In the first round, both the fans and the faves had to cook a dish that would hero just one egg. With each chef given just the one egg, they knew they had to be careful not to crack under the pressure, as there were no replacements. The best dish, from a Fan or a Fave, would save their team from cooking in the second round.
Unfortunately for the Faves, the Fans finally won an elimination round, meaning for the first time since the competition began, the Faves donned their black aprons as a team, and were tasked with cooking a dish that would hero the rest of the eggs in a carton.
During the cook, Billie, Christina and Tommy all decided to play their immunity pins, not wanting to take the risk that one of them could be hanging up their aprons, leaving just eight Faves battling it out.
“I was actually confident, when I saw that one egg I thought I’ve got a few dishes I can actually do — it’s something I always cook with anyway, savoury or sweet. I felt quite confident going into that elimination,” John told 10 play.
“I just knew that I still belonged in the competition and I really wanted to stay and make sure I did my best on the day,” he said.
Despite his confidence, John’s lemon tarts just weren’t up to scratch, and a botched batch of meringue meant that one of his main elements didn’t make it to the plate for the judges. Typically, if a mixing bowl has any fat residue, the egg whites won’t whip up and create a stable meringue base, which is what John believes happened during the cook. To make matters worse, the three egg whites he used in his failed Italian meringue were his last three eggs.
“I was still feeling confident because it was an egg challenge and I was the only one who used all of the eggs,” he added.
Using egg to bind his tart shell that contained a lemon curd and sponge, cake the meringue would be the eggy crown atop an already egg-filled dessert.
“If that’s not celebrating eggs, I don’t know what is,” he said, laughing.
Standing next to Julie Goodwin in the bottom two of the day, John admitted that his mind was split when the judges announced he would be leaving the kitchen.
“The week before I was ready to leave because the stress was just too much, and then part of me was sort of like no, I need to stay in this competition because I’ve still got a lot more to show,” he said.
“When I got the news I was leaving I just felt grateful that I was invited back,” John added. “That’s all that came to mind, I was grateful I met all these other contestants that actually made me realise my capabilities.
“It made me realise how good I was.”
For John, his name in the MasterChef history books has been synonymous with the dreaded relay challenge and the now infamous white chocolate veloute. Returning to the kitchen, he wanted to show the judges, his fellow competitors, and the nation what he’s actually capable of.
“That was ten seconds of TV that basically defined who I was and I wanted to correct that and show people I can actually cook, and remind them I actually won all these different challenges on my season and remind them why I’m back, because of my ability.”
After his stumble during the mystery box challenge earlier in the week, John came back with a renewed clarity and motivation to prove to himself that he could step up to the stresses of the kitchen. Facing a pressure test set by his fellow Season 7 chef Reynold Poernomo, John had a full 180 from the cook the day before.
Sailing through the precise chocolate work and technical dessert that Reynold had set, John once again showed off his skillset when it came to sweets.
Looking back at his time in Season 7, John admitted that being in the same season as the ‘dessert king’ Reynold, he took a step away from sweets, intimidated by what Reynold was plating up at the time.
“I thought, what can I do to stand out in the competition? I thought I’d stick with Filipino cooking and cook from memory, from my parents and what they cooked when I was growing up, try to get all those flavours in my cooking during that season,” John explained.
Coming back, he leaned into his love of desserts, only really cooking savoury once during a team challenge.
“I was in my element when I was doing [Reynold’s] challenge, when he walked in for that Pressure Test I thought oh my god, bring it on. I’m ready for this.”
Despite a few hurdles, John’s return to the MasterChef kitchen rekindled the love he’s always had for cooking, inspiring him to reestablish his chocolate business, rebranding it and launching it later this year.
“It was just like day one again like, what am I doing to myself? Why am I back here? But I got to meet all these new contestants and got to reconnect with the previous contestants as well. They're all people I admire and look up to, so it was so good.”
MasterChef Australia Fans & Favourites airs Sunday - Thursday at 7.30pm on 10 and 10 play on demand