On Monday, the eliminated contestants will return to the MasterChef kitchen to battle for one of two spots in the competition. Having just packed his things, Tom barely had time to farewell the ice cream machines before he was strapping his apron on again.
“They can’t get rid of me,” he joked, speaking to 10 play following his elimination.
Sunday saw the contestants presented with an array of mystery game meats. The five contestants who identified the least correct went into an elimination round where they had to use one of the game meats in a dish. The least impressive dish would send that cook home.
For Tom, a pescatarian, this was not the kind of challenge he was hoping for.
Having survived the beef-centric challenge a few weeks prior, Tom felt like he would be able to narrowly avoid having to cook meat for the rest of his time in the competition. Unfortunately, the judges had other plans.
“I just had no idea what I was looking at,” he said of the identification challenge. “I had no idea what to look for and, at some point, I stopped being able to think of game meat at all. I was trying to think of what animals exist.
“The whole thing was just a nightmare.”
Knowing he would come up against certain proteins he may not usually eat in the competition, Tom had practiced with beef, pork and chicken but had failed to work on his recipes involving camel, buffalo or wallaby.
Heading into the second round alongside Tommy, Aaron, Pete, and Kishwar, Tom decided to use crocodile as his chosen meat.
“The crocodile meat was basically ready to cook,” he explained. “It was already in a slab that you could just cut a piece off and throw in the pan.”
Rather than having to figure out how to break down the cut further, Tom had more time to instead work out the best way to cook the croc. He also felt more comfortable tasting croc compared to some of the other game meats, having not eaten red meat in almost a decade.
“When it came down to it, I was happy to eat meat in a challenge, but the problem was I didn’t have the experience behind me of knowing what to pair it with or knowing how to cook it or what it should taste like,” he added.
So it made sense that when the judges came around and questioned if he had picked the wrong meat to work with, Tom stuck to his guns — or croc, rather. With little time remaining in the challenge at that point, Tom hoped his other elements would come together.
As the challenge ended, Tom said he wasn’t optimistic about his future in the kitchen.
“I was preparing myself to go home… it just felt like nothing was going my way,” he said.
“When the challenge was over I knew I was totally done,” Tom continued. “There was no question in my mind… It was just five of us and they were all like the strongest cooks, in my eyes. It just felt like everything had gone wrong for me that day.”
Earlier in the competition, Tom remembered one elimination where he had convinced himself he was going home and was distraught. This time around, before even delivering his dish to the judges, he had accepted his fate.
“I was like, let’s get through this tasting and whatever happens afterwards,” he said, laughing.
“My competition that day, the four others in that kitchen, were going to put up amazing dishes and I knew what I put up was basically inedible so, I knew I was done.”
But almost as soon as he walked out the doors, Tom was given a second chance.
All next week, the eleven eliminated contestants would be returning, battling it out for two spots back in the competition. It was, understandably, an emotional roller coaster for Tom.
“Basically coming to terms with the fact that I was going to get eliminated and was devastated about it, then it’s like… turn back around, go back through the doors and cook for your apron again!
“I think after you get eliminated you need a couple of days to process it,” he added. “But in some ways, it’s good because your head is still in the competition!”
Follow Tom on Instagram @tomlevick_/
Watch the new season of MasterChef Australia, Sunday to Thursday at 7.30 on 10 or watch on demand on 10 play