Larissa is MasterChef’s youngest winner
Larissa Takchi has been crowned MasterChef's winner for 2019 and praised the "amazing" judges as excellent mentors hours before they walked out.
Despite news breaking on Tuesday afternoon that all three of the show's judges would not be returning next year, the prerecorded MasterChef finale was all about finalists Larissa, Simon Toohey and Tessa Boersma facing off in one of the show's toughest final tests.
At 22, Larissa is MasterChef's youngest ever winner and had seemed an unlikely contender for the top spot because of her age.
But she had managed to wow judges with her unique combination of ingredients throughout the season and took home a cool $250,000 in grand finale prize money.
The restaurant manager plans to put the prize money to good use by starting a paddock to plate farm and restaurant in Sydney's northwest - but for now she's just happy to be able to share the good news with people.
"It's been ridiculously hard, I've got a huge family, my family it is so big and everyone is just hassling me (asking), 'who won, who won,'" Larissa told news.com.au.
"I had to sort of make up a story that we don't know, or they recorded many endings and we're going to view the ending that wins on the night of the grand finale. It's been really tough to keep that in."
Speaking before news broke that George Calombaris, Matt Preston and Gary Meghigan wouldn't be returning to MasterChef, Larissa praised the judges.
"The judges are amazing on the show, they make the show, they made me the person I am today - without them three on the show, not just George, but Gary and Matt," she said, praising George as an "absolutely amazing" mentor.
With desserts her strong suit throughout this season it was no surprise that Larissa's sweet tooth secured her first place - but there were still plenty of bumps along the way.
The top three were given an epic last challenge, tasked with preparing a three course meal for 20 people.
Each course would be given a score out of 10 by each of the judges, meaning if they stuffed up just one it would probably cost them first place - the stakes couldn't have been higher.
Larissa decided on a roast bone marrow with onion soubise for the entree, a main of marron with a fennel puree and a Sichuan pavlova with a beetroot and blackberry sorbet.
After the entree was served it became clear the competition was going to be between Larissa and Tessa, with both women tying with a score of 27 while Simon got a total of 22.
Tessa matched Larissa in the taste stakes with her choice of dishes, with the criminal statistician serving up a marron and bisque with caviar for the entree, a wagyu fillet with bone marrow sauce, celeriac and onions for main, and lemon meringue with rosemary and ginger for dessert.
The 27-year-old vowed to "play it safe" and cook with ingredients she knew well, quietly confident it would ensure she take out the top prize.
As they prepared their mains, Larissa was forced to make a last minute adjustment after mentor Shannon Bennett warned her it wouldn't be substantial enough.
She beefed up her main with a deep fried cavolo nero (kale, it's kale) and it paid off, with Matt and Gary giving her a nine each and George a 10 for the dish - leaving her just one point ahead of Tessa.
"That is just rock and roll," George said after polishing off Larissa's main. "She's 22, cooking food like this."
Knowing a bad dessert could dash her chances of winning, Larissa's hopes were momentarily derailed when her pavlovas collapsed and she discovered her sorbet had frozen solid.
I'm paralysed … I feel like I'm unravelling," Larissa said as she panicked over the dessert disaster.
"I've done everything I can to make it to this final moment but my dessert elements aren't all there."
Maintaining her composure, Larissa made a snap decision to flip her pavlovas over and serve the sorbet on top, which she managed to soften by running under hot water.
Despite having problems putting the dessert together the judges had no idea and praised her final course.
"It's brain-frazzling good food," Matt said.
With her dessert a hit Larissa was bumped to the top of the leaderboard with a score of 85/90 while Tessa finished in second place with 77/90 and Simon scored 65/90.
'THE JUDGES MAKE THE SHOW'
With the finale filmed months in advance, there was no hints of judges George, Matt and Gary's departure in Tuesday night's grand finale.
Just hours before episode aired Ten had dropped the bombshell that all three judges wouldn't be returning next year after contract negotiations broke down.
Ten had also been under pressure to drop George after it was found he had underpaid staff working for his Melbourne restaurant empire more than $7.8 million.
News.com.au spoke to Larissa on Tuesday morning before Ten announced their departure, and when asked whether George should continue on MasterChef she praised all three judges.
"The judges are amazing on the show, they make the show they made me the person I am today - without them three on the show, not just George, but Gary and Matt," she said.
They are such good mentors for the show. Coming onto the show prior I wasn't sure of how much they were invested - I thought maybe they might be the face of MasterChef - but actually working with them everyday you see how passionate they are about it. They want to help you, they want to watch you grow."
Larissa also praised George as an "absolutely amazing" mentor.
"I think without George it won't be the same," she said. "As for that other situation (with the wages) I can't comment on that, but as a judge George is absolutely amazing, I don't regret ever meeting him or him being a judge. He's honestly made the show, as well as Gary and Matt.
'THE FAVOURITISM HAS BEEN EXHAUSTING'
Fan reaction to the MasterChef finale was always going to be split when Larissa was crowned the winner over Tessa, with fans accusing the judges of "favouritism" in picking the young amateur chef.
Other viewers took to Twitter to complain that Larissa had received plenty of advice during the finale challenge - including being told to adjust her main by Shannon.
Shock and awe at the winner. Never could've guessed she would take top prize the way the judges constantly gushed about her all season 😒#MasterChefAU— Lauryn D'Arcy (@Lauryn_DArcy) July 23, 2019
Should have been a blind tasting, the favouritism has been exhausting #MasterChefAU— Sentimenal Moon (@moodymoon99) July 23, 2019
Hmmm, I feel like that all just played into the whole “youngest winner ever” narrative a bit too much #MasterChefAU— Rachel (@rachelpras) July 23, 2019
Haha seeing how many people saying it's rigged... because of course they can taste the food. A 22 year old just achieved something that surpasses anything you'll ever achieve #MasterChefAU— J.I. (@BluesLaGoons) July 23, 2019
Don’t get me wrong, I have wanted Larissa to win #MasterChefAU since the beginning but anything less than blind tastings to determine the winner is unjust— Jai Aspinall ⚫️⚪️ (@ProtoType_47) July 23, 2019
Take a shot every time someone helps Larissa fix something that would cost her the competition #masterchefau— James ogrady (@ogradyjames111) July 23, 2019
Why is Shannon giving Larissa so much elementary advice, ie cook more food? If she can’t work out basic shit like that, then a #MasterChefAU she ain’t.— Clifton Hill cat (@CliftonHcat) July 23, 2019
Larissa messes up, advice available immediately. I mean wtf! #MasterChefAU— Faisal CFC (@BeardedFaisal) July 23, 2019
Congrats Larissa a very deserving winner, you all are! I love that this show is about positivity and bulding people up more shows like #MasterChefAU will make the world a better place 😃❤️— Rosie (@RBFYouTube) July 23, 2019
Despite being the youngest MasterChef winner Larissa isn't a newbie when it comes to the restaurant business.
Prior to appearing on MasterChef she worked as the manager of Wild Pear Cafe, a popular foodie spot located in the Sydney suburb of Dural and owned by her mother.
Larissa said while she had been working in her mum's cafe she had "nothing to do with the cooking side of things".
"I was very much the front of house part of restaurant. So my job was dealing with customers, dealing with staff, dealing with having to order things in for front of house," she told news.com.au.
"I think people might make that assumption that I would have that experience, but to be honest I have no connection with the food. I was only serving it to customers, that's as far as I get with the food connection."