MasterChef: The Professionals 2021, Episode 15: Makeshift Spoon-spine

Big fan of professional chefs having to try to critique toast.

It’s the final heat of the semi-finals and we are wading into Burger Discourse.

Pop-up Goes The Weasel

This episode saw the return of the other group of chefs: Aaron, John, Inevitable Winner Daniel From Portugal and Liam who were all also being banished to the apocalypse aid relief bunker to prepare and cook 14 plates of their pop-up restaurant dish

while the previous group very much embraced the street food side of the pop-up restaurant trade, this lot were going a much more fine dining route – which I think did confuse the diners a little bit as they kept critiquing everything on the grounds of it being street food which I feel pretty comfortable in saying any sort of velouté almost instantly disqualifies a dish as being street food – I’m not walking around a food market thinking “I could really go for a nice bowl of velouté right now.”

Aaron was at least on hand to give us a more traditional and expected pop-up restaurant dish with his pulled pork burger

I’m sorry, his Pulled Pork Filled Johnnycake – they really went to extreme lengths not to call this a burger so that they didn’t have to tell him he was playing it safe like Matt and his nonsense burrito. In Aaron’s favour however was the fact he had handmade the Johnnycakes, a sort of Godly sounding doughnut-scone hybrid popular in the Caribbean and Latin America but originating from the Native peoples of North America.

The serving did of course mean we were treated to Marcus Wareing, a man that oozes fine dining from every pore, trying to navigate one which Monica watched in almost horrified fascination

the burger wasn’t even the least elegant part of the whole meal as he had served a rum punch alongside it, finished with a pineapple garnish on the side that everyone refused to take off and had to then be very careful not jab themselves in the eye with a chunk of pineapple as they came face to face with the ananasian peril

the punch goes down particularly well with everyone, which was to be expected considering Aaron had double bottled the booze

that’s a man who knows how to game the system.

With a catering challenge, and more importantly a pop-up kitchen catering challenge, one of the things that should probably be taken into heaviest consideration is plating up and trying to do as much of it in advance as you can – which is why a burger was such a good idea because quite of a lot of its prep can be done early and you can plate it up in seconds because nobody really cares if your burger looks like an absolute trash heap, that’s part of the charm. The other three however were planning to do a lot of their dishes to order – a decision that only really paid off for Liam and his Carrot and Coriander Bhaji bedecked in all the trimmings your favourite Indian take-away’s sundries menu has to offer

and of course a bowl of Dahl Veloute, which everyone was a little bit sceptical of but went on to thoroughly praise, with Lisa Meyer, who was very much The Reverseworld version of Anna Gonçalves, going on to deem to The Star of the Day, which was quite a feat because Liam served all of his stuff first so the other three might as well have just packed up and gone, which might have been in John’s favour…. Oh poor, sweet, misguided John. All he wanted was Marcus’s love and affection and all he got was his frustration and ire. Which to be fair wasn’t unwarranted considering John swaggered into this challenge with a dish he hadn’t really tested properly, clearly having learned absolutely nothing from Nic The Barbecue Man and his brandy cured egg yolk dessert. Speaking of Nic, John was also doing awful things with fire, including but not limited to burning grapes

and cremating a mass grave of lettuce

The Eldritch God of Fire and Destruction must be satiated somehow.

The main component of John’s dish was a Hake Kiev filled with a Katsu Butter Sauce, which is an incredible sounding dish but one that within the realms of a MasterChef kitchen, especially a MasterChef kitchen in an abandoned warehouse, is almost certainly going to be a disaster. He could really have probably got away with serving just the hake kiev and his Jasmine rice but because John is John, he was also making an onion bhaji and a verjus salad – hence the scorching of the grapes. With so much to prepare he didn’t have time to test his hake, which was already giving him a little bit of worry because it was too flaky, meaning he had to butterfly it and fill with the sauce rather than doing it via buttery probe. Know that “buttery probe” was going to be the recap title but I thought it might put people off too much.

He did at least manage to get everything onto the plate in time though

I’m sure the intention of his presentation was of that of a Japanese Bento Box, however there’s something distinctly airline food about the general geometry and textures of his dish. And it goes down about as well with the diners as airline food would with Shanthini Ramanan cackling over how he’d absolutely ruined his bhaji

it probably didn’t help him that Liam had just served them all a particularly successful bhaji.

However, it was the Hake that everyone was waiting on, and everyone was very excited to see this fish ooze and then it kind of just clagged up

the fish is admittedly beautifully cooked and what little remains of the katsu butter sauce was very tasty, it’s just not the dish that he had set out to create – sadly nobody comments on the incinerated grape salad, Anna Gonçalves would have. She probably would have picked out each charred grape corpse and thrown it at John for good measure.

Lastly we have Daniel who was putting a spin on the popular Portuguese snack of Sardines and Toast, which involved swapping the sardines for red mullet and stubbornly refusing to call the toast “toast” and instead “grilled bread”. This grilled bread caused infinitely more problems than a piece of toast should ever be capable of outside of the world of Four In A Bed because Daniel got a real bee in his bonnet about the bread going stale if he cut it too early so he was doing it right at the last minute – and just the fact he and Monica essentially had an argument about a la minute toast is the most delightfully absurd thing that’s happened thus far this series.

