MasterChef 2023, Episode 1: Blue Rice Pavilion

Time for my favourite game: tell who just bought their aprons because they haven’t ironed out the folding creases.

What colour would you like your rice, sir?

Keeping It In The Family

The “Audition Round” works much like it did last year with John and Gregg being separated from the contestants in the sparsely furnished dining room

those shelves are a veritable Generation Game Conveyor Belt of oddities – I’m a big fan of the extremely large fake books, the random cloche and the antique radio.

And if you were wondering who was going to be shouting the time and holding up a conflicting amount of fingers if Gregg was locked away trying to memorise the order of the decoratively inconsistent vases, enter this week’s Main Character: The Hot Floor Manager

they knew what they were doing.

As for what the contestants were cooking, the call was for “a family favourite” which you would think might result in a few dishes with some familiar ingredients that you might be tempted to try at home, which there was plenty of and then Terri swung in on her caviar wrecking ball

I get it, it’s MasterChef but maybe we leave the Caviar until round 3 because bringing it straight out does make it a little hard to root for you, but nonetheless her Crab Tortellini and Saffron Veloute went down very well with the judges, if perhaps leaving a little something to be desired with the seasoning but you’ll always deservedly get bonus points for making your own pasta.

Terri wasn’t the only one going for a taste of the bourgeoisie

I’ll take “Things Only Said By Someone Cooking in Cashmere and Pearls” for 800, Alex.

Zoe was of course doing her “Festive Lobster Risotto” (SANTA CLAWS, GET IT?)- the bisque of which wasn’t quite going to plan and wasn’t so much a bisque as it was a beige

but she had her secret weapon up those cashmere sleeves

it was worth a try, I just feel bad that Zoe now has to lie awake at night wondering if everyone has just been lying to her for the last 5 Christmases that she’s lovingly made them a lobster soup risotto

but at least the lobster was perfectly cooked and I’m sure they loved their two (2) stalks of samphire.

Zoe wasn’t the only one having sauce-related woes, as Geva set about making a microwavé hollandaise sauce that came to her in a dream like the Angel Gabriel visiting the Virgin Mary

and she was adamantly insisting that she could make this microwaved hollandaise sauce work, which I’m a little surprised it didn’t because she guarded that microwave with the authority of a prison warden

but alas, it didn’t quite thicken up or do anything and instead of nixing it off the dish and just going with the Haggis Parcel and Duchess Potatoes, she drizzled the lightly microwaved egg yolks and butter into the middle of her plate

it does look a bit like a diorama of the first creatures brave enough to leave the primordial soup for dry land but the origins of life and the secrets that that Hollandaise hides aside, they loved her pocket of haggis

I don’t know why, but John saying it tasted like a pasty felt like it should have had one of the 300 shady sound effects the Drag Race editors have on their soundboard following it.

Setting herself apart from everyone else by doing a pudding was Vanessa with her Spiced Pineapple Crumble and Lime and Coconut Creme Anglaise

it sounded like a genuinely interesting dish and with the combinations of tamarind, chilli, coconut, pineapple and ginger it’s certainly something I would be excited to order if out of curiosity alone. The judges liked it a lot, but did think the spices needed to be mellowed a bit to allow the pineapple to come through a bit more.

Matthew was doing for something a little risky because between the last few series of Civilian MasterChef, MasterChef: The Professionals and Chris Eubank Winging His Way Through 2 Episodes of Celebrity MasterChef For a Paycheck we’ve had quite a few plates of Ackee and Saltfish served up, but he was promising Ackee and Saltfish like you’ve never seen it before, which did mostly amount to it being small and round

but hey, good ackee and saltfish is good ackee and saltfish no matter its geometric persuasion and his was GOOD if John’s reactions were to be believed

so it was pretty obvious he was getting an apron, which is a shame because they do cover up his very good taste in shirts

long may his reign as this year’s style icon continue, and coming second in the style stakes was Nickolas in his also very nice shirt and absolute fear of silence

