MasterChef: The Professionals 2021, Episode 17: Warbound Sea Slug

*he sips in French*

It’s the penultimate episode so I hope you’re ready for a 40 minute advert for a restaurant you can’t afford to go to without selling your first born child!

We Can Rebuild it, We Have The Technology

I always think they should do the Reinvent a Classic Dish challenge much earlier in the competition – fully maximise the potential chaos of it all as somebody no doubt tries to turn Spaghetti Bolognese into some sort of nightmarish savoury Mille-Feuille. THAT IS NOT A CHALLENGE.

Eager to show there’s more to him than cooking luxury meats, Aaron chose to reinvent the Tarte Tatin – sadly forgetting about his family man rebranding and failing to recant some family anecdote about the quaint holiday they spent in the foothills of the Pyrenees. His twisting of the dessert was largely just to make the tarte tatin into a slightly more aesthetic pudding – as lovely as they are, they do tend to look somebody melted a bicycle seat in the oven. And in that regard, Aaron very much succeeded

it’s certainly one of the more successful apple roses we’ve seen on the show. As for the puff pastry that’s so important to the tarte tatin, he had forsaked it and turned it into an ice cream and then fortified it with a caramel tuile like some sort of warbound sea slug

sadly for Aaron, the positives for his dessert mostly stopped at everyone telling him that it looked pretty because everyone found it a little bit too sweet – I would argue that a tarte tatin – a dessert consisting almost exclusive of apple and caramel, is a dessert designed to be stupidly sweet. He might have been better off turning the puff pastry into a custard rather than an ice cream though.

Dan was also trying to show a different side to his cookery style, opting to reinvent an Italian Caprese Salad rather than a Chinese dish. It’s a very savvy move to take on a salad because what you’re really doing is just giving yourself a list of raw ingredients (in this case Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella) and you can do anything to them and end up with something slightly more exciting. As for what Dan was doing, I’m not going to say he was stealing Daniel’s bowl of soft textural nonsense gig but…. he was stealing Daniel’s bowl of soft textural nonsense gig

and if you’re wondering where the basil is, it was piped on as a foam in front of the judges for a bit of ~theatre~ and garnished with wild garlic flowers because apparently Dan operates like Rogue from X-men and is just absorbing the gimmicks of other contestants

it’s not quite dramatically setting your dessert on fire and robbing Gregg Wallace of the last of his eyebrows but it’s a lot easier on the floor manager’s blood pressure.

There was a risk in the simplicity of his dish, consisting mostly of lightly cooked tomatoes and aerated mozzarella, which probably would have got him a telling off for being a bit lazy had he not decided to risk it big on a Mackerel and Strawberry Tartare that sat atop a particularly threatening onion ash cracker

there was, very justifiably, a lot of concern about this tartare and the fact strawberries were going anywhere near a fish but the judges were shocked by how much they liked it and I regret to inform you that we’re in for a whole series of fish and strawberries next year – AND WE’LL ONLY HAVE DAN TO BLAME.

With Daniel having basically spent the entire competition reinventing every Portuguese classic going, you would have thought this challenge would have been right up his alley – all he needed to was take a Bifana sandwich, reduce it to it’s most basic parts and pile it into a bowl and he’d have been GOLDEN. And yet what Daniel chose to do was take on a Bouillabaisse, a verifiable bowl of nonsense to begin with, and make into… another Bouillabaisse

I can only imagine that in his state of obvious exhaustion he skimmed over the brief before falling asleep in his cornflakes and having Gregg Wallace related nightmares.

In his favour though is the fact it’s a very well made bouillabaisse and Monica particularly enjoyed the slice of gluttony toast on the side, so much so that she offered up a sentence I never thought I would ever hear someone say

The caption suggests excitement, the eyes suggest only fear.

And lastly we have Liam who was taking on that classic Beef and Oyster Pie – which I hadn’t realised was a thing and had to Google it to make sure that Liam wasn’t just deciding it was a thing. Unsurprinsgly, it was popular with the Victorians and in what I fully believe is a part of the Wikipedia entry added by Rick Stein, we are reliably informed (with a cited link to Rick’s own website) that when made by Rick Stein, the pie is prepared with Guinness – it’s a very important part of the dish’s history that future generations MUST know about!

