That awkward moment when you realise you don’t have three hands.
It’s back and… apparently it’s going to be bigger than ever because now we have Audition Rounds tacked onto the beginning of it!
The Audition Process
With a lot of people voicing concerns that the MasterChef format was growing a little bit stale, they’ve decided to reinvent it slightly with the introduction of an Audition Round in which the contestants cook a signature dish for John and Gregg. And you might wonder how this differs from the previous First Round in which a group of contestants had to cook a signature dish for John and Gregg… It’s mostly that there’s 9 contestants (which I am taking as an attempt to make me stop writing these recaps, IT’S NOT GONNA HAPPEN BABE) and there’s now a tastefully decorated “Tasting Room”
it’s all leaning towards the MasterChef: Australia format without wanting to fully commit to the chaos of it all. Another adoption from Down Under is that the contestants cook in groups of three while the others watch and provide a commentary – which in Australia results in a sort of Gladiatorial spectatorship where they fall just short of actually having someone killed by a lion, and in the UK it’s mostly just three nice people delicately perched on stools asking each other how they’re doing. Or if you’re Pookie, psyching everyone out
I entirely blame her saying this for the fact Rachel decided to crucify her Lemon Ricotta Ravioli on a cross of Pepper and Nduja sauce
I will always commend someone for coming on and deciding to make their own pasta, sure hers weren’t perfect with them being a little thick around the edges, but she got the shape of them correct which is more than a fair few chefs on MasterChef: The Professionals managed. The balance of her flavours are also a little off with the nduja overpowering everything, but at least it was tasty with John describing it as “addictive”.
She had stiff competition in the Pasta Department from Haylee who was making Mushroom Tortellini in a Chicken Consommé – which is some very tricky cookery considering it’s a tough ask to get a perfectly clear consommé in a mere 80 minutes, and I was worried because of the amount of shots of her anxiously poking the chicken-y jetsam
but what a fool I was to doubt her, because she pulled off a dish that really she could have kept for the final
it’s a very impressive dish, with A LOT of technique on show with the perfectly made pasta, the exquisite consommé and the elegant plating. She rather blew The Father, The Son and The Holy Ravioli out of the water. But don’t worry Rachel, you’re still winning in the Eyebrow Work Department
which is at least 70% of what being a TV chef is about!
While both Rachel and Haylee went for fairly minimal plates with only two or three components to make them shine, Lisa was going full Gastro Pub with a plate of 6 different components, most of which were not particularly easy to make as she played the risky game that is cooking a stuffed pork fillet wrapped in parma ham, which did very nearly result in disaster as she cut into it to reveal it was a little too raw
but she had the time to get it in the pan to finish it off and because Gregg and John were banned from entering the room, they were none the wiser as to what had happened.
As for what she was serving with her pork fillet, she had some oven roasted asparagus, a courgette chutney, a port sauce and some Hasselback Potatoes with an onion tuile that she was presenting like a dimetrodon
More vaguely dinosaur-shaped food!
Her dish goes down phenomenally well with John and Gregg, both in terms of its flavours and just how well she pulled everything off – I think the only thing that prevented her from getting one of the three aprons on offer in this round was that it was perhaps not the most original dish in the world, but that small fortune she’s spent practicing making Mushroom Duxelles stuffed Pork Fillets at home still paid off.
Lisa wasn’t alone in going for some classic MasterChef gastro-pubbery, with Paul Who-Would-Like-Everyone-To-Know-He-Is-No-Longer-a-Policeman-So-There-Is-No-Discourse-To-Be-Had-Here, attempting the brave, but ultimately futile, task of trying to serve up some Crispy Pork Belly with only 80 minutes on the clock. Rather predictably the pork belly wasn’t fully rendered, but it was cooked and edible! So while they couldn’t fully commit to praising the pork belly, they did lavish praise upon his lump of Creamed Sprouts and Chorizo
it’s a very heavy dish, I think it could have done with something fresh and green on the plate, especially considering it’s such a fatty meat with the creamed sprouts and a slab of Dauphinoise Potatoes, which I am loathed to tell you Paul pronounced correctly the entire time. Bring back 2012 Lucy and her Dolphin Noise Potatoes!
