MasterChef The Professionals Recap: Navigating The Gristle

That awkward moment where you accidentally look like the invasion of very niche alien species from Doctor Who.

Semi-finals week! And because we have two extra chefs because the decided to play 2 Wicked Wango Cards in the Quarterfinals they had to cram 15 dishes into an hour long show. SO STRAP IN.

For the first of our Semi-final chalenges the chefs have to cook a single dish based around their favourite childhood memory and because it is this round I am obligated to remind everyone of that time someone had to create a dish based on someone they admired and old fan favourite Steve Kielty made a dish based on Hannibal Lecter

Sadly this week nobody was inspired by cannibalistic murderers – although we are getting dangerously close to a time in which someone could feasibly have been inspired to go to catering college after watching the Hannibal TV series – which if you haven’t seen is an absolute MUST – even if it’s just for the… umm… food. But also Mads Mikkelsen is in it.

For the challenge the chefs have been split into groups of 5, The Red Aprons and The Blue Aprons – it’s no Ready Steady Cook is it?

The reds are Philli, Bart, Victor, Santosh and Dave.
While the blues are Alex, Jamaar, Aaron, Jono and Luke.

RED ALERT

Dave was the only contestant this round to be making a pudding, opting for an Apple and Caramel Tart with a Hazelnut Crumble served alongside Buttermilk Ice Cream and Caramelised Apples inspired by the crumble his granddad made for him

The glaring issue of the dish being the very generously singed tuiles but also the rather sad flowers just lying in a rapidly dwindling foam like someone desperately clinging to the remnants of a bubble bath after 20 minutes. It’s certainly not up to Dave’s usual standard in presentation or technique. But don’t worry because he’s go nowhere because Marcus and Gregg are just the biggest Dave fans in the world – they’re one more challenge away from editing together a highly filtered fancam.

Now to our savoury chefs, although you would be forgiven for thinking that Bart’s Squab Pigeon and Chestnut and Sage Puree with Almond Mousse Stuffed Cherries and a Celery Tuile was a pudding

It’s just so pretty!
The only part of the dish I wasn’t particularly taken with was the presentation of the pigeon which from certain angles just looked like a slightly Vaginal Pigeon Pyramid

Maybe that’s the fertility Goddess of the woods wanted.
It’s a dish inspired by his time spent growing up in the woods and foraging for chestnuts – he has yet to confirm nor deny whether he was indeed raised by wolves but I don’t see any wolves OR PARENTS in this family photo:

Consider this mystery UNSOLVED.
Monica was hard pressed to share the plate of food and couldn’t find fault with any part of it meanwhile Gregg was SHOCKED, I TELL YOU SHOCKED by how well cherries and almonds work together! Screw Bakewell’s drag, right? I do love that Bart clearly knows it’s a knock out of a dish and gives many a cheeky look to camera

He can play coy all he wants but it’s getting to the point where I think maybe we just give him the trophy and make everyone else battle out for a very respectable second place. They have enough time to make an engraved egg cup for it.
Also making quite the fruity main course is everyone’s problematic fav, Philli who is making a Hoisin-glazed Duck with Umeboshi Plum Sauce and a Duck Liver Parfait filled Five-spiced Doughnut inspired by her mum’s inability to cook and closeness of the local Chinese take-away

Also, there were doughnuts because Philli wanted to make the doughnuts but realised they were too small to serve on their own so reached for the lowest hanging fruit on the Chinese Cuisine Tree

If there is one thing the MasterChef The Professionals edition of the franchise has taught us over the years it’s that savoury doughnuts are not worth making and despite a fairly warm reception to the duck doughnut the dish as a whole is kind of lacking? Not even her attempt at summoning some sort of demon from the netherworld with ruins written in plum sauce could save her from having to cook again

Channelling his own Asian heritage as well as a trip to a Michelin star restaurant in Paris is Santosh, who apparently has a secret life as musician because you cannot convince me that this isn’t the cover of an album from the 80s

DROP THE EP!
His dish is a vegetarian plate of Himalayan Yams with Salt-baked Jackfruit Seeds, a Cardamom and Coconut Foam and an Onion Pickle

The dish goes down incredibly well and it’s nice to see the show not treating vegetarian food as some sort of alien cuisine from the far reaches of space for once – remember when they did their first entirely vegetarian challenge and everyone panicked and made either a Goat’s Cheese Tart or Stuffed Peppers? Sometimes I think the chefs on any franchise of MasterChef would struggle less cooking with human flesh than they would without meat at all.

