It was the centre court match up no one wanted to miss – former tennis pro, and without doubt the most competitive man in the MKR kitchen, Adam versus Steve, the Pom who dared to argue with the judges over his poor critique.
At the end of the tense night the judges declared Will and Steve overwhelming victors with a 47 to 40 win.
A deflated Adam, never happy to place second, struggled with the loss but wished his fellow NSW comrades well for the remainder of the competition. “MKR has been an amazing tournament but unfortunately for us it’s game, set and match,” he said.
An unusually humbled Steve was relieved at his second chance in the competition. “The dream continues. I don’t know what I would’ve done tomorrow, or the next day, if we hadn’t survived this. I would’ve been lost.”
In the kitchen, newlyweds Carol and Adam were not in sync from the start. While Adam was keen to pickle the mushrooms for as long as possible for “more flavour”, his wife wanted to rinse them off before plating because she felt they were too strongly flavoured.
And when it came to their seared scallops with a miso and ginger sauce and Asian mushrooms entrée, the judges agreed with Carol.
Despite cooking the scallops beautifully, Manu Feildel said: “Even though those scallops are sweet, they’re not sweet enough to counterbalance the acidity of this dish. A little touch of sugar would’ve made a huge difference.”
Meanwhile, Pete Evans said Will and Steve’s zucchini flowers with whipped goat’s curd and burnt butter was “technically spot on”. Karen Martini praised it as well: “Every single ingredient has a reason for being on this plate.”
Trying to make up ground with their main course of goji stuffed pork fillet with daikon, Adam is aware of the risk they are taking. “The risk that we’re actually posing is the marriage between pear, gogi berry and water chestnut. When you think about it they probably don’t go together, but for us we actually think they do. And that’s the risk we’re willing to take.”
But the pork fillet is almost his undoing – not only does he have to ask for his wife’s help to make sure the dish makes it onto the plate, but he lapses into an eerily quiet mode. Wife Carol explains: “When Adam’s in concentration mode, he basically goes silent. That’s when I know he’s focused because there’s no response; he doesn’t communicate.”
Unfortunately, those casting the votes are not in agreement with Adam’s unusual flavour combination. Liz Egan’s appraisal is glowing yet sceptical: “They have some lovely flavours in there. There’s just a few notes where it didn’t quite work. I think the sauce is probably not suited; it doesn’t fit.”
Making matters worse, Steve had deboned and cooked the spatchcock in his main – roast spatchcock with bread sauce and orange and ginger carrots – well enough to earn praise from the hardest of judges, Colin Fassnidge. “I think it’s very confident cooking. It’s flavour driven and it’s ingredients driven,” he said.
With Carol having the edge when it comes to desserts, they were hoping to catch up with their crisp apple cigars with cinnamon ice-cream.
But time had robbed them of being prepared and the last of the cigars was cooking as the clock counted down the last minute. Luckily, it all made it onto the plate on time much to the contentment of the judges. “There’s not a lot to not like about this dessert,” said Pete; while Colin wanted two bowls of ice-cream he liked it that much.
And swinging in their favour was an outrageously ambitious dessert called textures of blood orange with white chocolate mascarpone and coconut tuile from the boys which produced much criticism from the judges.
“They did so well their first two course and this is just confused,” said Liz.
But Steve and Will’s confused dessert wasn’t enough of a slip to get Carol and Adam back in the game and it was a unanimous decision by the judges.
“Unfortunately our journey on MKR is over,” said Carol. “This experience has been a huge test for us as a newly married couple. If you can survive this you can survive anything. What we’re going to take away is great memories, friendship, we’ve retained our love of food and each other.”