“MasterChef Judges Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston are back as the 2015 season of MasterChef returns bigger and better than ever in its 7th season! This year the best home cooks in Australia will be serving up the most amazing food the competition has ever seen. They’re ordinary people, but they cook extraordinary food.”
As an avid MasterChef watcher since series 1, it was great to be given the opportunity to be flown down to Melbourne for the day to check out the MasterChef kitchen and meet the judges in between their busy tastings. I also met with this year’s guest mentor, Chef Shannon Bennett from Vue de Monde who had a dessert tasting prepared which will be featured in Episode 2 of MasterChef Australia. A quick pitstop lunch at George Calombaris’s restaurant Gazi was a tasty introduction to a vibrant place I’d love to revisit. I also came face-to-face with an impressive and very complex dessert by Pastry Chef Darren Purchese from Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio, which will challenge the contestants at one point in the MasterChef kitchen. A sneak peek will be revealed closer to the episode. All I can say is it takes a long time to prepare, looked amazing and tasted great — and I will definitely not be attempting to make it myself, ever.
Chef Shannon Bennett, Vue de Monde
It's amazing what you can do in one day even with a one-hour flight delay from Sydney due to weather. In hindsight the proposed two day visit would have been better to take into account traffic delays, chefs’ availability and working around the MasterChef kitchen schedule — maybe next time. First up was a visit to the heavenly view over Melbourne from Vue de Monde to have a casual chat with Chef Shannon Bennett about his Episode 2 dessert challenge, which will air on TEN from 7.30 Wednesday night (May 6). What's not to like about a decadent warm chocolate orange mousse with a lovely combination of flavours that anyone can enjoy at his Bistro Vue restaurant. Straight to my thighs but no regrets.
This season, Chef Shannon Bennett will be the guest mentor to help guide the contestants through testing times when they’re up against an established chef for an immunity challenge. I’m pretty confident they’ll be in good hands as Shannon’s reputation is on the line as well — and just quietly he doesn’t mind fighting for a win when given the opportunity. During our chat, he says to make it in this industry it comes down to work ethic, passion and knowledge. A combination of all three will give you the necessary drive to hopefully make it as a chef. From the sounds of it there’s a few contestants who discover these qualities so it’ll be interesting to see who they’ll be throughout the competition. Shannon is a down-to-earth and likeable guy who sees the glass half full rather than half empty. Thanks for the catch up and tasting.
Gazi, CBD Melbourne
Due to working around the availability of chefs and the MasterChef kitchen, a quick lunch stop at Gazi followed. So glad I chose to try the ‘Garida’ Crispy kataifi pastry, tiger prawn, aleppo mayo, honey, smoked almond ($6.50 ea). I’d happily order this one again. A decent sized prawn wrapped in crispiness. More please. ‘Cheese’ Saganaki, balsamic honey, figs ($14.50) had some serious stretchy cheese porn going for it when you picked it up. Yummy flavour combination with the figs. I could have happily taken the Soft shell crab souvlakakia ($12) to go and wander around the streets of Melbourne. I’m hoping I can find something similar in Sydney. ‘Blue Cup’ ($10) cocktail of the week was Gazi’s take on the classic Grasshopper. Equal parts of Metaxa 7 Star Greek Brandy, Creme de Menthe and Creme de Cacao topped with ice cream, crushed ice, grated nutmeg and garnished with a sprig of mint. An easy one to drink although maybe best suited to enjoy with a dessert as it was like a chocolate mint flavoured milkshake but alcoholic. For a blue light disco experience be sure to check out the toilets.
Pastry Chef Darren Purchese, Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio, South Yarra
The famous Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio awaited after lunch where I felt I had gained 10 kg just by walking into the place. If you don't know about Darren Purchese then he's the one that can make you seriously fat with his gorgeous looking desserts on display if you don't have any self-control. Dessert heaven awaits those who love a quality sugar hit. He'll be responsible for putting contestants through dessert hell in completing a very special dessert challenge. I can’t reveal too much at this stage but I’ve been told it’s one of the most difficult dessert challenges to date on MasterChef Australia, with so many pressure points that I feel contestants with a degree in acupuncture might have a slight advantage. Thanks so much for the dessert tasting and yummy gift samples of your salted soft caramel chocolates. The Mrs loved them and thankfully was happy to share them with me when I brought them home.
MasterChef kitchen, Melbourne Showgrounds, Ascot Vale
Like arriving on a Hollywood movie set, the MasterChef kitchen is the place to visit for any MasterChef fan. Everything is quickly recognisable, I reckon they could make money in the off season by running tours through the place and maybe doing team building challenges for companies. MasterChef judges Matt Preston and George Calombaris were on hand for photos and a quick chat about the show. Unfortunately it was Gary Mehigan’s turn to be taken down by the man flu that was going around. Perhaps they should have made one of the cooking challenges chicken noodle soup. The MasterChef pantry is huge and stocks a broad range of ingredients to cover just anything the contestants might dream up. There’s an impressive display of cooking utensils, pots, pans and appliances, which I’m glad I’m not the person who needs to clean them after each challenge.
Thanks again to MasterChef for making this experience possible. I look forward to watching the ‘journey’ of the new contestants as they’re being put through their paces and I hope to be inspired yet again by some cracking dishes. May the best cook win and the drinking games begin. I wonder who will be the first to cry? I’ll be tuning in from 7.30 Sunday to Thursday nights, on TEN.