The judges and the top 24

The hopefuls were cooking in the proper MasterChef kitchen for the first time with mentor Shannon Bennett taking them through their first challenge. 

Each contestant had to choose one ingredient to hero in their dish: coconut, chilli, orange, peanut or bacon. 

With a gift of an extra 15 minutes from Shannon, the cooks had 75 minutes to make a dish that would impress the judges in a blind tasting.

Five contestants did just that, making their ingredient shine. They were given the coveted white apron and sent to stand with the other chosen-ones.

Tim

Tim chose orange and paired it with duck – a classic combination. It looked simple on the plate but his delicious sauce and perfectly cooked duck won him an apron. 

Ben

Ben made a prawn stuffed jalapeno with deep fried prawn heads and chilli salt and the judges couldn’t get enough. The judges said they loved the way he used the chilli in so many different ways.

Lisa

Lisa made fried chilli crab with XO sauce. “We were stoked with it, it was delicious,” George told her.

Jenny had something to prove

Jenny

Jenny used chilli, making a chicken curry with naan bread, made from scratch, and four different side dishes. She had something to prove after not making her own noodles in the audition and she nailed it. 

Jess 

19-year-old Jess chose orange and made a chocolate-infused orange mousse with chocolate sponge and a chocolate glaze. Sweets are clearly Jess’ forte with the judges calling her dish “absolutely smashing”. 

With one apron left to go, Navine and Fiona were sent home after their sweet dishes left a sour taste in the judges’ mouths.

This left Bonnie and Michelle, but the judges couldn’t decide which cook deserved to stay in the competition. So they both got a third chance to cook for the final apron.

Bonnie was off to a bad start when she couldn’t think of a dish on the spot. Unfortunately things only got worse for her from there. 

It was a case of what Matt called the “classic MasterChef stress”.

Michelle nabbed the final apron

The judges loved some of her dessert elements separately, but weren’t convinced they went together. 

Meanwhile, Michelle knew exactly what she was going to do from the get go.

“Chocolate, berries, cream and a nice bit of goo in that lava cake. Michelle, that was enough to win you that apron,” Matt told her.

The top 24 is now complete and the first challenge is just around the corner. “Strap in,” George said to the group. “It’s going to be the best time of your lives.”

Meet the top 24 here.

Watch MasterChef Australia Thursdays and Fridays at 7.30pm on TVNZ 1.

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