MasterChef 2021, The Finale: De-Pithiviered

We’ve done it. We’ve found the perfect MasterChef family photo.

It’s here! It’s finally here! It’s felt like 84 years of uncertainty but at last we get to find out who won the show!

Choose Your Fighter!

Alexina, The Revamper

Bursting onto the screens in a blaze of glory by being one of the few contestants to successfully cook lamb and somehow managing to perfectly pair it with spiced breakfast cereals. It spoke volumes of her style – it was modernity rooted in the classics but most importantly: it was never from the same place twice. She has had some incredibly high highs, who could forget The Singular Majesty of the Tart or perhaps the Reinvented Bakewell Slice? But for a brief spell in the semi-finals time became her enemy and who could blame her after the temporal upset that was 2020 where weeks became minutes and minutes became lifetimes. There was also that time she set a pan of oil on fire though, which more than anything else was TV gold.
Follow her on Instagram at: AlexinaAnatole

Mike, The Meat Guy

Mike was a frontrunner from the very beginning with his crowd pleasing, Gregg-sized portions and seeming utter disdain for any vegetable that carries a trace of chlorophyll. I don’t blame him, I personally believe broccoli is the one thing preventing world peace. His talents lay in his meat cookery and his first rounds were played absolutely perfectly and he didn’t put a single foot wrong until The Risotto Incident and that time he may have accidentally started a feud with the Roux family over madeleines.
Follow him on Instagram at: TheNoteCook

Tom, The Fusioneer

I think Tom is hands down the best “fusion chef” we’ve had on the show, his takes on dishes and techniques are always respectful and knowledgeable – he’s not out here making Rogan Josh Sushi, 2016 MasterChef was so chaotic. It’s hard to fault anything he did other than that time he gave John Torode 1 (one) bad chip in a dish that was otherwise pretty well received if maybe slightly disjointed. The main fear was that he had peaked with his Hayao Miyazaki inspired dessert which I think is his most aesthetically accomplished dish but he certainly still had a wealth of secrets hidden in his particularly luxurious hair.
Follow him on Instagram at: RhodesKitchen

Three Course Marathon

As ever the finale is a single challenge in which they must all create the perfect three course menu so the pressure is really on, so much so that Mike has downed to many espressos he has reached the point where he’s having to hold the tiny cup with both hands

As someone who wrote their entire final University thesis almost exclusively powered by espressos and York’s needlessly endless varieties of fudge, I get it.
Alexina meanwhile is treated to a shot of her dramatically opening her hotel room curtains in the fashion of a Disney princess moments before she belts out a song about wanting to chase her dreams

which is only my second favourite Alexina gif after the moment she unabashedly said it was her series to lose and then gave the best unapologetic shrug to have ever been committed to film

We stan confidence in this household.
We also very nearly get a glimpse into Tom’s hair regime

ONE DAY I WILL KNOW THE SECRET.

And just like that it’s all systems go!

For his starter Mike was somewhat stepping out of his comfort zone, or at least his girlfriend’s comfort zone because yes, he is cooking shellfish again! This time opting for that classic starter of scallops which he is not, in the grand tradition of MasterChef since the heady days of 2005, serving it with black pudding or pea puree – RIP The Classics I guess. Instead he is serving it with cauliflower so many ways that John Torode lost count

which has kind of outed John as not being able to count beyond the number 4 because his cauliflower components were a puree enriched by parsnips, a cauli and hazelnut crumb, various roasted pieces and the tips of Romanesco Cauliflower that he pickled and dotted around the plate making it all look rather Christmassy

remember how on the Celebrity MasterChef Christmas Specials they just kept putting Christmas ornaments on the plate to make the dishes seem festive?

Very that.
His cooking of the scallop is nothing below perfect and while the flavour profile of the dish might be somewhat limited due it essentially being Cauliflower and Scallops, his use of various textures is both a showcase of his skill and time management as well as his thoughtfulness for the dining experience.