Alongside his Red Mullet and Controversial Toast, he was making a distinctly Daniel bowl of saffron broth, which featured the obligatory whole tomatoes bobbing around in it as well as a swirl of green and lurking beneath it all was an “aubergine caviar” – quite what made it a caviar is beyond me, unless someone is about to tell me that aubergines are called eggplants because they’re oviparous?

it turns out the aubergine was absolutely unnecessary to the dish because it gets thoroughly lost amongst the saffron broth, and if you’re going to go to the lengths of dubbing it “a caviar” – it better be special. The rest of the dish is thoroughly praised, with star of the show Ramon ‘El Tigre’ Ramos thoroughly praising the toast

I love him and I will write an 80s buddy cop movie for him to star in when I’m done with these MasterChef recaps. It’s what he deserves.

A Pop-up Dish Ranking

  1. Aaron’s Drunk Burger
  2. Liam’s Fancy Bhaji
  3. Daniel’s Controversial Toast
  4. John, Honey. What Are You Doing?

A Final Effort

Much like with the previous group, the final challenge of the episode was a very open ended, “please just make something nice and hopefully edible.” and so naturally, in order to impress the tactic was largely to go for the most expensive or weird ingredients you could make the BBC buy for you. Aaron being lucky enough to bag himself three lobsters

I know it’s to keep them straight but the sight of a bisected lobster with a makeshift spoon-spine is nonetheless an alarming sight.

He had chosen the lobster because he believes a perfectly cooked lobster is the sign of a truly great chef, which are brave words to utter in the MasterChef kitchen. Alongside his Bonito Butter Poached Lobster Tail he was making ravioli stuffed with a Lobster and Scallop Mousse accompanied by a fennell and pollen mayonnaise and an Epice Sauce made from red peppers and spiced largely with star anise

it’s certainly a dish that shows a lot of skill and technique, there is just something to me about it that seems very jumbled and like two people have ordered two seperate starters and decided to share – I’m mostly just not sold on the idea of using a Raviolo as an accompaniment in a dish. But the judges love it and he certainly pulled off the feat of cooking a lobster, the one detraction is that his sauce, while tasty, doesn’t exactly punch the spicy hit he had promised.

Daniel was, naturally, also opting for seafood and even more naturally had dubbed his dish “A Bowlful of Sea” – composed of a Trout Rillettes (which is just a way of saying paté without saying paté) a (not sea) cucumber jelly, carabinos prawns, oysters and a sprinkling of wasabi pearls, squid ink batter and flying fish roe

oh, there was also a side of “crispy bread” because Daniel is still hellbent on never uttering the word “toast” as though it might summon some sort of bready demon from the depths of Hell.

Marcus is absolutely thrilled by the Bowlful of Sea and the array of textures, deeming it a faultless. Gregg on the other hand found it all a little conceptually overwhelming and muddled, an opinion that looked like it was going to end in a brawl backstage between him and Marcus

I’ll put £20 on Marcus “The Bear Man” Wareing, thanks.

Coming in to this round it was clearly John that needed to do the most catching up – really he probably needed to walk a 5 mile penance walk in order to redeem himself in the eyes of Marcus but he was instead hoping his celebration of Mushrooms and Weird Bits Of A Chicken would do the trick. The concept of the dish was to wow us with as many unusual and underused mushrooms as he possibly could while cooking a sort of chicken abstraction composed only of chicken skin, a chicken mousseline hidden inside some morel mushrooms and of course doing something awful with an egg yolk

I will have to ban chefs from using egg yolks if they’re going to keep putting them in bags like they’re the worst prize at the hook-a-duck station at the funfair. Can’t give you a goldfish anymore kid, here’s an egg yolk in a baggy.

The dish had its good qualities, namely his Chicken of the Woods Mushroom Nuggets which he probably should have just served an entire bowl of for his pop-up restaurant dish

and all the other mushrooms were well cooked, there was just a general lack of seasoning across the dish but it certainly showcased the skills that John has and with a few tweaks here and there, this would be a pretty phenomenal plate of food.

Lastly we have Liam who is currently the only direct threat to Daniel’s MasterChef Crowning given that Monica is on a one woman mission to turn him into the most TV friendly chef she possibly can, constantly telling him to smile like she’s a pushy mother on Toddlers and Tiaras. I think my favourite thing about Liam is the fact he is so distinctly TV averse, all he wants to do is cook and whenever he has to do a to-camera bit, you can feel his flight response threatening to kick in at any second and for him to sprint off stage right like a startled antelope. I will protect him at all costs.

As for Liam’s dish, he was doing your kind of bog-standard pork dish of pork fillet with a multitude of apple and celeriac components and then serving it up like a consortium of aliens holding a war meeting

This plating style should have absolutely had him torn to shreds by Marcus and Monica, it’s just so… nothing and the fact he wasn’t thoroughly suggests he’s at least a finalist, and if that didn’t tell you that, the fact this exchange happened certainly did

this was followed by a very sudden cut to John telling a very disappointed Monica that he had had to sacrifice his asparagus due to bad time management – this entire week has just been a slow build up to John revealing himself as some sort of supervillain hellbent on world domination.

A Last Ditch Effort Dish Ranking

  1. Daniel’s Bowlful of Sea Through The Eyes of Marcus
  2. Aaron Selling Lobbies 180gp Each
  3. Liam’s Pork War Room
  4. John’s Abstract Chicken and Niche Mushrooms

It was pretty obvious how this was going to end with the entire week seemingly just being about making John miserable and thus ultimately ending in the poor lad being eliminated

just remember John, when you do blot out the sun and whither our crops, I liked you.

And so, we have our 6 chefs heading to Finals Week

And if you’ve enjoyed this recap of the final MasterChef: The Professionals’s semi-final heat and would like to support the blog, you can leave a small donation via my Ko-fi HERE.

Leave a Reply