MasterChef The Professionals Recap: Sophie’s (Dessert) Choice

Let’s just appreciate that Monica Galetti can maintain a peroxide dye job through lockdown but Marcus Wareing couldn’t get a haircut anywhere?

It’s our first quarter final! (This show’s tournament structure has always alluded me) And on the cards this week are spicy hot takes and thankfully a development that means the likelihood of Tracey Macleod and William Sitwell being in the same room is drastically reduced!

Spice, Spice Baby

Our first invention test and the challenge for the four remaining chefs is to make a dish that showcases their talent with spices – their dish can be sweet or savoury – using any of the fish, meat or fruit and veg on offer but the challenge is to put spices at the heart of the dish.

The obvious choice is to go savoury and it shows because 3 of the 4 chefs went straight for the meats – Dave taking a pork fillet while Victor and Sammy find themselves locked into a Poussin Tussle.

Of the two poussin dishes I think it’s obvious Victor’s was much more successful but this is his wheelhouse – his use of North African spices such as saffron to poach his deep fried poussin leg and the curried spices of his lentils was extremely deft. His poussin was nearing the point of dry but I think his marinade saved the day. He also managed to significantly improve on his presentation skills from the last episode:

It’s much neater and cleaner, Marcus wasn’t a big fan but I think the only qualm for me is the puffed rice which will always just look like maggots and I wish chefs would stop with this particular trend already.
Sammy’s poussin felt like a much more European affair – its use of spice was delicate to the point of bland and didn’t quite live up to the presentation of the dish:

And to think last time he made a cardamom and dark chocolate delice which showed a much more refined and capable use of spices. I did appreciate him trying to use chaat masala – a spice we don’t really see or hear a lot about in western cuisine.

And then the last of savoury dishes is Dave’s Curried Pork Fillet and Turmeric Spiced Fondant Potato with a Chickpea Puree. Where Dave really excels is his understanding of a dish needing a variety of textures and still managing to find a way to marry every component on his dish into a cohesive whole – what I’m saying is he doesn’t just throw puffed rice on it to add crunch. I don’t really know why Marcus praised his presentation so highly and condemned Victor’s:

It’s a fine looking plate but when I look at it, I can’t really tell you what it is and I think it’s because there’s just too much of the cumin spiced kale. But also any amount of kale is too much kale.

And lastly we have Philli having a complete and utter nightmare as she starts off promising a cinnamon spiced apple tart accompanied by a chai latte ice cream – which honestly sounds like a God Tier dessert. She runs into a bit of a problem with her pastry as the butter is too warm – but come on, the bakers on Bake Off made quiches in a 30 degree tent – she could have made this damn apple tart. With less than 20 minutes to go she decides to change lane and goes ahead with a Chocolate and Cinnamon Caramel Fondant – which seems like a recipe for disaster in this situation which she realises and carries on simultaneously making the apple tart and the chocolate fondant while Marcus and Monica stand around looking incredulous and screaming at her to make a GODDAMN DECISION like it’s Sophie’s (Dessert) Choice

She finally decides to abandon the apple tart, mostly because I’m sure she realised it was going to look like a tart case filled with baby food

It’s a good thing she did because the ooze on her Chocolate Fondant is so good it’s damn near pornographic

CACKLING at the fact she made this during a challenge that Gregg is absent for. Although she’s not completely ready to part ways with her apple puree and proceeds to just put a spoon of it on the side where it sits like an awkward teen at a house party.
I do think it was a very astute decision on Philli’s part to go with a dessert – she’s made it very clear that Eats Asian cuisine is where her heart is and it would have been very easy for her to make something within that ballpark for this challenge but choosing to make a very classically Western dessert showcases her skills outside of that.

Everyone’s a Critic

If we can say Covid has done us any favours it has at least meant we can only have 2 critics on the show at any one time and this week we are joined by Jimi Famurewa and Enemy of Vegans Everywhere, Lord of Waitrose William Sitwell, whose ego is large enough to make up for the missing third critic.

