MasterChef 2021, Episode 12: Three Chickeny Chevrons

Britain’s Next Top Hairdresser has taken an interesting turn.

It’s the last of the quarterfinals and it’s one hell of a strong group of cooks and a deceptively simple brief.

Street Meatz

For the last of the quarterfinals the cooks have to create a dish inspired by street food – which is pretty much free reign seeing as just about everything has been sold out of the back of a truck at some point or another. The brief was originally set by Jimi Famurewa but because he was “unwell” (read as “showing Covid symptoms”) the task of judging the round has been passed on to Grace Dent who gets another outing from her own personal MasterChef cupboard.

A lot of street food relies on simplicity due to the fact you’ve kind of got to be able to eat it on the move however this doesn’t translate brilliantly to a cookery competition where your presentation matters as much as your cookery. You could however just recreate the dish if you wanted but then you run into the same trouble that Baz did when he created his Thai Street Food Trio consisting of Satay Chicken, A Springroll and Deep Fried Banana

It doesn’t really have much of a creative flair, nor is it particularly cohesive as a dish – the deep-fried banana and honey drizzle is kind of just throwing everything off kilter and was pointless anyway because Grace hates fried banana and Gregg has suddenly decided he “hates banana in a dessert because it is already too sweet” – is that not just all fruit?
Obviously a lot of work went into making all of this, he was momentarily octopusing himself while stirring as many pans as he could at one moment

but sadly his satay sauce wasn’t quite right even though his chicken was succulent and he deserves a commendation for how well he made those springrolls. Honestly, he should have just combined the springrolls and satay chicken into one unGodly pastry parcel and called it a day.

The other option, full of its own pitfalls, is to go the same route that Jo did and try and Frankenstein something that everyone is familiar with into some sort of a Michelin Star Monster.
She, like just about every chef on Great British Menu in 2011, was going to attempt to revamp Fish and Chips. Her first call of duty? To nix the concept of chips entirely because “chips aren’t good enough for MasterChef” – Jacqui will be having words with Jo. Instead of just giving everyone the chips they wanted she was going to stuff a series of Pommes Soufflés with Vinegar Mashed Potato – which to be fair sounds divine. This unfortunately goes up in smoke as the pommes soufflés are not playing ball and she spends far too long splashing single potato slices in the deep fat fryer

sensing her impending doom she gives up on this and serves up each of the judges a single stuffed potato pillow and seemingly just chucks the Butter Poached Cod, Pea Puree, an Extra Glob of Mash for good luck and her Warm Tartar Sauce onto the plate from across the room

It’s not the dish she envisioned, that much is blatantly clear – we’ve seen her other dishes, she’s a brilliant cook. The timings and workload were just too much this time, which is something because apparently this is only 50% of the dish she originally had in mind before the producers stepped in and told her to reduce it because they couldn’t afford the aftercare of her having a complete breakdown in the middle of what I imagine was probably doing something weird to a battered sausage.
Flavour-wise, her dish is spot on – with the exception of the rather ominous “warm tartar sauce”.

While Jo floundered with her dish, Jacqui was having a grand old time with her take on Poutine and drawing inspiration from the large Chinese population in Canada by making her Duck and Plum Sauce Poutine

It’s amazingly well presented considering that Poutine is Québécois slang for “mess”.
I was also rather stunned to learn that Gregg isn’t a fan of chips and gravy, I don’t know why, I had just assumed that was kind of his sort of thing, meanwhile Grace Dent is over in the corner just about having a religious experience with every bite.

The last of our stops is with Marc who is combining the food trends of Korea and Japan. The Korean influence being the fact he is stuffing his chicken wings with three different cheeses including Cheddar, Mozzarella and American Government Burger Cheese. Mark this day in the calendars, I never thought fake cheese would make it this far. In order to achieve maximum crispiness on his chicken wings which would ordinarily be air-dried for 24 hours he is drying them out with a hairdryer that I am choosing to believe one of the poor runners had to bring in that morning

The Japanese influence on his dish is the dressings of a Wasabi Mayonnaise and Tonkatsu, a sticky fruity sauce that was first made by adapting Worcestershire Sauce to Japanese tastes sometime in the mid-1900s – I found out there is a massive argument about this between Japanese culinary historians, it’s a thrilling tale of constant sniping in food history journals.
Back to Marc’s dish and he wished it looked prettier but I think it looks great,

I might have served them in a smaller bowl to be more reminiscent of a box of fried chicken but I’m not mad at the three chicken-y chevrons.
The judging of this dish obviously goes in MasterChef history as (most of) the judges rave about it and Marc gets very emotional about it because the guy is obviously incredibly nervous and I think he needed his cathartic moment of relief and release and he got it.

Gregg is the only one who doesn’t rave about it because he couldn’t find enough cheese in the middle and in his quest to find the cheddar subsequently ate just about every morsel of the dish anyway

Well done Gregg.

It was pretty obvious that Marc and Jacqui were going to go through, the only real stakes were whether or not they’d throw a lifeline to Gregg’s Bezzie Mate Baz or not and in a truly heartless fashion that rivals any number of great TV villains Gregg decides “nope” and he’ll make do with someone else. So the last of our Semi-Finalists are Jacqui and Marc

and Marc has adorably decided to start practicing his autograph, and it is now my quest in life to get him to sign something for me.

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