'A Double-Edged Sword': Lochy Whittle Eliminated After The Infamous Time Auction Challenge

A favourite challenge in the MasterChef kitchen returned, but time was not a friend to all as Lochy quickly found out.

After a week in Hong Kong, the MasterChef kitchen returned home and on Sunday they dusted off a favourite challenge, the time auction. Nat, Darrsh and Mimi had each won immunity from elimination throughout the week, leaving Sav, Pezza, Lochy, and Harry to fight it out for a spot in the Top 6 for 2024.

The chefs each had 120 minutes to bid for ingredients in the auction across three categories -- proteins, fresh produce and pantry items -- chipping away at the time they'd have to make their dish for the higher ticket items.

"Everybody loves a bit of an auction but when you're dealing with your own time and ingredients, all your senses are heightened to how you're actually bidding and what ingredients you really want," Lochy told 10 Play.

"There's so much running through your mind of what you see in front of you, what ingredients you can do something with," he continued, "you could have an idea in your head and someone bids a little higher than you and all those ideas go out the window.

"You have to go in with an open mind, otherwise you can pigeonhole yourself and I really hate doing that. I love doing things on the fly, and that's how I went into that [challenge]."

Sitting back and allowing the others to outbid each other and raise the prices of some of the ingredients, Lochy ended up with the most time on the board, a whopping 80 minutes, and landed with the combination of lamb mince, root vegetable and fresh herbs.

And while he had the most time out of everyone cooking in the auction challenge, Lochy also had the most pressure on him to plate up  a perfect dish.

"Definitely a double-edged sword with all that time," he admitted, "and I guess that time frame was something I wasn't that used to in the kitchen but once I started cooking by myself, that was a very weird experience.

"I felt like all eyes were on me, I felt like I was either going to slice myself or something just absolutely stupid because I knew everybody was watching," he said with a laugh.

At the end of the challenge, Lochy had created lamb kofta that he cooked on the hibachi, paired with a beetroot purée, sweet potato chips, roasted carrots and picked radish.

"I thought the technicality of my dish was showcasing what I learned throughout the competition, and there were a few tweaks I needed to make along the way -- lamb and spice are a match made in heaven, lamb and herb is a little more difficult to infuse flavour -- but I was quite happy with the results at the end."

While the judges agreed that the execution of every element was spot-on, there was something lacking in the way they played together, ultimately feeling like two separate dishes on the same plate. At such a pivotal point in the competition, the lack of cohesion was enough to end Lochy's time in the MasterChef kitchen.

"I was surprised," Lochy admitted, "there was a lot of technicality, I knew it was a great dish, maybe not as a whole. I wasn't sure because I hadn't ever cooked anything like it before and put all those things together, I was kind of going out on a limb with that. Showing the techincality when I had the extra time, but ultimately it sent me home."

In his final dish, Lochy was able to incorporate some of the cooking techniques that really inspire him, cooking over flame and using smoke to impart flavous.

"Nothing's better than cooking over the fire," he said. "I really pride myself on smoking things and bringing smoke into things, whether it's smoky sauces, meats, or fish and tying that into South East Asian cooking or South American and Texan-style cooking.

"Even Indian cooking where they use a tandor, that smoky flavour, all those types of things are what I love about food," Lochy said. "But they take time, and that's the one thing you really don't have in the MasterChef kitchen, enough time."

And while it felt like a disadvantage to not be able to rely on the types of cooking he's been so inspired by in the past, it forced Lochy to learn so much more by not being able to rely on the skills he already had.

"When you're in the kitchen you learn a bit more French technique, I've been able to use and harness that and being able to use my over-fire cooking with a bit more refined technique is working really well. I'm coming up with some really nice dishes in the outside world," he added.

Since wrapping up his time in the MasterChef kitchen, Lochy has been working in a few restaurants, finessing and expanding on his wide range of skills. "I'm in a really good place and I want to push forward," he said, adding, "I wanted to get into the kitchen straight away and learn so, after MasterChef finishes, pop-ups are to come, I'm going to cook for people, I'll have all these skills ready to go so I can bring the best possible food I can."

On top of that, Lochy has been working on filming videos of cooks at home -- especially cooking over fire and other aspects of cooking he's interested in, and has been working on creating hot sauces.

"I made a few really good sauces throughout the competition, I was a bit of a sauce king," he said, "not like the Sauce Boss, Sumeet, but a sauce king!"

With plans to also host some pop-ups around Melbourne, Lochy hopes his food will take him on the road. "I love to travel and I really want to be able to showcase food, and where we get our food from, that's one thing I love about food."

MasterChef Australia continues Sunday - Wednesday at 7.30 on 10 and 10 Play