Here we see a rare photo of Gregg Wallace before the makeup team work their magic.
The second half of our semi-finalists take to the kitchen to see who deserves the privilege of annoying professional chef Ben Tish!
Once again the aim of the game is for the cooks to produce a dish that they believe people would be either happy to pay for in a restaurant or take a sneaky picture of the recipe in Waterstones WHICH I FOR ONE HAVE ABSOLUTELY, DEFINITELY NEVER DONE BEFORE. Of course it’s the semi-finals and everyone should be coming in fighting so nothing made me happier than the moment Alexina entered the kitchen looking all glammed up
normalise cooking in party dresses.
There is also a special guest judge this week in the form of Marcus Wareing
and absolutely NOBODY played it cool when he walked in, they all just completely lost their minds
I don’t think we’ve seen a reaction like this since the days of America’s Next Top Model whenever Tyra Banks walked into the room and everyone was forced to scream like a banshee.
Jacqui was once again sticking to her love of Canada and creating a Saffron and Clam Chowder with an accompanying Scotch Quail Egg Wrapped in Crab Meat. Apparently the quail egg side of it comes from her travels in South Africa where, according to Jacqui and Jacqui only, “they ate a lot of quail’s eggs”. I’m sorry, were you staying at Mont Rochelle? I have holidayed numerous times in South Africa and lived in Zimbabwe for 12 years – quail eggs are assuredly NOT a distinctly South African thing. But the dish is very good
quite who invited the cornbread along to the proceedings I don’t know, it is dry and unwanted!
I did love that Jacqui claimed her aim was to make people want to cook their own food at home instead of “packet food” which is nice and a valid mission but I’m not sure saffron, crab and quail eggs are going to achieve that. They make for a lovely bit of luxury though and the judges love her dishes except for the cornbread and a slight lack of clams.
Laura had also opted for a fish dish and very nearly shot herself in the foot by proudly exclaiming that she was deconstructing a fish pie! Lest we forget how that has gone down in the past
I will never forget Kuljit’s Galactic Space Turtle!
Laura’s take was significantly less unhinged – although she did describe it as “a nest of mashed potato with smoked haddock sitting in it” which sounds like something from a Doctor Seuss book.
In actuality it was just a Ring of Mashed Potato (*Stefan Induced eye twitch*) stacked with Smoked Haddock, a Bready Gremolata and a Parmesan Crisp, a rather paltry serving of Hollandaise Sauce and a few Tempura Capers that look alarmingly like someone had deep-fried mice
The judges rave about everything except for the dryness of the dish and the fact it could really have done with a jug of the Hollandaise on the side.
Letitia was having sauce related woes of her own as she didn’t get her chicken sauce on quick enough because she was too busy making the 100th chicken ballotine we’ve seen on the series so far! They truly are the new confit duck leg.
For her Ballotine she was flavouring it with Jerk seasoning and stuffing it with Charred Red Peppers and Callaloo – an almost spinach-like leafy vegetable that is very popular in Caribbean cuisine. Alongside this she was making Sweetcorn Puree and Sweet Potato Croquettes which she managed to present rather beautifully
Look how far she’s come since serving dessert Mothra? Even if she did drop her ballotine on the floor
It’s fine Letitia, give that one to Gregg! It’s kind of expected at this point that Gregg always gets the weakest of the plates.
They heap praise on her for the fact the dish has obviously been well developed and consideration has been taken in regards to the presentation. Her croquettes and puree are the real standouts because despite the abundance of flavour in her chicken it’s slightly dry and the weak sauce isn’t doing much to alleviate the situation.
Alexina was also drawing inspiration from the Caribbean side of her family to make a dish that seemed to consist of 80% Scotch Bonnet Chillies. “It’ll be fine!” she said to an already sweating Gregg as she squirted hot sauce into her a blender full of her chilli paste and Seeded Birds Eye Chillies
Alongside her chilli deathtrap she was serving Jerk Pork with Butternut Fondants, Carrot and Lemon Puree, Coconut Cabbage and a Pineapple and Scotch Bonnet Salsa. There was very nearly a bit of a disaster with her pork as it came out of the oven very raw
but with some quick thinking she managed to briefly pan-fry it to finish it off and present her dish in its entirety
There looks to be a touch too much puree to me but it’s at least a vibrant and well composed dish which is a struggle when dealing with rather garish flavours. STEFAN.
The downside is that Marcus very nearly dies after a single mouthful
Which did give rise to my favourite moment of the entire episode when Gregg then said that he loved the amount of ferocious chilli in the dish and Marcus shoots him a look that could kill
and John claims to like the dish but there is absolutely no footage of him trying it and given that the man sweats when he eats paprika I don’t believe for a second that he had a single morsel of Alexina’s dish. Not even a nibble. Actually I think he left the room when it was served.