Laura was also taking on the difficult task of trying to cook a meat that usually requires very long and slow cooking, with her decision being to serve spiced mutton in a coconut broth, which was well cooked but never quite reached the point of falling off the bone that the meat requires, especially given that she was serving it on the bone like a little meaty island
I might start a petition to have the UK renamed to Little Meaty Island.
She had also made a side dish, which wasn’t initially a sambol and John had some *opinions* about that
No, John Torode does not get to gatekeep Sri Lankan cooking when a Sri Lankan woman is cooking Sri Lankan food for him – what a thoroughly weird comment.
The side dish started off as just being a plate of String Hoppers, traditionally known as Idiyappam, and which are basically just bundles of rice noodles
John had some qualms with the fact they were plain, which, and I cannot stress this enough, is the entire point of them as they basically serve the same purpose of rice. But he claimed that their plainness didn’t really add anything because the coconut broth was already such a delicate flavour – I just think it sounds like he was eating the dish wrong.
Clive was also having some spicing and flavour issues of his own as his dish of cod and ackee promised heaps of Jamaican flavour, but Clive, in a decision of ill-advised mercy, decided to take it easy on our pair of all too caucasian judges by limiting the amount of Scotch Bonnet Chilli he put in
and considering John Torode sweats at the mere sight of paprika, he really should have thanked Clive instead of criticising him for not making him profusely sweat in high definition. Personally I am very grateful Clive, you did as all a solid favour.
John did eventually get his wish for chilli from Rishi who was showcasing vegetarian cooking with food inspired by his grandmother. I was very intrigued by his Alu Tikki – a sort of potato croquette, which he had elevated by stuffing the lightly mashed potato with a very green coconut and lemongrass mixture, an idea directly cribbed from his grandmother
as well as three chillies which Gregg certainly noticed
and while Gregg gave the majority of the critique, John delicately dabbed his brow off camera before gasping out a choked “It’s very elegant!”. And as much they love the alu tikki, it’s his tapioca cracker with a lime sherbert coating that earns him the title of One To Watch
tuiles are out, it’s the Tapioca Cracker Renaissance now! Or if you’re going to do a tuile, you’re going to have to make it particularly special… enter Pookie and her high concept dish entitled “Shallow Seabed Life” and Pookie was certainly not lying when she said she likes to present things weirdly as she began furiously smooshing mashed prawns into starfish-shaped moulds in a process I shall be dubbing “trans-echinodermism”
this alone would earn her status as a MasterChef Icon but Pookie was coming into this competition at an 11, so she was also making what she called “coral tuiles” which were almost a disaster as she became victim to the MasterChef kitchen utensils
despite the Tefal sabotage, the coral tuiles did eventually make it onto her plate in all of their glory, alongside an entire Cornish giftshop’s worth of seashells
I would ordinarily roll my eyes at anyone serving up a high concept dish with an entire accompanying booklet about what it represent and yet with Pookie, I can’t help but love it. She made it with such sincerity and no motive of trying to be seen as better or superior to anyone else – I fully believe she does this at home and that making Sunday dinner does indeed take her 8 hours because she’s trying to make a roast chicken look like The Angel of the North. I did however love the flash of concern that crossed John’s and Gregg’s faces the moment she told them the story about how she made her husband an 11 course Valentine’s Day meal that took her 70 hours to prepare
meanwhile a MasterChef producer pens out a proposal for a new round next year called The Kitchen Marathon in which everyone has to make a banquet feast in three days and no sleep, the last one to collapse wins.
As for how Pookie’s dish tastes, they enjoy it, mostly – the Tom Kha broth is absolutely faultless and provides all the sour heat that they wanted it to. They aren’t 100% sold on the trans-echinoderm prawn though, which I thought was going to be because she had left in the prawn entrails given that they gave us a very loving shot of her removing some of them
lest we forget Chekhov’s Intestinal Tract
I still have nightmares about that. I hope Liam is ok in his prawn-free restaurant.
Somehow despite the fact it’s a well known cheat-code to just make a dessert and sail on through to the next round, only one contestant decided to make one. I say “one contestant” but it seems unfair to consider Eddie and Eddie’s Magnificent Hair a single entity
I can’t wait for him to has his Ryan-moment and to let it all loose during his dramatic walk during the quarter-finals
This blog is at least 40% just a documentation of good haired reality TV contestants.
