You know it’s the finale when the contestants have their special little chef outfits on. We have our first cry of the episode about four seconds in when Aaron muses that he’s already “the last man standing, technically.” I would have probably taken time get mad about that statement, but he immediately started crying. So I started crying. Before the tears could dry, Belinda tells the judges that her father has been sick throughout the competition. Very emotional start to a rollercoaster of an episode.
On top of all this crying, the teams have to cook FIVE COURSES. Selfishly, my first thought was not “how the hell are they going to prep for that many courses?” but “how the bloody hell am I supposed to recap that many courses?” Never fear, both myself and the MKR teams are dedicated to our respective callings, and would soldier on through to a stunning completion.
The first course was marinated scallops for the Hippies and oysters (three ways) for the Polynesian Cooks. It was clear Aaron was hellbent on “vanquishing the ghost” of his last oyster mishap. He got stuck in shucking 5062 oysters, watched by a very excited/horned up Gareth from the sidelines (“I love oysters,” Gareth said to nobody). Nek minute, someone let out a blood-curling scream off-camera. Had Aaron forgot an oyster again? Had the Hippies realised that scallops and pancetta is so three episodes ago? No, the families had arrived. And boy did they upset the chi of Kitchen HQ.
The teams still managed to pump out the entrées despite being tackled by what seemed like 100 Grandmas. The oysters were judged first, served with a shot glass of Kava. Nadia got right into it, knocking her shot back like it’s ladies night on the Viaduct. “That’s different” she said, trashed out of her mind. The scallops were subtle and elegant, but I think most of the judges were too buzzed on Kava to notice.
The second course was halloumi-stuffed zucchini flowers for the Hippies and seafood risotto for the Polynesian Cooks. Belinda got to work removing the stamens and saying “stamen” in the exact same way as the hilarious Family Guy bee. Everyone was sinking major piss – Neena was tempted to chug back her beer for the beer batter tempura, and Heather was chucking ciders galore into the risotto. The zucchini flowers finally started to deep-fry after some coconut oil hell, reminiscent of their first instant restaurant.The risotto was judged harshly I thought. “Could be wetter” said Ben Bayly (that’s what she said). The zucchini flowers had a lovely nutty batter on them (“it’s a bit nutty” – Robert Oliver/Austin Powers). Ben Bayly squeaked with delight that his teeth squeaked on the halloumi. We all know that Ben loves cheese.
Third course was a Hippy smoked salmon and a Polynesian boil-up. I am still reeling about how awesome the boil-up was. They kept the broth aside in a little jug “for a bit of theatre.” Step right up, get your tickets to the opening night of Broth tonight! Tell you what – it was actually a hell of a show. The Hippies were also doing impressive things smoking giant pieces of salmon, and making whiskey infused manuka chips. The judges adored the boil-up. “This could be served in France, this could be served anywhere in the world” said Sean Connolly. Alright mate, we get it – you’ve travelled. The salmon was also melt-in-the-mouth good. Grace Ramirez did a slow little jive, so you know they did pretty good.
The FOURTH BLOODY COURSE was spiced pomegranate lamb for the Hippies and the ever-trendy sous vide chicken for the Polynesian Cooks. The Hippies were back in the weed-zone, mixing up dandelion and all sorts of other leaves to make a harissa (a fancy word for blended-up grass, I think). The sous vide was ready to towel off after it’s luxury emergent bath – it was cooked to perfection. The judges preferred the Hippies’ lamb and weed platter, Sean Connolly said that “everything was speaking to each other.” Lamb can’t talk mate, maybe don’t chow down as much weed next time? The sous vide was labelled “homestyle” which we all know is MKR language for ‘a bit shitty looking’.
Finally, dessert. The Hippies were busy doing “passion on a plate” which, I imagine, is the name of Grace Ramirez’ autobiography. The Polynesian cooks were making Te Pai Rimene aka lemon pie. Aaron was back on the grind getting coconut flesh from the coconut using a traditional technique. “You’re a coconut, you show them” yelled his Mum, weirdly backed by Corporate Aaron who had somehow got lost in the back benches and been adopted by Aaron and Heather’s family. The Hippies were onto their fourth try making macadamia brittle, getting a huge clap when it finally didn’t crystallise too fast. Quite weird to watch a good five minutes of sugar setting, but I was honestly breathless.
The lemon pie was plated with an awesome tequila shot. Nadia said that it reminded her of a “beautiful rarotongan girl.” I mean, I have never seen a beautiful Rarotongan girl with a head made of porcelain, a yellow square for a nose, and a shot glass for an eye – but I’m sure your friend is lovely, Nadia. We all know Robert Oliver loves to end a meal on a light note, and the Hippies’ passionfruit plate did exactly that for him.
Then, crunch time. Both teams had cooked their entire butts off, and it came down to just one point between them. The Modern Day Hippies Neena and Belinda came away the winners, with an enormous confetti cannon leading to the second blood-curdling scream of the episode. I had my fingers crossed for a Lotto confetti style incident, but everyone remained standing. There were a lot of tears, part of me was a bit sad for Aaron and Heather – but both judges offered up their kitchens for them to work in. I have it on good authority now that Aaron works at Ben Bayly’s “The Grove”, which is sort of nice. And as for the Hippies? Well, I’m sure we’ll see a weed-centric coconut-oil glazed recipe book from them in no time.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go immerse myself in a luxury bath like a piece of sous vide chicken.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.