I am obsessed with Nickolas on almost molecular level, from the moment he opened the oven door to reveal his chicken while singing the Jurassic Park theme tune, I knew he was a contestant that was biologically engineered to appeal to me exclusively

a glorious dork who I am probably misguidedly becoming very attached to, but for now we stan him and pretend he didn’t serve up what was basically a claw machine of whole spices

but once you’d extracted all the star anise pods and lumps of garlic, his dish looked quite nice – much like Vanessa I would certainly order his Venezuelan Chicken and Beans if I saw it on a menu – not entirely so keen on the still present feather stalks…

it does maybe need a bit of visual refinement to be competition ready but it still looked vibrant and appetising – and it was nice to see a bit of ordinary white rice following Jo and Woei’s tie-dyed endeavours

We are but a couple of years away from someone serving up Al Murray’s Food Colouring and Rice Union Jack in all sincerity

The overlap of Taskmaster Challenges and MasterChef Dishes is alarming.

John and Gregg didn’t utter a single word about the fact Jo’s rice was green because it was a bit hard and watery, meanwhile I was at home screaming at it like Tamar Braxton

thankfully the trend didn’t extend to the rest of her dish – the main component of which was a Lamb Champaran, which she was making with the authentic dough sealed pot

and it did look divinely rich

the actual curry went down very well with John and Gregg, but there was a bit of an issue with her Spiced Yorkshire Puddings that she’d served in place of naan breads – I honestly think she should have just served it up as a whole because it looked quite spectacular

and they lacked a bit of impact when they were cut into tiny little flaccid discs (I SAID DISCS)

Gregg didn’t notice though because he’d inhaled them like Clifford The Big Red Dog chasing a frisbee

1 out 2 is still a 50% hit rate, Jo.

Woei’s blue rice went similarly unmentioned because there were bigger fish to fry with his dish that I could honestly write an entire dissertation about because it, much like Nickolas, deeply fascinates me

The dome of rice, the straight out of the bag undressed salad dome, the erect chicken rolls, the countable amount of peas (21, to be exact) and just the fact the whole thing looks a bit like a map of a theme park

We’ll go to the Chicken Roll Towers, then we’ll chill out in the Blue Rice Pavilion and if we’ve got time go play on the tempura curry leaf bumper cars before having our fortunes read by scattering the peas at the Pisummancer Tent.

The positives of Woei’s dish was mostly the fact the tomato and chilli sauce was good, it was just a bit unfortunate that his chicken rolls were a little bit undercooked for John and Gregg to feel comfortable enough to eat, but he was in good company because Jonny had the same issue with his whole pressure cooked chicken

can you feasibly prepare and pressure cook a whole chicken in 80 minutes? Yes, it’s cutting it fine and I think Jonny mostly came undone by the fact he was in an unfamiliar kitchen and that pressure cooker has probably been there for 10 years and seen better days but really, he could have just done a crown of chicken and it wouldn’t have negatively impacted his dish, except for maybe the absurdity of walking into the dining room holding a whole chicken and a mound of salad aloft like Maat preparing to weigh someone’s heart in the afterlife

as for what the dish was, Jonny is a fan of street food, which certainly tracks because he does look like Nick Frost playing the role of someone who owns a food truck in an Amazon original series

and a bit like he might run a YouTube prank channel – I blame the backwards baseball cap.

But for his nod to Korean street food, he was putting forth a DIY Chicken Ssam (it’s a wrap using lettuce leaves instead of a flat bread)

we’ve covered the issue of the chicken being raw in places, and steadfastly ignored his attempt to brown it mostly amounting to anointing it with tepid butter

but the accompaniments were alright and the intent behind the dish was solid and Jonny was so charismatic and natural on TV that it’s hard not root for him despite the issues.

A Family Favourite Dish Ranking
1. Matthew’s Well Rounded Ackee and Saltfish
2. Vanessa’s Spicey Pineapple Crumble
3. Terri Can Have A little Caviar, As A Treat
4. Nickolas’s Hunt For Star Anise
5. Merry Christmas! Love from, Zoe’s Bowl of Lobster Soup
7. Geva’s Primordial Hollandaise
8. Jonny’s Touch and Go Chicken
9. Woei’s Funland Foodscape

The apron decision seemed pretty easy this episode – Matthew and Vanessa had the most successful dishes and then Terri’s was good and certainly showed a lot of effort and skill with the pasta making.

