MasterChef 2022, Episode 8: Fish Wielding Lucky Cat

Ah yes, the slightly cannibalistic sounding talking head moment, a staple of the MasterChef franchise.

Welcome to my villain original story: a tale of Bolognese, Tacos and Quesadillas.

Divine Inventing

We continue this round of heats with the Pantry Raiding Invention Test for which John lays out a few simple tips on how to succeed in this challenge full of pitfalls and I’m sure *someone* was a little unnerved by the advice

but Ioan was very keen to take on the critiques from the last challenge in which he recreated the set of Blind Date using only pork and parmesan

so he was going a lot simpler with a very straightforward Clam Chowder that he garnished with some Parsley Oil and served alongside some garlic bread

I really like that Ioan went this route because it shows a real willingness to take in the advice John and Gregg gave him, which is a key factor in being a good MasterChef contestant. It’s also just a delight of a dish – comforting, warm and homely but not without modernisation from the parsley oil and the addition of the little roast potato croutons, which were an inspired addition.

But while Ioan reined in his ingredients, Ibz was doing the absolute opposite and concerningly proudly so

I do have to applaud Ibz for playing this round a bit like the good old fashioned Invention Test because he had everything to make a perfectly normal bolognese – beef mince, carrots, onions, tomatoes. But then the brain-farting began

which very much had Gregg internally screaming for help

and John over on the side having to do a talking head about the dish and constantly glancing to the side just to make sure Ibz wasn’t adding raisins or preserved lemons

but not only was Ibz making the most violently absurd bolognese sauce, he was also planning on making his own pasta, there was just a slight complication

and for hand-rolled pasta he did VERY well, it was the perfect thickness and properly cooked all the way through – it just deserved better than to be covered in a sauce containing Kashmiri curry powder, soy sauce, sriracha, honey(?), double cream and chilli powder

if nothing else, it is iconic and I shall remember it FOREVER – and I’m more than a little bit tempted to recreate it myself. For science.

Ibz wasn’t the only one going for a pasta and bolognese combination, with Michaela opting for the same thing and hoping to successfully cook a lasagne in a mere 80 minutes – but luckily she didn’t also have to worry about mortally offending Italian Twitter because Ibz had that more than covered and I think they’re probably still mad at Sainsbury’s for the coffee granules idea 6 years ago.
Michaela had at least taken precautions by not making a full-sized lasagne and had engineered herself a tinfoil dam wall

which didn’t do much to assuage Gregg’s fears about potentially being served a raw lasagne that even Garfield might be afraid to eat, but his concerns did lead to one of my favourite exchanges in MasterChef history

The comedic timing was impeccable.

Aside from the fact it takes 2 hours to make a good lasagne, there’s also the plating up of it that you have to worry about – although let’s be honest, lasagne was never intended to be a beautiful dish but I was impressed that Michaela’s managed to keep its shape without slopping all over the place

it turns out a contributing factor of that might be the fact the central bits of the pasta were still a little raw but for a beef ragout she must have to cook in only 40 minutes, it has a moderately good amount of flavour to it and her Béchamel Sauce was pleasantly smooth.

Sonu didn’t have quite so much success with her spicy Béchamel Sauce, and I think the biggest problem was the fact she served it in a jug that implied you were meant to pour it out, and instead it had sort of congealed and taken up residence at the bottom of it like a hermit crab

and it seemed to be more of an addition to show she could make a Béchamel Sauce than because it actually went with her Vegetable Quesadillas which she was already serving with Guacamole and a Tomato Pickle

the Quesadillas are unfortunately a little bit dry, despite the fact she slathered them in a very generous amount of butter

but Gregg at some point did just start calling them “those toasted wholemeal sandwich things” which had the same energy as RuPaul accidentally calling Derrick Barry “Britney”

I’m sorry, you might have noticed I have like 3 reference points I constantly go to: Drag Race, The Simpsons and Forgotten Nickelodeon Shows From The 90s – I never said I wasn’t basic.

While Ioan made the effort to scale back the proportions of his dish, Olayemi was making no such concessions as she began deep-frying a pair of whole sea bream – it is quite unnerving watching something deep-frying when you can see its face

and alongside her whole, dead-eyed, toothy-mouthed sea bream, she was placing it on a bed of sesame oil rice noodles, some carrots and bok choi and then topping it all off with a very generous amount of spicy red pepper stir fry

and if you’ve followed Gregg Wallace for more than 5 minutes on Instagram before having to unfollow him because he keeps making posts about his gastrocnemii, you’ll know he spends a fair amount of time in the gym and so he did immediately begin using her plate as a 6kg dumbbell like a fish wielding Lucky Cat

Olayemi’s defense was that it was mostly vegetables so it’s good for you – I always love a contestant who’s quick and can patter with the judges, especially when she says “I don’t see the point in going out to have someone else make me a dish that I can make myself” and Professional Diner Gregg Wallace had to stand there knowing he had just been accidentally FULLY roasted

She’s just a very good MasterChef personality, we have no choice but to stan.

