MasterChef 2022, The Final: A Noseful of Strawberry

If Eddie ever wanted to go rogue, commandeer a ship and start a pirate crew that terrorises The Northern Sea, I am down to join that ragtag bunch.

We’ve reached the final – weeks of blood, sweat, tears and more parmesan tuiles than I care to count and it all comes down to this!


As ever the final round of the competition is for the remaining finalists to cook a three course meal in 3 hours, which seems like a lot of time and then you realise you have to make like 2 mousses, fillet a fish, dye your rice purple and field Gregg asking you pointless questions

and understandably this does usually mean that for at least one of the contestants the wheels completely fall off and it’s always rather heartbreaking to watch as their high concept tiramisu slowly becomes… this (sorry Meat Man Mike of 2021)

but Eddie, Pookie and Radha all coped very well and in the end all produced very high quality menus, which did make this one of the more joyful finals and I honestly would’ve been fine regardless of who won. It wasn’t without panic though as Radha quenelled for her life in the dying minutes of the challenge and Naruto ran across the kitchen because her Paneery Senses were tingling

it did thankfully turn out that the paneer she was frying was fine and just desperate for attention.

Radha’s menu started with a dish she called Scallops of the Forest, which were King Oyster Mushroom stems, sliced to look like scallops – and funnily enough I had a dish of King Oysters for lunch yesterday because people kept cooking them this year and I felt I had to know what the deal was. It turns out they are God’s own mushrooms and so their popularity is warranted. Alongside the religious experience of a fungus she was doing parsnips three ways: crisped, pickled and pureed – and she was going to make sure that puree was smooth by just about falling asleep while blending it

and it certainly payed off, because John was very taken by the quality of it and the array of textures that she managed to pack into such a seemingly small dish

it’s also absolutely an inspired plate of food and a lot of clever work and conceptualising went into it and I would easily put it in my Top 5 dishes of the series – there’s just something magic about the simplicity of it and it feels like the moment Radha kind of passed that threshold of going from cook to chef because this is just straight up a restaurant dish.

Her main course didn’t get quite so sung to the rafters, only because the stuffing of her fried paneer didn’t quite pack the flavour punch that John and Gregg expected

but that aside, they loved everything else – and she went quite risky by deciding to remake the Makhani Sauce again after making it in her first challenge – but the symbolism of it being her first and last cook had a narrative point of view and I think if anything has defined this series of MasterChef it’s been that combination of narrative and food.

For her dessert she was going in the opposite direction of what we’re used to seeing from her: she’s deconstructed a Black Forest Gateau, unravelled the secrets of a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, anatomised a Cheesecake like she was working for CERN and decoded an Apple Crumble. But for the final she was reconstructing the Eton Mess, which is also what we’ll call the first post-Tory government. ZING.

She wasn’t going to let her Eton Mess simply be Strawberries and Cream though, this is a MasterChef final after all so she was flavouring the meringues with Fennel Pollen and Lemon Verbena which were being accompanied by a berry coulis, olive oil and a sorbet that was, at one point in its life, a quenelle

I have watched enough Bake Off to know that deciding to make meringues in any sort of timed event is often a truly Hellish experience and I think Radha deserves a medal for managing to produce such good meringues while balancing so much else going on. I got the impression that, prior to the tasting, she was worried about this dish and I don’t know if it’s quite what she imagined it would be, but John and Gregg certainly didn’t seem to notice any faults and were rather excited about the whole thing – including the berry coulis that looked like it could trap and preserved a stegosaurus

oh, and because this is Radha there was of course a cocktail and a noseful of strawberry

I do hope next year they just have a whole round where everyone has to make a dish to perfectly accompany a randomly assigned cocktail – although that might be a little too MasterChef: Australia for John and Gregg to condone.
I’m glad Radha was in the final lot of heats because it’s kept this narrative of her culinary evolution really strong and fresh. I think this menu was a great showcase of everything she’s learnt over the course of the competition and was the perfect final note to end her MasterChef experience on.

Radha wasn’t the only one doing cocktails though, as Pookie started off her whole menu by serving John and Gregg a tiny little ball of cocktail gel off of a chrysanthemum like they were one of those cutesy fairy ornaments that you can only buy in gift shops around minor attractions in the Somerset countryside

and while John did it as normally as anyone could hope, Gregg went at it like his chrysanthemum was his fifth wife

Gregg aside, I think it was a sweet way to start the menu, I know Chrysanthemums hold a variety of important meanings and symbolism in Eastern and Southeastern Asian countries – it also pays to slip John and Gregg a hit of vodka and gin prior to a judging.