Now that we’ve fully acknowledged and celebrated Eddie for all of his hirsute success, onto his more relevant culinary-based triumphs because my God, what a pudding this was! And it was no easy task as, much like Lisa, he was going all out with making as many things as he could including the focal Fig Frangipane Tart which was accompanied by Stewed Figs, a Fig Puree, an Almond Brittle, Mascarpone Ice Cream AND Custard
you know someone is a good chef when they insist on serving their desserts with both a custard and an ice cream. Restaurants stop shortchanging us on an either/or option.
Both John and Gregg are pretty blown away by the whole thing especially the fact he managed to balance the dish because with so many elements it would have been easy to make it all one overly sweet melange. And if nothing else, this new format at least meant John and Gregg got to eat some ice cream that hadn’t melted into a rather sad puddle, which I believe is why Gregg was so overcome by the SPIRIT OF DAHNCE
meanwhile John stands in slightly mortified silence because we saw quite enough of Gregg’s dancing over 2 episodes of Strictly in 2014.
A Signature Dish Ranking
- Eddie’s Figging Great Tart
- Haylee’s Finale-worthy Consommé
- Rishi’s Tapioca Dip Dab
- Lisa’s Top Tier Gastro Pub Future
- Justice For Laura’s String Hoppers
- Pookie’s Marine Biology Experiment
- Clive’s Ill-advised Ackee Mercy
- The Father, The Son and The Holy Ravioli
- Paul’s Pork Belly Pitfall
It was a very strong round across the board with everyone making a dish that had real promise and skill involved but the run away winners were quite clearly Eddie, Rishi and Haylee with Lisa missing out by just a whisker!
Sweet, Sweet Redemption
With three aprons having been given out, the 6 remaining chefs found themselves battling for the final 4 on offer and in order to get themselves one they were all going to have to make a dessert, which begs the question as to whether Eddie misunderstood the earlier round’s assignment in which I’m beginning to think they were meant to be making a savoury dish? I’ll be curious to see if the brief changes between audition weeks, and quite how many of these audition weeks there are… This truly might rival the current season of Drag Race in the Will This Ever End? stakes.
Desserts are a tricky thing and it’s not unheard of to see a chef sail through 80% of the competition without so much as greasing a cake tin, and it looked like Paul was hoping to be one of those people as the moment they were given the brief, he gave a Jim Halpert worthy look to camera
but he wasn’t exactly going to be playing it safe and making a fruit salad (we’ll talk about it), he was actually going quite big with a Spiced Plum Tarte Tatin, a Chai Cream and some Spun Sugar because he got anxious the night before and watched those hour long videos of people doing sugar moulding to soothing music that put you right to sleep. No? Just me then? Despite the fact he had never done the spun sugar outside of a few lucid dreams, it came out reasonably well
the same can’t quite be said for the slightly too raw puff pastry and the chai cream that looked a bit like something that washed up on a beach
I don’t think you should ever be able to describe cream as “Spikey”. Or “beige” for that matter.
Clive clearly struggled the most and in all honesty it seemed a bit like he gave up the moment the round started because deciding to make a fruit salad is essentially the white flag of desserts, even moreso is the fact he didn’t decide against it when Gregg was quite clearly trying to get him to at the very least make a coulis
but nope, Clive was firmly sticking to his fruit salad guns and the only bit of cookery he was choosing to do was make a brandysnap basket which didn’t manage to remain much of a brandysnap basket as it melted before his very eyes the moment the fruit touched it
and so he had to sit there, in mild embarrassment, while Gregg cast a critical eye over the fruit basket and what-essentially-amounts-to-the-dregs-of-a-gingersnap-lost-to-the-bottom-of-a-teacup like he was contemplating the artistic merits of a Rembrandt painting
it’s not a fruit salad, it’s a Dutch Golden Age Fruit Salad.
Needless to say, there’s not a lot to praise about the dish other than Clive’s conviction to making a fruit salad and whoever bought the very nice kiwi fruit.
