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Stevie TV: Masterchef NZ – the Ballad of the Sad Carrot

Steve Braunias watches a bad carrot tear down the dreams of a construction worker as Masterchef NZ broiled and braised its way to a top 10.

Bloodthirsty times at Masterchef NZ, with Monday night’s axing of Chris the builder. He came, he saw an oxtail, he didn’t really know what to do with it. His dish was dumb as an ox. It had a carrot in it. It sat on top of the meat like a sock placed on a laundry basket. The three judges – anxious Josh, chipper Al, soft Mark – wished him all the best and said his meal was the worst. “Time,” declared Al, “to leave the Masterchef house.” Chris muttered something about one day wanting to own a food truck. Viewers at home thought: good luck with that bro but yeah nah.

His exit left a top ten. They wept and high-fived. It had been a gruelling 90 minutes. Sarah the student was shown up as a plagiarist. She plagiarised herself; her gnocchi was scorned as the same kind of dish she’d cooked in an earlier episode. Josh shook his bony head. Al waggled his ears. Mark shook his ears. As the new judge on Masterchef, he’s forever looking to Josh and Al for guidance. His only original contribution is to say about any dish he likes: “I could eat this all day, every day!” But he didn’t give Sarah’s xerox gnocchi the time of day. She was lucky to survive, and so was Ben the account manager, who made beef cheek tacos which were lacking in imagination as well as tacos. He wanted to make three, one for each of the judges. But one taco broke, and he palmed the judges off with two tacos. Mark’s ears shook and waggled.

Likely winners stepped forward. Lily in imports and exports made an awesome crayfish dish. Gemma the food technologist cooked a clever cannelloni. “I could eat your tacos all day, every day!”, Mark told Hayley the territory manager for a beverage company. Richard the butcher impressed with his lamb neck pie, and provided the episode with its central drama – would the pies bake in time? – which gave the judges something to talk about. Hard to imagine Josh, Al, and Mark having a conversation away from the cameras. They’re incapable of actual dialogue in front of the cameras. The three of them would be the dinner party guests from hell. Best to stick them in the kitchen, and lock the door.

Tim the physiotherapist and Glenda the general manager show promise. The competition is going to be tight. Masterchef has always rooted out the indecisive, the disorganised, the unstable;  the show is as much a judgment of character as talent. Gemma’s a brilliant and industrious cook, but operates on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Tim’s a calm and likeable guy, but his cooking isn’t that flash. Leo the pig farmer sweats like a pig. Hayley could emerge as the nation’s sweetheart, but she talks too much. Sarah doesn’t do anything much. Ben has anger issues; his false bonhomie crumbled like his tacos on Monday night, and revealed that underneath the booming laugh and thick beard he was a bit of an asshole.

Contestants chose the main ingredient for each other’s meals. Ben tried to throw Lily under the bus when he nominated that she cook crayfish. “She’s a threat,” he explained. “She’s going to have to cook the crayfish perfectly. If it’s underdone, or overdone, she’s going home!”

No one else tried to make life hard for each other. Ben, and only Ben had the gall to take on judge Al. “I’ve never had a broccoli stem served in a taco before anywhere in the world,” Al said of Ben’s stupid tacos. “It doesn’t make sense.” Ben got all bitchy, and responded, “Well, I’ve never had duck tongues before I went to Al’s restaurant.”

He’s volatile, and he’s big. The guy might go berserk and take a swing at one of the judges before too long. He’d have Al, and stick those duck tongues up his ass. He’d box Mark’s ears all day, every day. Josh, though, is made of sterner stuff. He has the eyes of a psychotic; he looks as though he trains in either martial arts or Scientology.

Chris can only watch from home. “I put my heart on the plate,” he said. He really should have. It might have been more appetising than that limp carrot.

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