And the dish was great with the fish being perfectly cooked despite the risky method and the flavours all working together very well. I fully believe she probably cooks something like this quite regularly, there are similarities with Fish Escovitch – which still needs something of a redemption arc after The Celebrity MasterChef Incident.

Speaking of redemption arcs, Nazya was making another meatball x curry combination with a Beef Kebab and a Chickpea curry – she’s still not talking to eggs, her relationship with them is ova! [editing Ariadne would like to apologise for the egg puns.] Instead she was adding a Paratha and a bowl of potatoes that she’s cooked in mustard seeds

she didn’t quite manage to redeem herself in the eyes of the Global Meatball Populace but the flavours in the chickpea curry are highly praised and the paratha is as perfectly made as you could possibly hope for so I think the dish leaned more towards the positive than the negative.

Lastly we have Jan-Paul who was very much stepping out of his comfort zone with a poussin that he was struggling to get to grips with, both culinarily and phonetically

he was planning to treat it as though he was cooking duck and serving it with a Filipino sauce made with vinegar, soy sauce, ginger and star anise which both John and Gregg were quite excited about – and if there’s one thing we know about Jan-Paul after he’s made one (1) plate of food, it’s that he’s a bit of a sauce maestro. He wasn’t doing any veg with the dish and was instead serving it with Basmati Rice – but in a rather exciting twist he was branching out from the usual Rice Dome (colloquially known as The Rice Boob) and giving us a Rice Rectangle

or should that be…. RiceTangle?

The dish was perhaps a little simple in appearance, but it had a certain stark elegance to it that reminded me a lot of some Japanese restaurants

the sauce is the clear stand out in the dish with the skin needing to be slightly crispier and the poussin being a little hit or miss, but he got fantastic charred lines on them, so they look really great!

An Invention Test Dish Ranking

  1. Ioan’s Well Proportioned Clam Chowder
  2. Olayemi’s Gym Dinner
  3. Jan-Paul’s Tiny Chicken Rice Bed
  4. Ibz’s Pasta (sans Chaos Sauce)
  5. Michaela’s Hasty Lasagne
  6. Nazya’s Attempted Kofta Redemption
  7. Sonu’s Buttery, Buttery Quesadillas
  8. Ibz’s RagOHNO!

We did have to sadly lose one of the contestants in this round with Sonu, Ibz and Nazya all being in the danger zone. However Ibz managed to redeem himself with some well made pasta and Nazya had her paratha and flavoursome curry fighting in her corner, so we did sadly have to say goodbye to Sonu

she’s been a GREAT contestant – it’s always fun to have someone that is so clearly emotionally invested in the whole process and I hope she got as much from her experience on the show as I believe the show got from having her compete. If you want to follow her on Instagram, you can at Some_Deaf_Girl – which is an honest to God elite tier handle.

It’s Theatre Darling!

For their last bid for a place in the quarterfinal, the contestants were a set a brief by Jimi Famurewa (the best of the recurring critics) in which they were asked to create a theatrical, interactive or playful dish – which I like as a brief because it encourages creativity and we certainly got that but it did become pretty clear that success in this challenge largely hinged on how much of the food you could eat with your fingers, which did give as an alarming insight into how John Torode eats coleslaw

JONATHAN DOUGLAS TORODE! Stop eating coleslaw with your fingers!

This was part of Michaela’s dish in which she was disguising sweet food as savoury food by turning an apple pie into a Gregg’s (Highstreet not Wallace) sausage roll with alarming success

This was a really good challenge for Michaela because I think up until now all her food has felt a little “too considered” but she seemed to really flourish with this brief and we got to see more of her fun, kind of awkward humorous side which is what I love to see in a MasterChef contestant. The dish was a resounding success with the judges – I was worried they’d think it was a bit too Bake Off-y but Gregg couldn’t love it more and seemed to have an almost religious experience when he dunked shortbread into her custard

the only thing I didn’t like was the fact India Fisher had to say “Custard Mayonnaise” which made me feel viscerally ill.

While Michaela fell on the right side of Bake Off, Nazya maybe wasn’t so successful with toeing that line as she set about making her gravity defying Chocolate Fudge Cake topped with salted toffee popcorn and enough almond brittle to make a house for a fourth little pig

it doesn’t quite have the visual impact that the cake needed to have and it is more of a Victim of Gravity Cake – but it was well baked, the sponge was light, her buttercream had a really stunning texture to it and I think they were wrong to say it wasn’t a theatrical dish after Nazya had given us a one woman production of The Great British Bake Off including assembling the cake in the fridge

worrying about the thing melting

the jeopardy of having it all nearly fall over

and hating every second of having someone watch you as you attempt to do the hardest part of the whole thing

What I’m saying is that Nazya deserves a Tony Award.

