Thursday, January 19, 2012

MasterChef: If You Can't Stand The Heat, Get Out of The Kitchen

The third episode of 2012's MasterChef opened with the BBC continuity announcer asking the audience if they were 'hungry for more.' Ya geddit? Yeah. Anyway, we soon learned that there were, indeed (as speculated the night before), only three places open for Thursday's eight contestants due that that bit of rule bending back in episode one. As they prepared for the invention test the camera lingered, lovingly, on a long shot of John Torode in jeans with turn-ups. Style. For God's sake, man, you own two of London's best restaurants, you can do better than that, surely?
First up was Steve Diggle-out-of-the-Buzzcocks lookalike Andrew, who had a very brave choice of shirt (there's not many men that can pull off pink). His dish of roast pigeon with a breaded cauliflower sauce, sweet fig and blackberry sauce and mushroom duxelle got the show off to a cracking start. The dish, John said, 'makes my head spin. In a really good way.' Is there a bad way, one wonders? Well, yeah, The Exorcist, I suppose. So, the dish was either wonderful or yer man Torode had been possessed by the devil, one or the other. 'I love it,' said Gregg just to confirm that John's head-turning experience was probably the former (although, we'll keep an eye on him in future episodes and have the holy water handy just in case). It was, both judges later declared, 'the dish of the day.' Good start. Next up was Bethan who said there was 'no point in playing safe' and went for a lemon and white chocolate meringue tart ('Would you like a cake or a meringue?' 'No you're right, I'll have a cake...') with raspberry coulis and a white chocolate sauce. Unfortunately, by not playing safe, she produced a dish that 'didn't quite work' with soggy undercooked pastry that, ultimately, cost her a place in the next round. Might've been better if you had played safe, Beth. Next up was big hard tattooed security man Jay who looked like the kind of chap that'd be more at home in the middle of a riot than in a kitchen. Just shows, I guess, that looks can be deceptive as Jay produced another of the dishes of the day, a gorgeous-looking pan fried sea bream with clams, sweet potato stack and garlic sauce. John really loved it, Gregg called it 'proper grown-up food' and, as Jay left the room John noted that if good food was supposed to put a smile on the face, Jay had certainly delivered a sodding great beam on his own. Sai chose to ignore her Thai background and cook an English-style dish, pork with rosemary and thyme, wild mushrooms and potato dauphinoise. There were 'texture issues' according to Gregg and John noted that it 'doesn't make my heart jump out of my chest.' But, what really seemed to cost Sai was when the judges asked her why she'd gone for something so alien to her, she seemed stumped for an answer and muttered something about 'falling back on tradition.' Like Bethan, she was eliminated.
Lee missed his calling. On the last series of MasterChef with its X-Factor riffs, his sob story about having recently lost both his job and his girlfriend would've probably seen him reach the semi-final on that score alone. Sadly, this year, they appear to be looking for cooks first and foremost and good back-stories second. Although, to be fair to the lad, his dish of pan fried sea bream, potato and chives with a chorizo dressing had the judges talking about him. For all the wrong reasons, admittedly. His decision to include orange in the dish was the major flaw, according to John who described it was 'not my cup of tea.' Or, perhaps he should have said, not his glass of orange juice. Nevertheless, Lee showed enough promise to earn another chance. As did Margaret who, in best Miriam Reilly-style, said that she was doin' it for the more mature ladies and cooked a stuffed chicken breast with a tomato and red pepper sauce and butter beans. It was fine, if a bit dry. Also into the next round were Jonathan (ballotine of chicken and bacon with lentils and a mushroom sauce - 'tastes good, doesn't look right' said Gregg) and Enormous Ian who was tonight's contestant to bang on, constantly, about 'living the dream.' His dish of sole with clam and pancetta with new potatoes, spinach and a parsley butter sauce was said to have good flavour combinations and was only let down by a few