PROFESSIONAL chef Charlie Carrington said there was no shame in his upset loss to amateur contestant Eloise Praino on MasterChef Australia tonight.
The pair went head-to-head in an immunity challenge cook-off and 32-year-old Praino, a graduate law clerk, was the shock winner.
Praino scored a whopping 28 out of 30 for her Chocolate and Peanut Butter dessert, outperforming the 21 out of 30 score Carrington received for his Midnight Snack.
The restaurant’s adventurous menu currently features Korean-inspired dishes including pork jowl, ash-cooked potato and gochujang (a red chilli paste); as well as seaweed, or ‘birthday’ soup with pine mushrooms, barley and aged beef fat.
“It would have been great to walk out with a win but I definitely held my head high,” Carrington said.
“It (emotion after the challenge) was a sense of pride to be honest. We’re booked out at the restaurant night after night so I think it (losing challenge) doesn’t matter.”
Carrington was way out of his comfort zone from the start, when Praino was given the choice of two pantries for the immunity challenge cook —‘ healthy’ or ‘indulgent’ — with the amateur choosing the latter.
Praino had the added advantage of a 15-minute head start as well as mentoring from Shannon Bennett.
Praino chose to go decadent and create a dessert using her signature ingredient — whisky.
She then selected peanut butter, chocolate and macadamia nuts.
Carrington was thrown for a loop by Praino’s ‘indulgent’ choice because Atlas focuses on fresh, healthy ingredients.
Carrington selected ginger beer, chocolate, cherries and cream but struggled to think what he was going to create over the next hour.
“The second the cook started I had no idea what I was going to do,” Carrington said.
“Indulgent wouldn’t have been my number one choice. We don’t cook with any of that stuff in the kitchen at Atlas. Seeing chocolate, Oreos, and clinkers (in the pantry), I was completely out of my depth.
“It was hard to think with all the other contestants going crazy. It was so loud. That first five minutes I was in shock.”
In the end, Carrington chose to make a Midnight Snack of fried bread, chocolate ganache, cherry compote and cashew praline.
Praino hit an early hurdle when she realised she had forgotten to grab eggs from the pantry for her chocolate mousse.
Praino’s Plan B — stabilising the mousse with cream and using an iSi gun to add air — saved the day.
Praino’s dish featured peanut butter ice cream, a whisky caramel sauce and crumbled honey macadamias.
Carrington then made a fatal error with 25 minutes left on the clock: worried that his dessert didn’t have enough elements, he decided to add a ginger beer and mascarpone foam.
Bennett questioned whether ginger beer paired with mascarpone would work and he was right.
At the blind tasting, judges Matt Preston, George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan praised the cleverness of Carrington’s concept but said the ginger beer foam was a miss.
“Given that I have never cooked with any of that stuff, I was pretty happy with the dish,” Carrington said.
“But I definitely could have gone a little bit more indulgent which would have hit the nail on the head a bit harder.
“With the beer foam, I wanted to make sure my dish had multiple textures — all the things a professional chef would do.”
Praino was worried her dessert might be too heavy but the judges loved its golden crunch look and Mehigan thought the whisky sauce was “rock and roll”.
Carrington scored three straight sevens from the judges for a total of 21 out of 30.
Praino smashed it with nines from Preston and Calombaris and a perfect 10 from Mehigan for a total of 28 out of 30.
Winning the first immunity pin of the season, Praino can now use it to save her place in the competition whenever she is threatened by potential elimination.
Praino went into the immunity challenge after winning an earlier waffle challenge against Sam Goodwin and Sarah Tiong.
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Originally published as MasterChef dish beats the pro