With less than a week to go before Australia’s next MasterChef is determined, the top six contenders were chopped to just five tonight with contestant Alvin Quah being eliminated.
And what a super-charged challenge the contestants faced, with the ‘patissier of pain’, Adriano Zumbo, unleashing his most unforgiving creation yet – an eight-layered vanilla cake named the V8.
The gruelling four hour test of skill and endurance proved too much for Alvin, who failed to rev up the judges with his interpretation of the cake.
“Instead of a V8, I plated up a V6, with two layers of my cake missing,” says Alvin. “I was the worst performer but I’ve never professed to being a good cake maker, let alone an Adriano Zumbo cake which you seem to need a PhD.
“My cake was a spectacular failure. It tasted good but in this case my presentation was so woeful that the judges couldn’t see past it.”
All contestants were firing on all pistons when they discovered what the master of the croquembouche and macaron tower had devised for the pressure test. The eight-layered vanilla cake included the highly difficult technique of tempering white chocolate, a glaze and perfectly balanced flavours in each layer.
“The croquembouche is a walk in the park compared to this cake,” says Alvin. “When I first saw the cake I thought this is ridiculous. The advantage that I got from being in the top three from the Iron Chef challenge was that we got a sneak peek to see what we were cooking, to taste it, and have a look at the recipe.”
But Alvin just couldn’t capitalize on the advantage. He was smoothly cruising towards the checked flag until it came to putting the layers together, when it became apparent that his creation was effectively a soggy mess with some of the elements not set properly.
“I followed the process and each layer turned out perfect for me but it was the assembly of it all when things went wrong,” he explains. “Because the cake hadn’t cooled in time I just couldn’t put the glaze on properly and the gel component didn’t set properly either.
“I ran out of time and nothing cooled and it literally looked like road kill. It got to the point where I wanted to throw the cake away. It was disgusting. I knew I was going home.”
Though he knew his dream run in the MasterChef kitchen had come to an end, he could still hold his head high.
“Tempering chocolate was my main concern,” he says. “But as much as my cake looked like it had been run over by a bus twice, the tempering of the white chocolate worked for me. So I can be proud of that and take it home with me…the cake, not so much!
“I felt justified of my cooking ability that I was kicked out based on that elimination. I’ve never professed to be able to make cakes like that and I’m glad I’m eliminated on something like the V8 cake rather than, say, a Malaysian challenge where I’d be kicking myself now.”
Alvin is disappointed not to have reached the grand final, but he’s proud of making it into the final week of what has been a hotly fought contest.
“I didn’t even expect to make the top 24 and I made it to the sixth place,” he says. “I don’t see it as though I’ve come so close to winning and then missed out. I’ve done everything I wanted to do in MasterChef and I’m really proud of where I’ve got in the competition.
Now back at his Sydney home with his partner, Alvin is taking the first steps into what he hopes will be a long and fruitful career in the food industry.
“I am constantly amazed at the impact of the show on the general public,” he says. “I’m so blown away by the amount of strangers that come up, shake my hand and have kind words to say – it’s unbelievable for a home cook like me. It’s quite heartwarming.
“I’ve had a dream about one day owning an Asian tapas bar, and that dream is still very much alive. And I want to eventually release a cookbook of my own and my mum’s recipes.”
But first on Alvin’s list, is a food website – www.cinnamonpig.com.au – that will see him review eateries and give him an outlet to release recipes.
“The site will review small hole-in-the-wall around Australia,” he explains. “I want to give little, unknown places a plug for the good food they put up and I want to introduce the public to the food I love so at first I’ll be concentrating on Asian food.
“It’ll have regular updates on what I’m doing in the food industry, quirky food tips and I’ll put up recipes too.”