The 56-year-old Qantas flight attendant blames a “brain meltdown” for her decision to gamble her future in the cooking show on a single round in a three-round elimination cook-off.
Given one snapper and warned it may need to stretch to three meals, Cleave decided to cook the entire fish in the first round in what she called “a moment of clarity – or insanity”.
“I thought ‘My God this would be outrageous if I pulled this off, it would be amazing, it would be phenomenal’ and all of a sudden I just thought: ‘I’m going to do it’,” she said.
Cleave ignored the judges’ warnings that she would have to put up a top-five dish in round one to secure her safety, or be left with nothing to cook.
Cleave said MasterChef judge Gary Mehigan’s “eyeballs came out on springs” when she dumped the whole fish in the wok.
“Obviously Gary was thinking: ‘This is suicide’ and he really did try to stop me,” she said.
But the kamikaze gambit came back to bite the amateur cook.
Cleave was automatically eliminated in an awkward judging moment when she was told the dish was not good enough to break into the top five, leaving her with nothing to cook.