We start with the over-enthusiastic intern putting on a deep voice and recapping the series so far. Um, hasn’t someone told him that’s our job?
Tonight, he tells us, it’s the jocks versus the nerds and I just have to stop there … jocks? really? Apparently Voice Over Intern watches too much American TV. He also needs his eyes checked ‘cause they aint jocks (although the show could definitely do with some random wedgies, Pete I’m looking at you).
It will be a sudden death cook off where Victorian cousins Sam and Chris battle WA nerds Kieran and Nastassia. They hope to impress the visually impaired but otherwise totally biased judges.
Nastassia and Kieran are the gatecrashers and also the underdogs, which is weird because normally I root for the underdogs.
“We’re just going to fight back, we know we can cook food,” says Nastassia. If only we knew it too but I guess that’s the problem. Me-ow.
With that ominous beginning we move to the chirpy opening credits and are briefly transported to a shiny happy place that in no way resembles My Kitchen Rules.
Back at Kitchen HQ half a dozen couples enter through what seems just as many doors. Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee are confused by the revolving door and end up in the car park. No one misses them.
Sam proves he is smarter than he looks by saying he’s bloody nervous. Kieran and Nastassia may be crap cooks but at least they actually TURN THE STOVE ON.
Nastassia says she’s “terrified” but her fierce tiger t-shirt begs to differ. It feels “epic”, she continues, and apparently she means the show not the shirt and in this case I beg to differ.
Our blind guest judges are introduced starting with Guy Grossi who appears to be styled by Yahoo Serious. “I always say if you don’t feel like cooking stay out of the kitchen”. Or something trite and obvious like that. It doesn’t matter because I can’t stop marvelling at his vertical hair.
Karen Martini slides in on a trail of olive oil. She says her cooking style is “tasty” and “delicious” which apparently is her point of difference to every other chef in the world.
She’s Australia’s answer to Nigella (sorry Donna) and Craig drools over Karen’s tasty deliciousness. “Good luck,” says his long(suffering)standing wife Kerrie, effectively castrating him in only two words. Respect!
Enter guest judge Liz Egan. I have no idea who she is but she shows off her mussels and threatens brutality. Yes, I’m impressed, and it bolsters my hope for wedgies.
The final judge is Colin Fassnidge who positively saunters into HQ, which is no mean feat when wearing a Miami Vice jacket in the 21st century. Melina calls him a “big spunk” and I wonder if those revolving doors actually whisked us back to the 80s. Her retro flippy hair isn’t helping.
Colin says something about “passion” and “love” and all the contestants fall to a swooning heap on the floor and have to be revived with a big Guy Grossi kick to the head.
Pete and Manu re-assert their head judge status and give the contestants the Big Reveal -- you know, the one Voice Over Intern already told us about. It’s a blind tasting! The judges won’t know who cooked what! WOW. Pete and Manu are practically quivering with the anticipation of the lamest twist in the history of lame twists.
I am both underwhelmed yet unclear how it actually works. Are they blindfolded? Do they eat in the dark? I can tell that normally Guy would ask but he is still seething at Colin’s supposed heat and reputation with meat.
Back to the contestants. “It’s the Cool Guys up against the Addams Family,” says Tweedle Dum, who finally found his way back into the kitchen. I don’t know what’s cuter, that he got Sam and Chris so wrong or Nastassia and Kieran so right.
He can’t wait and neither can I. Meanwhile the judges are in a dark soundproof booth trying to not combust from the overwhelming hotness of Karen and Colin.
The two teams enter their respective kitchens. They put their game faces on, Nasty - I mean Nastassia - has quit with the pretence of nerves and is now confident their inventive menu will overcome their poor cooking skills.
Not shy of a stereotype, the kooky nerds are doing black pudding followed by quail with eye of newt and strawberries dipped in fungus. “We love being unique,” she says.
Nasty says she is the head chef in the relationship and no one is surprised. She starts pulling wings and legs off quails while Kieran hides under the bench.
Sam surprises us all by being one step ahead of everyones when he says “We’ve got to make sure we cook well”. Gold star my friend, or should I say, “maaaaate”. I think he’s really getting the hang of this game.
Sidenote: Chris and Sam’s “mates” are on par with all the “babes” and aside from that, Sam seems so inept I am now nervous whenever he approaches an appliance.
Jenna and Joanna pipe up saying they want Sam and Chris to win tonight because “we have more of a connection”. Nudge nudge, wink wink. “They’re like our little brothers”. Suuuuure.
Sam turns the stovetop on and already he is way ahead of his previous performance.
Back to the Nasty Nerds and Kieran is tasked with leeks and decides to summon The Force. Unfortunately he confuses his movies and channels Mr Miyagi instead. He thinks about the leek. He measures the leek. He wonders if he was a leek in a former life. He waxes on, waxes off, has a drink of water and ponders how leeks are really a metaphor for life itself. The leeks are so bored they start to chop themselves.
Just before we go to an ad break we are shown an image of Colin Fassnidge to remind us why we are really watching this episode.