As for Liam’s future part of the Wikipedia entry, he was reinventing it by turning it into what he called a “piestilla” – a sort of hybrid of a pie and a North African Pastilla – a portmanteau he almost instantly regretted as he realised he may have just committed an act of colonialism

and thus nobody uttered the phrase “piestilla” for the rest of the episode. #LiamIsOverParty

The only real element of the pastilla that Liam was drawing from was the fact it’s a pie made with warqa dough, which is similar to filo, which he was using to make a beef cheek parcel, serving it alongside a battered oysters, a slice of beef fillet, slightly more than a single drop of oyster emulsion and a beef tartare over yonder

Do I have to even say that I hate the presentation of this dish? There is no reason that any of this has to be separated by visible daylight like we’re at a Mormon school dance. LET THE BEEF TOUCH. Of course the judges don’t mind it, they love a bit of chaste beef and given that everything was pretty perfectly cooked, it’s another session of fawning of Liam in all his slightly beige and delightfully awkward glory.

A Reinvented Classic Ranking

  1. Liam’s Catholic Beef
  2. Dan’s Bowl of Nonsense
  3. Aaron’s Apple Rose and Fortified Sea Slug Mount
  4. Sometimes a Bouillabaisse Is Just a Bouillabaisse

Coming in to Finals Week, I would have said that Dan was one of the more obvious cuts to make but he finally seemed to get over his TV nerves and has really flourished in these last two episodes. Meanwhile, Inevitable Winner Daniel From Portugal’s non-existent sleep pattern and the fact he’s functioning exclusively off coffee and contractual obligation at this point kind of just lost his momentum in the competition, peaking very early and finding himself locked in by his bowl-bound aesthetics and it is thus the man who I would have bet £50 on winning a couple of weeks ago is eliminated

note to self, never make early predictions, you’re really bad at it

Except for the first time, I do have an Honourable Series Boyfriend in the final – well done Dan, you did it for me.

A 40 Minute Advert for Alain Ducasse’s Restaurant That 90% of the Audience Can’t Afford To Go To

When we do finally Eat The Rich, I’m going to insist we do it as part of an 8 course tasting menu in the Alain Ducasse Dorchester dining room

Elon Musk tapenade to start, thanks.

Of course going to cook at an Alain Ducasse restaurant is a big deal for any professional chef – it is after all a 3 Michelin Star place and serves such incredible dishes as The Ruptured Corpse of Whatever Piece of Sea Life Washes Up On The Shores of Thames That Morning

the fact they showed this as the promotional reel said “He has set the standards for modern European cookery for decades” has been a highlight of the series – if only because I now have someone to blame for the current state of culinary presentation. DAMN YOU DUCASSE!

The chefs unfortunately don’t get to cook for Alain Ducasse, presumably because under Covid guidelines he was staying holed up in Monaco, what a hard life. Instead they were being mentored by and cooking for Jean-Philippe Blondet.

Veggie Tales

For their first challenge at the restaurant the chefs had to create a dish that was in line with the Ducasse motto, which is apparently “vegetables and zero waste” which does at least somewhat explain the sea snake corpse.

As it was an invention challenge, Dan was a little bit worried considering his last effort to do one mostly resulted in him boiling spaghetti and making a subpar Lloyd Grossman sauce. And Jean-Phillipe did nothing to help Dan’s nerve as the two of them sat across from each other prior to him tasting Dan’s dish giving off the same energy as the most awkward date on Channel 4’s First Dates


Dan was at least more inspired this time, drawing from the time he took his sister to Aktar Islam’s restaurant where there was apparently a dish based exclusively on carrots and likely had a price mark-up of 900%. Dan’s carroty offering was a carrot and ginger puree, roasted carrots and a broth made from the carrot tops and lemongrass – unsurprisingly it largely just looked like a pile of carrots

but Jean-Philippe liked it, granted he absolutely knew he was mostly going to be eating shaved vegetables and various carrot top broths so he couldn’t really set the standards too high but Dan’s dish certainly felt the most complete – I mean Liam had just entombed several root vegetables in a salt-bake casing and then served them alongside a salad of pickled and raw vegetables

Jean-Philippe kind of just shrugged his way through the dish, it clearly didn’t excite him very much – sadly he wasn’t privy to the most exciting part of the dish which was obviously Liam releasing his parsnip from its salty sepulchre (Long Winded Innuendo Bingo!)

does the fact he didn’t make Jean-Philippe eat the salt-bake casing disqualify the dish as zero-waste though?

