Charlene undone by dessert
It was small consolation that it took one of the toughest ever MasterChef challenges to get the better of Charlene McGechan.
Last night she became the show's twelfth contestant to be eliminated as the competition moves into top gear with the final four next week.
Ironically, it was a tropical dessert that lead to the former Miss Fiji's unravelling.
McGechan was in the United Arab Emirates and unavailable to speak about last night's episode, but the task had each of the top five sweating.
Set by international award-winning Auckland chef Michael Meredith, contestants had to re-create his "signature dessert" - a multi-layered spin on chocolate and tropical fruits, with dark chocolate mousse, a chocolate disc and chocolate shavings, banana cream, passionfruit jelly, honeycomb and a selection of intricate crumbs, as well as pineapple puree.
After it was unveiled, each contestant spoke about how much harder the challenge was than last week's dreaded Huka Lodge gig.
But McGechan’s nerves in particular were on display from the start, as she told judge Simon Gault that coming to grips with the techniques each component of the dish was a struggle.
"There are lots of processes and every process is a science," she said.
Her disappointment in front of the judging panel was visible after she failed to achieve the correct colour in her honeycomb and ran out of time to thicken the mousse’s base of pineapple puree.
"This isn’t one of my proudest moments, but it’s done, and there’s no point dwelling on it."
In a hard criticism to cop from one of New Zealand's best chefs' Meredith himself said her attempt was a far cry from his own dessert.
"The problem for me is that it’s too runny, it has got no texture, and it’s just not balanced," he said.
Despite Brenton Thornton failing to complete parts of his dish, the judges deemed McGechan's to be the lesser of the two.
An early favourite in the competition, McGechan's elimination surprised not only the other contestants but also the judges.
Standing alongside Ana Schwartz in the bottom two, McGechan held herself together far better than her closest friend on the show.
"I'll be crying for days," Schwartz said after holding back tears for much of the episode.
"It’s a bombshell,” said Chelsea Winter, the challenge winner. "I had assumed Charlene was going to be in the final with me."
Simon Gault summed it up best when he said "it’s a bad day for Charlene".
But despite the a bad day, McGechan left the kitchen with her head held high.
The judges were visibly touched when, as a mark of respect, she knelt to the floor in a Fijian tradition, clapping her hands as she said "vinaka vaka levu", Fijian for thank you very much.
"If anything I’ve done has influenced anyone out there with food, and has made people realise that food is about love, and that food is about bringing people together, then I’ve already won."