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MasterChef kitchen cuddles over

11/04/2012 1:00:00 PM
MasterChef's Andrea Bathgate

MasterChef's lovebirds were torn apart last night when Andrea Bathgate became the seventh contestant from the top sixteen to leave the show.

Andrea was placed alongside her beau Matt Gilray in the bottom two after failing miserably in an invention test using only ingredients that were frozen, canned or packaged.

Initially she was thrilled with the challenge as it meant she could make one of her beloved desserts.

Settling on a salted chocolate tart with red wine and spiced poached pears with a crystallized ginger icecream, she got to work and soon had her pastry made and ready to go into the oven.

“It will appeal to Simon Gault,” she cheekily explained, “because he looks like he enjoys desserts!”

The first sign that things weren’t going to plan for the 27-year-old was when she took her tart out of the oven, to find the caramel filling bubbling over, causing it to stick to the tin.

Ray McVinnie was quick to spot the problem. As Andrea wrestled with the tart, taking to it with a knife in an effort to extract it, McVinnie pondered how the dish would taste – would it be as chewy and tough as toffee, or would it flow off the tongue?

Alas for Andrea, the proof was in the pudding, with the judges unanimous in their derision for the dessert.

Clearly having trouble chewing, Ray McVinnie said the tart was too sticky and was inedible. The pears in red wine, he described as ‘nasty’, with the only taste being canned pears and raw red wine.

It was a heartbreaking elimination for the couple.

“We always knew it was going to come down to this,” said Matt, but there was no hiding Andrea’s shock when Matt told the judges he should be allowed to stay in the MasterChef kitchen, and not her.

In previous episodes, the couple had been shown cuddling in the MasterChef house, although Andrea told reporters she didn't know the intimate scenes were being filmed and had tried to stop them from being aired.

The judges agreed with Matt and told Andrea it was time for her to go home. Andrea was gutted. “I’m not ready to go home! I want to prove that I can cook really well. I don’t want to go!”

We asked her about her time on the show.

What was your biggest success on MasterChef?
Probably my audition dish of pan-fried snapper with butternut squash puree, bok choy and sambal. I’ve only recently started cooking fish a year ago, as I used to be afraid of overcooking it and never really liked the smell of raw fish. I felt extremely proud when I was told that my dish was one of the best the judges had tasted that day and that my fish had been cooked perfectly. I also felt immense joy when the judges told me that my creme caramel I had made for La Cigale challenge was “perfect”, and this comment was from VIPs of the hospitality industry.

What was your worst or most embarrassing moment on the show?
Making a total mess of filleting the fish for the takeaway challenge. I actually filleted the fish okay but then left it on the bench with a paper towel over the top and the paper towel had begun to stick to the fish, so I had to make do with the bits of fish that had survived and serve small, messy portions of fish to the judges. It was very embarrassing! The entire challenge was a mess, as I tried to incorporate too many elements and it was utter chaos on my bench top!

Also, it was a bad moment the day I was eliminated from the show. I hated the fact that I had produced a mediocre dish and made futile decisions and mistakes during the cooking process which ended up seeing myself in the bottom two with Matt. It felt horrible standing next Matt and having to both fight for our place to remain in the competition.

What did you learn from being on MasterChef?
I learnt a tremendous amount about myself and how I cope under pressure. What I took from the competition is that not only do I love and breathe food but that this is the pathway I need to now follow. I did not win MasterChef, but this is not going to stop me from finally following my dreams and having a career in the culinary industry. I also learnt that I should stop doubting myself and my cooking ability and be confident that I do have the skills.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Cook a completely different dish to the one I prepared on the challenge I got eliminated on. I should have stuck to something simple and made a flavoursome curry or a tagine (I make awesome curries), as looking back most of the ingredients for those dishes are in the pantry (hindsight is a B*&^$!)

Who has inspired your passion for cooking?
My lovely, darling mother. She taught me the basics of Indonesian cooking and how to ‘agak-agak’, which means to cook by following your instinct and heart and to keep tasting while you cook and adjust if needed. She would always make and sell Indonesian food to her friends, and people would always comment that her food was so delicious. I remember always being in the kitchen at a young age helping my mum cook (even if it was just slicing carrots into julienne for spring rolls, or pounding spices with the mortar and pestle).

If you were having any three people, alive or dead, over for dinner, who would they be and what would you cook for them?
Probably Heston Blumenthal, Nigella Lawson and Rick Stein (as they are my favourite chefs, and I’d love to cook for them, meet them and talk about food). Or maybe the three judges from MasterChef New Zealand, so I could redeem myself and cook a lovely meal for them without the pressure of the competition. I would probably cook an Asian-inspired dinner and for the entree do a tasting platter of seared scallops with a Japanese-style dressing, wontons, spring rolls, tempura prawns and mini chicken satay skewers served with a variety of condiments. For the main, I would do a five-spiced duck breast with kumara puree, Asian greens and a cherry sauce. And to finish off the meal, I would make a kaffir lime and coconut panacotta with toasted coconut and a lime sauce.

What’s your favourite dish to cook?
This is a hard question as I don’t think I have a signature dish and I like to try cooking different things. But if I had to pick one, I would say Soto Ayam (Indonesian chicken soup). It is one of the first Indonesian dishes I learnt to cook and it is a very simple dish to prepare and really comforting to eat.

If you could visit any restaurant in the world, which one would it be?
Probably the Fat Duck in Bray, UK. I am in absolute awe of Heston Blumenthal. I think he is amazing! A little mad-scientist with his approach to food at times but I find him incredibly intelligent and would love to eat his food. I have the Fat Duck cookbook which contains the restaurant’s top dishes and I love the story behind each dish and the processes behind creating each dish.

Who was your favourite MasterChef contestant?
Cameron Petley, from season two. I loved his simple approach to food and cooking and his balance of flavours within a dish. He was also very humble and seems to be such a lovely, cuddly person.

What’s your top tip for aspiring chefs?
Follow your dreams, work hard but really think hard to decide that food is truly your passion (I’ve been told it’s a long and hard road to follow). Study hard and practice different cooking techniques, cuisines, dishes; learn to do everything you can and also learn about (or develop) your cooking style, know what your strengths and weaknesses are, and learn to overcome these weaknesses. Before my audition for MasterChef, I would fall asleep with a cookbook on my lap. I was absolutely obsessed (I still am!). Also, a top tip is always be tidy when cooking (have a damp cloth nearby to always wipe away mess and have a container to collect scraps) and always have your mise en plus ready!

What's next for you?
Well MasterChef made me realise what my true passion in life is and that I need to pursue my dream of having a career in the food industry. I believe I am a good cook, but I now want to learn to be a great chef and produce excellent five-star restaurant quality food. I have applied to study at Le Cordon Bleu New Zealand later this year and have been accepted. The only hurdle is the ridiculously expensive tuition fees but Le Cordon Bleu is synonymous with culinary excellence and has produced Michelin-star chefs. It is my dream to study here and then one day own my own food establishment.

Also to continue learning everything there is about food, travel, to always have fun and smile, and have adventures.

MasterChef screens on TV One at 7.30pm on Tuesdays.

Read more from the MasterChef kitchen

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