Last in our red group is Victor who is showcasing the food he was brought up on while growing up in Nigeria by making an Amala Agnolotti Pasta stuffed with a mixture of Egusi, Prawns and Tomatoes served alongside the most pointless addition of a Torched Mackerel I’ve ever seen

For those wondering “Amala” is dried yam and “Egusi” is a mixture made up of dried and ground melon or squash seeds. It’s an intricate dish that requires a lot of very good technique – especially the Amala Pasta which he notes is possible angering both the Italians and the Nigerians watching – at least he knows where he stands. He has a bit of a disaster with his pasta as it splits moments before going in to boil

Luckily he has enough time to remake it and doesn’t pull a Dalila and throw in a raviolo the size of a frisbee in to boil. His presentation of the dish falls into the classic Victor style of piling everything up in the middle of the plate

I think it only accentuated the disparity of the torched mackerel and the pasta.
It’s a very interesting judging because Monica, Gregg and Marcus all remark on how they’ve never tried ANYTHING like it before, it’s totally unique and original and Victor later says something afterwards that really struck me: “That is every day to me, but it’s brand new flavours to the judges.” which speaks volumes of the way anyone within Western cultures talks about and experiences food from anywhere outside of Europe and white America so it’s understandable when Marcus tells Victor that it should have had a sauce that Victor reacts thusly

Also, Agnolotti pasta isn’t commonly served with a sauce Marcus, it’s usually just cheese or an oil dressing – which at least partially explains the mackerel.
I don’t know, something about the way Victor was judged this round really made me feel a little icky and is probably a sign that we need a little more diversity within our judging team.

Childhood Blues

We’ll start with Jamaar because the poor lad’s childhood was literally yesterday and he’s drawing from the times he spent cooking with his mother and BBQs with a Roast Chicken Ballotine and a BBQ Glazed Chicken Wing with a Riceless Sweetcorn Risotto – and I get the strange feeling that it’s watching me

Besides the tiny little chorizo eyes, I take major umbrage with any risotto that is made without rice – after all the word risotto is LITERALLY from the Italian word for rice: riso! So what you’ve made is a Maisotto. To be fair, the Chunky Sweetcorn Puree does at least provide a good counterbalance to the BBQ chicken but I just don’t know if the dish is quite what Jamaar wanted it to be because the massive roll of chicken just doesn’t marry into it? Marcus’ main concern is that there was gristle on his chicken wing BECAUSE IT’S A CHICKEN WING MARCUS, their entire USP is the fun of navigating the gristle! Which ivory tower are you eating in that has gristle-free chicken wings?

We;ll go in order of age shall we? SO it’s Alex next and he’s making a dish surprisingly not inspired by the time he spent cooking on the Titanic! No it’s from the time he spent cooking in a restaurant in Germany as well as the steak suppers he had with his parents. And before we get to the food I demand an explanation of moustachioed young Alex

It’s not exactly unconvincing me that he’s a secret time traveller from the early 1900s.
My main gripe with Alex over the few rounds we’ve seen him in is that it hasn’t felt like he’s been cooking his own food – it’s always felt a little like he’s making something someone with 50 years experience in a restaurant has shown him how to make, which in many ways is a compliment! But his food as also always felt a little dated because of it. So it was interesting to see him make a dish inspired by his own experiences because it added a relatability to his food. I still have questions, mostly, “Honey, are you ok?” because he has served his food on what can only be described as a culinary pit of despair