Mike was back in the meaty business for his main course and was determined to repair his fractured relationship with the Roux family by making his version of the La Gavroche Sweet Bread Pithivier which unfortunately de-pithiviered itself while cooking

Well that’s Mike waking up with a horse’s head in his bed. Although the Rouxs are French, what do the French mafia send as a threat? A goose head? It’s not quite as threatening but horrifying nonetheless. I hope the show does daily welfare checks with him.
In La Gavroche they served their pithivier alongside veal, which Mike was thankfully sidestepping lest we start another MasterChef Ethics War, and was instead opting for a piece of Lamb that had been seasoned with anchovies while being sous vide and then finished off the in pan. The pithivier and lamb loin were accompanied by a Potato Terrine, a Token Pea Puree and a Gastrique Sauce (That’s GAH-STREEK if you’re correct or GAH-STRICK if you want to be wrong and sound kind of gross)

Despite the pithivier having opened up and subsequently looking slightly like an ankylosaurus it tastes phenomenal and the pastry is perfectly cooked and the dish as a whole tastes opulent and rich which you would expect given that SWEETBREADS ARE VERY EXPENSIVE, Michel Roux will have you know! The real star of the dish is the sauce which Gregg just eats forkfuls of

I suppose I should be mostly relieved that he didn’t spoon it up like a soup, although I’m not convinced he didn’t the moment the cameras stopped rolling.

The real test for Mike was the fact he was going to have to make a dessert, which would only be his second dessert on the show and first one of his own design and he wasn’t going easy on himself with his ode to his Nonna’s Tiramisu. It wasn’t strictly a tiramisu though with it being made up of layers of Almond Sponge, Chocolate Orange Mousse, a Coffee Gel and Cream

It’s like a tiramisu and a trifle had a Patisserie Valerie baby.
It’s not the most refined looking dessert we’ve ever seen but would I be perfectly happy if a restaurant put it front of my face? Yeah, I’d be pretty thrilled. John Torode, less so

I have never seen someone look so confused and scared while eating a pudding. Was it the popping candy? or was it the slightly over whipped cream? It’s a shame about the cream but I admire the efforts to hide it by sticking shards of chocolate into it like he was fortifying a castle in Game of Thrones

Hi, I’m Ariadne and I make fun of people referencing Game of Thrones and then do it myself. I truly contain multitudes.

Tom was also going for a strictly shellfish starter with his Trio of Japanese Oysters that were all being cooked (or not cooked) in different ways. One was being beer-battered and served with an Umeboshi Mayonnaise, another was just raw and topped with an Apple, Lime and Sake Granita and the last one was kind of a nod to Oysters Rockerfeller with its Miso and Seaweed Butter and panko crumb topping

It’s a truly fantastic dish, it showcases his skills, it’s playful and fun to eat – I say that but it truly depends how you feel about oysters. Fortunately for him Gregg considers himself “an oyster man” which is also the name of the most useless member of The X-Men. His favourite is the Oyster Osakafeller while John takes a liking to the beer battered one, describing it as “the best scampi” which I think means every single type of seafood featured on this show has at one point been called scampi except for actual scampi. WHEN WILL SOMEONE JUST MAKE ME SCAMPI?

I had thought Tom would go for a fish dish for his main but instead he was doing a “reverse seared rib of beef”, which basically meant he was roasting it first and then frying it, the benefit of doing it that way means you have more control over cooking it properly and you get a really nice crust on it. Alongside his beef he served a (mercifully not pureed) salted and roasted beetroot, a watercress puree and Wasabi Buttermilk as well as a Sake and Bone Marrow Sauce on the side, which Gregg did unfortunately describe as “slippery beefiness”.
In true Tom form it was served up looking like a piece art

It’s very Mondrian – graphic, bold, slightly geometric lumps of colours. It’s modern and cool looking, who could complain?
Gregg did seem slightly sceptical of the presentation but John loved it and his perfectly handled cooking of the meat and both of them are obsessed with the Bone Marrow and Sake Sauce.

Tom introduced his dessert by saying it was “a play on a classic flavour combination” so I, being a naïve fool, thought “Oh cool, strawberries and cream maybe. Or perhaps coffee and chocolate. It’s Tom though, so maybe something with red bean paste?” what I absolutely didn’t expect was for that sentence to be finished with “Citrus and Olives”. This involved what is essentially a Tarte au Citron with the Lemon being replaced by Yuzu and then topped with a Black Olive Meringue that sat atop it like an ominous little raincloud

But it didn’t stop there! On the side of it is an Olive Oil Ice Cream with sea salt and a bonus dash of olive oil. How you feeling Gregg?

