Elena Duggan Wins Masterchef Australia

The 32-year-old New South Wales teacher triumphed 86 points to 84 points after heading into the final round three points behind her opponent.

Elena also certainly won fans when she put rivalry aside to help a faltering Matt with a liquid nitrogen step in the closing stages of the marathon Grand Finale.

The pair cooked over three high pressure rounds including a massive five-and-a-half hour challenge to recreate Heston Blumenthal’s “Verjus in Egg” dessert.

It was the dessert round where Matt crumbled and Elena triumphed, winning $250,000 cash and her own magazine food column.

Matt got off to a flying start in the first entree round where contestants had to pick one of 10 ingredients and had 60 minutes to make it the hero of their dish.

Matt scored 26 out of 30 from judges Matt Preston, George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan for his ‘pan seared quail with confit legs, corn and chorizo salsa and Pedro Ximenez glaze’.

Time got the better of Elena who plated up ‘marron two-ways, with a smoked vegetable salad and a dashi dressing’. The judges said the dressing lacked flavour.

“Before the cook, that was the most nervous I’d been in the whole competition,” Elena says. “I put enormous pressure on myself.

“I knew that the dish wasn’t perfect so I wasn’t surprised Matt was ahead after the first round. I decided to let it go and shake it off for the next round.”

Elena bounced back in the second round where contestants had 75 minutes to cook any style using any ingredients.

Elena scored a perfect 30 out of 30 for her ‘twice-cooked lamb, lamb jus, with a macadamia, garlic and onion puree, pickled beets and vegetables’.

But Matt stepped up his game as well and he also scored a perfect 30 for his ‘crispy skin barramundi with brussels sprouts and a pancetta and prawn broth’.

The “Verjus in Egg” round, worth 40 points, was the big test. The dessert by Blumenthal and Dinner by Heston executive chef Ashley Palmer-Watts had a whopping 91 steps.

Both contestants hit hurdles. The difference was that Elena regained her composure while Matt found himself increasingly overwhelmed.

Elena was the first to slip up. She didn’t check the recipe properly and added a vital ingredient too early when making the jelly for her egg yolk.

Matt wasted an hour when his panna cotta didn’t set and he had to make it again. Worse was to come when Matt missed a crucial step near the end which would have held his egg together.

His three point lead vanished when Elena presented a perfectly formed egg sitting atop a delicate nest. Matt’s egg split.

Matt scored straight sevens from the judges, including Blumenthal, for 28 out of 40.

That wasn’t enough to stop Elena who scored three 8s and a 9 for 33 out of 40 and a two point victory.

Blumenthal and Palmer-Watts awarded Elena the 9 saying the dessert had flavour, texture and balance.

“Matt and I have gone through this journey together,” Elena says. “We met on the very first day of auditions and we have formed such a strong friendship. I know we’ll be friends for life.”

Elena was head teacher of creative and performing arts at Galston High School before competing on MasterChef Australia.

“Teaching and mentoring will still be a part of my life but this time it will be through food,” Elena says.

“It is rewarding working with young people and I can see the connections that can be made there. My long term goal is still to have my own farm cafe.”

Matt was awarded a $40,000 runner-up prize. Harry Foster, who came third in this year’s season, claimed $10,000.


Credit: News Australia


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