Guest chef Shannon Bennett tasked a handful of the chefs to a Mystery Box made up of 10 of his favourite items from his fridge and pantry.
The chefs had 75 minutes to create a dish using at least one of the following: spanner crab, chicken marylands, kohlrabi, papaya, tarragon, brazil nuts, yellow chickpea miso, sweetbreads, fresh turmeric and iceberg lettuce.
With such a unique set of ingredients, each chef approached the challenge in their own unique way, with John attempting a spin on a dish he has made several times before, serving up an Ajo Blanco with roasted kohlrabi and tarragon oil rather than the roasted pumpkin and almonds he usually uses.
Early in the challenge Shannon and Andy questioned if the dish would work, but John seemed convinced that the final product would be enough to save him from cooking in Tuesday’s Pressure Test.
As John served the dish, Andy commented that without even tasting he was sure it would either be “the dish of the day, or down the bottom”, noting that John had taken a big risk with his choices. Unfortunately, the judges found the dish to be lacking, admitting that the flavours weren’t balanced and didn’t seem to gel together.
Clearly emotional after the pressure of the challenge, John began to fight back tears, and walked out of the kitchen altogether, with Melissa Leong close behind him.
“Today is the first time I felt as if I was a failure,” John said, “I just feel like - I still feel like I don’t belong in this competition.”
As Mel caught up with him, John broke down in tears, telling the judge that he wasn’t sure if he wanted to continue in the competition.
“You definitely don’t need to be here, you have a wonderful life,” Mel said, adding, “think about the people who love you who are barracking for you to be back.”
“Have you stopped to entertain the thought that the best of what you can do is still yet to come in this kitchen? You’re still here!”
Reflecting on if he wanted to stay in the kitchen, John later said he was thinking about his fiancé Dave.
“He loves my food,” John said, “He always tells me ‘Just don’t give up’. If I walk out of the kitchen I know that I will regret it.
“I started a business after my season and with this whole COVID difficult road of trying to keep that business, I just couldn’t,” he continued. “I think this competition will sort of help me realise that dream again. I think I just need this to push me, that I can do it. I can get to the end.”
Walking back into the kitchen to a rapturous applause from the other judges and his fellow contestants, John wasn’t shocked to find that his dish landed him in the bottom four alongside Alvin, Jenn and Max.
But with renewed confidence, John was ready to tackle whatever challenges lay ahead to prove to the judges, and more importantly to himself, that he belonged behind that bench.
MasterChef Australia Fans & Favourites airs Sunday - Thursday at 7.30pm on 10 and 10 play on demand