Facing his second Pressure Test in a row, having successfully survived Zumbo’s waffles that weren’t waffles, Max knew he had his work cut out for him when Reynold walked into the kitchen. Once again Max was presented with a challenge that would see him face multiple elements of precise, technical desserts.
“The cooking that really speaks to me is more savoury, off the recipe track, actually getting to use a bit of instinct and go with what you’ve got,” Max told 10 play following his elimination.
“Essentially, 11pm cooking when you’ve come home and you want to sober up a bit, that sort of cooking,” he added, laughing.
“Going on the flip side of that and having ultra, ultra technical, multifaceted, component-heavy desserts, I wouldn’t have said that’s my style or strength in cooking. And look, between the two of them I think I was in the kitchen for eight-and-a-half hours doing two dishes, which is a marathon. That’s so intense.”
As Reynold revealed his new signature dish, Noi, Max admitted that from where he was standing it didn’t seem as intimidating at first. But as he stepped closer he began to see just how intricate and full of fine details it was.
“Luckily, with the Reynold Pressure Test, when I got the recipe it was one page less than the recipe book for Zumbo, so I was like here we go! One page less, this should be one page easier!
“It didn’t end up being that way whatsoever,” Max continued, “I was fooled by the amount of pages, not by the content in them.”
Learning from the first Pressure Test, Max knew he wanted to work methodically, avoiding having to repeat any components because falling behind in a challenge is when the panic and anxiety truly builds.
And while Max made great time during the challenge, it was the balance of flavours that ultimately let him down. Unable to taste the dish as a whole, Max had to taste each element as he went along, hoping they would be balanced when he finally plated it to the judges.
“It’s really difficult,” he said. “I was tasting along the way and I was happy but, at the end of the day, you don’t actually get to try the full dish in all its entirety, you’ve had to use the components in the final dish.”
Though he made several backups to some of the components, there wasn’t a chance for Max to taste everything all together. Though the dish came together and looked remarkably close to Reynold’s, there were a few slight misses when it came to flavour and texture.
Ultimately the judges had to decide between Max’s version of the dish and Alvin’s who — in a contrast to Max — had delivered an almost identical dish when it came to flavour, but missed the mark on how the final dish looked. When the judges revealed that Max was going home, no one was more shocked than Alvin.
“When the judges have to go and do their verdict and have a chat between them about who is going home, Alvin was just resolute,” Max said. “I think he had been making weekend plans for the next few days of what he was going to do and who he was going to see,” he added, laughing.
“So when the judgement came down that it was me going home I think Alvin was the most shocked out of everyone, but that’s the way the competition goes. We’re not the ones tasting the dish at the end of the day, it’s the judges and it’s their call.”
For Max, finally competing in the MasterChef kitchen was a journey that took him several attempts. Like his dad, who auditioned for the very first season, Max was unsuccessful when he first applied.
It wasn’t until last year, when Max made it all the way to judges’ auditions, that he was even more driven to earn himself an apron and a place in the Top 24.
“Cooking in the MasterChef kitchen was probably the final step for me in understanding that I want to change my life towards food in the future,” he explained.
For now, Max hopes to get back into discovering the cooking that really speaks to him. “I think the lead-up to the show grew me exponentially as a home cook but I probably tailored my cooking towards what I thought I needed to cook in the MasterChef kitchen.
“I want to rediscover exactly what I love in food, and the food I want to go forward cooking for the rest of my life, and hopefully as a career.
“I would have loved to show the judges my take on a few different desserts, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles,” Max said. “Hopefully when I open up something in the future they’ll come past, eat there and see the food that I can produce!”
MasterChef Australia Fans & Favourites airs Sunday - Thursday at 7.30pm on 10 and 10 play on demand