Popular MasterChef contestant Arena Dunn crumbled under pressure in tonight’s elimination challenge, with the West Australian’s time in the show coming to an end.
The personal trainer cooked against Shannon Smyth after both admitted they were less than impressive in the previous night’s team challenge featuring Nigella Lawson.
In what was Arena’s first appearance in an elimination pressure test, the MasterChef kitchen proved too hot to handle during a 75-minute cook-off that required the pair to cook as many dishes as they wanted using the core ingredient of just one chicken.
“I was devastated and my heart sank,” she says. “It was a big shock and took a while to sink in. You become so immersed in the show and living in the MasterChef house becomes your life – and then suddenly it’s ripped away from you.”
Chicken is often the staple dinner ingredient of millions of Australian households, and the judges would mark dishes on the quantity, creativity and, of course, taste.
At first, Arena drew on her positive mind to cook four dishes: Thai chicken dumpling soup, Sri Lankan chicken curry with rice and flatbread, grilled chicken wings on lemongrass and chicken mousse.
“I thought ‘thank God it’s chicken’. I cook with chicken a bit and was confident,” she says. “The only time I had broken down a chicken was in Top 50 so that did cross my mind.”
But it soon became apparent she had bitten off more than she could chew, and soon dropped the mousse dish. She appeared slow and undaunted by the clock ticking down, and with 12 minutes to go she hadn’t even started to cook her chicken wings.
“I completely forgot about the time and got carried away thinking about all the things I had to do,” she explains. “I left the wings to the end because I knew they wouldn’t take long, but in the end, I didn’t keep a track of time.”
With a few minutes to go, Arena realised she hadn’t made rice and flatbread for her curry, and finished the challenge with one dish incomplete, and another undercooked.
“Plating up undercooked food is something you never want to do, and given my time again, I would have kept a closer eye on the time,” says Arena, who was eliminated for her underwhelming soup, lacklustre chicken wings and missing rice for her curry.
Now back in Perth, Arena has dropped her job as a personal trainer and sprinted towards her career in the food industry. Together with her boyfriend Travis, she is at the helm of an expansion of the family’s organic food store, installing a café and deli.
“We renovated the office into a kitchen and we’re selling organic food, juices and coffee,” she says of the certified organic Absolutely Organic WA store near Karrinyup. “We soon hope to create an alfresco dining area and a lounge. I’m also planning on doing cooking classes for kids in school holidays and workshops – like how to break down a chicken!”