That’s his Blackened Mushroom Puree paired with his Ribeye Steak and a Choron Tomato Sauce as well as some Pomme Souffles which look adorable

Oh to be a tiny little pomme soufflé gently cocooned in a napkin.
There’s also a smoked beef tartare but it’s really hard to get exciting about raw beef, you can smoke it and jazz it up all you want but I just don’t care about it – I’M SORRY ALEX, I’m sure it was lovely glorified beef salad. The judges love it, of course they do it’s Alex we’re talking about! I was a little surprised by the fact they didn’t call him out on serving the single tiniest piece of steak when this was the piece of meat he was cooking

And they gave Harry hell for serving 1 fifth of a steak and snaffling the rest for a sandwich on the ride home?

Also going for a take on a British staple is Luke with his spin on Fish and Chips (this old chestnut again) but it’s all worth it because his Pan-fried Cod (spritzed with beef fat because he’s a Yorkshireman) and Curry-salted Scraps with Pea Puree and a Malt Vinegar Gel and Beef Fat Confit Potatoes (again, he’s a Yorkshireman) goes down a storm with the judges

Luke has never met a cow he doesn’t want to cook with.
Compared with Luke’s past dishes it’s a very refined looking plate of food but because of the liberal amounts of beef fat chucked into every component he could it still tastes like your favourite slightly sketchy Sheffield pub!

Aaron meanwhile is drawing from big occasions his family celebrates by making a Roast Chicken Tikka Breast with Fried Okra and a Chicken Biryani with a Filo Pastry Lid

It’s certainly an enticing plate of food – that pastry lid just makes me want to smash it with a spoon! And it makes all the right noises when they do

He’d probably have been better off by just making a larger biryani and developing the okra into a more significant portion because his chicken breast is on the dry side and with there being chicken in the biryani it seems like a bit of a pointless additional poultry – although I did just watch The Great British Christmas Menu in which Tom Aikens shoved the meat of 12 birds into a turkey skin sausage and spray painted it gold

So it could have been worse. I also imagine Jono saw that giant golden bird sausage and thought “Challenge accepted!”

Speaking of Jono he’s making a Creme Fraiche Panna Cotta with Smoked Buddha-hand Lime Curd topped with Sablé Biscuit Crumbs. And you might be thinking “Well that sounds normal, where are the dragonflies or the snakeskin?” but fear not my friends for he is serving this dish in a hollowed out lemon

It’s like something the AI in Animal Crossing makes up, like you get a letter from Eunice the Sheep saying “Last night I had the strangest dream, I made a lemon pie but I baked it in a lemon! What do you think it means?” And then you have no choice but to evict her from your island because Eunice is clearly unhinged.
We have already seen the hollowed-out-fruit-as-a-dish thing from Philli when she made her Grapefruit Cheesecake but something about the smallness of a lemon makes it that much weirder, also how do you hollow out a lemon? And did bring them in pre-hollowed or did he have to hollow them out in the time limit? Also, hollowed out lemons look very cute

Has hallowing out a lemon ever been a task on Taskmaster?
The dish is inspired by a pastry chef Jono worked with who, and I am quoting directly now, “He came over, slid a little portion in and said “Try a little of this!”” – which is undoubtedly the blurb of a Jilly Cooper novel.
The judges enjoy it immensely, not least of all because it doesn’t involve a skeletal remains of an animal or insects but it is also a very well made dish and a very well timed showcasing of Jono’s fine dining skills.

A Food Memory Dish Ranking:

  1. Raised by Wolves with Bart
  2. Lemonception by Jono
  3. I Yam What I Yam by Santosh
  4. Luke’s Beefy Fish
  5. Alex’s Depression Pit
  6. Aaron’s Okra-p!
  7. Philli’s D’OH!nots
  8. Victor’s Agnolotti Discourse
  9. Jamaar’s BBQ is Cancelled
  10. Dave’s Binfire Night Tart

The chefs that get to avoid the elimination challenge are Bart, Jono, ALex, Santosh and Luke. Also, a big fan of Jono’s celebratory entrance of The Waiting Lounge

Why don’t footballers do this?