little details (not peeling the spuds very well, for example). So, six were through and they all went off to a couple of professional kitchens (Port Desin and The Swan at the Globe) where only really Margaret had a proper nightmare and most of them seemed to quite enjoy the experience. Again, as mentioned after Wednesday's blog, having the professional kitchen section this early in the competition really hasn't worked this year. It's been the grit in a very tasty sandwich in each of the three episodes. On Thursday, I got so bored with it, I flicked over to Mad Dogs for five minutes. Back at MasterChef HQ meanwhile Gregg was further torturing the language with his statement that 'what will not make it through is safe.' I'm not even sure that actually qualifies as English. Again, the two stand-out plates, by miles, were Andrew and Jay. The former's stuffed saddle of rabbit with late summer vegetables, polenta cakes, butternut squash purée and leek fondue overpowerd pretty much everything else. John said that this made him sad and he did a little (John Simms' Master-style) 'sad face' to prove it. Andrew was philosophical and said that if one small error was what stopped him going through, it would be a shame but he could live with it. He didn't have to. He was through. So was Jay whose pan fried goosnargh duck breast with celeriac purée, baby carrots and crispy shallots and a red wine and current jeux was 'without fault' (Gregg). 'It works' said John, seemingly as surprised as Jay himself was. 'Maybe I've got a chance,' Jay said, when interviewed. 'Who knows?' He paused. 'Well, them two, obviously!' Very good!
Margaret needed something special to acquire a MasterChef apron and couldn't quite pull it off despite producing a very nice looking plum and frangipane tart with rose flavoured ice cream and plum syrup. When she told him what she was making Gregg declared 'right now, I'm in love with her!' Sadly, as Margaret herself acknowledged she'd played a little safe and, in the end, as John said, that slight lack of ambition came through in her dish. Margaret herself was very gracious, unlike several unsuccessful contestants this year, saying that she'd probably just about found her level and that to go any further might've been pushing it somewhat. Also finding his level was Ian who, unlike Margaret went down in flames through over, rather than under ambition. Ian really went for it, preparing a lobster salad with tempura squid, basil and cantaloupe caviar and watermelon. John thought that dish, in concept, sounded like 'the fishmonger's crashed into the fruit and veg stall.' The dish was 'daring' both judges said but, one felt that was a little bit like those politicians who use the word 'brave' to describe the actions of a colleague when they actually mean 'reckless.' 'Not quite balanced properly,' noted Gregg. So, Ian was also out. The final place in the twelve was thus between Jonathan and Lee. The former felt he had 'dodged a bullet' in the previous round although that felt harsh as he'd clearly been one of the better cooks on display. He showed amazing bravery (and, in this case, whilst it does mean reckless it also means, actually, brave) with Pigeon-en-croute with confit pigeon leg, celeriac purée and fondant potato. He also became the first ever contestant in amateur MasterChef history to make his own puff pastry. And he pulled it off. And then spoiled it by undercooking his potato. As he sat, miserably, in the waiting room the viewer could see him, metaphorically, kicking himself at such a 'schoolboy error.' He is 'a class act' John suggested, 'but he made a silly mistake.' And then there was Lee whose pan roasted venison with sweet and sour red onion and a chocolate and stout sauce was the final dish. 'And, not an orange in sight,' said Gregg, happily. The dish was good. It was very good. But, said John, the onion was 'too powerful for the venison.' 'I don't want to go home.' said Lee. But, home he went. Interviewed afterwards, Lee was still being positive. 'I don't think this is the end,' he said. But, it was.
Twelve finalists will now start their battle for the MasterChef title next week, and they'll do so by cooking for the previous winners - Tim The Mad professor, lovely Dhruv, Mat, Thomasina, Big Fat Cuddly Claire, Aussie Ash the lot of them. Tough gig! And, hopefully, brilliant television.


