'Definitely Not The Dish I Wanted To Present': A Squid Membrane Separates Theo Loizou From The MasterChef Semi Final

Guest chef Peter Gilmore returned to the MasterChef kitchen to set another difficult pressure test that saw three chefs attempt to recreate his dish without a recipe.

Theo, Declan and Rhiannon knew the challenge would be difficult when the Executive Chef of Quay and Bennelong walked through the doors. Taking them to his iconic restaurant in Sydney Harbour, Peter showed the chefs how to prepare his dish of squid, scallops and pipis and tasked them with recreating it without a recipe.

For Theo, it was the second pressure test where he had to recreate a dish without a recipe, having successfully survived Luke Nguyen's Pho Suon Bo challenge earlier in the season.

"I thought in MasterChef pressure tests they give you a recipe," Theo told 10 Play, "and I've got two without? I'm like, come on give me a break you guys, what's going on?!"

Going into the challenge Theo admitted he was feeling pretty confident in recreating Peter's dish. Watching the chefs prepare each element he even asked how long it should take to clean the squid and remove its membrane. While the chef said it should only be a job that takes a few minutes, when it came to the challenge itself, it was a hurdle Theo struggled to overcome.

Practically unable to move forward, Theo found himself struggling to remove the membrane, falling further and further behind in the recipe. Looking back, Theo said he's ready to forgive squid.

"I love squid, I've done good things with squid in the past. Whenever you have a fight with your missus you don't break up straight away, you make up and we've made up," he joked.

"I'm looking forward to cooking more squid in the future," Theo said, adding, "don't need to take off any membranes - that's what I have teeth for. To chew through them."

While he's able to laugh about it now, during the challenge it was clearly a point of frustration, being so close to the semi-finals of the competition, this one small step in the recipe became an insurmountable obstacle.

"I'm an all-or-nothing type of guy so I want to do things perfectly and, when I'm getting frustrated... it starts to snowball in my head," he said. Knowing his dish wasn't going to be to his level of perfection, Theo's headspace just deteriorated from there.

"It's hard to get it back, and that's what this competition is about. It's about dealing with the stress and the drama better than anyone else at the end of the day because we're all fantastic cooks," he continued.

Eventually, seeing how his mate was struggling with this one element, Declan came over to help Theo and eventually he was able to rip past the squid and move on to the other elements of the dish, managing to get a version of Peter's dish plated up.

"I wasn't proud of my dish," he admitted, "I knew that it wasn't going to be close to what Peter's was and that's what really frustrated me."

On top of that, Theo said he was disappointed that he lost his temper during the challenge, having worked hard in the past few years to maintain his cool in difficult situations.

"It's just, in that moment, you see red and everything starts to fall apart," he said. "I was frustrated with the dish I put up, it was definitely not the dish I wanted to present. I wanted to do Peter Gilmore's dish justice, and also everyone who was supporting me and myself. I was really disappointed."

Though disappointed at the standard of his dish, Theo was still proud that he managed to get through the challenge and serve the judges a finished dish.

"I could have just given up at that stage and said nup, that's it," he added, "the younger Theo would have done that. I would have cracked the absolute sh*ts and walked out... I'm proud of the fact that I did move on in the end and got a finished dish."

Theo's love affair with cooking really began back in 2013 when he started baking bread at home and fell in love with the process. Moving to France for three years to learn more about breadmaking, he came into the MasterChef kitchen with quite a unique skill set.

"Obviously, bread is a big part of my life and I've been baking for a long time now. Food was more from my family and from childhood memories," he explained. "I've always taken a keen interest in cooking, I enjoy good food and I always have but [MasterChef] has sent me on a totally different path. It sent me where I didn't think I could go," Theo said.

Coming into the competition, he knew he wasn't going to get the opportunity to show the judges everything he knows about bread.

"I knew I was probably not going to be able to do the bread that I like, that I'm in love with, it's more of a yeasted bread you can do in that kitchen, flatbread options, which are fine! Where my heart lies is with sourdough and that slow, long fermentation."

In a kitchen ruled by that massive clock hanging over the chefs' heads, Theo didn't have four or five hours, or many overnight opportunities to give the judges a taste of his best work.

"Certain types of sourdough bread, just a typical country loaf which is like one of my favourites of all time, you just can’t do it in that kitchen and I knew that going in," he admitted. "I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do it, so I had to adapt quickly to other cooking, ways of cooking and I had to really learn fast and I’m glad I did."

Throughout the competition, Theo wowed the judges with not just the quick bread he was able to whip up but began to pump out perfectly cooked proteins, skillfully conceived desserts and so many mouthwatering lamb dishes.

"I’ve always had a strong connection to food, I love good food and going out for beautiful dinners and things like that, but I’ve definitely grown more of an appreciation for what chefs do, and it’s definitely cemented, in fact, my goal for when – after all this is over – opening a bakery because that’s where my true love lies."

Now that his time in the MasterChef kitchen has come to an end, Theo is more invigorated than ever and has already started putting a plan in place to start his dream bakery.

"I want this to be my life. When you find something that you love doing, that can give you an income and you can be happy… I’ve hit the jackpot in a big way and I want to take over Melbourne and Australia in the baking world," Theo said.

"I want my bread to be in every restaurant, I want people to come from different states to try my bread because I believe it’s that good, and I love doing it. I pour my heart and soul into it so I think you can feel that when you bake something, that’s what it’s all about.

"It’s about consistency and continually trying to get that perfect loaf of bread – which never happens – but you keep pushing to do that. I think your product’s going to be amazing."

MasterChef continues on Wednesday and Thursday before the Grand Finale on Sunday, July 16 at 7.30 on 10 and 10 Play.