MasterChef: The Professionals 2021, The Final: Chekhov’s Intestinal Tract

Lock him in a temple of snakes and call him Cassandra.

It’s the final, and it’s an incredibly close run race. You might even say there is but 2 inches of clingfilm between them all…

A Final Dishdown

As ever the final is for the remaining chefs to cook a 3 course menu for Gregg, Marcus and Monica with the only real instruction being this:

And boy was Marcus in for quite the performance as Liam’s chances of winning do a spectacular vanishing act…

I’ll go through everyone in the order that the show went through them – largely because there’s no real narrative to the episode and also I would quite like to put off talking about Liam pouring gravy over a dish while visibly crying for as long as I possibly can.

Aaron was up first and with the family man rebrand in full swing, he had very much gone the classic route of ascribing each of his dishes with a great deal of sentimentality. His starter was Smoked Confit Salmon served on a salad of Almonds, Gooseberries and Samphire with a Horseradish Cream on the side

and oh the tale he wove about how it was all inspired by his time in Scotland and the dish symbolised an early misty morning in the Scottish highlands (which is slightly more flattering than Liam’s pine and smoke dessert inspired by Scotland) – but it was also almost entirely done to try and distract from the fact the plate is a touch simple – delicious and well balanced as ever but it doesn’t really have much of a wow factor or technique that you can praise to the heavens – it’s just a nice piece of salmon and a salad.

And things didn’t get much more complex from there with his main course being the billionth take on Steak and Chips to appear on the show – of course inspired by the best meal he’s ever had which was the steaks he and his girlfriend stole from work and cooked on Valentine’s Day. As for how he was zhuzhing his steak and chips up – he was poaching the steak in beef dripping (genius, god tier, give him a medal) and making skinny fries, which are at least a nice departure from the usual thrice cooked chunky chip building blocks we usually see. As for the sauces that a MasterChef plate of Steak and Chips live and die by: he was making a red wine gastrique (which really deserves a name that doesn’t make you think of stomach acid) and a béarnaise sauce which was being turned into a foam that Monica had to desperately try to sound excited by. Nobody is ever excited by a foam, may we please retire them?

Aaron had also fully embraced gimmickry for his presentation, having recruited his mother to write a newspaper front page featuring a single “Greg” typo for his chips to be served in

and very quickly it began to sink in that Aaron has spent far too much time watching Great British Menu and I regret to inform you that we have indeed once again returned to the era of having chips served in miniature deep-fryer baskets

I’m not ready for James Martin nostalgia to return, somebody make it stop.

It’s very much a well cooked plate of food but you could really tell that the judges were struggling to get enthused by a dish they have by all means been served 100 times before without any real innovation or inventiveness and I can think of several of Aaron’s past dishes that feel much more like finale worthy main courses – his lobster dish for one.

As for his dessert, well it was a showcase of strawberries and raspberries that did at least look like the most visually striking dish that Aaron has served

given that they had three hours to do everything in, I’m not really sure I see 3 hours of work in Aaron’s dishes? I think he perhaps played it just that little bit too safe, which granted did at least mean he wasn’t buzzing around the kitchen like a blue arse fly so he was a delightful port of calm in amongst the frenzy of Dan sweating for Britain and Liam murdering crockery

the boy really did choose violence.

Dan was up next with a menu inspired by the time he spent in Singapore, which he credits with changing the way he looks at and interacts with food and was thus showcasing a few of the country’s national dishes, starting with his take on Singapore Chilli Crab that he was serving atop a deep-fried bao bun and alongside some tempura soft-shell crab and a basil cream

I think it’s one of the most divine sounding plates of food – I’m a fiend for soft-shell crab – my favourite Korean take-away removed it from their menu and I entered a full Victorian-style mourning period, it’s been a hard year guys. And I was getting serious envy because the judges raved about the dish and for the first time Marcus looked at Dan like he looked at Liam every time he cooked chicken

and things only got better for Dan in his main course which was a play on Singapore’s national dish of Chicken Rice – and given the last time Dan served chicken he almost poisoned Gregg Wallace, I was a touch worried about how this was going to go, and my heart did also sink a little bit when I saw the final plate

That’s a great big slab of chicken that looks dubiously gelatinous, but even though it looked like it had the texture of a Barratt’s prawn foam sweet, the judges loved it! In particular the decision to stuff the skin with chicken thigh mince, which is the second most cursed sentence I’ll write today. But it’s the rice cooked in chicken stock that gets Gregg all excited – admittedly he does treat it as though Dan invented chicken stock rice, but it is actually the traditional method that the dish is cooked with in Singapore.

Seemingly wise to the fact any dessert from outside of a European country tends to go down like a lead balloon on this show, Dan was making a treacle tart which he was flavouring with smoked hay and serving with pickled ginger, a shiso crumb and some impressively intricate looking tuiles

the risk with a treacle tart is that it’ll end up being too sweet – and we know how sensitive the judges have been to sweetness this series. However, the salty shiso crumb apparently mellowed out the sickly sweet golden syrup.

Much like with his dim sum starter in the Chefs’ Table Challenge, Dan had given himself an incredible workload for this challenge – even with three hours to do it all in and it was pretty obvious at this point that Dan was at least going to finish in a solid second place… AND THEN.

