The kitchen heats up for NZ Master chef contestants

Jax Hamilton and Anthony McEntee and judge Simon Gault (centre) preparing dishes for Euro relaunch party .

Things heated up last night on the latest episode of NZ master chef. The challenge was to cook for 100 vip’s at the launch of Simon Gault Euro Restaurant. The top ten impressed and judges decided to reward them with no one being sent home last night. Which forms the question is there going to be a double elimination next week?

The day started well for the contestants, boarding a party bus, believing they had a day of relaxation ahead of them.

Instead, they were told by judge Simon Gault, they were about to face one of their hardest challenges yet – cooking five-star dishes for the relaunch of Gault’s restaurant, Euro.

The group was divided into five teams of two, the first time the group had been paired up in a challenge, with each team preparing a dish for the guests.

The team with the highest score would be rewarded with a dinner at Euro, prepared by Gault himself, while one member of the losing team would be sent home.

So began a stressful day of prepping, cooking and well cooking again, as contestants faced up to the reality of preparing meals in a professional kitchen.

In the words of contestant Anthony McEntee, “We weren’t just thrown in the deep-end, we were shot out of a canon into the middle of the Atlantic and expected to swim to shore.”

McEntee, who was paired with Jax Hamilton, had the challenge of preparing duck breasts with foie gras ice cream and provided one of the more lighter moments in the kitchen when he binned several duck breasts after burning them.

That left him short of several duck breasts, but he played dumb when Hamilton counted and said they were short.

He said his main memory of the day was “fright”.

McEntee said the contestants were ”duped” into getting on a party bus but the mood quickly turned to one of terror once the challenge was laid bare.

“It was a very daunting prospect.”

And he said he has an innocent explanation about the duck breasts which ended up in the bin.

“We were only ever given 35 duck breasts to begin with and then I had to go source some more.

“We were given a chef to help us catch up for a bit, so it was blind panic because I didn’t realise that I didn’t have enough duck breasts.

“Later on, who knows what happened to them. Three or so went in the bin.

“There was no covering there, when you’re under so much pressure you just forget to do the simplest things.

“I use numbers all day, everyday in my job and I couldn’t count.”

Even making the ice cream was filled with pitfalls.

“After the first effort I was told by the chef it was not good enough and was then told off for wasting Euro’s food produce.

“To be honest I was quite intimidated and when he said ”you’ll have to make do” I assumed he meant I had to use the remaining 14 eggs.

“I didn’t realise there were trays and trays of eggs out the back I could have easily gone and used.

“I used 14 eggs and tried to alter the recipe in my head but when Gault came over and asked me if I’d followed the recipe it fell apart.”

If contestants needed anymore pressure they got it in the form of Euro’s restaurant manager Robere Pothier, who seemed to terrify everyone in his path.

“My grandmother’s been dead for 10years and she’d be faster than you tonight,” he barked at one point.

McEntee said he doesn’t think the staff were trying to be hard “it’s just the way they are as professionals”.

“Robere only accepted the best and would tell us he had seen better things on the back streets of Paris. He was intimidating.”

By the end of the service McEntee said everyone had learnt so much about what it takes to be a chef.

“And the passion that we all thought we had, that was the true test of it.”

Stu Todd and Nadia Lim won the competition but McEntee and Hamilton found themselves in the bottom team, with Michael Lee and a very worried and teary Tracey Lee Hooton getting the second lowest score.

So it must have been pure relief when Gault announced nobody was going home.

“Euro’s my baby and you didn’t break it.”

To watch this episode of NZ Master Chef please follow this link

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