Having failed to set fire to things with sufficient subtlety on Monday, Aldo, Steph, Montana and Billie stare down the dark forbidding barrel of elimination on Tuesday. The challenge is a pressure test with a twist: they won’t see the dish, they won’t taste the dish, they won’t be given a recipe for the dish, and should the mission fail the government will disavow all knowledge of the dish. The contestants’ task is to prove, via either ontological, cosmological or epistemological argument, that the dish exists at all.
The guest chef is Andreas Papadakis, king of pasta, who rose to that throne atop a bloody pile of vanquished ravioli. The dish is “tipomisu”, which is like tiramisu but with the crucial difference that it is spelt differently. The cooks will be forced to recreate Andreas’s dessert using only a review of the dish written by Melissa, meaning they will be forced to undergo the supreme ordeal: listening to Melissa read her own writing. “As you know, Mel is one of the most respected food writers in the country,” says Andy, and he’s right: there is her and there is that other guy and also whatshername.
Melissa reads out her review and everyone just shuts their eyes and grits their teeth until it’s finished. It’s one of those reviews that instructs the reader on how to make the dish: you know those, right? That’s exactly how most restaurant reviews go: they tell you how to make the food yourself so you don’t have to bother going to the restaurant. “Four eggs, two hundred grams of brown sugar, whisk in a mixer” – typical food reviewing stuff. It’s very normal.
Melissa reads out her review and everyone just shuts their eyes and grits their teeth until it’s finished.
Anyway that’s over and the cooks start trying to figure out what the hell is going on. Away from the cooks, Andreas reveals the tipomisu to the judges, and it is as beautiful as a brown thing can be.
Montana has never made a tiramisu before, but she claims to have been making brownies since she was twelve. As evidence, we are shown a picture of Montana aged twelve, holding a small white dog which was presumably the brownies’ key ingredient. Meanwhile Steph is worried because people are starting to call her “the cake queen” and she doesn’t realise they’re being sarcastic.
Montana puts her brownie in for twelve minutes and resolves to check it every four minutes until it’s done. Alvin decides to check his after twenty minutes. Billie doesn’t put the timer on at all. Steph, on the other hand, has gone with the novel strategy of checking to see if her brownie is done sometime next week.
Alvin is at the tempering-chocolate stage of the cook, which is the stage during which the highest percentage of MasterChef contestants die from aneurysms. As he rolls a thin layer of chocolate between sheets of plastic, we are reminded yet again that, taking into account all that goes into a fancy dessert, it absolutely is not worth the effort.
With 45 minutes to go, Aldo starts yelling from the balcony in order to destroy the cooks’ concentration. It works: Montana’s chocolate is not tempered properly. She doesn’t know why. “I know I can temper chocolate with my eyes closed,” she says, which is where she made her fatal mistake: she kept her eyes open. Jock and Andy visit her bench to tell her that her chocolate isn’t right, which she already knew. She thanks them for their invaluable assistance. “I want to prove to them today that I’m here for a reason,” Montana says, that reason being to promote her TikToks.
As time ticks away and we are forced to hear Melissa reading from her review for the eighteenth time in the last twenty minutes, Billie adds a shot of rum and who can blame her. “You look comfortable,” says Jock, and there’s a good reason for that: she’s been watching how Montana and Steph are going.
“All I can say is words carry meaning,” shouts Melissa, who is a professional writer and therefore has access to such profound meaning. The contestants slap their foreheads, suddenly understanding that the words they heard before meant things.
While Alvin grasps at straws by claiming he’s good at tiramisu because his partner is half-Italian, Montana and Billie pull their brownies out of the oven (not a euphemism). Upon inspection, their brownies are brown, which even the most rudimentary dictionary will tell you is correct.
Steph is worried because her brownie is still in the oven and everyone else has already gone home for the day. She asks Aldo how much is in a shot of coffee, and he tells her, which I’m fairly sure is cheating. Suddenly disaster strikes. “Shit,” says Steph, destroying her reputation as the Good Girl Of MasterChef. She has not put a vanilla bean pod in her brownie. She tells Aldo. Aldo can’t really help her with this. It’s true what they say: there is a limit to Aldo’s usefulness.
Aldo begin to cut out his chocolate discs, an incredibly difficult task whose only redeeming feature is how easy it is. Billie, meanwhile, is cruising. “As I’m plating, it’s all beginning to make more sense,” she says, finally realising that true happiness lies not in possessions but in connections.
Montana is finding cutting rings of chocolate even harder than Alvin did: she is forced to use the smaller ring cutter because of…something to do with acetate I think. It’s not that clear. Steph has even bigger problems, but she says, “it’s not over until the fat lady sings”, refusing to specify which cast member she’s referring to.
Time is up, and everyone except Billie feels like crap. Wouldn’t it be ironic if Billie, in all her confidence, were the one to be eliminated? It sure would, but Billie’s dish looks remarkably like Andreas’s: indeed, suspiciously so. “Some nice detail there,” says Melissa, noticing the tiny ornate cherubim that Billie has carved into the corners of her brownie. After tasting it, Jock declares to Andreas, “it’s identical to yours” – which again is deeply suspicious. She didn’t even get to see or taste it, and she came out with an identical dish? Come on. Don’t vomit on my shirt and tell me it’s rabbit terrine.
“I definitely am concerned for my safety in this competition,” says Montana, outraged by the number of slip and trip hazards present in the kitchen. She serves her dish and it looks kind of like the original only not as good. It also tastes kind of like the original only not as good. “I feel like the pressure test really got to her,” says Andreas, intoxicated with sadistic glee.
Here comes Alvin! Upon looking at Andreas’s dish, he admits that he thinks he’s happy but he’s not sure, a common problem of late capitalism. “It looks pretty good – we’ll find out how it tastes in a minute,” Jock threatens. “It eats pretty well,” says Melissa, still not quite understanding what the word “eats” means. “I think it eats really really well,” says Andreas, who shares her ignorance.
Alvin’s cream all plopped on one side to hide the missing piece of his disc 😂😂
— Dave (@davey0511) June 7, 20221Q2
Steph comes last, with her shamefully vanilla-less brownie underpinning a travesty of a dessert. On first glance, Steph’s tiramisu seems flawed. On closer inspection, it seems worse. Without the vanilla, the brownie tastes eggy, which is very disturbing.
Andy asks Andreas how he thinks the contestants went. “I think they all did quite well,” Andreas lies, his eyes betraying his contempt for their feeble efforts. The judges don’t even bother maintaining suspense: Steph’s eggy brownie has laid her low. Never again will she be called “the cake queen”, an even bitterer pill to swallow given she was never called that in the first place.
“You brought so much into this kitchen,” says Jock to Steph, who he vaguely remembers having seen once. And then off she goes, triggering mild sympathy from all.
Tune in tomorrow, when the contestants discover the joys of gang warfare.