What fresh shell is this? A 99-ingredient pressure test leaves one cook all at sea

Having quailed in the face of the mystery box challenge (yep, I went there. What are you gonna do about it), three hapless pawns in the hands of the gods are now forced into a pressure test. Aldo, Mindy and Montana enter the kitchen as the balcony spectators clap and scream for blood. Melissa informs them that the pressure test is set by a chef “at the top of his game”. Though since his game is running restaurants and not setting pressure tests, that doesn’t mean much in this context. Said chef is Khanh Nguyen, who is famous for cooking Asian flavors with native ingredients, which excites Mindy because that’s also what she constantly brags about doing.

The dish is Khanh’s seafood plate, which consists of a plate, on which is some seafood. To go into more detail, the dish has 99 ingredients, 143 steps and 13 pages in the recipe. The winner of the challenge will be the first contestant to recognize that it is not worth the effort and give up.

“If you need help, read the recipe” jokes guest chef Khanh. Photo: Supplied



The contestants have four and a half hours to make the seafood plate, which is longer than the lifespan of most of the species on it. The cooks immediately run to their benches and begin reading the recipe. The first thing they have to do is spread rice across a tray and pour water on it. This is the kind of patently pointless task that Khanh Nguyen enjoys forcing people to do for his amusement. Up on the balcony Sarah barks orders at Aldo, while Dan makes terrible puns, causing Julie to collapse into hysteria.

“I don’t make curry,” says Aldo, like we hadn’t noticed. But today he must make curry, because curry is one of the cornucopia of insanity that Khanh has placed on the plate. This is difficult because making a curry requires him to use a variety of ingredients which he has never heard of and involves no pasta whatsoever. He has a jumble of little plastic containers of stuff and no idea what any of it is and everyone keeps shouting at him to go faster.

Which judge gets the mystery 100th ingredient?

Which judge gets the mystery 100th ingredient? Photo: Supplied



Meanwhile Montana sets the kitchen on fire just because she can. “I just want to do this dish justice because I think in the last few cooks I’ve started to find my feet and my confidence,” she says, which is awkward because we’ve seen her last few cooks and… well…

Due to the Narnia-esque distortion of space-time that occurs during MasterChef episodes, the contestants have just two hours to go. Mindy ponders how to cook her crab: should she follow the recipe, or some random rule of thumb she just made up? After agonizing about it she decides to follow the recipe, but only because it contains accurate instructions on how to cook the dish.

Montana is struggling. “I’m completely out of my depth with this one,” she says as she sticks a thermometer into a crab and waits patiently for it to inflate. She knew that the most difficult part of the dish would be cooking the ingredients, and is fully prepared. She declares her intention to follow the recipe rather than rely on her own instincts, making her the second contestant today who, when faced with a task the entirety of which is literally “follow this recipe”, has made the bold decision to follow the recipe .

“Come on Mindy, the world is your oyster!” yells Sarah, fully believing that this is an acceptable thing for an adult human to say. “Give me the pearl!” Mindy replies with a bizarre body movement. Everyone laughs instead of throwing up because MasterChef does weird things to people. Dan follows up with “don’t be skimpy with that scampi”, triggering an Australian Federal Police investigation into the entire show for hate crimes.

With 30 minutes left, Montana realises she’s wasted a lot of time playing with the crab and it’s time to start cooking instead. “I’ve never cooked, let alone seen, a storm clam in my life,” she says, so flustered that she’s getting her sentences the wrong way round. She has no idea what a storm clam should look like when it’s cooked, but hers looks like a gross little blob of slime, which seems about right.

Mindy is panicking because of the risk of getting crab shell in the dish. To be fair it’s a surprise crab shell isn’t part of the dish: every single other substance found under the sea seems to be. Montana thinks it will be “quite ironic” if her dish has crab shell in it, because, I don’t know, I guess she grew up in a crab-shelling facility or something.

With fifteen minutes to go, it’s time to start plating up and adding those little finishing touches that transform a huge heap of revolting ocean muck into something truly overpriced. Aldo arranges his oyster shells on the rocks which are for some reason necessary. Aldo is sure he is missing something. He decides that he’s missing nothing. Everyone chuckles at his droll Mediterranean ways.

Time is up, and after four and a half hours of ceaseless toilets the three contestants slump to the floor, convinced that life has no innate purpose.

Mindy serves first. She has cooked her seafood well, although the judges don’t seem all that excited. Maybe because seafood isn’t very good. They all wish they had a steak.

Aldo serves next. “I had fun!” he lies happily. “There are problems,” says Andy. The crab is inconsistent, but then I don’t see how that’s Aldo’s fault: it was probably brought up wrong. At least the caramelisation on the scallop is beautiful, but if that’s the best you’ve done with your life you’ve really let yourself down.

Finally, Montana. “Are you proud of yourself?” Andy asks aggressively. Montana admits that she is: typical Gen Z. The judges acclaim Montana’s flavors but object to the pieces of shell in her oyster, something that she should really consult a doctor about. Also the clams and scallops are undercooked, which is dangerous because they can come back to life after you swallow them.

Thus the judges are left with a difficult choice: Aldo or Montana? Does inconsistent crab beat shellful shellfish? In the end it’s an upset: despite her and the producers’ best efforts, Montana is going home. Aldo gives her a big “thank god it’s you and not me” hug, and off she goes to the land of TikTok, where dreams really do come true.

Tune in tomorrow, when the contestants are given legal custody of each other’s children.

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