Anonymous said...

I think Afsaneh was brilliant on Master chief. the show is amazing, great TV.

Anonymous said...

Disappointed that the person who turned down the oven on the chocolate brownies wasn't dealt with as a cheat and saboteur of the show.
Tom should have been disqualified for this act!

sara said...

I cannot abide Aki and have to leave the room when she is on screen. Win with talent, not because you make big cow eyes at the presenters. Eamon and Andrew have real talent and should be congratulated.Come on buys, don't let me down!

Anonymous said...

except if she had the temperature wrong herself , because , i am sorry to say , she is such a weirdo ! she is all over the place , always messy and she has a very nasty bone which starts showing !!
but I love the show .. only problem is using so many so expessive ingredients is a bit of " in your face " when so many people have to watch their purse .. I would love to see a challenge where they have to od a main and a pudding with a fiver !!! lol

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said .. I love Jay natural guy,with natural cooking talent,does not seem to act for a reality show,really hope he wins my real favourite! I agree with sara about Aki, dont think she can cook either only japanese food,her last debut was a disaster.Wish Masterchef was shown more frequently on TV,so much better than all the other constant reality shows which are very boring.

Peter said...

Have to agree with Anonymous. Aki may be weird, but to turn down the oven and then laugh that he has been doing it all week is disgraceful. All the 'judges' can then do is critisise her. Three times she had to change her choice because everyone else pinched all the ingrediants and then she is sabotaged as well. Think some people should open their eyes because she still never gave up.

George said...

Peter has it spot on, after the first week Aki has been the target.

A subtle move not to boot her out immediately and yes she was never going to win especially with the agenda of fat boy Wallace.
However, still pretty disgraceful the way one nasty bloke can get away with the underhand tricks without censure.

Just a shame the other gutless contestants said and did nothing.

Anonymous said...

I think Aki was good I like her very much only coz she always have smile on her face

Anonymous said...

I think Aki does have talent, however it is very limited talent. She is great at Japenese food but struggles to do much more than that. I actually think they have the right combination of people in the top 5 positions.

I think Andrew's great, but I do hope Jay wins.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was Shelina who turned Aki's oven down due to the smug look on her face. Anyway, Aki had to leave due to only being able to cook Japanese food and not being able to create any other dishes as well as Japanese, didn't she? Well, I hate to point the finger at Shelina again, but what else does she do BUT Mauritian 'street food'? Can't John and Greg see this, she even fools the guest judges 'cos they like a bit of spice. She needs to leave next, if she wins it will be an absolute travesty. (Unless she CAN cook western & other foods as well and does it soon, THEN I might forgive her). Rant over.

N Newton said...

How much do you want to bet another privately educated candidate wins Masterchef. Look throught the list of previous winners, especially the second version, and the majority are independently educated - and/or - from distinctly middle-class backgrounds.
Why? You need money to learn how to cook with the kinds of ingredients used in the later stages. It takes previous experience of eating in good restraunts to acquire the tacit knowledge needed to present and season appropriately.
The class bias here in disgraceful and I cannot understand why the BBC hasn't been challeneged by it.

Graham T said...

Another brilliant series and fantastic Final, Shelina certainly was a worthy winner. Tom and Andrew have shown that they to could have been the winners, alli in all three great chef's who will go on to greater things, well done to all the contestants.

Anonymous said...

I really was dissapointed at the result, it was obvious for at least 3 programmes that Shelina would be the winner, but she had such alimted reportoire, consisting of curry and mango for dessert, I really think Andrew deserved it more for just trying to be innoventive. just IMHO.

Anthony said...

I can't help get the feeling that the Masterchef final has left a bad taste in my mouth. I applaud the three finalists but it was obvious who the winner was going to be. The comments in the final judging seemed to pick fault in order to leave Shelina the winner. The other chefs at least tried to produce a variety of food an not serve up the same old mango this mango that of the eventual winner. I'm not saying the food was not good and the task of picking a winner from these three was tricky. Anthony W

Unknown said...

really really disappointed with the result it has been obvious for weeks that shelina has been the chosen one
yet her menu for the final was
pub grub since when has mutton curry been fine dining mango used in 2 dishes and she herself admitted she had kept these recipes back for the final so its obvious she has learnt nothing
both tom and Andrew used what they learned in there visits and both produced fine dining menus and presentation
both the judges should be ashamed of themselves they picked fault with both the guys menus just to leave the door open for shelina
i wonder if a real chef like Michelle roux jnr. would have chosen her i very much doubt it
i have been a fan for years but this has left a bad bad taste i could go on about the inequalities
shown throughout the series but i will just vote with my remote next series i will watch professorial master chef as the detail is in the name sorry John but you are a washout

Anonymous said...

Totally agree! Shelina never seemed to pull out all the stops whilst Andrew and Tom grafted consistantly, experimented with new things and put into practise all they had learnt. Surely those are the kind of attributes a true masterchef should have. Not just putting mauritian food out in a fancy way every week! Clearly she was the favourite from the beginning. Surely it would be better if independent judges were used on the final cook-off!