MasterChef’s Sarah cracks under pressure


SARAH Tiong has been eliminated from MasterChef Australia a week after using her immunity pin to stay in the competition.

The 25-year-old risk consultant, from New South Wales, lost a sudden death cook-off against Karlie Verkerk and Diana Chan.

media_cameraMasterChef Australia: Diana Chan, Sarah Tiong and Karlie Verkerk confront the Pearl on the Ocean Floor. Picture: Network Ten

Tiong, who shone in Japan Week, admits that the build-up of pressure throughout the Channel 10 cooking show finally got to her.

“In this particular challenge the pressure was a lot for me to handle,” Tiong said. “There were so many intricate details on this dish.

“Things were getting on top of me at this stage of the competition. Pushing through Japan Week exhausted me and having to decide whether to use my pin or not (which ultimately sent Eliza Wilson packing) was emotionally and mentally taxing as well.”

media_cameraMasterChef Australia — Guest chef Shaun Quade’s dish, Pearl on the Ocean Floor. Picture: Network Ten

Tiong, Verkerk and Chan had three and a half hours to replicate Lume restaurant Shaun Quade’s signature dish, ‘Pearl on the Ocean Floor’. The recipe was eight pages long.

Quade’s dish consisted of sea bream with a miso and pine nut ice cream within a pearl, saltbush, meyer lemon marmalade, mussels, mussel foam, bonito fluid gel, wild scampi caviar, grilled cuttlefish, a soft meringue wave, sand and a Pacific oyster.

“This is one of the most intricate fine dining dishes ever and getting everything done perfectly and in time — that is where I fell down,” Tiong said.

Tiong drew a diagram of Quade’s dish to help her with the final plating up. Quade thought that was “very smart”.

Tiong and Verkerk got straight on to putting some apple wood chips into the oven but Chan missed that step.

media_cameraMasterChef Australia: Sarah Tiong preparing her sea bream. Picture: Network Ten

It wasn’t until the three contestants were filleting their bream that Chan realised her error. Judge George Calombaris told Chan she needed to “get it together”.

Tiong and Verkerk, by contrast, were powering early but that was about to change.

Verkerk hit a hurdle when her marmalade burnt and she had to repeat that step.

Tiong had multiple issues. She was concerned that the caramel mixture for the miso and pine nut ice cream, to be piped into the pearl, was too light and runny and wouldn’t taste bitter enough.

Tiong also had trouble creating a mussel foam. But her biggest disaster came when she decided to reshape her pearl. The shell broke leaving a huge hole on one side. She was forced to redo the pearl with just fifteen minutes to go.

media_cameraMasterChef Australia: George Calombaris and Shuan Quade show the Pearl on the Ocean Floor to Diana Chan, Sarah Tiong and Karlie Verkerk. Picture: Network Ten

Tiong decided to leave her broth off the plate. Chan’s marmalade was rock hard and she also decided to leave a crucial element off the plate. “By missing one element, it could throw the whole balance of the dish out,” Chan said.

Verkerk’s dish was the first to be tasted by Calombaris, Quade, Gary Mehigan and Matt Preston and the 26-year-old copywriter, from New South Wales, passed with flying colours.

Quade thought Verkerk’s dish looked “super impressive”. “That (pearl) shell is the perfect thickness,” Quade said.

media_cameraSarah Tiong, left, with Callan Smith and Tamara Cusack at Agaki Shrine in Tokyo, shone in Japan Week. Picture: Supplied

“There is so much to love about this plate of food,” Calombaris added.

Chan’s dish was marked down for missing the marmalade but Quade said the rest was really well executed.

“This dish is definitely the toughest cook I’ve ever done,” a physically and emotionally drained Chan told the judges.

Finally, Tiong, who described the cook as “hell but awesome”, presented her dish to the judges.

Unfortunately, the lack of foam affected the balance of the overall dish. The ice cream was milky and lacked intensity. Those two things were enough to send Tiong home.

“I’m leaving here with the best of memories and the best of friends,” Tiong said after the verdict was announced.

Since her elimination, Tiong has been working with Australian Pork and is planning a number of pop-up dinners over coming months.

Originally published as MasterChef’s Sarah cracks under pressure

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