Khan’s Seafood Plate may have looked like a work of art, but with 99 ingredients, almost 140 steps and a recipe spanning 13 pages, the chefs knew they’d have their work cut out for them.
Competing alongside Aldo and Mindy, Montana felt slightly more comfortable having two Pressure Tests already under her belt. But sadly a few minor missteps were enough to end her time in the competition.
“I don’t think I slept before my first pressure test,” Montana told 10 play, “I had two up my sleeve already but going in against Mindy and Aldo, with only three of us, was definitely scary.
“It was a little bit easier, but as soon as I saw the dish I was like, oh god. I’m screwed.”
Having survived two dessert Pressure Tests, tackling Khanh’s savoury seafood dish was the first hurdle Montana had to clear. From her past experiences in Pressure Tests, she knew that following the recipe wouldn’t be too difficult, but there were certain steps where even the novella-length recipe couldn’t help her.
“Cooking seafood is something I don’t think you can just follow a recipe for,” she explained. “I think it comes down to intuition and that’s not a strength I have. It was definitely daunting for me.”
With four and a half hours on the clock, Montana said just before the halfway mark she felt so mentally and physically exhausted that, when it came to the final seconds of the challenge, she was ready to fall to the floor.
“I remember being a little bit shaken in the start, you get in the groove and then the four hours pass and, as soon as that time finishes, you realise you’ve done everything you could possibly do to keep yourself safe,” she said. “It’s definitely scary. It’s a really, really overwhelming thought.
“All the emotions you pushed aside in those four and a half hours come to you in that last second. It’s a lot.”
Though she was happy with the final dish she served up to the judges, Montana knew that there were some elements she wouldn’t know she perfected until the judges had tasted it.
“I knew all the flavours were there, and I knew it was tasty so I was definitely happy. The fact that I finished it, more than anything, was something to be proud of,” she added.
Unfortunately, though the judges agreed her flavours were spot-on, there were pieces of shell in Andy’s oyster — a simple mistake that echoed her dish on Monday that landed her in the Pressure Test.
“It was frustrating. Going into the Pressure Test on a dish that was good, but just happened to have a technical fault was bittersweet,” Montana said.
“I finally started to find my groove and, to go home after just finding that confidence again was tough but… I would rather that than to go home before finding that and having a few good cooks up my sleeve,” she added.
Speaking to the judges on Tuesday night, Montana said that her career in social media and becoming a content creator across platforms like Instagram and TikTok only came about as a fallback to not getting into MasterChef last season.
Now, having competed in the show she grew up watching, alongside some of her MasterChef idols, Montana said the experience would change the kind of content she produces moving forward.
“What I built my social media on was the quick and easy stuff, but I love the more refined style of food. A bit more intricate, doing things from scratch like pastry, sauces and things like that.
“I want to step up my content a little bit, and do it in a way that still feels like me, but make it more technical and nod back to what I learned on the show and make it a little bit more elevated.”
Now out of the competition, Montana plans to return to her presence on social media, realising that what started as a hobby could turn into a fully-fledged career in an industry she’s so passionate about.
In the coming months, Montana also hopes to start launching her own private dining experiences.
“Literally my favourite thing ever to do is just be in the kitchen with my music on working on dishes and, to get paid to do that is the biggest dream come true to me, so to start taking steps do to that is what I’m doing next.”
MasterChef Australia Fans & Favourites airs Sunday - Thursday at 7.30pm on 10 and 10 play on demand