Tuesday, January 24, 2012

MasterChef: Tonight, Matthew, It's Not Really Black Forest Gateaux, Is it?

The MasterChef final twelve contestants were challenged to cook for the show's former champions and some of last year's finalists on the latest episode of the popular BBC cookery show, one of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's great guilty TV secrets. Not that it's actually a secret of course, dear blog reader. I mean, I write about it on here often enough. John Torode and Gregg Wallace's amateur hopefuls were tasked with cooking a perfect course for the former contestants, who - they hoped - understood the top-notch standards required to become a MasterChef champion. The final twelve were revealed on last week's heats and included former Junior MasterChef contestant Emma Russell, Jay Tinker and Iranian-born Afsaneh Kaviani. Jonathan Dale, Tom Rennolds, Ashvy Dale, Shelina Permalloo and Matthew Frost also made the cut. Completing the line-up were Andrew Kojima, Aki Matsushima, Charlie Wethered and Eamonn Hunt who narrowly missed out on a place in last year's competition.
This was, as India Fisher huskily intoned, 'a baptism of fire' for the dozen. 'Twelve really talented amateur cooks' were competing, John Torode noted and two of them would be going home before the night was out. Torode was, as Gregg Wallace told the twelve, 'dressed for business.' The format was - as in previous years - quite straight-forward, collect together the last seven winners of MasterChef proper - including all of our old favourites, Tim The Mad Professor, Dhruv, Mat, Thomasina et al - three previous winners of MasterChef: The Profesionals - Derek, Steve and Big Cuddly Claire - and a bunch of the finalists from last year's competition including yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite The Gospel According To St James The Carpenter, Bossy-boots Jacqui, Annie and Riviera Sara - and get the final twelve to cook them some nosh.
Hopefully some nice nosh. That was the theory, anyway. Whilst Mr Wallace was busy hob-nobbing with the past winners and company, having a nice glass of wine or two and getting to eat some food, poor old John was stuck in the kitchen overseeing matters and having to work for his living. Ah, it's a damn rotten shame is it not? 'They've just got to perform,' he said. 'And, if they don't, I might lose my rag.' You wouldn't like him when he's angry, dear blog reader, trust me. So, firstly, it was lovely to see Tim again - who so lit up last year's competition. The starter dishes were given to Jonathan, Big Scouse Jay, Big Sweaty Eamonn and Aki.
Jonathan devised a gorgeous-looking mushroom ravioli with cep purée, crispy chicken skin and roast chicken breast. Looked great ... when he eventually managed to get it on the plate, that is, as he had some real timing issues. The great comedy moment of the episode was when John asked him how many raviolis he had made up to that point and he said 'two, chef.' Torode blew out his cheeks and just about managed not to have the top of his head fly off. A few minutes later, he asked the same question again: 'Still two, chef,' replied Jonathan whilst viewers were praying for him to add 'my answer hasn't changed since the last time you asked, chef!' John bellowed at him to get a bloody move on. 'Coming chef,' Jonathan replied. 'So's Christmas,' muttered yer man Torode with a look on a boat-race that suggested he'd had better days at the office.
Eventually, however, Jonathan got there and the dish went down a storm with the punters. Sara loved it. Dhruv loved it. Gregg really loved it. Mind you, Gregg loves everything! One of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourites for the competition so far, Big Scouse Jay the security man, seemed nervous at the start and suffered from a couple of cut fingers. In fact, he was so nervous he got his scallops confused with his oysters. Once he'd sorted that out, he confirmed to John that his dish was to be scallops and parma ham on pistachio parsnip cream sauce. Inevitably veggie Jacqui was still causing trouble a year after she'd left the show, asking for her scallops and ham without the ham. John asked Jay if he thought the dish would work without ham. 'Personally, I don't think so but, if that's what they want ...' he said. It's Jacqui, Jay, don't take it personally last year she managed to piss off plenty of people.
It didn't matter, the dish was one of the highlights of the day. 'That's lovely,' said Gregg with the sort of look on his mush that sharks give just before they bite someone in two. Big Eamonn's dish was oven-baked mackerel with proscuitto ham, oyster cream, rocket and breadcrumbs. Nicely thought-out and well presented. That seemed to go down well with pretty much everyone too. I must say, I like Big Jay and Big Eamonn. Proper Big blokie-blokes, with a good sense of humour each. When asked if he thought his dish might be a bit overcomplicated Big Eamonn thought for a moment and then came up with the best line of the episode: 'You don't go far in MasterChef by cooking egg and chips, do you?!' Top man!
Last on the starters was that bouncing ball of total mad energy PhD Aki whose Japanese savoury custard dish with lobster, chicken and duck-stuffed shitaki mushrooms was, also, one of the stand-out dishes of the day. As you'd expect, The Mad Professor loved it the mostest, baby. 'My kind of food!' said Tim with a beaming smile. Not only that but, today, Aki wasn't quite the bouncing ball of total mad energy that she had been in the past, leading John to, at one point, wonder if her sister had turned up by mistake. So, pretty much four-for-four there. Almost faultless, Jonathan's timing issues aside. On the main course were Charlie, Afsaneh, Tom and Shelina. There were further timing issues here for Charlie who conspired to hold everybody up with the time it took to cook his pan fried Asian sea bass, sesame asparagus with lemon baby squid and cabbage. The dish looked good and produced mostly positive comments, but Charlie got himself very disorganised which might have harmed his chances. 'I'm trying to impress you,' he told John as he attempted to excuse a madly over-cluttered work area. Lovely Afsaneh, one of the surprise packages from the previous round, again came up trumps with another fantastic looking Middle Eastern-influenced dish of poussin with dill rice, saffron and lemon jeux and Greek yoghurt. Gregg devoured it in seconds - even though she left the string on her chicken; how that got past Torode on the pass is another matter entirely! If Charlie was having a bit of a 'mare, Tom the Plasterer who'd been so impressive in the last round wasn't all that far ahead of him. His dish of pan-roasted duck breast with white truffle croquette and port sauce would've been great if he'd actually put a bit more of the port sauce on it. 'Where! Is! My! Sauce!' bellowed Wallace when presented with his plate. 'Has somebody got a jug and they're hiding it under the table?' He later described the lack of a bit more sauce as 'criminal.' I say, steady on, Gregg, it's only a plate of duck.
