Wow, tough crowd.
Sadly, we’ll never find out what Han and Chewie had for breakfast.
There’s No Place Like Home
For their first challenge of the penultimate episode, the remaining four chefs had to cook a dish inspired by a place that’s special to them – and despite the fact this would have been an opportune moment for Nikita to drop the name of another country she backpacked through while befriending the local wildlife like a Disney princess, she was staying firmly in the UK and cooking a steak dinner inspired by the fact she really missed steak while she was living in India for a couple years when she was 9 years old. This wasn’t just any old steak dinner though, no! It was Nikita’s turn to play the Deep-fried Get Out Of Jail Free Card and throw a battered oyster on top of her fillet of beef
and it was a cracking dish with there not being much to fault about it and Anna looked ready to run off into the sunset with Nikita
the inherent sapphism of an oyster will do that to a girl.
Gregg meanwhile fawned over the beef cheeks that she’d served in an oyster shell and topped with potato disks
and the only issue I take with it is the fact Gregg described it as a pie – now I’ve let a lot of things slide in the grand scheme of The Pie Discourse but I’m afraid I draw the line at this and I will be gatekeeping pie status from half an oyster shell of beef with some potatoes on top, no matter how good it tastes!
It was no surprise that upon hearing the brief that Charlie immediately smashed the emergency Dorset button. Slightly more surprising was his decision to truss up a red mullet like he was preparing it to be sacrificed to Poseidon for a year of good fortune
“It’s the vessel” he declared – and not in the fun Succubus kind of way, he was making a quite literal fish bowl by filling it with a crab and mullet mousse and a seafood ragout
and no, sadly nobody addressed the fact Charlie had made the even more absurd decision to serve his Swiss Chard Puree in the shape of a marijuana leaf, nor had he even bothered to lace it with CBD oil – it’s only a matter of time before someone does.
The judges did like Charlie’s fishy oblation but did all bring up the fact the fish, while edible, was a little underdone for their personal tastes.
Sagar was also doing a fish dish, opting for Salmon as a celebration of Scotland. It was a bit of an odd dish – serving both a piece of smoked salmon and a salmon tartare as well as balls of apple and melon that had been steeped in whiskey and a midori respectively
it was a little divisive – Gregg enjoyed the apple and whiskey elements while Anna did not and then Marcus just couldn’t taste the whiskey or the midori… Umm… Covid test for Mr. Wareing, please!
James was the only chef to opt for a dessert, celebrating Devon with a play on Scones with Jam and Cream that involved not a single scone – but there was a sablé biscuit! The centrepiece of his dessert was a White Chocolate Delice which he was serving alongside a variety of strawberry elements and an aerated white chocolate – the latter of which hadn’t worked so he’d just ended up with a tub of Milkybar that he was furiously trying to scrape out
and in wanting to serve up the complete dish, he had added the fragments of solid white chocolate to the dish anyway, which he probably shouldn’t have
but for the most part it was a good dish – I think it needed something on top of of the delice because as it is, it looks like a bit of an empty plinth which makes it feel a little bit unfinished.
A Location Inspired Dish Ranking
1. Nikita’s Very Romantic Surf’n’Turf
2. Charlie’s Sacrifice to Poseidon
3. Gone Like James’s Scone
4. Close but No Sagar
The Critics 2: April Jackson Boogaloo
For the big decider as to who would cook in The Grand Final, Nikita, James, Charlie and Sagar all had to cook one last dish to be judged by the Avengers of the MasterChef critics pantheon: William Sitwell, Jay Rayner, Jimi Famurewa, Leyla Kazim and introducing the newest members of the squad, April Jackson
I could listen to her reading the Domino’s topping menu – both she and Leyla are excellent additions to the MasterChef Critics roster.
Nikita was back to her East Asian inspirations, this time going for Chinese flavours for her Szechuan Pork dish which came with a bao bun on the side for optimal sauce soaking
and the critics went wild for it and despite quite a bit of the dish using Szechuan Peppercorns, she hadn’t over done it so everyone could still feel their tongues afterwards. If she were more ruthless she’d had numbed everyone up just enough to affect the tasting of the next lot of dishes. I hope the success of The Traitors inspires more Mole-like elements into reality TV, I long for a series of MasterChef in which one of the chefs has to try and sabotage everyone else
I was gonna try and combine The Mole and MasterChef into a portmanteau but… maybe we don’t go with The MolesterChef. We can workshop it.
Sagar was also going with bold flavours and spices in his Distinctly Not Duck A l’Orange, Duck A l’Orange – too featuring Szechuan Pepper amongst lavender, cumin, cardamom and coffee
and much like Nikita they loved it, at least flavour-wise – there was a little bit of an issue with the fact the skin of his duck was unrendered
which might be owed to the fact he’d slathered it in a coffee glaze that looked like it could have been used to fix every pothole in the country
but the bravery of the dish was enough for them to mostly forgive the faulty skin.
While Sagar and Nikita were going big with their dishes, James was embracing simplicity with his Lobster Tail and…. well, mostly just a lobster tail
well, that’s a bit unfair because he had also made a Lobster and Avocado Tartlet on the side
it was probably a bit of a misguided strategy at such a late stage of the game but I can understand the logic of just wanting to show how well you can cook a luxury ingredient but aside from the gravitas that a lobster tail carries, the dish kind of just hits one note which doesn’t make for the most memorable dish and James’s hopes for the final were sinking faster than his lobster’s carcass into his bisque
the lobster Gods were frowning upon you all along, James.
Lastly we have Charlie who I thought was having a mental breakdown when he marched over with such determination to his pot and just dunked an entire cauliflower into it like a more ethical version of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction
and while it wasn’t quite that unhinged, it also wasn’t not not that unhinged given that his grand plan was to stuff his cauliflower with a chicken mousse in a distinctly upsetting scene of piping bag probing
and while the theatre of him carving the cauliflower in front of the critics like it was a roast dinner was quite fun, it was not making the cauliflower look any less like a brain and this was some sort of Victorian era public dissection you could buy a ticket to for ten shillings
and then I couldn’t help but think of the cauliflower as pieces of brain which I realise is a personal problem, but LOOK AT IT
and while there was a lot to like about the dish, especially the side dish of liver parfait that everyone seemed to want to do unspeakable things to
(I would appreciate it if everyone would stop being horny on main) the chicken mousse he’d stuffed his cauliflower with was unfortunately split and some of the cauliflower was a little too soft for some of the diners.
An Uber Critics’ Chamber Dish Ranking
1. The Increasingly Likely Nikita Win
2. Sagar’s Tarmac Duck
3. The Gravitas of a Lobster
4. Charlie’s Medical Practice
Nikita was an easy shout for the finale having not a single fault between both rounds and Sagar wasn’t far behind her. As for who the unfortunate chef falling just short of making it all the way, it was a pretty even race between James and Charlie with the judges ultimately choosing to take Charlie through and eliminating James
I was a bit gutted, he’s been one of the best personalities we’ve had on the show in a long time and I hope that there’s a career for him in TV cookery because he banters very well and would be a great fit for the occasional appearance on Saturday Kitchen.
And so, we have our final 3 in Nikita, Sagar and Charlie:
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