classics to fill that satisfying craving for crumbles and sponges.
"I think that's really cheering everyone up and giving everyone a little bit of comfort."