Can-Do-Ability: Answers and Solutions from my personal experiences of living with a disability

Disabled Materchef Australia Contestant Causes Some Heat In The Kitchen

12 May 2011Masterchef Australia is one of the hottest shows on television at the moment. With series three just getting into the real competition now, one of the fifty finalists attracted quite a bit of media attention during a challenge that was set before him.

John Hughes is a winemaker from Clare Valley in South Australia. John works at the family winery, which was purchased in 1984, to produce his wine called ‘Rieslingfreak’.

John was born with mild cerebral palsy, which slightly affects his coordination and movement, but this didn’t deter him from vying for a spot in this year’s sought after Masterchef series. Making it into the top 50, he was faced with the ‘pressure cooker challenge’ that was formulated by celebrity chef and guest judge, Maggie Beer.

The challenge was set, the 40 remaining contestants were required to attempt three different desserts, with some tasting sauce on the side. Maggie presented her perfect example of a lemon curd tart, sour cream pastry, with almond, frangipani and nectarine, and an apple, extra virgin olive oil and rosemary desert cake with a side of verjuice sabayon to the contestants.

They had 2 hours to complete the test that was handed to them and plate up their dishes with lovely presentation. They were also thrown a curve ball, they had to share an oven between every two contestants. There were certainly many dramas in the kitchen for this challenge.

Some contestants decided to pair up and work together to be able to share their oven more effectively. Two that decided to pair up, Chelsea and Alex had their own challenges, with Alex dropping one of the freshly baked cakes that they were to serve up, then setting a bag of sugar on fire with a blowtorch. Another contestant, Miri claimed that it was ‘disaster chef, rather than Masterchef’.

By the end of the frantic two hours, the contestants were ready to present their dishes to the judges. John had his own share of disasters during the challenge, once time was up, he said to himself ‘I’ve been beaten’.

When he was called up to show off his dish, he did something that no one else in the history of Masterchef Australia had ever done...... He refused to let the judges try his dish, saying ‘I’m not going to present’, forcing himself straight into the bottom ten, which meant he would then face elimination.

John told the judges, ‘when I make wine, when I’m cooking for my friends, my family, I produce quality and I put my heart and my soul into it, using my own time. Today you gave me a recipe, but time-wise, I was out of my depth’.

Matt Preston, one of the Judges, commended John on his courage to admit that he wasn’t 100% satisfied with his effort. Matt then asked the remaining judges, Maggie, Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris if they’d ever thrown away a dish that they were unhappy with, and the four of them agreed that they had. Maggie then ran up to John and gave him a big hug and when John returned to his cooking station, the whole kitchen cheered and applauded his efforts.

John later said ‘I can do anything anyone else can do, but at my own pace’. John didn’t end up securing a spot in the final 24, but during his ‘elimination challenge’, after the now infamous ‘pressure cooker challenge’ episode, he cooked and plated up a perfect dish of pan-fried crocodile with leek and bean puree and pomegranate reduction.

Matt Preston tasted it and even exclaimed that it was the best cooked croc of the day and even went as far as saying that it was probably the best croc that he’d ever tasted! With that, he took a photo of the dish, so he could show Maggie Beer, next time he saw her.

John was eventually eliminated earlier this week, but that didn’t get his spirits down, saying ‘I’ve done the best I can and that’s all I can do’.

What a champion. He now has a huge following around Australia, who were sad to see him go. But he definitely seems talented and has that great can-do attitude that we all love, so I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of John, good luck!

If you want to watch the jaw dropping, gasp causing, history making episode that made John Hughes a household name, click here to see what all the fuss was about: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rO1rN7YeDMU

Judge - Gary Mehigan

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