‘This Was My Biggest Fear’: Jenn Lee Eliminated From The MasterChef Kitchen During Time Challenge

On Thursday night the MasterChef kitchen was thrown into a surprise elimination where time was everything.

The judges explained the familiar challenge, that each chef would have 90 minutes spread across two rounds. In the first round you could cook whatever dish you wanted, with as much time as you needed, but the four dishes that impressed the judges the least would go into the second round.

If you were one of the chefs in the second round, you would only have the time remaining out of your original 90 minutes to cook another dish to save your spot in the kitchen.

“To be honest, this was my biggest fear,” Jenn told 10 play following her elimination. “My style of cooking is quite heavily reliant on time, I love using time to develop flavour, a lot of my ingredients are quite simple but you get the flavour from time.

“I like to work with secondary cuts that need ages to break down to release all the yumminess,” Jenn continued, adding that she’s always had a funny relationship with time.

“Especially in the MasterChef kitchen where time is not as it seems… I just wasn’t able to bring my A-game to the first cook which, in hindsight is how the challenge is designed to be.”

Choosing to make a signature dish of hers, mapo tofu, Jenn faltered on the simple elements of the dish — serving gluey rice and unwashed, gritty coriander to the judges. The small errors saw her fall into the second round where she decided to redeem herself, and her mapo tofu’s reputation.

“Before heading into the MasterChef kitchen I told myself the one thing I would never do is a redemption cook, nothing good comes out of a redemption cook,” she said, laughing.

“It’s something I consider a signature dish and my family love it… [it] is really close to my heart,” she explained. While she questioned if a homestyle dish like mapo tofu “belonged” in the MasterChef kitchen, having come off two great cooks earlier in the week, Jenn was confident in her decision and hoped to right the wrongs in her first round.

“I was like, you know what? I’m going to do it because I believe in mapo tofu, I believe in myself and I believe in my cooking.”

Though she’s been a fan of MasterChef for years, Jenn admitted that her lack of confidence on the food she loves and the cuisine she’s passionate about had prevented her from ever thinking she deserved a place in the competition.

“My type of cooking is more homestyle cooking, I have a Chinese background so there’s a big cultural influence and one of the big reasons why I didn’t feel confident going on the show,” she said.

“But with the new judges, especially Mel Leong… I felt more comfortable, more confident in the fact that… I knew my food was tasty but I just didn’t know if it would be received well. I felt more comfortable cooking on the show.”

Born in Taiwan, Jenn had hoped her time in the MasterChef kitchen would bring more awareness to Taiwanese cuisine, and the fact that Taiwan is a global food hub.

“Having this opportunity to show the rest of Australia what Taiwanese food really is and how amazing it can be has been absolutely amazing and it made me really proud and humbled,” Jenn said.

“I think, having been in this environment and understanding food a lot more, knowing what I know now there’s definitely a place for it and I feel like I should just take it all in and proudly show the world, not fidget around and be scared. It definitely has a spot in the culinary world, and in MasterChef for sure.”

Through her time in the MasterChef kitchen, Jenn admitted to finding her confidence, and backing herself in her abilities. Though her time in the competition has come to an end, her dreams of pursuing a life centred on food has only grown.

“I never thought I’d get this opportunity but now I’m going to grab it with both hands… I would love to show the world what authentic Taiwanese home cooking is all about.”

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