Welcomed into Martin Benn’s fine dining restaurant, Society, each contestant was tasked with preparing a course for 25 diners featuring a special ingredient. The catch was, each contestant would only find out what their ingredient was just before they began cooking.
Randomly pulling out the course they would be preparing, Sabina told 10 play she was dreading the idea of pulling one of the two dessert courses. And lo, she was course number five, the first of the desserts.
“I knew I was going to get dessert because I did not want it at all,” Sabina said, laughing.
On top of the difficulty of the challenge, the contestants were told this would also be an elimination, despite having just farewelled Tommy Pham the night before.
“I thought maybe they’d do something fun, something to start off Finals Week, but it was not fun!” Sabina added.
As the challenge was staggered, Sabina was one of the last contestants to start her cook — which meant she was also one of the last to find out what ingredient she would be featuring.
“You just have this sense of impending doom,” she explained. “At least in a Mystery Box you lift up the lid and there are eight ingredients underneath, you can always pick and choose which ones you want to work with — unless it’s the everything box. With this, you don’t get the choice, you have to use that ingredient. If you don’t like it, too bad. That’s all you get.
Her ingredient, macadamias, wasn’t exactly what she was hoping to see.
“I don’t know how I feel about macadamias. I don’t really love macadamias. Like, they’re good but… they’re not my favourite and I don’t ever want to look at them again,” she said, laughing.
With the idea of fine dining in mind, Sabina wanted to make sure that her dish not only featured her ingredient prominently but was also mindful of making a flow between the menu. Attempting to play off the gamey course before her, and anticipating a heavier dessert to follow hers, Sabina plated up a macadamia milk sorbet paired with a lemon curd, mandarin and finger limes.
As she was preparing for service, Jock asked if Sabina had toasted her macadamias, but wanting to keep the dish as light as possible to refresh the palate, she had kept the nuts raw which ultimately was her downfall.
Throughout the competition Sabina showed her aptitude and skills for seafood and, admittedly, wasn’t too focused on desserts.
“I definitely had practised a lot of desserts and I was ready — I knew as soon as they told us we were doing a service challenge I was going to get dessert,” she said.
“I practised a lot of desserts but it is really hard to make yourself interested in a style of food that you’re not really interested in,” she explained.
“I catch myself always thinking about savoury dishes and dishes with fish in it, but I’m never thinking about desserts. I find it hard to put all the components together for a dessert more so than the technique, [seafood] feels a lot more natural and sometimes I’m just overthinking the elements in a dessert. The composition doesn’t come to me naturally.”
During her time in the MasterChef kitchen, Sabina said she learned so many ways to cut down on food waste in a way that spawned creativity.
“The whole time the judges are telling you to use the whole fish, the whole carrot or whatever it is. They teach you so many different ways to approach an ingredient.
“The way I look at an ingredient now is really different, especially fish.”
Though she would often flex her mussels in the kitchen, Sabina not only received praise for her skills with seafood but later in the competition received such positive feedback on other dishes where she employed this new creative approach to ingredients.
During a challenge at Alla Wolf-Tasker’s Dairy Flat Farm, Sabina was practically offered a job outright based on her carrot dish.
“You do know when you’ve had a good day in the kitchen but you never know it’s going to be to that extend and I’d get taken aback when I was getting all this feedback. Sometimes I was like oh, I didn’t realise I was good at cooking,” Sabina said.
“I put so much pressure on myself all the time and it’s just so weird watching myself back because I look really calm, collected and relaxed but I was not feeling like that at all. I put ridiculous amounts of pressure on myself and I think that’s why I got so far.
“It was nice to be at the end and feel like, look I made it to finals week I worked so hard and I did what I could, but there’s only going to be one winner and I had a great time and I am really proud of myself.”
Follow Sabina on Instagram @sabinanewton
Watch the new season of MasterChef Australia, Sunday to Thursday at 7.30 on 10 or watch on demand on 10 play