We catch up with Sam and Chris who are preparing their mushroom sauce. Just when I am trying to make sense of their inane chatter -- “Check out these mushrooms mate” “Phwoar, top dog mushrooms!” “I’m going to jump onto the mushroom sauce.” Like, what? -- And....
Yep, Sam does it again, he has switched the oven to grill mode completely flaking on the fact that Chris was blind baking his pastry. Now we have one more appliance that Sam can’t be trusted with. Chris takes it surprisingly well and I have a feeling this isn’t the first thing of his that Sam has ruined.
The two teams plate up their entrees with the usual amount of manufactured stress and then the chefs *cough* get to take a break between courses. Nasty Nerd is, of course, confident they will win. Chris, bless his cotton socks, says it’s anyone’s game, oblivious to the fact that his pastry is still grilling in the oven.
The judges come out for the tasting and, it has to be said, they aren’t wearing blindfolds. Yes, I’m disappointed.
The nerdy scallops are up first and it’s a bloodbath. There’s no cohesiveness, it’s lazy and it seems Kieren went too far with his superheroes and hid the sauce under an invisibility cloak.
Chris and Sam are at their saucy best but the gnocchi is grainy and undercooked. Who was in charge of the gnocchi? Oh right, Sam, carry on then.
It’s time for the teams to cook the mains and things really heat up in the kitchen. Literally. Kieran’s pan of sauce is actually on fire.
We have one backseat contestant tell us about the fire. Then Kieran notices the fire. Then Nastassia notices the fire. Then another contestant notices the fire. Then we cut to an ad break and on return the Voice Over Intern gives us a recap of FireGate.
“This is hard to watch,” says Pete, burying his head in his hands, and we all feel his pain.
“I firmly believe this sauce hates me now,” says Kieran, and suddenly I feel at one with the sauce but can’t help wondering that if it really hated him surely it would jump out of the pan and onto his face. Just sayin’. (And my gift to you is that mental picture).
Just as he reconciles with the sauce the quails revolt by refusing to be cooked. Manu makes the brave move of entering their kitchen where he advises Kieran to put the quails in the oven. Kieran makes the right decision only to have Nasty undercut his confidence. She tells him to ignore Manu and prepare the quails how he normally does (I don’t get it, she saw him with the leeks right?). Even though we all know Manu is right none of us blame Kieran for doing whatever his ruler wants.
Dinner is served and Kieran’s head is on a plate. Just when I was feeling bad about Nastassia’s nickname she skins Kieran alive threatening death if those quails are undercooked. Despite her crucial involvement in the decision making the failure apparently will be all Kieran’s fault. I think we all now know what Kieran means by the Dark Side.
Around the judging table the boys’ lamb is a hit (sidenote: Chris cooked it); the quails are so annoyed by this they get up and walk off the plate.
At the end of judging Pete and Manu try to keep us in suspense by saying it’s still anyone’s game but really, does anyone honestly believe you can come back from serving raw quail?
It’s time for dessert and it looks like we aren’t in for a sweet ending. The boys are tart and the nerds are berry anxious. Nastassia has produced a sword and prepares to throw Kieran on it.
Kieran and Sam are both doing a praline and it really is the battle of the inept. Surprisingly no kitchens go up in flames. Chris and Nastassia are both doing ice cream and are boringly competent.
It’s plating time and it finally is a genuinely stressful moment. Praline is thrown onto plates and ice cream is thrown on the floor, which is about as edgy as Chris and Sam get. Chris has a slight problem with the grilled pastry (hard to believe I know) but a quick slice of the burnt tops sees him back on an even keel. This man can’t be flapped.
Both desserts are met with praise from the judges. Unfortunately Nasty’s cake is a hit which disappoints me no end.
The boys are scored first. Karen unsurprisingly loves the decadent chocolate tart and gives them a 6.
Guy, whose hair shows no sign of wilting, gives them a 7 saying their entree was fantastic. Liz also scores a 7 with the minor criticism of the tart’s pastry being undercooked - it turns out grilling isn’t the best method, who knew?
Colin speaks and is so steamy I can’t see his score. Apparently it was a 6.
Pete and Manu both offer a 7 for a grand total of 40 out of 60.
Kieran and Nastassia are up next.
Guy wasn’t happy with just blood sausage, it turns out he wanted skin and guts too. Nastassia offers up Kieran as a sacrifice.
Colin gives the verdict on the raw quail and for once he doesn’t like his meat undercooked. “Tonight was do or die and you died. It was death by quail”. I believe that’s what you call a skewering.
Dessert however was “flawless” says Liz and we are offered a rare smile from Nastassia. Something tells me Kieran won’t be basking in this praise.
The scores roll in: Guy: 4. Karen: 4. Liz: 5. Colin: 3. Manu: 5. Pete: 6.
Grand total: 27 out of 60.
And just like that, the gatecrashers are out. As Tina Fey would say: Nerds!
Did the right team win? Would you leave Sam alone with your appliances? Tell us below.
The story Quail fail: Blind lead the blind in kooky cook-off first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.