Brent , Emelia and Laura battled it out in the highly anticipated MasterChef Australia Semi Final, serving their dream menus to a group of 20 diners each, plus the judges.
With just four hours to prepare a main and a dessert for all, the standards had to be the highest of the season. George Calombaris ran the pass, with each cook at their own commercial kitchen station. They had everything to play for: the two left standing would make it into the Grand Finale.
Knowing her strengths lie in dessert, Emelia had spent the most time planning a great main course to blow the judges away, figuring she could finalise her dessert dish during prep. Her main was mandarin and chocolate glazed beef cheeks with a Jerusalem artichoke puree.
With the beef underway, Emelia switched into dessert mode. She had already thought to do a whipped chocolate ganache with a chocolate crumb, fig leaf ice cream and mandarin gel, but she knew something was missing. It needed an element to tie it all together, something to cut through the richness so she decided on mandarin curd to provide acidity.
Brent planned a menu featuring pork and apple for his main, then continued the theme of apple into his dessert with a pistachio cake with fennel sugar syrup, sour cream ice cream, an apple cloud and other apple components.
Laura was under the pump during prep, struggling to get through all her processes. The quail and the chestnuts for her main dish proved the most time consuming, but she persevered in the face of doubt.
In the tasting, the judges thought Emelia had absolutely nailed her main dish: it was restrained and elegant, and every layer of the dish presented something interesting. The mandarin added a real zest and they didn’t think there was much to be improved. Brent’s pork dish was complex, clever and “sexy” on the plate. The pork was tender, the crackling perfect and the vinegar gel offset the apple flavours. Laura’s cooking of her quail was spot on; her chestnut cream was smashing, with great attention to detail. The mains were hard to split.
During dessert service, both Emelia and Laura discovered elements that had not set. Emelia’s unifying element of mandarin curd was runny and she had to add whipped cream to thicken it, compromising the tart flavour in the process. Laura’s mousse element for her “chestnut forest” was too thin and she had to reconfigure her plating to incorporate it at the base.
With Brent’s dessert the benchmark, the judges loved Emelia’s whipped salty ganache, crumb and smooth fig leaf ice cream, but its richness needed a fruit or acid punch that the curd would have delivered. Laura’s dessert impressed; it was like a crunchy tiramisu, its coffee and rum flavours shining. Brent was announced as the first cook through to the Grand Finale. Then came the toughest decision the judges have had to make, between Laura and Emelia. With two utterly delicious dishes, Laura was through.
Matt had kind words for Emelia, saying that what some mistook as arrogance, they saw as great strength; what some saw as cheek, was true spirit. Emelia was emotional and all three judges were also in tears. George told Emelia how much he admired her attitude and said that he was going to give her a door to the industry to open, with an offer to join his pastry team at The Press Club. She was overwhelmed, but is excited to get into the kitchen.
The Masterchef 2014 Finale airs 7::30 Tonight on Ten