Ana Schwarz and Chelsea Winter have seen off Tony Price to go through to the grand final of MasterChef New Zealand.
Tonight in the MasterChef semi final, the Top Three had to cook three dishes which conveyed their vision for a cookbook, part of the prize package for the MasterChef 2012 winner.
Not only that, they also had impress the guest judge, cookbook queen and star of hit TV One cooking show The Free Range Cook, Annabel Langbein.
Each contestant was given two-and-a-half hours to cook the dishes and five minutes in the pantry to select as many ingredients as they liked.
Choosing global food as his cookbook theme, Tony Price made Spanish chicken and roast vegetables, salmon teriyaki, and a kaffir lime and lemongrass ice cream.
From the outset he was on a mission to impress, wielding a large syringe filled with Portuguese-style peri-peri sauce to insert into the chicken pieces.
Judge Simon Gault was quick to react.
“I knew you’d start doing something really crazy at some stage,” he told Price. “But you’re going to scare them (home cooks) off with that syringe!”
Plating up before tasting, Tony was confident his dishes were cookbook classics.
“I think I’ve done well enough to stay in the competition.”
Simon Gault and fellow judge Josh Emett agreed.
“I think Tony’s a force to be reckoned with today,” said Gault. “There’s definitely no gambling going on here!” added Emett.
But they were in for a surprise.
Tasting Price’s Spanish chicken, Simon Gault declared the dish to be undercooked. And he questioned Price’s decision to describe the dish as feeding two to three hungry people, when he only served two pieces of the bird.
Judge Ray McVinnie also thought the chicken needed more cooking. And he struggled to understand the inclusion of chorizo sausage, which he said had turned to ‘shoe leather’ in the oven.
Moving on to the salmon teriyaki with shitake mushrooms and spring onions, Gault described the dish as ‘perfectly cooked’.
Josh Emett also enjoyed the fish, but complained that the rice which accompanied it was not so good.
Annabel Langbein felt that regardless of the rice, the flavour balances were nice. “It wasn’t too complicated, it was much more accessible to me,” she said.
Despite the criticism, Price remained up-beat.
“I thought my cookbook pitch was received really well. The judges didn’t rip into me; they didn’t give me a hard time. I felt like they thought my concept was good and plausible,” he said.
“How successful do you think your dishes were today?” Josh Emett asked Tony as the elimination got underway. “How do you think your chicken was cooked?”
“Umm, fine,” said a confused Price.
Emett broke the news: “Your chicken was undercooked.”
Trying to maintain his poker face, Price was shocked.
“As soon as Josh said that, I knew I was in serious trouble,” he admitted. “And it was going to take an awful lot of luck to keep me in the competition.”
“Two of you better understood this challenge and cooked more appealing and tastier dishes than the third,” he said.
“Ana, you’re through!”
Standing alongside Chelsea Winter, Price’s mind was whirring.
“I found myself in that space which I hate being in, trying to figure out what Chelsea had done that could be worse, that could keep me in the competition,” he explained.
“The only thing I could think of was my book idea, which I thought was quite good.
“But was that really going to be enough to off-set a slightly undercooked chicken? I felt in my heart of hearts, probably not.”
Simon Gault broke the news.
“Tony, I am sorry but you didn’t cook well enough today and your dishes didn’t quite line up to your cookbook idea,” he told the landscape gardener.
“Ultimately it came down to whose dishes showed the most promise and who made the fewest mistakes,” Gault continued.
“The chicken just being slightly undercooked – that was the difference.”
Hugely disappointed, Price said he could beat himself up about not cooking the chicken perfectly.
“The smallest of margins is all it takes to get you eliminated,” he said.
“But MasterChef has been one of the most incredible experiences in my life. It has really opened my eyes and given me experiences and lessons that a lot of people are never going to get.
“The other thing I’ve learned is how much more I need to learn about food, because there’s so much more to know!”