Grace Dent trying to eat a Bone Marrow Creme Brulee is honestly worth a BAFTA.
Battling out for the a slot in the semi final this week are Rogue Hobbit Jono, Alex the 80 year old 25 year old, Saint Ross and Santosh, the purest of souls.
Too Many Fish in the Sea
The first round is for the chefs to design a dish inspired by the seaside – whether that be Majorca, Barbados, Jaws or Skegness – and truly I am shocked that given the general direction cheffing has gone (and that Jono is a contestant) nobody roasted a seagull – instead we got several iterations of Fish and Chips because all they had to work with her white fish, seaweed and potatoes
Jono’s was the most obviously fish and chips – subbing in battered cod for a beautifully cooked Lobster and Spiralized Potatoes with Vinegar Scraps and a Curry Sauce, which sounded like it tasted as good as it looked:
He was very clever to play it straight – not even tempted to open the jar of earwigs I’m almost positive he’s keeping up his sleeve. Despite the use of lobster, and resisting the urge to deep-fry it, it was his vinegar scraps that earned him the most praise.
Santosh was also using the lobster and was clearly the most uncomfortable with the brief given that he hasn’t cooked a lot of fish because of his focus on Nepalese food so it was a risk to use something that required pitch perfect cooking and sadly his Lobster in a Smoked Paprika Coconut Sauce didn’t quite reach the lofty heights that his vibrant presentation promised:
It was an unbalanced dish and definitely needed more of the tempura mushrooms and the chargrilled avocado – and can we talk about the weird way Marcus says “Avocado” – it never quite sounds the same twice because he can’t decide where to put the emphasis and for most of the round I thought Santosh was cooking some Nepalese vegetable I had never heard of.
Also falling slightly short of their promise was sweet baby Saint Ross whose Scottish coast inspired Hake and Blanched Langoustine with Fondant Potatoes and a White Wine Clam Sauce was a little lacking in excitement:
And you could tell he wasn’t happy with it because of his face when he had finished plating up the beige melange:
It didn’t help that his preparation of the langoustines wasn’t nearly as accurate and well done as his plaice in the Skills Test and it cast a bit of a dour cloud over Ross’ as yet spotless record.
Alex’s dish was kind of similar looking to Ross’, there is only so different you can make a dish of white fish and potatoes look:
Granted it has much more visual interest by virtue of it not being covered in an obscene amount of panko crumbs but his Pan-fried Hake and Mussels did taste like a much more cohesive plate of food – and Alex did force us to relive the horror of the Caviar Sauce:
Why has this suddenly become a thing? It just looks so menacingly alien – like something in the woods that you don’t let your dog sniff. Marcus and Monica both dub Alex’s have the Dish of the Day but I think with Jono’s presentation and successful twist on fish and chips – his was leagues ahead!
A Pointless Seaside Dish Ranking:
- Jono’s Shellfish and Chips
- Alex’s Norfolking Great Hake
- Santosh’s Rocky Mountain Lobster
- Ross’ Scottish Rip Tide
The Critics’ Chamber
This week’s critical pair are Tom Parker-Bowles, arguably most famous for being Camilla Parker-Bowles’ son, and Grace Dent, arguably most famous for consistently putting her foot in her mouth on Twitter – hey, it’s a career at this point.
This is the round where you have to play one of your aces – a dish that you are incredibly proud of and would sit quite happily on the Specials Board of your restaurant – avoid the a la carte items! So when Ross decided to serve up a starter of Torched Mackerel with Pickled Beetroot, Whipped Horseradish and Dill Oil you kind of got the feeling he was on his way out – the fish very much looks and feels one step above just being a salad:
Also, why use such an expansive plate for such a small dish? I just makes you look uncharitable and miserly – Saint Ross becoming Scrooge is not the plot twist I wanted. The critics rave about his beetroot and dill oil – completely forgetting the poor torched mackerel and while it is a perfectly lovely dish it’s one that might leave you disappointed in a restaurant. There was a lot riding on his main course of Chicken Breast with a Chicken Skin Crumb, Cauliflower Puree and a Panko-Fried Oyster which he sadly ran out of time making forcing Marcus to glare at him from across the room while Ross willed his oysters to crisp up
And then because of his lack of time he sort of just had to pile everything onto the plate and created yet another beige melange:
The corporate hotel presentation did belie the abundance of flavour – which mostly seemed to come from the pickled cauliflower that Tom Parker-Bowles distressingly described as “tongue puckering” and I demand compensation for the emotional turmoil that put me through. His chicken sauce tasted a lot like a 5 minute Bisto gravy but the deep-fried oyster was apparently worth every second of Marcus Wareing’s death glare.