Well, the first sign that disaster was on the horizon was that Liam was cooking like a man possessed by Pazuzu

and Monica had the audacity to tell Dan that he looked frantic while Liam was in the background jittering about the place like he was dancing the lindy hop while off his face on 15 espressos.

For his starter Liam was going for langoustines, and for now we’ll just call this Chekhov’s Intestinal Tract

not to be confused with Chekhov’s Clingfilm

each of those shots accompanied by a slight drum snare… The editing of this show? *chef’s kiss*

As for what he was doing to these langoustines, well he was painting them in the brains of a lobster like some sort of victory of war ceremony

can we go 1 series of this show without someone doing something weird and awful to crustaceans?

The purpose of the brain-paint was to make the langoustines as red as possible, which certainly worked – BUT AT WHAT COST?

and it’s a smart looking dish! Granted the Thai Green Curry Veloute that he made looked distinctly unappetising

but I had also just looked at a langoustine smeared in lobster brains so maybe my judgement was clouded.

And it was all looking so good for Liam and then like a cursed version of The Generation Game’s conveyor belt, Marcus Wareing began extracting a series of aberrant ingredients, including the curry-soaked spectral form of some cling film

and a rogue intenstinal tract

and for one brief moment the entire world stopped still as we descended into the most uncomfortable piece of television of the year as Liam had to sit there and watch Monica, Marcus and Gregg eat a three course meal while he did his best not to curl up into a fetal position under the table and sob uncontrollably. Monica tried her best to give a pep talk, which did occasionally slip into being the exact same cadence as Tyra Banks telling Tiffany that “I WAS ROOTING FOR YOU! WE WERE ALL ROOTING FOR YOU!” and I’m not exactly sure how much it helped but she tried her best to reassure him that her plate was free of clingfilm and any stray digestive systems.

In an attempt to bring some non-cling film related theatrics to his main course, Liam decided that he was going to dress the plate in front of the judges – which was probably a better idea pre-langoustine offal because he was not in the right frame of my mind to be doing it and very much applied the Thyme Oil as more of a stress relieving exercise than with any care for the culinary arts

I am steadfastly refusing to gif or screenshot Liam crying, it just seems cruel to immortalise that side of his experience on a blog that is trying to find at least an ounce of humour in this painfully slow car crash.

At least nothing goes wrong with the main course – his pigeon is all perfectly cooked, I don’t much care for the plating but I think we’ll just have to accept that everything is going to be served like it’s an IKEA flat pack guide for at least the next 2 years.

And his successes continued into his dessert, which again at least provided him with another outlet for his simmering anger and rage as he got to blowtorch his cherry tuile into nothingness

Nic’s influence is unstoppable.

It’s an interesting sounding dessert of poached cherries, creme fraiche cake and a woodruff ice cream that apparently tasted sort of like Amaretto and I’m going to need a gallon of it, for scientific research purposes, obviously. The judges mostly rave about the balance of the dish with the sharp cherries being mellowed by the flatter flavours of everything else – it’s also nice to see Liam succeeding in a dessert after his Pine and Tobacco one didn’t quite work out so well – not that he was really hearing any of the praise because it was all drowned out by echoing memory of him tearing cling film. The poor guy deserved so much better than this, he’s been a star and I’m absolutely gutted that it ended this way. But with MasterChef, you can at least always guarantee that the finalists will go on to have really good careers, regardless of any choking hazards they might have served.

A Final Menu Dish Ranking

  1. Dan’s Singaporean Crab Toast
  2. Dan’s Chicken, Rice and the Little Pandan Too!
  3. Liam’s Lobster Brain Paint sans Cling Film
  4. Dan’s Migratory European Dessert
  5. Liam Setting Fire To The Cherry Rain
  6. Liam’s Aggressively Sauced Flat Pack Pigeon
  7. Aaron’s Audition for Great British Menu
  8. Aaron’s Long Walk to a Short Salmon
  9. Aaron, That’s Just Strawberries and Cream…
  10. The Cling Film That Haunts Us All

Well, that was certainly an interesting finalé with more nonsense drama than even Game of Thrones managed – and they went full Dragon Hitler. Given that they couldn’t really give the trophy to Liam because 2 inches of clingfilm in a dish is kind of 2 inches of clingfilm too much, it was down to Dan and Aaron. It’s interesting because I think about 10 years ago, Aaron would have won with this menu, it’s *very* 2012 Olympic patriotism era food. But it is undeniable that Dan cooked one hell of a menu, each plate was perfect, exciting and had character without needing to give it some great Homeric backstory – and so, the man who mostly stumbled into the final in a bit of a frantic, chaotic heap goes on to lift the trophy

it genuinely might be my favourite MasterChef result of all time – the drama, the plot twist, the fact he didn’t cook a single French dish all series! Iconic behaviour. I do choose My Honorable Series Boyfriends well…

We can work on the champagne drinking technique. I can fix him. I have the technology.

And so that’s it – it’s been a wild series and I’ve had a lot of fun recapping it and if you’ve enjoyed the recaps and would like to support the blog, you can leave a small tip over on my Ko-fi account HERE. It really does help keep the blog, and my coffee dependant sanity, going!

But I must finish, once again, by congratulating Dan on his stonkingly unexpected win

TOP: DAN, John, Aaron
MID: Charith, Ryan <3, Matt
BOT: Daniel, Jamie, Liam

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