She came back into the MasterChef competition to prove that she could cook with the best, and cook she has done. But procrastination over what sweet dish she should create in a Mystery Box challenge ultimately left a sour taste in the mouth of Sydney bar manager Courtney Roulston, who was eliminated from MasterChef Australia tonight.
The sweet and savoury Mystery Box challenge – where contestants had to cook a savoury dish and a sweet dish using 12 ingredients – proved to be her downfall. Her spicy dahl and pakoras and crepe with lemon and ginger curd failed to win over the judges and guest celebrity chef Shannon Bennett.
“It should have been named Misery Box!” says Courtney, suffering her second elimination after initially leaving the series in May when she failed to identify mint properly in a taste test. “When I first lifted up the box I was fine knowing I had to cook a savoury dish. What totally stuffed me was when they told me I had to make a sweet dish.
“Sweets are not my strong point. I was just looking at the ingredients going, ‘Oh my God, what can I turn these things into?’ I spent so much time procrastinating and not locking in what I was doing that I wasted 20 minutes that I really needed for presentation. I literally plated up my crepes in 15 seconds.
“It looked like a seagull had flown over my dessert plate by the time I finished.”
With Jimmy rewarded for his stand out performance in the previous night’s V8 cake cook-off, he got to pick the ingredients for the Mystery Box – and really put the cat among the pigeons by not choosing a protein ingredient like chicken.
The ingredients, including chick pea flour, Muscat, lemons, gorgonzola, chilli, tomatoes, garam masala and curry powder, were chosen by Jimmy to give him an edge over his competitors. But he faltered throughout the challenge and was out-curried by Callum in their savoury dishes.
“Jimmy had all night to plan his menu and I think at one stage he was in danger of ending up as one of the bottom ones with me,” she says. “It kind of backfired on him by not having any protein in the box. For me, well, I’ve now thought of a million other dishes I should’ve done on the day! I wish I hadn’t panicked so much about the dessert and allowed myself more time.”
Despite her dahl winning praise, the judges couldn’t look past Courtney’s uninspiring dessert.
Lumped in the bottom two dishes alongside Claire, she was told for the second time that her MasterChef journey had come to an end.
“It was disappointing but not heartbreaking…unlike the first time,” says Courtney, who leaves just four contestants in the competition – Claire, Callum, Jimmy and Adam. “I put my hand up straight away when asked who thought would be going home so I wasn’t shocked. You know when you don’t have a good day in the kitchen.
“I can’t complain. I got back into the competition and I got into the final week. I was happy just to get a second go to prove that I could actually cook. First time round I knew that a lot of doors wouldn’t open for me [once leaving the show] because no one really got a chance of seeing what I could do. But now, things are different.”
Courtney looks on the bright side of her elimination and admits that having a second crack at the MasterChef title has finally got a monkey off her back. She made headlines earlier in the year when she became the fifth person to be eliminated after wrongly identifying mint as spearmint.
“There are no regrets second time around and I’m happy with how my time has gone,” she says. “For the months that I was out, I was always thinking about what I should or shouldn’t have done. It went through my head over and over again how I stuffed up something so simple as naming mint as spearmint. I was so cut up about the mint thing.
“I’m surprised with how far I’ve gone, but I’d also gone into the competition second time round with a different mindset.”
Now back at her Sydney home with her partner, Courtney is steaming ahead with her food dream. There is talk of a small wine bar in Sydney’s burgeoning small bar culture, but for now, she is concentrating on gaining experience as a food stylist and recipe tester.
“I’m more confident this time round and I know I definitely want a job in the food industry,” explains Courtney. “In my time off I did some recipe testing work and I had a great time. If you can do a job and not be watching the clock to wait until 5pm comes around then you know it’s what you want to do.
“One day I want to have a little wine bar that does seasonal dishes, but that won’t happen for a while yet. I’ve love to do work experience with someone like Donna Hay or Christine Mansfield.
“I’m certainly not going to say no to any work experience.”