Thursday, October 28, 2010

Three Chefs In Ma Kitchen (What Am I Gonna Do?)

Over two thrilling semi-final episodes on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, MasterChef: The Professionals whittled itself down to the final three contestants. In Tuesday's episode, Big Fat Cuddly Scouse Claire Lara, whose food has been near faultless throughout the entire series, beat off the challenge of talented - if a bit temperamental - Frenchman, Ben Piette in what India Fisher describes in the opening titles as 'the hunt for Britain's next culinary superstar.' The pair worked under immense pressure during a busy lunch service at the Michelin-starred Kitchin restaurant in Edinburgh under the watchful eye - and, occasionally, vicious tongue - of its proprietor, Tom Kitchin. Ben was put in charge of a starter dish of asparagus and scallops and received a bit of a grilling himself when he failed to put his ingredients onto a silver dish while preparing one of the orders. However, he was praised when he had to cook the restaurant's signature dish of three types of bone marrow, with Kitchin commenting that it was 'a fantastic effort.' Back at MasterChef HQ, Michel was concerned that Ben's fusion dish of John Dorey and cockles in a Thai-spiced sauce with lentils and spinach was too big a risk. Both judges were also impressed with his dessert course of flambéed caramelised bananas, ginger panna cotta, rum ice cream and raisin biscuit. However, the judges decided that his impressive rival had that something extra and put Claire through to the final, after tasting her glorious main dish of pan-fried mackerel, shallot purée and vegetables à la Greque. Next came something of a Clash of the Titans between Geordie John Calton who - despite having a bit of 'mare in his professional kitchen task at Martin Burge's Whatley Manor and some further timing issues when he came to cook his two dishes for Michel and Gregg - narrowly edged past the outrageously talented twenty one-year-old Alice Churchill. John's main course of grilled sea bass with citrus fruits, fennel and coriander had Michel purring whilst his pudding - warm ginger cake with rhubarb and fruit ice cream - produced an actual wink from saucy Gregg Wallace. That lad really loves his puds, so he does! John, born in South Shields, is currently the chef at the Duke of Wellington pub, in Newton. Yer Keith Telly Topping must check that one out next time I'm up in the wilds of Northumberland, it's only twenty five miles away. I hope we hear a lot more of young Alice, though, because my God if she's that good at twenty one, as scary Monica Galetti noted the other night, how good is she going to be in five years time? She slightly overdid it with her main course of beef fillet with roasted shallots, langoustines and smoked bacon sauce. It looked beautiful. But, both Gregg and Michel suggested that the langoustines which should have been the highlight of the dish, tended to get lost in the salt of the bacon sauce. Finally, the last six became the last three. Durham Dave Coulson - who, as noted earlier in the series must be one hell of a good chef as he's managed to make near-perfect dishes so far whilst, simultaneously, suffering from the most appalling nerves for much of the times - was up against the experienced Cornish chef Lee Groves. Lee, sadly, had something of a disaster during his professional kitchen test at West London's The Ledbury. He just couldn't get the new season lamb dish right and head chef Brett Graham was starting to get a bit testy. But, it wasn't over yet. 'I'm shaking like a leaf,' Dave said - not unexpectedly - as he prepared his final main course of braised pigs' cheeks and ham-wrapped pork loin with mustard mash, apple purée and a toffee apple. Both his dish and Lee's roast red mullet, plum tomatoes, olives, wild garlic and saffron impressed the judges as did Lee's second dish of lime posset with caramelised pineapple and basil cream which Gregg was especially impressed with (he described it as 'majestic'). For once Dave's presentation was faultless but his seasoning let him down somewhat with his starter of scallops with potato pancakes, shallot purée and salsa verde oil. In the end, though, it was probably the experiences in the professional kitchen that swung the decision in Dave's favour. 'That guy can cook. If Dave understand one thing it's how to make food taste big and magical. He's got it,' said Gregg at the climax. 'It's been good series for the North East' Dave, the head chef at Wynyard Golf Club in Billingham, told the Journal. 'John and I have been flying the flag for chefs in the region.' Good on yerself, Davie. Now, stop shaking and go and win the bloody thing!

Eliza Dushku has dismissed rumours that she will play comic hero Wonder Woman in an upcoming television adaptation. It was previously reported that Boston Legal creator David E Kelley is developing a new series based around the character. Dusku joked to UGO: 'Someone is going to have to pick between me, Megan Fox and Beyoncé. Those are, I think, the three names that always circulate with the Wonder Woman rumour.' However, the former Dollhouse and Buffy the Vampire Slayer star hinted that she would be following the new project's development. She said: 'I think once somebody gets a clearer vision of the Wonder Woman that they want, then maybe we'll see what happens with those rumours.'

Charlie Brooks has revealed hints of what fans can expect from a forthcoming EastEnders plot which sees her character, Janine, facing what the press release describes as 'serious danger' on a level crossing. What other sort of danger one might expect to face on a level crossing, if it isn't serious, they don't speculate. Which is probably just as well. In Friday's episode of the BBC soap, Janine will stop Ricky's car on the hazardous spot as she drives away from Walford with her husband, Ryan, and his baby daughter Lily as passengers. While stationary on the level crossing, Janine gives Ryan an ultimatum over their relationship, asking whether he wants to be with her or Lily's mother, Stacey Slater. However, the situation soon becomes a full-blown crisis when the barriers come down and Janine finds herself unable to start the car. Speaking to Soaplife about Janine's extreme actions, Brooks explained: 'It's her way of making a statement, of showing Ryan how let down she feels. She was scared of falling in love and what we see coming out is how dangerous Janine can be when her heart is broken. But when the car stalls with the train hurtling towards them, she's as scared as he is.' The actress added: 'She thought if she took baby Lily and Ryan away from the Square, it would mean Stacey couldn't get between them anymore. She was acting out of desperation.' Fans will discover whether Janine, Ryan and Lily survive the train danger in next Monday's episode.

