At age 19, Jess Liemantara, also known as Jess Lemon, was the youngest contestant on Season 10 of Masterchef Australia, on Season 12, and this year, on MasterChef: Dessert Masters. That hasn’t stopped her from constantly impressing the judges, pushing the boundaries of what people think she’s capable of, and what she thinks she can do. Last night’s grand finale is proof there is no stopping Liemantara.
In her first service challenge, Liemantara faced some challenges, like when her chiboust texture wasn’t quite right, and when she forgot some elements on Amaury’s plate. Not to mention, for her second course, she recreated her ‘Pink Petal’ dish from Season 12, making an ambitious 50 petals for each dessert (850 total). Eventually, she scaled back to 20 petals and meticulously put together a beautiful dish, but the extra time in the blast freezer put the textures at risk.
Still, Liemantara walked away with a score of 27/40, which was only one point behind fellow MasterChef alumnus Reynold Poernomo, who scored 28/40. Gareth Whitton, the crowned Dessert Master, won the season with an impressive 35/40 from the judges.
“Doing a service challenge alone was a daunting task,” she tells The Latch over the phone. Still, she describes the experience as “gruesome, yet ultimately rewarding.”
Jess Liemantara on her MasterChef: Dessert Masters Journey
For Liemantara, joining Dessert Masters was a deliberate choice to focus solely on desserts. Having missed out on previous opportunities that involved both savoury and sweet dishes, she saw this as a chance to hone in on her strength in the world of sweets. The decision has become a turning point in her career, providing clarity in her identity as a pastry chef.
“I didn’t understand what I specialised in yet,” she says of her time before Dessert Masters. “For a long time, it was tarts, and now I feel like I’ve suddenly found this route of plated desserts.
“Maybe there are some options for doing a dessert station,” she says of her future. “It’s quite an open book at the moment.”
Jess’s love for pastry traces back to her childhood, where cooking with her grandmother and aunt sparked her passion. “My grandma used to make gingerbread cookies with me, and it was always really exciting,” she says.
Liemantara views pastry as a blend of art and science, recalling the excitement of watching ingredients transform, akin to a scientific experiment.
“Baking was like science to me as a kid,” she adds.
In a competition of legends, Liemantara expresses her awe of having a renowned pastry chef, like Amaury Guichon, judging her food.
“He’s just so kind and wants to help us improve, so it has been incredible to have him on board,” she says.
Jess Liemantara Reveals What’s Next for Her
Looking ahead, Jess talks about her plans to build up her sole trader business again, focusing on e-commerce. She’s also hoping to pursue macaron production for bulk manufacturing in cafes.
As she continues to shape her culinary path, Jess leaves a sweet impression on both the judges and viewers, showcasing the limitless possibilities within the world of pastry — regardless of age.
While MasterChef: Dessert Masters may be over for 2023, the good news is that it will be back in 2024. Network Ten confirmed the show’s renewal at its upfronts in October.
Until then, you can relive the sugar rush with all episodes of MasterChef: Dessert Masters streaming now on 10 Play.
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