The look on fellow MasterChef contestants’ faces said it all. “You’re joking,” was pretty much everyone’s reaction to news that beloved “dessert guy” Bryan Zhu had been eliminated during Sweet Week.
“Don’t cry because I’ll cry too,” said Bryan as he embraced his fellow MasterChef cooks, with 19-year-old Michelle ending up in tears.
From the moment he stepped on to MasterChef, Bryan has been shouting words of encouragement when others only felt comfortable clapping, and his enthusiasm for dessert was palpable, even down to his “piece of cake” humour in the face of such a stressful elimination challenge.
“I’m gutted. He’s got more soul, more spark than anyone in this competition for sure and he’s just such a good bloke,” an almost tearful Samuel pleaded to the judges when they handed down their decision.
Food court justice George Calombaris was unrepentant, but sad for Bryan. “We totally understand how you both feel because for us today was difficult because at the end of the day it is about the food,” he said.
“But Bryan when you put that smile on your face it lights up all of our hearts. You’ve brightened up this kitchen every time you’ve come into it. We’re going to miss you so much, we really are.”
So what cost him his place on MasterChef? Three hours of hell trying to recreate a floating ice cream that relied heavily on a helium-filled toffee balloon.
Made worse, the evil genius behind the semifreddo Zeppelin was also a hero of Bryan’s – Melbourne “pastry protege” and owner of Augustus Gloop Gelatery, Christy Tania.
Even Matt Preston wasn’t going to sugarcoat it for Bryan, Samuel and Trent, who faced elimination over Tania’s ice cream float.
“It’s, to be honest, not like anything the three of us have ever cooked anywhere, anytime before,” Preston said pointing at professional chefs Gary Mehigan and Calombaris. “…Between us we think the difficulty of this dish makes it the sort of dish you’d normally find in a finale.”
If anyone should have been quaking in his chef Crocs, it was Samuel; whose skill set did not dip very far into the dessert world.
But the pressure of being surrounded by his idols (firstly Janice Wong and now Tania) clearly got to Bryan.
“Being in black is surreal, I would never have thought I’d be in blacks for Sweet Week and I feel really disappointed in myself,” Bryan began the day saying. “Because my food dream revolves around opening my own dessert bar, doing really well in this sweets pressure test means a lot to me.
“…My food dream is to open an East meets West dessert bar but my parents would always push me down a more academic path and worry that by pursuing a career in food it’s not always an easy path… And I really want to make them proud.”
So it was not long into the cook that Bryan began slipping into last place, much to the horror of the gallery above.
“Physically I just feel really trembly,” a sweaty Bryan said. “There is a lot of pressure riding on today. I’m the dessert guy so I want to prove myself.
“But this morning is not going well for me and it’s just the very, very tiny things that I’m doing wrong and I have wasted precious minutes.”
When his semifreddo mixture turned out icy, followed by his chocolate sauce not cooling down fast enough to temper, it looked like Bryan was mentally packing his bags.
“I just feel like I want to give up,” a distressed Bryan revealed. But then he rallied after a pep talk from Calombaris and Tania. “…I really want my food dream to come true, I want to fight really hard. I don’t want to give up.”
Suddenly Bryan was back and powering on, even to the point that he looked like overtaking Samuel. “I’m impressed with Bryan,” Tania confided to Calombaris during the cook.
“Food means a lot to me; it’s where I go, it’s my happy place,” a teary Bryan said after delivering one of the more respectable looking desserts out of the trio. “I really want to stay.”
But his MasterChef dream was set to burst when Samuel blew all expectations away with an almost perfect toffee balloon.
“When do we ever applaud when they bring a dish in?” asked a gobsmacked Calombaris.
“When it’s booliman’ impossible that’s when,” answered Mehigan, who could be mistaken for a grown up Augustus Gloop.
All the judges agreed that the balloon’s theatre was the most important element of the dessert.
“For me dessert is what you eat with your eyes first, it is for me. It’s important,” Tania said.
Even Trent managed to create a tiny balloon in the dying seconds of his cook. But not Bryan.
“My balloon didn’t get up, I’m devastated,” Bryan said going in to judging. “At this point I’m just second guessing every single element … I’m just in a whirlwind of emotions at the moment.”
The sinking feeling had begun to set in for viewers, who knew that unless every element tasted perfect Bryan did not stand a chance against Samuel and Trent.
“I’m just feeling really disappointed in myself for getting into this position,” Bryan told the judges. “A lot of it comes from family pressure I guess to succeed, to find a more stable job. But honestly at the end of the day, what makes me most happy is cooking.”
“A bit like your story,” Calombaris said to Tania.
“All parents want you to be happy,” Tania said to Bryan in a moment of camaraderie. “Your parents, my parents, a lot of parents out there their job is to make their children happy but they are not you. You know what makes you happy and it is our job as their children to show to them that we know what will make us happy, and we are going to be successful in this.
“But nobody, nobody is responsible to make you happy but yourself.”
If I could reach through the television to give anyone a hug, it would have been Bryan.
“Being here is amazing,” said a humble Bryan. “Standing in the same footsteps so many people have been through, I’m not going to give it up.”
MasterChef revealed that Bryan went on to do work experience with ex-contestant Reynold at KOI dessert bar and was looking for his own dessert bar premises.
“Walking through the doors with Christy’s words playing through my mind, I feel really inspired. I believe that with your dream if you will chase it, it will happen. I am going to write another story from start to finish.”
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