MasterChef viewers were left outraged during Tuesday night’s episode when fan favourite contestant Melanie Persson, who has coeliac disease, was tasked with cooking a pastry dish in an elimination challenge.
The PhD student ended up being sent home after serving the judges the least impressive version of Josh Niland’s Tuna Wellington, which she couldn’t try herself because of the gluten.
Taking to Twitter after Melanie’s elimination, fans said they were “disheartened” that she had a handicap in the pressure test.
“It seems really unfair that Melanie has to make something that she can't taste,” one person wrote, while another added, “Poor Melanie is at a huge disadvantage”.
“I think Mel should be allowed to make gluten-free versions of the crêpe and pastry,” someone else suggested, followed by a fourth who tweeted, “Gluten-intolerant Mel should be allowed another gluten-tolerant contestant to taste for her and answer questions”.
Speaking with Yahoo Lifestyle about the incident, Mel admits she knew coming into the competition that something like this would happen, but she was “mentally prepared for it”.
“Obviously there were elements on the dish that I couldn't taste and that was, I guess, a disadvantage, but I didn't expect the production to change pressure tests for me,” she says. “There's just no way that’s possible.
“Pressure tests are organised weeks in advance and there's no way for them to know who’s going to be competing in each one, so it’s just not feasible for them to manage with the guest chef. So it wasn’t something that was unexpected.”
‘Luck of the draw’
Melanie went on to acknowledge that a number of this season’s pressure tests so far have featured glutenous elements.
“Obviously there was a tart one, which was especially gluten-filled, and then the Polly Wants A Waffle. Alla Wolf-Tasker’s summer cucumbers with Murray cod would have been okay,” she details.
“For the other ones, even if I couldn’t taste them, they might have been more geared towards my skillset. So at the end of the day, it’s really just luck of the draw.”
She also adds that even if the gluten was taken out of the equation, a fish dish by Josh Niland was always going to be an “immense challenge” - especially because she doesn’t usually cook with fish.
“It's very easy to say, ‘Oh, I would have done better on a different one’, but there's no way of knowing because a pressure test is such an insane environment and anything unexpected can happen at any point.”
‘Stressful and exhausting’
Despite leaving the competition earlier than she had hoped, Melanie describes her MasterChef experience as “extremely positive”.
“The actual process is very long and the filming days are stressful and exhausting, but we all become very close from spending so much time together,” she says.
“I feel like I’ve learned a lot about myself and my cooking, and everything I wanted going into the show I have achieved, so I'm very happy about that.”
Now, Melanie has shifted her focus to writing a gluten-free cookbook after recently signing her first publishing contract.
“I’m currently working on pulling all the recipes together, and it’s probably not due to be released until early next year,” she details.
“So there’s still a little while to go, but I'm really excited to put what is a lot of years of experimenting and hard work onto the page to share with this community that’s come out from me being on MasterChef, which is really amazing.”
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