The BBC has denied tabloid rumours that it has cancelled 101 Ways To Leave A Gameshow. The series, which is hosted by Steve Jones, sees unsuccessful contestants eliminated from the competition in a variety of different ways. Yesterday, reports claimed that the BBC had axed the programme because executives were unhappy with the ratings. However, a BBC spokesperson has told the Digital Spy website that the future of the show has not yet been decided.

Jerry Springer has suggested that his controversial talk show has changed the way people interact on television. Which is probably true although not, necessarily, for the better, it should be noted. Speaking to the Associated Press, the host insisted that the unpredictability of his series has been responsible for chat show guests speaking more honestly and openly about conflicts and biases. 'The culture of television changed,' he said. 'The world didn't change. There's nothing that's ever been on any of our shows that a grown-up didn't know existed.' He continued: 'There's nothing shocking in the show. What was shocking was that we had never seen it on television before.' Springer offered no apologies for the often contentious nature of his show and has no intention of toning down its graphic nature. He concluded: 'I'm hired to do a show about crazy, so I can't then say, "I don't want to do crazy." I know if I go to work I see crazy. If I go home, hopefully I don't see crazy.' Yer Keith Telly Topping is, once again, reminded of that marvellous moment in the outstanding West Wing episode He Shall, From Time To Time when President Bartlet has been in bed for the day with, he claims, a touch of 'flu. 'You know, I was watching a television programme before with a sort of a roving moderator who spoke to a seated panel of young women who are having some sort of problems with their boyfriends. Apparently, because the boyfriends have all slept with the girlfriend's mothers. Then they brought all the boyfriends out and they fought right there on television. Toby, tell me, these people don't vote, do they?' Art imitates life, imitating art. Theoretical McLuhanism in action, dear blog reader. As TS Eliot so wisely noted: 'We had the experience but missed the meaning.'

James Bond's specially modified supercar driven in Goldfinger and Thunderball is set to go under-the-hammer. The silver Aston Martin DB5 coupe - nice motor! - will be auctioned this week at the RM Auctions Automobiles of London event. Auctioneers expect the car to fetch around three and a half million pounds. The standard version was released in 1963 and had a top speed of one hundred and forty five mph. Or, one hundred and forty six if The Stig was driving it to get away from Jezza giving him GBH of the earhole. But double oh seven's version - Ha! Ha! De Killa! - sported special equipment, including bulletproof shields and retractable machine guns. It was closely associated with the Sean Connery era in the movie franchise. The car only had one private owner before going up for auction and has thirty thousand miles on the clock. Jerry Lee said that he bought it from Aston Martin directly and has kept the vehicle in his 'James Bond room' for the past four decades. 'I drove it for two blocks in London. I think it's a work of art. It's just pure beauty,' Lee said.

It's been something of a momentous week for Aleksandr the Meerkat. First, the fictional mammal released his autobiography; and now 'simples!' - his catchphrase from the comparethemarket.com adverts - has made it into the Collins English Dictionary. A host of Twitter-related words have also been added, reflecting the rise and rise of the micro-blogging site. As well as 'retweet,' there is 'tweet-out,' a greeting sent to one's friends via Twitter, and 'tweetheart,' a person who uses Twitter who is much loved or admired by other users.' Tragically, 'twat' meaning the sort of person who uses the damn thing on a regular basis hasn't yet made it. Also having its dictionary debut is 'hashtag,' a word or phrase preceded by a hash symbol, often used to identify the topic under discussion. This year's political upheaval is also reflected in the new book, with Con-Dem, Con-Lib and Lib-Con all making the cut. One that already sounds anachronistic is Cleggmania, alongside its cousin its cousin, Cleggstasy, both of which only seem to be referred to in the past tense in common parlance these days. Because, nobody likes the Deputy Prime Minister it would seem. Least of all, his own party. One of Gordon Brown's darker days is marked with the inclusion of 'bigotgate,' describing the former Prime Minister's encounter with a disillusioned Labour supporter in Rochdale in April. His successor, David Cameron, contributes 'broken society' – described by Collins as 'a perceived or apparent general decline in moral values.' On a similar theme, 'ghost estate' refers to a housing estate built during an economic boom but unfinished or unoccupied during a recession. In technology, Apple's iPad made a sufficient impact to be included in this year's dictionary. And in sport and leisure, the dance-fitness programme Zumba also made the grade. The Glasgow-based dictionary compilers identified the new inclusions using a two-and-a-half billion-word database.

And finally for number two in yer Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, here's The Clash.Or, if you prefer, here they are again - looking about as singularly cool as it's possible to - at Christmas 1978 at the Camden Music Machine, from the film Rude Boy. And, with the bonus of 'Safe European Home' into the bargain. This is Joe Public speaking. 'They said, we'd be artistically free/but it's just a bit of paper.' Damn straight.

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