Brenton Thornton became the thirteenth contestant from the Top 16 to leave MasterChef New Zealand on Tuesday 29th May (7.30 pm – 8.30 pm) on TV ONE.
In tonight’s episode the Top Four were in the culinary capital of Asia, Singapore where they had not one but two epic challenges to complete to decide who went through to the sem-final.
Their first challenge took place deep in the heart of old Singapore, in Chinatown.
Arriving there in rickshaws the contestants met special guest, hawker food master K.F. Seetoh. Hawker food is the signature street food of Singapore.
Seetoh revealed three of his favourite dishes: black pepper crab, fish head curry and fried Hokkien prawn noodles. The Top Four had just 90 minutes to replicate all three dishes; they were given recipes but no way of measuring the ingredients which they had to buy from the famous Chinatown markets, a challenge in itself.
They then had to prepare the dishes at al fresco kitchen tops, set up outside the markets and amongst the elements, which at one stage included a monsoon downpour.
Brenton Thornton and Tony Price won the challenge, but only by default after Chelsea Winter and Ana Schwarz were penalised for swapping key ingredients.
The second challenge encapsulated a very different style of Singaporean cuisine – fine dining – in the five-star French restaurant Guy Savoy.
There, Michelin-star winning executive chef Eric Bost unveiled a dish featuring an unusual local ingredient: roast pigeon, with a smoked eggplant royale.
The contestants had just 90 minutes to replicate Eric’s dish. None of them had cooked pigeon before, a meat that must be cooked just right, not under or over. They also had to try to match Eric’s five-star presentation.
The results of this challenge, added to the results of the previous challenge were presented to the contestants at elimination.
Tony Price was the first to be told he was through to the semi final, with Chelsea Winter a close second.
In the bottom two alongside Ana Schwarz, Thornton worried over how he had got it so wrong.
”Brenton,” said judge Simon Gault, “today you have nailed the presentation but you left the flavours at the front door. Which is so unlike you.”
“I spent a lot of time on seasonings today,” explained Thornton. “I was happy with it as I went along. Perhaps the pressure got to me.”
The landscape gardener also contemplated the future should he be sent home.
“If I go home I don’t have anything. I don’t have money, I don’t have a job, I don’t have anything like that,” he said.
As the judges told Ana Schwarz that despite her lacklustre pigeon, her hawker food had been the best on the day and she was through to the next stage, Thornton’s world seemed to crumble around him.
“I never saw myself staying this far, but as the competition progressed and I learned more, I saw myself staying to the end, “ he said. “Now I’ve got to go home, find a job and go back to picking weeds out of peoples’ gardens.”
“Brenton, we’re really going to miss you,” commiserated judge Ray McVinnie.
In contrast, Simon Gault was decidedly upbeat.
“I’ve seen you cook over the last couple of months,” he told Thornton. “And I’m a believer! I think you can cook, I really think you can! And I think you can be an amazing chef!
“And I’m going to do something I haven’t done before,” he continued. “I’m going to offer you a 12 month Simon Gault apprenticeship.
“At the end of the 12 months after being mentored by my head chefs and me, it will culminate into a full time job at Fish Restaurant under Shane Yardley at the Hilton Hotel.”
As Thornton’s eyes widened in amazement, the Top Three burst into grins alongside him.
“I will stand beside you and make you a great chef, and we’ll do it together,” finished Gault.
“Awesome!” pronounced a stunned Thornton.
To pats on the back and congratulations from his fellow contestants, the 24-year-old headed for the door.
Admitting that he was gutted that he didn’t get a shot at the MasterChef final, he also confessed he was stoked to be going home to his girlfriend.
“It’s been a long journey and I miss her so much.
“And I’m looking forward to work on Monday!”
For Brenton Thornton’s thoughts on being evicted from the kitchen, visit the TVNZ MasterChef NZ site for an exclusive interview.
MasterChef New Zealand continues Tuesdays at 7.30pm on TV ONE. At stake for the remaining contestants is the MasterChef New Zealand title and more than $100,000 worth of prizes.
The remaining contestants are: Tony Price (Auckland), Ana Schwarz (Waiheke), and Chelsea Winter (Auckland).