Episode four and it’s my first time to cook in the Masterchef kitchen. Nervous, full of the flu and totally daunted about the upcoming challenge, I stand behind my bench, desperate to hear what is in store for us all today.
Mexican!! When I hear the judges denounce the commercialised, Western take on Mexican food that I feel familiar with, I feel ill. So all I really know about Mexican is not an acceptable way to tackle todays challenge – oh boy. What on earth am I going to cook to take these guys’ tastebuds to Mexico!
When we are introduced to Jose and he starts to discuss the importance of corn, chilli, lime and beans, I start to mull over what I can create. Somehow in the process I miss the paramount importance he places on the use of the tortilla mix. He clearly wants tortilla’s on the plate. The tasting samples that followed were quite fabulous but who knows where my head was at because in spite of all the samples having tortilla, I still didn’t really click to it’s vital importance. Blame the flu! In the pantry my morning didn’t improve and my mind was a jumble as I piled a host of ingredients into the tray and prayed for a divine inspiration – and quick!
When our time started I really wasn’t at all where I needed to be. The whole kitchen was like a movie set (surprising thought) and I was conscious of everybody else moving – and fast! It appeared that everyone else had a personal script and mine hadn’t been written yet. I felt totally lost. Paula was alongside me and was working herself into a frenzy of activity. She seemed to have a multitude of steps on the go – a position I could relate to as I started to prepare for a host of dishes I imagined I could create in 60 minutes. Sushil was in front and the guy was really giving it everything. He was working so hard it became exhausting to watch. And behind me I could hear Michael, stressed, and I wondered what he was trying to produce. Meantime I was generating my own bomb site on the bench. Way too many ideas going on and it sure did show. I tried to work on the tortilla dough but it looked and felt awful. I added more and more water but I just couldn’t get it right, so in the midst of the challenge I decided to set it aside and leave it to the end. Not necessarily the cleverest decision to make. When Josh came and commented on the state of my bench I was mortified but was well and truly entrenched in my self imposed process and had way too little time to tidy up and make fresh plans.
Paula is talking to herself beside me and seems crazily stressed. I can totally relate. And Sushil’s bench is starting to resemble mine – so no doubt I am not the only ‘pigsty’ of the day. Josh wanders in behind me to talk to Michael and is bemoaning the state of Michael’s bench. I cast my eyes back briefly and acknowledge additional chaos arising behind me too. Not the finest moment for several of us it seems.
When I realise I only have 20 minutes left I decide it is imperative to simplify my overextended plans and aim to get something edible onto a plate. Paula may be verbally anxious but her food is looking great. I know it is time to discard grandeur and get cooking. So I stirfry some prawns with lime and chilli, cook off some beans and prepare a guacamole, whilst the fish fillets cook in the oven. At 30 seconds I am panicked. Paula is flustered and I am too. Our combined bench is a disaster area. But Paula’s plate looked stunning and mine….well it did not!
When we stepped away from the benches I turned to give Michael a sympathetic smile – he so looked like he needed some simpatico! Sushil meantime appeared covered in his own avocado shake – between us at the back – we were a mess!
Sitting at the back of the kitchen, we waited as the judges tried the dishes. We couldn’t hear anything but the mood was somber, quiet and very tense. If there were happy people they seemed to realise that now was not the time to smile enthusiastically or confidently. Without a doubt there were more of us feeling as if it was time to go home. Many looked miserable and smiles were few. Taking my plate to the judges was heartbreaking. What a disaster, bad food, worst dish ever – and I knew they would know!! I just had to hope that someone else did a worse job than me. Although I highly doubted it!
Elimination is the worst time. It is mortifying and painful. Everyone is fraught and anxious and everyone is dreading the outcome. When I am positioned in the back row again I suspect it has no relation to being tall. Nope: back = not good! A shocker!
Aaron and Ella were the stars. Is Aaron going to perpetually be a star I wonder? I manage a smile for them – lucky, they are nice people. I feel ill inside. Way too intimidating in front of these judges. I mean honestly – they are just 3 guys – yet here they are a force I somehow wish I didn’t have to face.
When Josh started to dwell on David forgetting his vital ingredients, my heart sinks somewhere into the souls of my rubber Crocs. I took the ingredients that David forgot – but I didn’t get a tortilla on the plate! Torture. Sheer torment. Then another four are safe. Oh breathe Vanessa, breathe. But by now I cannot manage a smile for anyone. When Sushil and Serena are called forward I realise mine is the only name they haven’t called and I don’t believe anyone could feel more miserable than I do right at that moment.
To discover that I wasn’t one of the bottom two comes as a shock. My brain can’t even process the information This is grueling. I really thought I would collapse so it was lucky for a couch and friendly co-contestants to nestle in beside. And the final cut was a blur. Exhausted and stressed – a brief goodbye to another friend and the question of whether it will be possible to cope with whatever was to come next.