IN a shock upset, Valerie and Courtney Ferdinands have beaten Tim Attiwill and Kyle McLean to make the My Kitchen Rules Grand Final.
In an all-Queensland face-off, the mother and daughter team will take on Amy and Tyson Murr in the Channel 7 cooking show.
Attiwill and McLean had been favourites to make the Grand Final but their finals-run has been a rollercoaster of hits and misses.
Tonight guest judge Liz Egan summed up Attiwill and McLean's cooking in the semi-final as "flashes of brilliance but not enough" - which pretty much describes their past fortnight.
Conversely, the Ferdinands came good at the right time. They kept stepping it up as the competition reached the pointy end.
The Ferdinands scored 50 out of 60 for their three course meal which started with an entree of peppered chicken livers with fennel and tomato chutney. The Anglo-Indian theme continued with a main of oxtail stew with picked onion mash and eggplant kasundi (chutney) and dessert of cardamom dumplings with saffron crème Anglaise.
Meat masters Attiwill and McLean scored 46 out of 60 for their three-course menu which surprisingly didn't feature any beef.
Instead, the South Australian mates went for an entree of scallops with celeriac puree and pancetta, a main of confit duck with coffee pumpkin puree, and a brownie dessert with chocolate stout mousse and coffee syrup.
The most contentious issue of the night was whether Attiwill and McLean's decision to sprinkle store-bought broken pretzels over their dessert was a no-no. The judges were split with Egan taking particular offence.
Attiwill and McLean were criticised by judges Pete Evans, Manu Feildel, Karen Martini, Guy Grossi, Colin Fassnidge and Egan from the start.
The mates' entree featured three small scallops and that wasn't enough.
"They've done a magnificent job of seasoning the dish but where they let me down is the presentation," Martini said. "It needed to have more of a sense of generosity on the plate."
"It's not enough," Evans agreed.
The Ferdinands' entree was a far bigger hit.
"What an experience," Grossi enthused. "It is fairytale Indian food. The livers are perfectly cooked."
"This team really understands flavours - I'm very impressed," Fassnidge said.
But Attiwill and McLean gained ground with their duck main.
"It is a very enjoyable main course and I'm glad to see they've stepped it up," Evans said.
"I think we're dealing with people who know how to put together flavours without anything overpowering anything else," Grossi said.
Martini and Grossi loved the Ferdinands' oxtail but Fassnidge wasn't a fan.
"I'm a bit two ways on this one," he said. "There is a lot of cinnamon and cardoman in there and it gives you a slap in the face."
The Murrs also got to taste rivals' dishes and preferred Attiwill and McLean's main. Teams were locked going into the dessert round.
Attiwill and McLean knew that putting stout into their mousse was a risk and it split the judges. Fassnidge thought the stout was too bitter. Martini said the dessert featured mature flavours and she enjoyed it.
But it was the pretzels that sent Egan into a fury.
"In the semi-final if they're fighting to be in the competition, surely they can do better than getting a packet out and crumbling them on," Egan said. "Why not make some sort of biscuit or praline - do something yourself."
Martini disagreed, saying. "The pretzel thing at the moment is a bit hip. It's a bit in. You're finding them on all kinds of desserts."
Grossi sided with Egan. Fassnidge and Feildel didn't think the pretzels were a deal breaker.
The judges disagreed again when it came to the Ferdinands' dessert. Martini loved it even though the Anglaise was a little runny. But Fassnidge said the Anglaise was too sweet and "it throws the whole dish out for me".
Grossi also felt the dessert was too sweet and rich but Egan didn't find it too sweet and said it had "just the right spice notes".
"This could go either way," Evans said after the tasting.
But in the end the Ferdinands had a comfortable win. Evans, Feildel and Grossi scored both teams eight apiece. Egan gave the Ferdinands a nine and Attiwill and McLean a seven. Martini scored nine versus eight and Fassnidge eight versus seven.
"To come this close and not go to the big dance is disappointing," McLean, who had been relishing a Grand Final cook-off against the Murrs, said.
"It is still an achievement to come third," Attiwill said. "We always knew it would be an extremely tough battle."
Attiwill quit his job to be on the show saying, "You only live once. I took an opportunity I didn't want to pass up. I can always find another job but you only get one crack at being on My Kitchen Rules."
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