Lastly we have Italian Mike who I still believe has never said the word “Nonna” before this competition started, it always sounds delightfully alien on his tongue. His dish is Tuscan Flavoured Pork Belly with Pommes Anna, Parsnip Puree, Black Pudding Bonbons, Salsify Wrapped in Bacon, White Port and Apple Gel and a Spiced Cider Sauce to finish it all off that he hopes to one day see on the menu of his own gastro-pub… I apologise for insulting gastro pubs in the previous recap. His dish does look rather incredible though
The fact there are so many elements in it that he still managed to execute perfectly AND plate it up to such a professional looking standard deserves a round of applause, which Laura was all too eager to indulge him with
The judges rave about it and it’s entirely fair that he was put through to the next round almost immediately
That left them debating between Jacqui, Letitia, Laura and Alexina who all produced very good dishes but also all had a few tiny errors in the final products. Eventually the decide that it’s Laura and Alexina who are staying
Which means the whistle-stop tour around the world with Jacqui is coming to an end and we must also say goodbye to Letitia, who I am particularly gutted about because I genuinely think she has been the most fun contestant to watch cook that we’ve ever had on the show, I mean look at her dance while she was deep-frying her croquettes
Her joy and enthusiasm are unmatched and I think with practice and some media training she would make a pretty brilliant TV cook one day, go give her a follow on Instagram at letitia.tish_cooksx.
Professional Kitchen Shenanigans
Having survived a grilling from Marcus Wareing the three remaining semi-finalists are going to have to contend with a busy lunchtime service at The Stafford Hotel’s restaurant: The Game Bird run by Ben Tish
who isn’t the worst professional chef we’ve ever seen on the show but probably could have done more to create a better working environment for three people who are entirely unfamiliar with the workings of a restaurant kitchen.
Once again each was in charge of a separate dish of the tasting menu which joylessly didn’t feature a dessert and instead opted in for the fish course that nobody cares for.
Laura was in charge of the starter consisting of Scallops, Everyone’s Favourite Trio of Cauliflower and a Scallop Roe Sauce.
For her prep work she had to set about shucking 50 of the damn things and fell slightly behind time which annoyed Ben Tish no end – SHE IS ONE WOMAN SHUCKING 50 SCALLOPS, cut her a break my man!
Things didn’t get much better as once the service came around Laura within seconds had sloshed sauce all over the stove
and very quickly burnt 3 of her scallops beyond saving because her pan was too hot – but I will point out all three of them had the same issue which to me indicates that Ben didn’t really show them how to use the stove correctly, I mean Alexina set her whole pan on fire
very much the same energy as the “This is fine.” dog meme.
Ben and Laura’s relationship only soured even more as he continued to bark orders at her for forgetting the roasted cauliflower.
All that chaos was when she had only 2 orders on the go and when Ben suddenly announced she had 10 orders at 3 scallops per plate I genuinely thought she was about to commit a mutiny! I for one fully support her coup of The Game Bird. She is the captain now.
As you can imagine with trying to keep track of the cooking of 30 near identical looking scallops one was bound to slip through the net and of course, there was a raw one served up
I will say, Laura kept remarkable composed, if I were in her shoes I would absolutely have gone to pieces and sobbed into my pieces of shaved cauliflower. I hope they gave her a VERY nice bottle (or 2) of wine after all of this. I think she deserves it.
Mike was up next and having to cook Pan-fried Cod with Mussel Chowder and Artichoke Crisps
He was a little out of his depth because he doesn’t cook fish at home because of his girlfriend’s allergy. She also didn’t pork and by the sounds of it he spent weeks funnelling black pudding bonbons down her throat but for someone who had doesn’t work with fish very often and has never filleted one himself he does remarkably well. He’s a little slow to get his dishes out at first and the ominous masked concierge man looms in the doorway
but he gets them out eventually and once he gets into the groove of his process he does very well, bar from overcooking one piece of fish that Ben felt was necessary to flick around the pan a bit
I don’t know why but it really rubbed me the wrong way.
Alexina had the most pressure heaped upon her as she was cooking the signature dish of Roasted Pigeon accompanied by Parsnips, Cavolo Nero and a Bullshot Sauce
The Bullshot sauce, a take on what is essentially just beef stock with a shot of vodka because of course that’s what huntsmen drink, required her to carry around a tray of charred pigeon bones for quite a while
which you would think was the most sinister part of the process but something about gracelessly dumping an entire roast chicken into a stock pot really got to me
Like Mike, she’s also very much out of her comfort zone but beyond setting her entire frying pan on fire she does very well, her cutting and preparing of the pigeon is very well done, although the subtitles were trying to create drama for her
It was actually the oven timer going off, she hadn’t caused another fire.
She remained on time throughout which meant the ominous mask wearing concierge deity didn’t loom over her with his piercing eyes and she never almost killed someone with a raw pigeon!
I think all of them did very well for a first time experience – I do wish the show would use this round to showcase the restaurants owned by previous MasterChef contestants because I think they’d be a lot more understanding and mentoring and then we could build up towards shoving them into a Michelin Star Restaurant with Shouty McShoutypants.