Pookie’s starter was Tom Yum Soup, which like Radha’s Makhani Sauce, she has made before when she served it alongside the goldfish dumplings – and she was going to make sure that John knew that it was going to be packing a similarly spicy punch by having him count the chillies like The Count from Sesame Street counting down to his imminent death

I do have to wonder how many chillies Holly put in her chilli dipping sauce that John and Gregg couldn’t go within 6 feet of because both of them managed with Pookie’s 10 chilli soup just fine!

Of course because this is Pookie she wasn’t just going to be making the soup in a straightforward manner and so she was using a coffee machine to infuse it with certain flavours (a practice that Tassimo does not condone) and something about the way they watched as it infused really reminded me of the DVD cover for Dude, Where’s My Car?

I just never expected that Gregg would be the Ashton Kutcher.

To accompany the soup Pookie served some sous vide chicken and shimeji mushrooms

it’s a very clean and simple looking dish and I think the simplicity belies the amount of work and depths there is to it because John and Gregg are both bowled over by the whole thing, and Gregg just can’t help but go face-to-bowl with it

which we were assured is to be taken as the greatest compliment one can give to a soup.

The Tom Yum Soup may have been simple, but Pookie’s main course of Surf and Turf was anything but as she embraced Versailles levels of gaudiness by gilding a piece of fillet steak in gold leaf, which did make Gregg wince as I imagine he wondered if that was coming out of his pay check

and as much as I don’t love the use of gold leaf in food, for the MasterChef final I’m willing to make concessions and she did at least have the reasoning that it was in keeping with the lavishness of Thai celebrations – and Pookie’s entire menu was a love letter to Thailand, which she hasn’t been able to visit in the last two years as of filming because of the pandemic.
As well as the Beef Bullion (that joke came to me at 2 in the morning like The Angel Gabriel, I am very excited about it) she was using what might be the world’s biggest prawns to make a Broccoli Stem and Prawn Salad

it was a big episode for plant stems, and then the whole thing was finished off with a tamarind sauce

with the dish being so minimal, the cooking of the beef fillet really had to be absolute perfection and oh boy was it

and not a single trace of it bleeding out and the prawns were similarly perfectly cooked – but if there’s one thing Pookie has showcased this series it’s that she knows how to cook seafood absolutely phenomenally.

Seeing out her menu was a dessert of Mango Sticky Rice, which is a Thai favourite and Dan on the latest series of MasterChef: The Professionals made it for one of his first dishes to rave reviews

so the expectations may have been quite on Pookie.

She was however pushing it a little further, opting for mango three ways: gelled, moussed and then just fresh which I guess we can consider “a way”. And the rice element was naturally going to be dyed purple, what else would you expect?

apparently the purple rice was a step too far for John – he can do blue and green but PURPLE? How dare you. Orange and Purple are also just complimentary colours so it’s not like it’s jarring to look at, it’s worked for the Instagram logo for YEARS now

oh God, I sound like Sophie from The Apprentice and her degree in colour psychology.

John’s aesthetic gripes aside, her preparation of the mango elements wow him, with the mousse being a very subtle flavour that paired perfectly with her slightly salty coconut cream, and then the fresh mango being… well, just normal mango and the the mango gel being significantly more intense.
It was a really good menu from Pookie and she set out to cook her heart and soul into those dishes and I think it really showed – it’s also very interesting to see where her style has gone, and like John said, she’s found that balance of delightfully camp theatricality and genuinely good food – she’s come a long way since her trans-echinoderm prawns.

And if you thought Pookie going all out with the gold leaf was gilding the lily, Eddie’s starter consisting of turbot, champagne, oysters and caviar was basically a covert operation to defund the BBC from the inside and all Eddie had to do was hand them a shopping list and then watch from his supervillain eyrie as his secret plan all came to fruition

of course he couldn’t do *nothing* because he did have to cook the dish (how dare they? On MasterChef? He has world domination to get on with.)
His starter was based off of his childhood trips to Brittany, the home of Beurre Blanc unless you’re Wikipedia in which case it’s the Loire Valley – it seems that all of France wants to claim the origin of a Beurre Blanc sauce, so I guess Eddie’s pirate crew are all batting for Brittany now! In order to elevate his Beurre Blanc though he was incorporating Champagne into it in order to bring it up to the same economic class as the pan-fried turbot, the tempura oyster and the caviar

also there was cucumber in dill oil to add a little bit of colour to the dish and save it from looking a little too clinical – he could have always just dyed the turbot to look like a Pride flag though. With the dish being so pared back, it really did all have to be very well done, and thankfully he had cooked the turbot to perfection and John, having abandoned hecky-decky in Ireland, was now trying to make “Boom” his catchphrase