This is always the most pressurised round and the one that always sets the tone for your trajectory through the competition and unfortunately that pressure just got to poor Sammy as he makes a hodge-podge of a Chilli Beef Tartare that fails to balance the beef and chilli and then only adding salt the wound he runs out of time for his main course of Pan-fried Turbot with Mussels, Samphire, Buttered Leeks and Mouclade Sauce – which is a curried mussel sauce. He fails to add most of the vegetables he promised but he at least had time to add the raw piece of grapefruit that he thought would taste great with curried a mussel sauce

I’m struggling to imagine a flavour combination more vile – that’s like a sadistic 1950’s diet gone severely off the rails.
Philli also nearly has a timing disaster – she gets her Xiangyang Lamb Tartare – the flavours being appropriated from a kebab – out on time

because it’s a tartare and is maybe one step above a tossed salad in terms of prep-work – but it at least has interesting accompaniments of a Chinese Black Vinegar and Chiu Chow Dressing and some crispy shallots – which only really fuels the fire to eliminate Sammy for his inability to make beef tartare and onion rings work.
But the amount of work her Korean Fried Chicken and Kimchi Fried Rice sets her back a little bit – moreso the fact she needed to cook her Kombu Flavour Chicken for a minute longer as it was still clucking

Personally I think she should have just done more of the Korean Fried Chicken Nuggets and foregone the slice of breast – it just doesn’t look like it belongs on the same plate – and then served her, slightly lacking, Kimchi Rice in a way that didn’t look like a bowl of potpourri in your grandmother’s toilet

but everyone raves about the chicken nuggets – particularly the “audible crunch” – which is the title of my favourite The Fall album.

The other end of the spectrum just gliding through like a swan is Dave who just knocks out two incredibly looking dishes, the first being a lobster tail sous vide in goose fat and served with a tarragon oil and (sceptically) a burnt apple:

It’s entering that pretentious territory that feels like the sort of food only critics enjoy – or maybe it’s just because I’m willing to die on the hill for the only acceptable fruits to pair with seafood are lemons and limes and I will not be taking suggestions or questions at this time. And maybe I’ve also watched too many forensice crime dramas to ever truly enjoy a meal that requires you to squeeze a pipette of liquid over something like you’re testing for blood. Both Marcus and Monica as well as the 2 critics rave about it and deem it Dish of the Day.
His main of Beef cooked in Bone Marrow with Mashed Potato sounds deceptively simple and then he decided to add a red wine and snail sauce to the equation

I’m not one to speak on snails because the only time I ever tried them was Café Rouge where they had obviously been microwaved and were still partially frozen – it was like eating somebody else’s chewing gum in a blizzard. It all goes down extremely well and I think Dave would have to play an incredibly bad hand to not be seen in the finals – this is the most excited we’ve seen the critics in a while – but that might also be because they’ve not had much work for the last several months.

Lastly it’s sweet baby angel Victor who is shying away from his comofort zone of African flavours and giving us a Watercress Risotto accompanied by a horseradish cream

It’s bordering on just being a herbal remedy for the common cold – and he very nearly turns everyone inside out with his use of horseradish. It’s a relatively simple dish – but it really allowed him to showcase that he can present something simple and elegant – despite rushing around at a million miles an hour and having to hurtle back into the kitchen to retrieve his parmesan flakes

He and Marcus have clearly already built up a bit of a rapport and relationship which helps cut through the weirdness of the show’s Covid regulations – and Marcus does clearly get quite a lot of joy from scaring the life out of Victor by telling him how little time he has left

His main course is also a beef dish but he’s accompanying it with the ever present Textures of Onion™ as well as crispy anchovies and a Bonito Jus (who I believe plays for Arsenal?)

I’m very invested in those deep fried anchovies and I’d probably order this dish just for that alone – screw the very expensive beef sirloin – I want your cheap oily fish please. Jimi and William are much more discerning than I and rave about his cooking of the beef as well as his ability to actually pull of several different textures of onion – William using it as the opportunity to drop a clanger of a “know your onions” joke.

Dave is sailed on through to the next round, obviously – with Sammy being let go (this decision was made before he even plated up his main course). It leaves a killer of a dilemma between Philli and Victor – both championing vastly different styles of cookery, and both clearly stellar chefs so the show decides to use its Wicked Wango Card in the first week and save both Philli and Victor:

This does mean Sammy is left sitting alone in the lounge like:

I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if the final three isn’t just Victor, Dave and Philli – we could literally stop the competition here and have one of the most interesting finales we’ve seen in a while.

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