This was when it became very apparent that Tom was going to win because the Victory Orchestral Strings really kicked into high gear – I have never in my life heard a less subtle music cue and I say that having watched Suicide Squad. Twice.
All that really needs to be said is that John describes it as flawless and Gregg described all the ingredients with a vigour that I haven’t ever seen take over him before.

While Tom kept everything relatively Japanese, Alexina’s entire aim for her menu was to take us on a round the world trip starting with her starter inspired by a recipe for a Malaysian Crab Soup that she was once given, serving it as a bowl of crab and pickled cabbage with a Galangal Broth

which both John and Gregg love, it’s a light, refreshing starter but John is particularly enamoured by her side dish of Peanut Butter Toast in the form of a satay sauce crouton

Croutons have been weirdly divisive this series so I’m glad someone managed to create one that allowed John to reach new heights of bread-based euphoria.

Her main course was taking us from Malaysia to the Caribbean where she was risking it all on a bavette steak – I admire anyone brave enough to cook steaks in a pressurised environment, it’s bad enough on Come Dine With Me when they’re cooking steaks for 5 catty local vying for £1000, imagine cooking it for John Torode and Gregg Wallace while trying to win MasterChef?
The risk didn’t stop at the steak as due to her own love of hot sauce she was making her own using the classic steak accompaniment… Papaya. As well as a Jamaican inspired Chimichurri Sauce, a Carrot and Thyme Puree and a pair of Cassava Chips on the side

John of all people is the one that wishes he had more of the papaya hot sauce which is fair given the single blob of it but I also understand Alexina not wanting to put too much on the plate because paprika tends to make John sweat. Her handling of the steak is absolutely perfect and you really couldn’t have hoped for better. I’m mostly intrigued by the cassava chips, I think they look amazing

I just want to know what the texture was like. They look so fluffy and yet so dense.

Her dessert was a much more seemingly pared back dish that is deceptively simple. She was riffing on her grandmother’s Apple and Blackberry Pie and instead of a pie she was aiding Nigella Lawson in the crusade to Reclaim The Spiralizer by spiralizing an apple and then re-rolling it up and baking it in a ring mould

she was flavouring this with a Miso Caramel and serving it with Gin Soaked Blackberries, a Blackberry Sauce and Thyme Ice Cream that might be the most successful ice cream we’ve ever seen on the show, by which mean it isn’t in that half state between being a solid scoop and nothing but a creamy puddle

John is utterly amazed that the roasted spiralised apple tastes exactly like a roast apple. Who’d have thunk it? Someone tell 5 Minute Crafts, we have a new Life Hack for them!
It’s a very clever dessert, it hits all the notes of a very familiar apple pie that everyone loves (please don’t write in if you hate apple pie) while managing to be an entirely different dish and eating experience, which is pretty much Alexina in a nutshell. There is however a slight lack of miso in the caramel so it doesn’t have that real salty kick that was promised, which is one of two very tiny slip ups.

All three of them did incredible jobs, there isn’t a single one of the dishes that I would turn my nose up at – I might be slightly sceptical of that one raw oyster though but as they say “Do it for the sake”

and before we crown the winner of MasterChef 2021, I need to say thank you to every single contestant that took part in the show under circumstances that were not ideal – you’ve all made incredible television, it may not have gone quite how you all wanted it to but I hope you enjoyed it nonetheless, it’s been a joy to write about you all and I’m so glad so many of you engaged with the blog over the last few weeks!

And now for the end! Our winner and champion of MasterChef 2021 is…

A thoroughly deserving Tom!
It’s a win you just can’t deny, that final menu was an absolute blinder – I’m not sure anyone in Civilian MasterChef has ever pulled off such a perfect game? Homeruns from beginning to end. I may have watched A League of Their Own over the weekend.

The nicest thing about MasterChef is that if you reach the finale you’re pretty much guaranteed a massive career change and bright future in the culinary industry and I can’t wait to see not only what Tom achieves but where Alexina and Mike go from here too – they’re all very special, talented people who deserve the world and more.

It’s been a joy to write about this series, I’m assuming there will be a Celebrity Series sometime in the summer but if not, I’ll catch you in the Professionals in the Autumn!
And one last congratulations to Tom, because I can’t say it enough!

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