Nothing to see here, just a man counting ants. Normal chef behaviour.
Whoever made the decision to have Gregg introduce the Skills Tests by him calling Marcus an Monica “His friends” while they look THOROUGHLY uncomfortable deserves a BAFTA.
Marcus’s Chicken in a Mushroom and Mustard Cream Sauce
Usually when they require the chefs to butcher or debone some sort of poultry it’s an absolute massacre of near Trojan levels but this time was different – mostly because they weren’t having to truss something the size of a cricket ball and shove its own beak through its chest – those poor woodcocks died for nothing but dishonour in death.
The only real issue on the butchery front was that Hira used too big a knife and the didn’t display his chicken on a board like a rather morbid jigsaw puzzle
And he really could have afforded to put a little more time into being more delicate because he butchered the chicken in 4 minutes flat leaving him more than enough time to severely overcook his asparagus by frying it, then boiling it in water that looked suspiciously like a Lush bathbomb had been let off in it
then setting it aside only to have to reheat it because it went cold – mate, just do the asparagus last! But the rest of his dish is reasonably successful – the sauce was well flavoured and had a richness because of the brandy and his chicken was perfectly cooked – however because he spent most of his time torturing his asparagus he had to chuck everything onto the plate at the last minute and it looked a bit of a bombsite
Alex on the other hand slightly messed up the sauce but just making it a mustard sauce and cooking the mushrooms separately – so he had all the ingredients on his plate they were all just separated. A bit like this show at the moment. His sauce lacked any depth and his chicken was a little overcooked because his pan was a million degrees and his butter just about evaporated on contact but it was an edible plate of food even if it didn’t look particularly interesting or inviting
But is chicken in a mustard sauce ever going to be a visual delight? It’s always going to look like a slightly concerning beige lump, and that’s a fate some of us just have to live with.
Monica’s Pistachio Chantilly and Berry Compote Tart
Can we really call putting mashed berries and green whipped cream with delusions of grandeur into a tart case a dessert? Because I feel like if any of the chefs put this in front of Monica and Marcus they’d tell them it’s like something a newly divorced father gives their child because they forgot their birthday and had to improvise a cake in 5 minutes. Gregg would be fine with it – it’s sweet.
The important thing about making this “dessert” was to get the production order correct – starting with the berry compote because it needs to cool in time so that the Chantilly cream doesn’t melt into a sinister pastel green puddle – Monica seems to have softened on Lockdown and gives them a pre-made tart case, which only adds to the slightly sad-dad vibe.
I was sceptical of Jono during his introductory VT because while he looks like the coolest hobbit in The Shire:
He was making something that I can only describe as a foetus in soup
And because of this I thought he was in for an absolute nightmare especially as his first action was to begin heating the cream but luckily he realised and managed to clear the fog from his head in time – the very thought of tepid whipped cream is turning my stomach.
Speaking of tepid whipped cream, Rich got the production order very wrong and decided to make his compote after the Chantilly cream which promptly melts and looks a bit like a Muller Fruit Corner
On his side through is the fact he actually made the candied pistachios that Monica asked for whereas Cool Hobbit Jono caramelised them – THE HORROR! Marcus needs to calm down, he still got his sugary nuts.
Because it was a pastry round presentation was very important and both of them had things working in their favour. Jono worked at Noma in Copehagen – which I’m sure has been featured on the show before – something about it rings a bell – and Rich is married to a pastry chef and by the sounds of things, she should really be competing on the show herself – they really missed a casting trick there.
Rich’s presentation is a lot cleaner, and perhaps a little dated:
Whereas Jono’s reads as much more contemporary, even if it does look like his tart is suffering a prolapse:
I think Richard wins purely by the fact he put more pistachios on his tart – but it did also have more pronounced flavours whereas Jono’s was slightly more delicate on the pistachio flavouring.
