It was goodbye to Waikato sweethearts Jay & Sarah , after Wellington Besties Jess & Stella out-cooked them in an intense Semi-Final.
Each team went into the kitchen to prove to judges Ben Bayly, Gareth Stewart and the Tasting Panel why they deserved a shot at facing off against William & Zoe in the Grand Final.
With both teams evenly-matched in ability, it all came down to menu choice and who made the fewest mistakes on the day.
Jay struck a problem almost immediately when preparing the silken tofu for dessert - throwing it down the drain – literally. Having to resort to firm tofu with no more silken available, Jay & Sarah knew early on they wouldn’t be serving a dessert they would be proud of.
With little room for error across their three courses, it put early pressure on the couple to get their entrée and main as perfect as possible.
Things looked promising when they knocked their entrée of plum-cured salmon out of the park. With the perfect balance of sweet, sour and salty the ‘fresh and festive’ dish had Nadia Lim’s taste buds ‘dancing’. “This was the best dish you’ve cooked for me in the competition so far,” said Ben.
Jess & Stella’s beef carpaccio didn’t quite get the same reception. Judges felt it was too ‘bland’, ‘mediocre’ and under-seasoned. Grace Ramirez said it was so underwhelming that she shouldn’t have bothered dressing up.
But the judges were thrilled that both teams’ mains stepped things up.
Jess & Stella’s lamb loin had them rejoicing - not just for the faultless presentation or outstanding technique - but for being the first properly cooked lamb main throughout the whole competition.
While Jay & Sarah’s duck breast main was inspired, it was poor time management that meant their dish turned into a ‘bit of a traffic jam’ with too many flavours on the plate.
With one a piece, it all came down to the dessert.
Jess & Stella’s clever, delightful doughnuts had the judges raving sweet serenades: “Wow. You’ve definitely scored a home run with this one,” said Robert Oliver. “Sinfully, wildly, crazily good.”
Although Jay & Sarah’s brandy snap with tofu-inspired parfait was an ‘awesome concept’, Jay’s kitchen sink hiccup came back to haunt them: “Your dessert screamed pressure and heartache to me,” said Liz Egan. “I’m sure you’re aware that the parfait and snap were less than perfect.”
With a score of 40 to Jess & Stella’s 47, Jay & Sarah’s MKR ride came to an end.
When asked how their MKR NZ journey had been: “For us just to be here in the Semi-Finals is a huge accomplishment,” said Jay. “It’s been an emotional rollercoaster.”
“It was really fun cooking with my babe, he was a bit hōhā (annoying) – but I still love him at the end of the day,” added Sarah. “We had fun.”