Congratulations to all who auditioned for MasterChef Australia and gave it a red hot go. Well done also to everyone who had the guts (and sufficient red wine) to complete the online application form. That was a mission in itself!
The last post was so long that I have attempted to decrease volume by writing in present-tense for this one. I hope you still enjoy,
Day 0: travel & briefing day. Out of bed at 4am for a 5:45am flight. Too late really. Still an ungodly hour. Try to sneak around the house quietly as my brother-babysitter sleeps. I bundle myself, a suitcase and a bag into the car and off to the airport. Bound up to the check-in counter with four minutes to spare.
Beep through the security gates. Darn it. Remove watch, shoes. Thank goodness it stops there.
Trev greets me with smiling face. It’s nice to have an unofficial welcome brigade. The other Perthians are upstairs in the QANTAS Club lounge. Impromptu reunion. I don’t even have time to decide whether or not to sit down when we are called. Boarding. Eyes dangling from slouched heads. We are on our way.
Expressing milk at 30,000 feet is interesting; better than the too-small toilet cubicle I expected. The lovely cabin crew have found me a space of my own, behind the cover of curtain. Missing my son already. So much.
Flying into the sunrise is awe-inspiring. Then the plane is landing. So quickly.
I arrive in Sydney tired, bedraggled, hungry and needing to express. We find our luggage and picker-upper person [what are they called, the people who wait for other people with signs at the airport?]. Still have to wait for contestants from every other state: we are early.
We meet the others in dribs and drabs and it is hours later when we arrive at the hotel. Our 3pm briefing has been brought forward to 2pm, leaving only a few minutes to find our hotel rooms and acquaint ourselves with roommates. Yes, it is twinshare only on this ride. I am sharing with a fellow Perthian.
The briefing is an experience all of its own. Outside of rumour, this is the first time I hear that the final 20 will be a lockdown. They say this like we should have known this already; I am not the only one who gasps at this information. This is also the time that I discover that MasterChef Australia is no cooking contest. Welcome to reality TV, sweetheart. It is now blatantly clear that this is not just about the food and I clearly am not in Kansas anymore.
We receive our per diem, which is hardly sufficient to dine decently in this fine city, and, finally, I am expressing (again) and eating a chicken, avocado and salad roll for lunch. It is 3:45pm.
I meet up with new MasterChef acquaintances and Sydney friends for a drink at 5:30; my parents arrive after a 2-hr drive for dinner at 6:30pm; we are walking through Chinatown just after. Dinner at Golden Harbour at the drunken recommendation of other contestants who are leaving. It does not disappoint.
Day 1: chopping onions. 6:20am: great start to the day — my alarm doesn’t sound. I must have turned it off when I woke to the too-cold air-conditioning at 3am. I am expressing and applying make-up at the same time, already stressed. I miss my son. Because I know I won’t have time for a proper breakfast, I am eating dried figs and brazil nuts. My mind leaps to a documentary I saw years ago about a certain type of wasp that lays its eggs in figs and, just as I have this unsavoury thought, I find a shrivelled worm in my next mouthful. I wonder how many of the fig seeds are actually eggs and stop eating. 7am: we are due downstairs with crease-free aprons. Filming starts as soon as our phones are confiscated in the hotel foyer.
We sense it as soon as we arrive: our first challenge will be chopping onions. After a long wait in the drizzle, behind the thin bars and razor wire, we shoot opening scenes. Then we wait some more and reshoot. And again. We are finally instructed to ‘pick up thy onions and walk’ — to the long bench with knives pierced into camouflaged chopping blocks.
I am one of the only girls to lift the bag of onions. The bag weighs 20kg; I believed the person who said it was 10kg then read the label as I am setting it down. We smile for the cameras with our very sharp knives before lunch arrives. I lock myself in the mothers’ room to express as I eat and I am forgotten. A torrent of laughter runs past the door and then I am in the eye of the storm. I know what has happened. I run all the way to the hall, face dark scowls as I sweat and pant, then we chop our little hearts out under too-hot lights and after 10kg of slicing and dicing I am the last one safe. Phew! I am surprised at the adrenaline rush. Twelve are up for elimination. And I am safe. For now.
Tomorrow: the elimination challenge.