When they revealed the brief I was almost 100% sure we were going to get some sort of a DIY Pina Colada, unfortunately John and Gregg were not going to be getting their rum booster shots, but Ioan was taking inspiration from a cocktail with his dish being themed around an Espresso Martini. The focal point of his dish was a Barista Stout Fondant which did achieve the Leon Approved Gooey Middle

the fondant was served with Vanilla and Honeycomb Ice Cream as well as an Espresso Martini Sauce which is where the real fun came in as they had to make it themselves

in order to make the sauce they had to add the candyfloss to his espresso sauce and then stir it with the tiny chocolate spoon which would then melt into it – the whole thing was very clever and felt like something that could’ve easily won a spot at the Great British Menu banquet. But my favourite thing was the fact that whoever had to bring in the emergency candyfloss machine seemed to have bought it straight from the kid’s section of the Argos Catalogue

It’s very Barbie’s Dream Candyfloss Machine and I appreciate it.

The last of the contestants opting for a sweet dish was Ibz who had grand ideas of creating a sort of forest scene inspired by the fact he loves to go on walks in the forest

I will be starting a petition to have Ibz be a Springwatch correspondent.

Things didn’t go quite to plan for Ibz as he just couldn’t get his mousse filled chocolate log to take shape and so it was turned into wood chippings and with the rest of his dish mostly being crumbs and flowers, it just didn’t have a focal point

I appreciate it on a emotive level and I think the ethos of his dish does still come through – and there’s still a lot to be proud of, even if it’s just the conceptualisation of what I think would have been a very successful dish but it just didn’t turn out that way with the tempered chocolate being a little dusty. He was clearly disappointed, I was disappointed for him – but happy he still got to plate up a semblance of his dish.

The first of our savoury dishes comes from Jan-Paul who was creating his spin on a Chicken Taco – the biggest twist being that he was going to be making the softshell taco out of plantain, which did rightly blow the judges’ minds when he pulled it off phenomenally well despite their scepticism

As well as being sceptical about his plantain alchemy, they were worried about the fact he was marinating the fried-chicken in fish sauce, which I personally don’t see what they would have had an issue with? But I also love me some fish sauce, which is the bane of my family’s lives. It was also just a marinade guys, calm down, it’s not like he was serving you a litre of fish sauce.

In order to add a little more intrigue to his dish he was embracing sphericalisation by creating tiny pearls of Crying Tiger Sauce – a sauce that is famously incredibly spicy

Unfortunately in Jan-Paul’s case, the pearls didn’t quite manage to make anyone cry, but I do appreciate the fact everyone had to keep saying “Crying Tiger Balls” REPEATEDLY – and if anyone ever wants to set up a grunge band called “Crying Tiger Balls” just let me know.

And lastly we have Olayemi who was putting together a variety of Nigerian favourites to create a sort of sharing style mezze with Yam Croquettes, Fried Plantain and Suya Beef – a very popular meat dish from Nigeria that’s often served skewered like a kebab, but Olayemi was serving it sliced because Gregg Wallace can rightly not be trusted with a skewer

I was worried that it wouldn’t be theatrical enough, but she was clever to add the two dipping sauces: one aubergine and the other a harissa spiced tomato one, which allowed you to try different combinations of flavours. And what I really liked about the dish, other than it being a clearly very emotionally important plate of food to her as she spoke about her father, but it clearly struck a chord with Jimi, who is also Nigerian, and I think that really speaks to the importance of having a wider range of cuisines and cultures represented on this show – and I think so far, this whole series has been a testament to that fact, whether John and Gregg have handled it particularly well could be discoursed to the cows come home, but I’ve loved seeing it.

A Theatrical Dish Ranking

  1. Olayemi’s Nigeria Game of MasterMind
  2. Ioan’s DIY Espresso Martini
  3. Michaela’s Gregg’s Deception
  4. Jan-Paul’s Mewling Tiger
  5. Nazya’s Gravity Tolerant Piece of Bake Off Theatre
  6. Ibz’s High Concept Forest Floor

with only four spots available in the Quarterfinals, it was clear that Ioan, Olayemi and Michaela had all secured their spots with three outstanding pieces of dinner theatre. Which did mean that only 1 from Ibz, Jan-Paul or Nazya could make it through.

Nazya is the first to find herself eliminated

I enjoyed what she brought to the competition – I’m not sure it was the best showcase of what she’s all about or how good she is, I think her Instagram does a much better job of that, so you can follow her at Nazyamfz.

And this meant Jan-Paul and Ibz were now fighting for that last quarter-final place, which is not idea because both of them are My Boys™ and very sadly, it’s Ibz who gets eliminated

which does mean I have to now exclusively wear black for 18 months because I do subscribe to the Victorian modes of mourning. I really do believe that Ibz has great potential within the food industry and I hope someone gives him that chance because he’s absolutely the sort of person we should be championing. And you can follow him on Instagram at Ibz_U as I continue to try to make Ibz happen.

And so, our third quarterfinal is Ioan, Olayemi, Michaela and Jan-Paul!

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