The Signature Round
It’s a very interesting signature round because everyone was very much on the same level – nobody caused Marcus to spit something else, nobody got burnt by Monica’s Medusa Glare and Gregg remained relatively silent, so the chefs had their work cut out to separate themselves from the group. Taking this to quite the extreme is Rogue Hobbit Jono, who for dessert is making a Fig Leaf Crumble and pairing it with poached rhubarb, Hay Custard and garnishing it with some freshly sourced wood ants which sounds like a dish he designed by panickily looking around a farmyard and just naming things he saw. It also looks exactly how you would expect a dish involving hay and ants to look, which is to say a mildly concerning health hazard:
It divides the judges quite a bit – Gregg enjoys the ants (colour me shocked) while Monica is on the fence and Marcus takes a lot of offense to the ants not tasting enough like he thought ants should taste – I’m not sure what he was expecting after Jono literally told him they were going to be tart and sour, like a drop of lemon. The hay custard comes across as a bit of a gimmick – the flavour isn’t strong enough and it really needs more of the rhubarb. I have to admit, I’d probably order it on a menu, more out of a curiosity than anything else – but at least it’s a dish with a USP.
Continuing Jono’s journey through the green colour spectrum is his main of Salted Cod Loin with Sea Vegetables and a Madeira Sauce:
I just seriously question the putting of caviar into the sauce – remember in that series Fortitude where the flies laid eggs in people? Visually is conjures up the practical effects of that. But props to him for perfectly cooking the fish, just maybe work on not making things green?
His wasn’t the only dish with suspicious looking black flecks in it as Alex decided to chop black trompette mushrooms into the scallop mousse filling of his steamed brill, which looked more like ants than Jono’s actual ants
Alex pulled out two very retro dishes – the first being very 80s high-end hotel while his dessert of pavlova did look a little like the return of Galactic Space Turtle:
It’s a winning combination of yuzu, strawberry and copious amounts of sugar – it’s good but seems expected and I think Alex being so young is doing a lot of the heavy lifting in the amount of praise heaped on him – he’s very good but his dishes seem like something he was taught and I’m not getting his point of view as a chef – he’ll need to take a big swing in the Critics’ Chamber. I do however enjoy him be very embarrassed about all of the exalting Marcus and Monica do:
Hira, The Fastest Butcher in the West, also went with fish for his main course – his choice being a halibut that he pan-fried and served with a curry veloute and roast cauliflower
It’s very much something I would gravitate towards on a menu, and I would be very pleased with it if it were put in front of me. The flavours are a little expected, which is fine but when you have chefs throwing ants, caramelised chocolate and caviar at you, you’ve kind of got to amp it up a bit.
His dessert of Yuzu and White Chocolate Posset with a Strawberry Jelly also divides everyone – his textures are particularly contentious, Gregg and Marcus find it all too soft while Monica pointedly reminds them that there is a massive piece of sesame brittle taking up most of the plate
I think a more substantial nut within the brittle would have been beneficial – I get that he wanted to link the classic English dessert to his South East Asian heritage but I think the Yuzu did that enough.
And then there was Rich who went for a Sechuan Spiced Duck with a Lot of Carrots:
I feel like this should read as a modern dish but I think I’m so inured to smears, pipped mashed potato and jauntily cut carrots that it seems very dated – even moreso than Alex’s brill which was plucked from the pages of a Titanic menu. The duck is perfectly cooked, even if the fat is a little unrendered in placed but at least he rested it properly and we didn’t have another duck dish that looks like it was shot on the plate. Marcus didn’t think it was exciting enough, Gregg however heartily disagreed and Marcus looked prepared to murder him:
It only gets worse as for his dessert he steals a Caramelised Chocolate Rice Pudding recipe from his pastry-wife and then in what I can only imagine was a blind panic he decided to add lime cure to it in a fashion that makes it look a little bit like a petri dish
Which is very topical, but not very appetising. Weirdly both Gregg and Marcus have NO ISSUE with the utter lack texture in this posh baby food and merely take umbridge with there not being enough of a caramelised flavour. Gregg tells him it looks messy, which it doesn’t – it was a very clean presentation – what it is though is visually repellent. It’s like when your mum tells you your outfit looks interesting and she really means “Godawful, go change immediately.”
It wasn’t surprising then when Rich was binned immediately while Alex sailed through on Marcus’ nostalgia glasses leaving them to ponder over whether Jono or Hira was more exciting – with them landing on Jono’s foraging ways having a better possibility of intrigue and success:
long may The Hobbit King’s success continue.