Celebrity News

Half Baked Plan

A simple sponge proved to be the undoing of one of the top contestants.

In Simon’s role as a MasterChef New Zealand judge, choosing who goes home is one of the hardest decisions he has to make – in part because of the reaction he gets at home.

“My wife didn’t talk to me for about 15 minutes when we sent David home instead of Dana – I was in the dog box!” laughs Simon, whose wife Katrina is a huge fan of the show. “Her perception was that Dana’s cake was worse, but trust me – David’s was so vinegary it was terrible! Fine to get that sweet and sour flavour with fish, or pork, but with sponge cake? Sorry – it just didn’t work.”

The baking challenge, the first of its kind this season, meant the contestants had as much riding on their ability to follow a recipe as their tasting and cooking skills. And it was a whole different ball game.

“I’m more of a cook than a baker – and they are quite different,” explains Brenton.

“I like to try things, to make the dish come together in the moment. If I’m honest, I find it a bit boring because once you’ve put the ingredients in, that’s it – there’s not much you can change.”

“But you can tell it’s not my area – my lack of skills were shown in last year’s challenge when we had to make and decorate a hamburger cake.

“I wasn’t bottom, but it certainly wasn’t good!” But as Simon explains, there’s more to great baking than just the right recipe. “Temperature, mixing – there’s a lot to think about,” he says.

“At one kitchen I worked at in London, I had to make profiteroles in the mornings, and I used to get the flour and eggs and put them on top of the oven to make sure they’d be at the perfect temperature so they’d rise.

“Aaron and others putting their sponge cakes in the fridge to cool quickly – they are the kinds of things that’ll kill a cake.”

It’s a lesson Simon teaches regularly – and not just to MasterChef contestants.

“It’s funny – when I put out a cook book, the only letters I get are about the baking recipes,” he says.

While some contestants took the chance to shine [Kelly’s picture-perfect sponge cake, despite her never having made one before, was a highlight], for others, like “rock star” contestant Aaron, it was a humbling moment.

“Everyone was waiting for him to have a bad day and he finally had one. It levelled the playing field I think,” says Brenton.

“The other contestants will draw from this – it makes you realise that it’s still anybody’s game, at any time. Now they

are in the top nine and Aaron showed his weakness, they’ll be starting to believe that yes, from here, they could actually win.”

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