MasterChef’s ‘beautiful chaos’ test


PIA Gava has been eliminated after one of the hardest pressure tests in MasterChef Australia history.

The 49-year-old mother of two, from Victoria, took on Pete Morgan and Ray Silva in a challenge to re-create the Rita cake by Sydney’s Andy Bowdy in the Channel 10 series.

The multi-layered cake involved 12 separate recipes including salted caramel, ginger cake, passionfruit bavarois, brown sugar pecans, pineapple jam, toasted coconut cream, gingerbread crumb and torched meringue.



media_cameraMasterchef’s invitation pastry chef Andy Bowdy with his Rita cake. Picture: Channel 10

“This is terrifying,” judge Matt Preston told the three contestants, and he wasn’t joking. “It will push the outer limits of your imagination.”


Gava, Morgan and Silva had four-and-a-half hours to complete the cake which Preston described as “beautiful chaos”.

The Rita, named by Bowdy after his grandmother, made the famed Croquembouche from season one look like child’s play.

Morgan only stumbled once. The 31-year-old crane operator, from Western Australia, tried to rush the browning on his pecans.

Bowdy was quick to tackle Morgan about the corner-cutting and get him to do another batch.

Unfortunately second time wasn’t a charm. Morgan burnt the new batch but had to push ahead regardless because he had no spares.

Silva worked methodically through the steps and didn’t hit a major hurdle until it came to assembling his cake.

media_cameraFacing elimination were contestants Ray Silva, Pia Gava and Pete Morgan. Picture: Channel 10

Bowdy warned the 42-year-old doctor that his crumb base was too thin to hold the rest of the cake. Silva overcompensated and the base wound up too thick.

More trouble came when Silva’s cake started bulging. The result was clearly the least attractive of the three cakes.

Gava had never made a cake on this scale and she got flustered early. Gava was criticised by Bowdy and judge Gary Mehigan for choosing an electric mixer to create the custard for her bavarois instead of mixing by hand.

Gava’s meringue was another concern. Gava dumped the first lot because it was too grainy. The second batch was better but not perfect.

media_cameraCrane operator Pete Morgan produced the best Rita cake out of the three facing eviction. Picture: Channel 10

Morgan’s cake was the standout.

“I know it’s not part of the recipe to have burnt pecan nuts, but I love them,” judge George Calombaris said.

Bowdy agreed, saying that he might start adding burnt pecans to his recipe to make the cake even better.

“The caramel and the flavour of the pineapple caramel absolutely sings,” Mehigan said after the tasting. “The bavarois is lovely and soft and there is a wonderful taste of passionfruit.”

“I think he’s done a wonderful job,” Preston added. “Pete nailed that combination of ginger spice, pineapple, passionfruit, caramel, coconut. They are all to the fore and they are all really well balanced.”

media_cameraAndy Bowdy checks Ray Silva’s progress on his Rita cake creation. Picture: Channel 10

What Silva’s cake lacked in presentation it made up for in taste. Preston said the ginger cake had “a beautiful spice hit”. Mehigan loved the passionfruit flavour and the pockets of coconut cream. Calombaris praised the pineapple elements. The bulge and the thick base were the two mistakes.

Gava’s cake looked the best of the three.

“I can’t believe I even created that,” Gava said.

Preston said it looked “spectacular”. But looks were deceiving.

media_cameraPia Gava’s Rita cake creation looked the best of the three but the taste was in sharp contrast. Picture: Channel 10

“Overall this (cake) is a lot heavier,” Mehigan said. “The elements are heavier. The passionfruit bavarois is firm. There is not a lot of aeration in it at all. So then it feels quite gelatine-heavy.”

“The meringue is a problem,” Calombaris added. Bowden thought the meringue was too soft and very grainy.

The positives were the thin biscuit base and the structural integrity — the cake looked like Bowdy’s.

Bowdy and the judges said that Morgan’s cake was the standout. He was safe. Elimination came down to Silva and Gava.

Both contestants made mistakes but the judges decided that the killer for Gava was that her bavarois was too dense. That outweighed the disappointing appearance of Silva’s cake.

Since her elimination, Gava has done work experience at Melbourne’s Om Nom Kitchen and Dessert Bar and has begun writing a cookbook of family recipes.


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Originally published as MasterChef’s ‘beautiful chaos’ test

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