Brent Owens has been crowned the winner of Masterchef 2014. played out over three rounds it was a hard fought battle
Round One – Mystery Box
With one hour to cook, their mystery box dish was scored out of 10 by Matt, Gary and George for a possible total of 30 points. Brent and Laura took turns to select a total of eight ingredients to fill their mystery box. Laura chose scampi; Brent selected garlic; Laura picked anchovies; Brent chose red cabbage. Next, Laura chose pearl barley; Brent picked fennel; Laura selected chervil; and Brent picked sherry.
Laura prepared grilled scampi with anchovy butter, a roasted garlic cream and pickled cabbage. She added a scampi head oil and puffed barley for crunch. The judges said it was beautiful and delicious, food “you want to get your fingers dirty for”. Brent cooked textures of pearl barley with poached scampi, pickled red cabbage and fresh chervil. Matt said the dish was inventive, exciting, inspiring and really beautiful.
Round Two – Family Chef’s Table
Next, Brent and Laura had 90 minutes to cook six plates of food (for the judges and their families) to be served at their chef’s table, right in front of their cooking benches, where their much-loved family member watched on throughout the cook. There were another 30 points from the judges on offer.
Brent did a modern version of a Lancashire hotpot (keeping mum Tanya happy, as she loves lamb), with a delicate potato galette and rich sauce. He struggled during the cook and after three failed attempts at the potato element, had to ditch it. Laura cooked lightly seared scallops, with herb butter-poached lobster, fresh radish, mushroom panzanella and chestnut chips, adding an agrodolce (sweet and sour sauce) to help balance the dish.
Laura was praised for clever cooking. The lobster and scallops were cooked beautifully and the agrodolce provided balance. Brent’s dish was beautiful and the sweetness of the parsnip worked well against the richness of the gravy. His lamb was well cooked, but the judges definitely missed the potato.
Round Three – Pressure Test: Peter Gilmore’s ‘Chocolate Ethereal’
Peter Gilmore, Executive Chef of Sydney’s Quay Restaurant revealed his stunning pressure test dish, chocolate ethereal.
Brent and Laura had three hours to cook and an extra 20 minutes to plate up four portions of the dish for the judges and Peter, who each scored out of 10; a total of 40 points up for grabs. Peter explained the ethereal sheets: a milk skin, two types of pulled or stretched caramel, a butter vanilla toffee and a chocolate flavour; a tempered chocolate sheet and a sugar starch sheet. They also had to make a salted oloroso (sherry) caramel, whipped caramel cream, nougat, roasted salted almonds caramelised for a praline, and a chocolate ganache.
Laura struggled early when she incorrectly added sugar to honey for the nougat. Although frustrated, she composed herself to start over and caught up. Brent moved through the recipe methodically. He tempered his chocolate well. Laura wasn’t far behind him when she hit another hurdle with her chocolate and had to begin again. An inspiring talk from George ensured she didn’t give up.
In the plating, Brent followed the recipe to the letter, chopping his nougat pieces for the base. His almonds were perfect, the thyme/honey flavour and texture of nougat was right, the flavour spot on. Peter Gilmore said that as an eating experience, it was very impressive and quite rounded.
Laura plated hers differently, placing her chocolate-covered nougat as a bar at the base. The judges noted that there were not as many sheets as Peter’s original and commented on the bar of nougat which should have been cut into small pieces. The eating experience lacked some of the lightness of touch.
Brent finished with 83 points out of a possible 100, just ahead of Laura’s 80 points. “It’s surreal,” Brent said. “It’s an emotion I can’t explain, I’ve never had it before. It’s still sinking in. It will definitely take some time to process.”
Acknowledging his support back home, Brent said: “I would never have got here without my family and Maddy pushing me to apply and having faith in me. Matt, Gary and George have been an incredible influence, pushing me and steering me in the right direction.
“I’ve got so many plans. Ultimately I want my own café and a line of food products. I’m very keen to give back to the community; I’ve already started working with disadvantaged youth and will be using food to make a difference in their lives, as it has in mine,” he said.
Brent takes home the biggest prize in MasterChef Australia history: $250,000 cash, a book deal with Hardie Grant, work experience in some of Australia’s best kitchens and an Alfa Romeo Giulietta.
Runner-up Laura had nothing but praise for Brent: “I’m so happy to come second to Brent, he’s the most worthy winner, he’s grown so much. It’s been amazing to share this with him. MasterChef Australia has been the best experience of my life. I’ve loved every minute of it.”
Laura is excited for what lies ahead. “I want to publish my own home-style Italian cook book and I plan to do some volunteering with kids to teach them about food. I also have the incredible opportunity to work with Jock Zonfrillo as a junior chef at Orana in Adelaide,” she said. Laura will receive $20,000 from Bendigo Bank and the offer of financial advice to go towards ensuring her bright future in the food industry