Lisa also put herself on record as “not doing desserts” but in what is looking to become a trend, Lisa was doing The Most™ as she set about making a Mille Feuille filled with a Chocolate Orange Ganache and accompanied by Pear Jelly, Poached Pears and Flanks of Brittle
it’s the least I-Don’t-Do-Desserts-Dessert there could possibly be and I thoroughly look forward to this process turning Lisa into a first class pastry chef in a matter of weeks because clearly she has promise! There are a few issues, mostly that her pastry and brittle aren’t thin enough but the flavour combinations and preparation of everything is first class!
Feeling much more comfortable in a dessert setting, Pookie had grand plans of creating what she dubbed a “pina-cotta colada” which as the same suggests is just a panna cotta flavoured with as much pineapple and rum as you can humanly (and humanely) fit into one of these moulds
but of course with Pookie, it doesn’t end with the flavours as everything needs a concept and I for one respect her decision to plate it up like a Shrine to Cocktail Bars Everywhere
the two glacé cherries delicately perched in the pineapple top like they’re spying on her panna cotta really tickled me.
John and Gregg are suitably enthused by the whole dish and myriad of different pineapple accoutrements they had to work their way through, so my plea for only good things to happen to Pookie continues to be upheld.
Dessert specific rounds will always send a jolt of fear through me because it is inevitable that someone will deconstruct something, I’m just glad the cheesecakes got a day off for once. Rachel was this round’s criminal surgeon as she set about taking apart a Red Velvet Cake, in the most chaotic way she could possibly manage
I don’t even know what’s happening here, she said “I dropped my cake but I caught it.” but that somehow doesn’t explain it and only makes it all the more confusing. But I shouldn’t expect anything less from someone who claims Red Velvet Cake is their favourite cake – I didn’t even know it was biologically possible for it to be someone’s favourite cake, not to all all RVERB on you all. That’s Red Velvet Exclusionary Radical Baker.
As for what Rachel’s deconstruction of The World’s Worst Cake was, basically she treated a cupcake like it was a French aristocrat in 1792
the cake is well baked and the buttercream is…. piped, it is all a little unfocused and I am loathe to call a cake a dessert but at least she tried to add a little to it with the meringues which… maybe she shouldn’t have because she didn’t quite get them crisped up enough, but they at least prevented John from having the arbitrary qualm of it being “too much like an afternoon tea” as though that’s an issue?
Lastly we have Laura who was sticking to her Sri Lankan heritage and making Pani Pol, which is a very sweet coconut mixture that is used to stuff pancakes and other Sri Lankan desserts. Laura did opt for the pancakes which drew scepticism from John and Gregg for “not showing enough cookery” which I thought was *very* unfair considering how well her pancakes turned out and how much they raved about her flavours
it’s not like she just served a stack of pancakes and some fruit salad! There’s skill in how they’re folded and the fact they’re keeping their shape. It might not be a Mille Feuille or a Deservedly Terrorised Red Velvet Cake but I’m willing to die on the hill that is Laura Worked Really Hard and Was Very Good, Actually… Also, at least it was something new to MasterChef!
A Redemption Dessert Ranking
- Lisa Doesn’t Do Desserts Except When She Does
- Pookie’s Cocktail Shrine
- JUSTICE FOR LAURA
- Rachel’s Terrorised Red Velvet Cake
- Paul By Virtue of Clive Making a Fruit Salad
- Clive’s Villain Origin Story
Give that you don’t make friends with fruit salads, it was pretty obviously curtains for Clive, who MI5 might want to keep an eye on because he does look like he’s about to go and blot out the sun to make sure fruit never grows again
his villain name is Apocalippo.
They then try to draw out as much tension over whether it’ll be Paul or Laura being eliminated despite Laura doing nothing wrong, actually. With Laura eventually being told she got the apron alongside Pookie, Rachel and Lisa.
And if you’ve enjoyed this recap of MasterChef 2022’s premier and would like to support the blog you can donate to my Ko-fi account HERE!
As a last note, they’re double billing the next two episodes on Friday, I hope it’s just this week at least, so those recaps might be a little delayed because I’ve got quite a lot going on this weekend with it being Mother’s Day, but I will certainly have them out by Tuesday at the latest!