Similarly lacking in innovation and creativity was Alex who as a starter was serving up a combination of Tuna Tartare and a Miso Fried Tuna Chunk and a Dashi Broth – also accompanied by red pepper curls that he was VERY proud of:
NOBODY IS TASTING THAT. It’s not even 2 grams of red pepper! You can’t list that on the menu.
His presentation is, as ever, exquisite but again I would not be surprised if it turned out this was on the menu of The Titanic – it just seems so dated to me. The flavours of the dish lacked definition and I think he would have been better off just serving two of the Tuna Tartare Spring Rolls with the Dashi Broth and completely ignoring the rollicking great big chunk of tuna it was precariously perched upon.
His main course of Poached Chicken with Cauliflower Couscous and Coleslaw suffered similar issues, the least of them being that it sounds like a dish an Instagram wellness influencer would make. This is going to sound really pretentious but I think at this point if you’re going to do chicken you can’t just poach, fry or roast it and serve it with vegetables – you have to do something REALLY special and this just wasn’t – even when he grated a copious amount of English Truffle onto it and made his chicken look like it had joined a hair metal band in the 80s
Alex is a very good chef – especially for a 25 year old – but I just don’t feel like these are his dishes – they are so calculated, precise and formal – there isn’t a spark of creativity or flare to them that gives me an insight into what a restaurant by Alex would be like – other than an interactive Titanic experience – which I am sure there is a market for, if it doesn’t exist already.
On the other end of the spectrum is Santosh who is having an absolute blast running around his kitchen at breakneck speeds because he’s given himself hell of a lot to do with a starter of Nepalese Spiced Octopus and a Taro Leaf Terrine with Hemp Seed Chutney and a Curry Yoghurt. I do very much appreciate the fact MasterChef is making significant efforts to better the way they talk about and discuss the varied cuisines of Asia – and particularly Eastern Asia – there’s been very few mentions of the Homogeneous Asia, and having someone like Santosh who is just so proud of his heritage and the food he grew up eating is an absolute joy – like him explaining what Taro Leaves were and looking like a big adorable Totoro
We have no choice but to stan. And happy with being just an absolute delight he serves up an incredible starter:
which even though looked like a Graboid from Tremors
moved Grace Dent to the core of her being, I honestly thought she was about to burst into tears because she thought that long, winding, snake-like octopus tentacle was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen:
Lockdown takes its toll in a variety of ways.
Everyone raves about it – Monica is smitten and Grace Dent has unearthed a Lovecraftian sexual desire – welcome to Hentai, Grace. (I am not responsible for anyone who Googles that.)
His main course is somewhat more divisive, the lamb in his Curried Lamb Rump with Jungle Bread and Bamboo Shoot Pickle is too well done for Marcus
even though Monica had to remind him to cook it – the critics meanwhile are in love with it because they so often get served up lamb with a side of salmonella on MasterChef – so it was just a novelty to be able to eat it without feeling like you were risking a hospital stay. But it’s the small touches to Santosh’s dish that make the heart sing, like his little tiny bamboo witch hat:
the anchovy laced jungle bread entwined around a shoot of lemon grass:
Which I desperately want to try right now! And can we take a moment to recognise and appreciate the sheer array of chutney and pickles that Santosh has in his culinary arsenal?
Also bringing more thn his fair share of shocks and surprises is none other than the entomological terror and hobbit on the run: Jono who for his main is puzzling everyone with Sweet and Sour Iberico Pork with Enoki Mushrooms and Pineapple Weed
It looks concerning – especially the rareness of the pork – which is apparently fine given the quality of the meat – everyone except Grace loves it- and she goes through so many emotions while trying to eat it:
And just for the visual of Grace Dent struggling to swallow even one mouthful of his food, I am fully behind Jono for the win. Then only to drive a further wedge between himself and Grace Dent he decides to serve up a Bone Marrow Creme Brulée – which on its own is hitting Disney villain levels of unhinged malice – but just to top it all off he is serving IN THE BONE:
This is what happens when you bingewatch all three seasons of Hannibal over lockdown. But once again, everyone loves it and Tom Parker-Bowles even says “It’s great if you like your desserts with a healthy dose of beef fat” AND THEN TAKES A FOURTH MOUTHFUL
Meanwhile Grace dent sits there looking like she is in desperate need of a toothpick and a bucket
It’s an instantly iconic MasterChef moment – move over Cod Cheek Omelette, you’ve been dethroned by Bone Marrow Crème Brulee – you were a worthy opponent.
I can’t believe they even considered eliminating Jono – he’s a joyous liability but luckily he was saved by the show playing a second Wicked Wango Card and taking three people through with Santosh and Alex joining him
Meaning poor Saint Ross must make a pilgrimage back to his care home – and I will be writing to the Catholic church to sort out the canonization process, I’m sure it can be done.
This does mean we now have two extra chefs going through to the semi finals and I am desperately hoping that in the next two semi-finals they just have one group that they refuse to advance anyone through – it would be delicious.