Elena Duggan was tonight crowned the winner of MasterChef Australia for 2016, after one of the toughest three-round challenges ever seen in the show’s eight years
In front of this year’s eliminated contestants, Elena and Matt undertook an epic three-round challenge. \
In round one, they had 60 minutes to make three entrée dishes. Matt cooked a pan-searedquail with confit legs, corn and chorizo salsa and Pedro Ximenez glaze. Elena opted to make marron two-ways, with a smoked vegetable salad and a dashi dressing.
Time got the better of Elena, who was unable to infuse her dashi dressing with the flavour it needed. Although it was well received by the judges, her dish lacked a big enough punch of flavour and Elena went into round two with 23 points on the board, versus Matt on 26.
Round two was a main course challenge with no rules. Matt and Elena had 75 minutes to cook any cuisine, in any style, using any ingredients.
Elena was determined not to let the nerves get to her. She cooked twice-cooked lamb with a lamb jus, a macadamia, garlic and onion puree, pickled beets and vegetables. Matt cooked crispy skin barramundi with brussel sprouts and a pancetta and prawn broth. Gary questioned his idea of a broth, but Matt decided to trust his own intuition.
In the tasting, Matt’s broth was a raging success. Gary noted the fish was cooked perfectly and that the dish looked drop-dead gorgeous. Elena’s dish also impressed with its delicious flavour and both finalists received a perfect score of 30.
After an emotional reunion with family and partners, the finalists faced an epic final round pressure set, set by Heston Blumenthal. Heston and his executive chef, Ashley PalmerWatts, presented Verjus in Egg, a 91-step dessert to be cooked over five-and-a-half hours.
Elena was the first to slip while making a jelly for her egg yolk, adding an element too early. Matt made a mistake with his panna cotta and found it had not set. He had to start again, wasting an hour. Matt found himself increasingly overwhelmed, falling behind Elena and skipping a vital final step which led to a heartbreaking end to the cook when his egg split at the final moment.
Matt scored a seven from all the judges, Heston and Ashley (who voted as one), giving him 28 for the round and a grand total of 84. Elena managed to best replicate the dessert, scoring an eight from the judges and nine from Heston and Ashley, giving her 33 for the round – and an overall two point win over Matt with a grand total of 86.
Former high school teacher Elena, 32, from NSW takes home the MasterChef Australia title and trophy, a cash prize of $250,000 to kick-start her food dream and a monthly column in Australia’s leading premium food magazine, Delicious.
Thankful to be sharing this moment with her family and fellow contestants, Elena said: “I’m just so full of gratitude for every experience and opportunity granted to us. The exposure to experts, the learning and education and development we have had – I just can’t compare itto any other experience. I want to thank everyone involved for their support and guidance: the judges, my fellow contestants and my loved ones.
“The MasterChef Australia experience has ignited my passion for food and learning and I’m looking forward to gaining as much work experience in the industry as I can. I want to continue my immersion in food and educate myself in order to be able to inspire and instill that creative empowerment in others.”
On behalf of the judges, Matt Preston said: “It’s been such a pleasure watching you cook, watching you grow, and eating those incredible, intense, flavour bursting dishes time after time.”
Runner-up Matt was awarded $40,000 courtesy of the new ANZ Travel Adventures card to help him achieve his food dream. The judges told Matt they had never seen anyone in the MasterChef Australia kitchen with such a deep, emotional connection to food – and they look forward to joining the queue for his food truck in the future.
Matt said: “I feel like being in this competition has equipped me for a future in the food industry and I can’t wait to get into the market and catering scenes to start producing the food that I’ve grown to love.”
Harry Foster, who was eliminated in the semi-final, won $10,000.