Box Fresh!

The elimination that Aaron, Jamaar, Philli, Victor and Dave have to face is to prepare a meal that could be transported in a take away box – which is a very interesting challenge given the current circumstance and obviously a lot of things have to be taken in to consideration like will it travel well? Will it still taste nice after a little bit? And how does it look in the box? Unfortunately the challenge ended just being “plate up one of your normal dishes in a box” – they could have at least driven it around the box and served it up 15 minutes late – give them the proper Deliveroo experience! Because can you imagine Aaron’s slightly soggy Peaches and Chocolate Mousse Tart making it even 50 metres down the road?

His pastry case is so incredibly thin and his mousse so worn down by the juices of the peaches he topped it with that it’s a miracle it even made it to the judges’ table intact. At least it tasted good! I’m not sure I believe in peaches and chocolate as a legal flavour combination but who am I to judge

Given that she works as a consultant for restaurants to turn their dishes into take-away meals, Philli had a noticeable advantage and went for a Curried Hake with Gunpowder Potatoes with a Clam and Saffron Sauce

It’s funny how puffed rice only becomes more maggot-like when you put it in a box.
Despite a lack of seasoning or any real curry hit the judges are impressed – mostly by the fact she managed to use every shaped box they had available.

Jamaar was a little stumped by the challenge and clearly out of his comfort zone – he’s never had to cook anything like this before and it’s kind of telling because he immediately goes for the lamb loin and I just don’t think lamb is going to travel well – not that that actually came into the equation because all you had to do was walk gingerly towards the judges for 5 metres and hope you didn’t trip over your shoelaces. And I think given Jamaar’s hesitance his Lamb Loin and Sweetbreads with Ratatouille and Saffron Potatoes wasn’t bad

Gregg of course manages to get the one hard potato but thankfully Monica pipes up and defends Jamaar’s spud honour because hers was lovely! Marcus took issue with the lack of sweetbreads in the dish – see Alex’s one slice of ribeye for my feelings on this.

Dave had the most ground to make up after his Disaster Tart and was planning on doing it by making a Pan-fried Guineafowl, Dauphine Potatoes, Braise Chicory and a Pancetta and Mushroom sauce and I can’t quite gauge Gregg’s emotions:

That could be horror, delight, unimaginable horniness or pure bloodlust. It’s certainly an interesting new take on the Kuleshov Effect. Dave’s dish looked the most “take-away-y” by which I mean it was the most fried and beige

But oooph, those Dauphine Potatoes sound and look like heaven on Earth. I’m sure the guineafowl was lovely and those bonbons were delicious but just give me a plate of them there potatoes.

Lastly we have Victor who is serving up the special Friday night meal you’ve probably made yourself sometimes, Sea Bream with Buttered New Potatoes and Tenderstem Broccoli

At least the narrow depth of a box suits his presentation style of just piling everything up.
He has thrown in our old friend the Romesco Sauce in at the bottom and is serving it up alongside a mildly concerning Beurre Blanc Sauce

As a student I saw that many a time at the bottom of the bin and I find this very triggering. So many passive aggressive WhatsApp messages were posted in the group chat that weekend.
It’s all very nicely flavoured and perfectly accomplished but it does seem slightly disappointing after the boldness of Victor’s previous dishes.

In the judges’ eyes Dave and Victor were the clear winners of the round and forgiven for all of their previous sins. It was also pretty obvious that Aaron was being sent home because the tart didn’t really fulfil any aspect of the challenge leaving them a touch choice between Jamaar and Philli. Personally I thought Jamaar edged it based on the challenge and that Philli’s dish was a little more lacking but they decide it’s sadly time up for Jamaar.

There’s at least slightly less of a sting in being eliminated in the semi-finals week because you can almost certainly guarantee a career boost from it so may Aaron and Jamaar go on to have glittering careers.

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