I think he probably should’ve hung on to that one just a little longer because Eddie’s Hyderabadi Biryani main course was pretty much the dish of the series

and because John had already used up “Boom” and couldn’t say it again or else he would have to pay Basil Brush royalties, he had to do a Simon Cowell style fake out

which you know, at least Eddie saw the funny side of in the end and the captioneer upgraded him from an [Eddie Laughs] to an [Eddie Guffaws]

it’s a risky dish, because of the fact the chicken is cooked beneath a layer of rice, you can’t really check on it once you’ve finished cooking it, and it was chicken thighs that were cooked on the bone which can be temperamental on the best of days. But it payed off and John and Gregg may well have eaten the whole thing.

And the final dish of the series was Eddie’s take on St-Emilion au Chocolat – a French brasserie staple consisting of chocolate, almond and Cognac. And apparently has nothing to do with Saint Emilion, the commune in Bordeaux and instead the titular Saint Emilion is actually in reference to St. Emilion Square in Paris as reference to the macaroons that were traditionally a part of the recipe. I had to go to the second page of the Google results to find that out, which is practically the dark web.

Eddie’s St. Emilion was not however going to be a tart, he’s a reformed saint, and was instead going to be an incredibly rich chocolate mousse (the main features of an authentic St-Emilion Tarte seem to be that you never ever want to eat it again because either A. It’s too rich with chocolate or B. The amount of cognac in it might take your liver out) and the mousse would be accompanied by armagnac soaked prunes, almond frangipane and an Almond and Armagnac Cream – and Eddie was so confident in the dish he didn’t even serve a glass of armagnac as a bribe

I would happily dive head first into this, even just for the armagnac prunes – give me a plate of them and I’ll be very regular happy.

It was an extraordinarily well composed menu from Eddie and really showed that balance between his love for French cooking and his Indian heritage and not a single one of his dishes had even the slightest fumble – it might be some of the most impressive cooking we’ve seen on the franchise, it was truly a blinder.

And so it all comes to an end… It’s been a phenomenal series, the talent, skill and imagination of the contestants this year has been a whole new level and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed having the privilege to write about all of them – and the fact a lot of them have enjoyed the recaps has meant the world to me – I won’t go too much into it but May is the month that marks 9 years since I began my recovery from anorexia and over those years MasterChef has been something of a comfort to me, watching people be so enthusiastic and joyful about food helped me repair my own fractured relationship with food. So whether you went out in the first round, or made it to the final – just know that for someone out there you’ve been a stepping stone in a recovery or a stitch in a mending relationship and you should hold onto that.

But there does have to be a winner and as well as all three of them did, I think after all of it there was only really one option… and some very apt subtitling

a thoroughly well deserved win for Eddie who barely had a misstep throughout the competition – the fact his only misdemeanour was when he reconstructed Pride Rock out of chicken and seasonal vegetables may well mean he’s had the most successful run in MasterChef history.

And of course congratulations to the two very deserving runners up, Pookie and Radha

they’ve both been incredible and I have no doubt that they’ll both go on to do something incredible within the food scene. You can follow Radha on Instagram at TheSpicyFlexitarian. And Pookie is PookieStyleCook.

And thank you once again for reading the recaps and putting up with these insanely long streams of barely-consciousness, as I said, I’ve enjoyed writing them and if you’ve enjoyed them and would like to support the blog, you can drop a tip over on my Ko-Fi HERE. And of course I’ll be back when Celebrity MasterChef and MasterChef: The Professionals return later in the year! I will sadly not be doing Sara Cox’s Top Takeaways next week because as fun as this has been, it has been 7 weeks of me trying to find 100 different ways to describe a parmesan tuile and we all need a break.

And once again, congratulations to our new hirsute overlord, Eddie

long may he reign, and you may follow him on Instagram at Eddie.R.Scott.

and so, that’s it, we’ve betrophied our winner

TOP: Pookie, EDDIE, Holly, Sarah
MID: Olayemi, Ioan
BOT: James, Thomas, Radha, Farokh

If you’ve enjoyed this recap of MasterChef 2022 Finale and would like to support the blog you can donate to my Ko-fi account HERE!

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