Lastly we have Aaron who, upon realising he had forgotten about his family man rebrand in the last challenge, was driving the point home HARD this challenge with a dish inspired by watering the tomatoes at his grandfather’s house

you can really tell they all struggled with presentation this round and mostly defaulted to just throwing flowers at it like a particularly enthusiastic flower girl. Jean-Phillipe did think the dish could have been better presented – I imagine he would have preferred it had it looked more like the bouquet of flowers you threw out 2 weeks later than you probably should have

the aesthetics of the Ducasse Empire are a mystery to me.

A Ducasse Ethos Dish Ranking

  1. Vegetables and Broth
  2. Vegetables and Broth
  3. Vegetables and Broth

Professional Chefs in a Professional Kitchen

To round out their Ducasse Experience Liam, Aaron and Dan got to experience a very tame dinner service in the Ducasse Dining Room as they cook for a series of very obviously not paying guests, including designated Roux Family Cameo in the form of Emily Roux. I’m sure the three of them got a lot out of the experience in terms of picking up some new techniques, but as far as it goes in terms of audience entertainment, it’s a thoroughly dry affair because this is afterall, mostly just an advert for the restaurant. There isn’t even really that much jeopardy given that these three are all professional chefs so obviously knew what to expect and they all cope incredibly well, to the point where they seemingly have to invent tension in the form of Liam apparently over doing a piece of his turbot

it’s very Pam Beesley’s “They’re the same picture” meme.

Given that the restaurant apparently prides itself on zero waste dishes, I’m going to assume they didn’t throw out any of the £232 fish, and will instead assume they served the allegedly slightly too browned piece of turbot to Gregg.

Aaron had some issues of his own, mostly in that he was having to cook about 14 pigeons to order and spent a significant amount of time presenting pigeons in various different states of roasted to a very unimpressed Jean-Philippe like he was testing paint samples for his living room’s feature wall

That’s a lovely shade of Safari Spice if anyone wanted to know.

Aaron also had a bit of a cooking mishap as he overcooked one (1) of his pigeons. It’s not really a surprise given that the accompanying sardine stuffed aubergine took up a considerable amount of his attention – mostly because he was having to sift through the each sardine in order to find its heart and liver. And because they are after all a restaurant dedicated to zero waste AND DEFINITELY AREN’T THROWING AWAY £15 OF TURBOT FOR BEING SLIGHTLY TOO BROWN ON THE EDGES, they even serve the dish with the sardine’s skeleton… Which does lend the whole thing a certain air of… trash

but it did at least give us this

if nothing else, MasterChef: The Professionals at least delivers high on screenshots that are absolutely baffling out of context.

Dan was on desserts where his biggest challenge was apparently scooping the raspberry sorbet into a perfect rose-like scoop

I would beg to differ and say that his biggest challenge was not laughing in Jean-Phillipe’s face because the dessert he was having to make looked like a set of false teeth someone dropped in the woods

Alain Ducasse, please stop being this chaotic, the European culinary community’s future is apparently in your hands – you can’t be serving desserts that look like the remains of a novelty joke shop disaster.

Quite surprisingly, it’s Dan who manages the best in the kitchen, his only real issue being his first sorbet rose doesn’t quite come out to the exacting standards of his new boyfriend, Jean-Philippe.

And that’s all the content I could mine from that experience. I think they could have done a more narratively interesting course designation: put Aaron on the starter to show he can do a more delicate plating style, put Dan on the main course to show him how to get the most out of his ingredients and then put Liam on desserts to help him expand his pastry knowledge and skills.

And so, into the final we go where anyone* could win!

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


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