Back

'That Completely Broke Me': Why Minoli De Silva Was 'Mortified' By Her Final Pressure Test

Tasked with recreating Alla Wolf-Tasker's summer cucumbers with Murray cod without ever seeing a recipe, Minoli crumbled under the pressure.

On Tuesday night, the four chefs competing in the Pressure Test were taken to Alla Wolf-Tasker's Lake House in Daylesford, where they were treated to an intimate MasterClass.

Watching Alla and her head chef create the dish, Minoli, Harry, Sarah and Jenn had to memorise how to prepare the many elements and, on return to the MasterChef kitchen, perfectly recreate each element in just 90 minutes.

It wasn't her favourite day in the kitchen, in fact Minoli told 10 play the pressure of the challenge got to her almost immediately.

"I spent way too much time getting the fish filleted perfectly... I was focusing on the wrong things and, in a pressure test, time is everything," she said.

"I hadn't organised my priorities properly in the Pressure Test and that showed in the end when I ran out of time," Minoli added.

During the challenge, after noticing her fish had been overcooked, Harry played her immunity pin leaving just three chefs battling for their place in the competition. In the back of Minoli's mind, it had always been a fight between three.

"For me, Harry was always going to use her pin," she explained. "You would be silly to not use your pin in a challenge like this... let's be honest, she probably would have been safe," she added, laughing.

As the challenge neared its final seconds, Minoli was in a panic , losing dishes and forgetting where she had strained her dill oil she attempted to get everything on the plate but ultimately was missing multiple elements.

"I was mortified that I had to serve Alla Wolf-Tasker my dish," she admitted. "It was just a mess at the end and my heart was broken that I was serving one of my favourite chefs food that I wasn't happy with - especially her food!

"That completely broke me, at the end I was just shattered," she said. But it wasn't that she knew she was going home - which she said she was entirely certain of at that point - but it was having to serve plates of food that weren't up to her standards to the judges.

"Disappointment is such a normal part of life and it really did set me up for what I'm going to do now," she reflected.

Still fresh from competing last year in Season 13, Minoli had returned to the MasterChef kitchen with a whole new mindset and approach to the competition.

"It took me a while to believe that I deserved to back myself, that my food was worthy of being in the MasterChef kitchen.

"As a woman, growing up a first-generation migrant, I took for granted the food that I learned to cook from a young age and it was only MasterChef that allowed me to realise this was a craft, not just something I did," she said.

Having only recently competed the first time around, Minoli felt like she and fellow Season 13 alum Tommy had an upper hand on the competition, being one of the few chefs to have cooked for the judges before.

"I knew that their judging style and what they focused on was, for me, a little bit different to previous seasons and it really was all about flavour," she said.

But while she knew what the judges would focus on when diving into a dish, Minoli also felt like "a little fish in a big pond" standing alongside the other Faves, many of who had gone on to work in the industry for years after their original seasons.

"I was just like, do I actually know what I'm doing? These guys have been doing this for years and years and years!

"I could only give as much as I knew, so that's what I focused on... I really do have a passion for cooking and flavour, and there's something that changes when you learn to back yourself," she said.

"I really hope that anyone that's watching takes a leaf out of my book and starts backing themselves in the things they love, because it really changed my life.

"I stopped thinking 'what if it doesn't work out' or 'what happens if I give this a go and nothing comes of it?' I just don't have time for that anymore, I just do what I love and I think passion will get you so far in this world."

Since her time in the MasterChef kitchen, Minoli has been preparing to launch her very first restaurant, Ella, in her home of Darwin, which opens its doors on the first of June.

"I get the opportunity to set the culture that I want to see in restaurants and bring back the essence of true hospitality," she explained. "For me, hospitality starts at home. I've done it for years, my favourite thing is running dinner parties... the joy I get out of feeding people is more joy than I can explain.

"When the food is good, it just encourages even better conversation and it's just an experience rather than being about just food. I feel like a kid in a candy shop, I can't explain it any other way, it's so exciting."

Back in Season 13, Minoli never even considered that opening her own restaurant would be a possibility. Instead, she planned to do an apprenticeship, to work for a few years and eventually figure out what her next steps were. This time around, having returned to MasterChef, her thoughts shifted.

"I was like, nup, stuff it, I'm going to cut to the chase and do what I want. If people don't like it, they don't like it. If they love it? They love it! But this is my happy place, and everyone is welcome.

"This is what Jock, Andy and Mel were like; just back yourself. So that's what I did!"

Focusing on the seasonal produce in Darwin, the roots of her Sri Lankan food and heritage and utilising modern cooking techniques, Minoli is also just as focused about the culture within her own kitchen as she is the flavours on the plate.

"Getting the chefs in the kitchen to play with their strengths, that's what I learned from MasterChef," she explained. "When you're working in a team and you're cooking the food of someone else and it's unfamiliar to you, it might not be as good as it can be.

"But if I can find a way to get these chefs to utilise their skills, and come up with a dish that highlights my Sri Lankan flavours... if we can come up with a dish that allows them to play with their strengths, then the food is going to be exceptional - and it has been so far in the practice runs! So I'm going to keep that mindset for the rest of my cooking career.

"Playing to your strengths, backing yourself and never compromising on flavour.

"I really want the food, right from the start to the end, to be a journey. I want everyone to leave the way I like to leave a restaurant, not rolling out the door but satisfied and thinking about it days afterwards. That's the vision."

MasterChef Australia Fans & Favourites airs Sunday - Thursday at 7.30pm on 10 and 10 play on demand