Shelina said that she wanted to present 'a flavour of my island (Mauritius) on a plate.' Her dish was spicy lamb with a tamarind jeux, broad beans and cumin. It almost came to pieces in her hands when she undercooked the lamb. Nor was it the best presented plate of the day and it somewhat underwhelmed some of those ordering it. 'A bit sloppy' was how Gregg described it. And so to the deserts: Ashvy made fig tart tartan with salted pine-nut praline ice cream. Parts were very good (the ice cream, in particular) but the tart itself came out slightly soggy, something noted by several of those eating it, especially Thomasina. The real horror story of the episode was about to happen, however, for poor old Matthew. The concept of his dish was fine - a deconstructed black forest gateaux ('in a cup'). But the lad seemed nervous from the off and it all went horribly wrong when his mousse didn't set and he, in John's words, 'fell apart completely.' He woefully muttered a few random words of apology: 'I can't give it to you, I really am so sorry. I've let you down.' He looked truly wretched and pathetic, like he was about to burst into tears at any second, a situation probably not helped by John noting: 'You haven't let me down ... you've let yourself down.' Well, I'm sure that made the lad feel a whole hell of a lot better, you sarky git! It was torturous to watch and you really did feel for the poor chap even though it made for twenty four carat brilliant TV drama. As Bart says to Lisa in an episode of The Simpsons when she's embarrassed Ralph Wiggum on national television: 'If you freeze the video you can actually pin-point the second when his heart rips in half!'
At this point John stepped in and helped Matthew salvage what was left of the dish and, in fact, the comments that come back about it weren't all that bad at all. But, as John would subsequently note, the only way anything ended up on the plate was because he'd taken over the dish. That, effectively, sealed Matthew's fate there and then.
Meanwhile Emma was having her own little mini-'mare. Her dish was chocolate cylinders filled with raspberry, with a beetroot and raspberry sorbet and chocolate crumbs. 'What happens if your cylinders don't work?' asked John. Emma started to stammer an answer, stopped, started again, stopped and then, finally, said 'they will work.' It sounded more in hope than expectation and she seemed less than confident. 'Her cooking can be controversial' said India in voice-over as it was noted that Emma had only just scraped through the last round. Sure enough a couple of Emma's cylinders didn't work and there was some running around like a headless chicken for a moment before, somehow, she managed to get her shit together and get the plates out on time. And they were good. Very good. The Gospel According To St James The Carpenter was all smiles at the sheer audacity of it. Annie said it was the best dish she'd tasted all day. Emma, 'controversial' or otherwise, had pulled it off, big-style.
Next up was another of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourites, Steve Diggle lookalike Andrew. 'He's half-man, half-food library' noted Gregg. Andrew promised a poached praline pear filled with chocolate sauce and cardamom, blackberry and coffee macaroons. He said it would, hopefully, be brilliant. 'Stop using the word "hopefully"' ordered John. Andrew looked a bit shaken when he discovered that one of those who'd ordered the dish had been the 2007 MasterChef winner Steve Wallis who'd actually cooked a variation of that very recipe in the final. Steve, needless to say, loved it. So did everyone else. Particularly Gregg who, as previously noted by his mate, likes nothing better than a nice juicy pear. Fnaar, fnaar. It was a little masterpiece even if its creator thought it 'looked a bit eighties!' Self criticism isn't a bad thing, Andy mate, but stop hiding your light under a Garry Bushell, you're bloody good! And that was it. The previous winners went off back to their own restaurants and John and Gregg sat down for a chinwag. 'There's been some ups, some downs and some merry-go-rounds' Gregg noted, poetically. The highlights, they both agreed had been all four starters (Jonathan looked shocked when his name was called out but, he needn't have been) plus Afsaneh, Andrew and Emma.
Matthew's goose was already well and truly cooked so it was just a case of which one of the other four was going to join him going through the exit door. In the end, Charlie can probably consider himself a shade unfortunate although his timing issues were pretty bad. So the twelve became ten. 'If you think today was tough,' Torode said, with a twinkle in his eye, 'just wait to see what come next.' What does come next, dear blog reader, is the first mass catering challenge, the one that usually sorts the men from the boys and the women from the girls. The most maddeningly entertaining cookery competition with a cult following on British telly returns tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

Most detailed, and good addition of photos. Wondering though whether the incorrect spelling of John Torode's surname was deliberate? If not, I don't get it.

cheshirecheese said...

I didn't notice the mis-spelling of Mr Torode's name, but 'jeu' means 'game' in French - I think you meant 'jus'??!! :D

Andrew Craig Williams said...

It was lovely to see Tim again. Bless 'him.

However, why is nobody pointing out the fact that vegetarian, rat-faced, annoyance Jackie ate a scallop. I was bellowing at the tv "scallops aren't vegetables Jackie, they were alive once!"
It's easy, if you're a vegetarian, you eat veg. Scallops don't grow next to cabbages.

Dunno if it will let me link, but look here: http://a7.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/404440_10151199207980655_611045654_22905250_1426679077_n.jpg

The moment she ate a dead thing.

Anonymous said...

Jay tinker is not a scouser hes from Middleton in Manchester