Redemption is a Dish Best Served QUICKLY

Unlike last year in which they just had to make a dessert for their redemption round, this was a pure, blind panic Invention Test and it was Nickolas who was going to do most of the panicking as he ran to that table of ingredients like a panicking dad who just realised he’s lost his toddler in a supermarket

it’s all in the sensible, minimal arm movement jog.

Apparently he’d fallen head over heels for the massive prawns and was desperate to show John and Gregg some classic French techniques with his Prawn Bisque – the hardest part for him apparently being the plating up as he began pouring bisque onto a plate like a fox trying to emotionally destroy a stork in an Aesopian fable

thankfully he course corrected and did opt for a bowl

it’s a real improvement in terms of presentation over his first round and the cooking of the prawns was perfect – the bisque was a bit too salty and it needed something marginally more significant than 2 stems of samphire

you can however get away with 2 stems of it if you’re serving up a bougie risotto.

While Nickolas played the French Cuisine Trump Card, Geva was playing her Wicked Wango Card and opting for a dessert because there’s no quicker route to Gregg’s heart than through his blood sugar levels – and then like a cartoon villain decided to monologue her evil plan AT Gregg

In Japan, they call this Seppuku.

It was a bit unfortunate that Geva’s masterstroke dessert was pancakes which just about everyone makes once a year

it was a well made pancake and the she at least tried to jazz it up with the apple and pear filling and the salted caramel topping but when you’ve got a prawn bisque, ice cream and Zoe bragging about her biannual trips to Italy in the kitchen (we’re going to eat you, babe) a pancake does seem a little unremarkable.

Geva wasn’t the only one going with a dessert though as Jonny was jumping out of the pressure cooker and into the ice cream machine for his Brownie and Ice Cream combo – and things were looking a little uncertain for him as his first ice cream mixture split but by some miracle the second batch was set in time

Brown Sugar Ice Cream does sound incredible and I will take a tub or two of it. As for the brownie, it’s a mystery because it’s clearly not a brownie – if anything it looks like a Brookie (Brownie x Cooking fanfiction) but then Gregg said it had the texture of a Bread and Butter Pudding – whatever it was, it flew in the face of science and sounds kind of amazing so he should probably patent that and make a fortune – if there’s one business that’s forever thriving it’s novelty baked goods at a street market.

Zoe was keeping things Italian with her invention test, opting to make Sicilian Dumplings stuffed with mashed potato, goat’s cheese and mint in a tomato sauce

these sounded divine and I’m glad she went with something a little more understated – the lobster risotto just felt so affected and try hard, whereas this feels much more honest and unfussy but shows a lot more technique and effort and got rave reviews from the judges.
Woei was also paring things back for the invention test, making a Mackerel and Rice Noodle Broth that didn’t rely on any bonkers plating up to grab attention

and they loved it – the broth looks a touch grainy and over reduced but by all accounts tasted lovely and he had perfectly filleted and deboned the mackerel, so he’s at least 10 points ahead of most of the chefs in MasterChef: The Professionals whose deboning methods mostly consist of a blindfold and a sledgehammer.

Lastly we have Jo who was scooping up tongfuls of mince as best she could

once she’d finished needlessly decanting the tray in the most laborious way she could, she set about rather predictably making meatballs which she was serving with roast potatoes and roast carrots

somehow this plating is more absurd than Nickolas decanting bisque onto a flat surface – the meatballs confined to a tiny ramekin (with a lime wedge), the scattered roast potatoes and then the three roasted carrots just chucked onto the plate do read a bit like she gave up about halfway through the challenge, and the judges weren’t very fond it either – John crying out for some puhstuh [sic.] or mashed potato instead of the roasties and Gregg being mildly perturbed by the greasy balls

aren’t we all.

A Redemption Dish Ranking
1. Zoe’s Humble Dumplings
2. Woei’s Holy Mackerel Broth
3. Jonny’s Anti-science Brownie
4. Nickolas’s Bisque-y Business
5. Geva’s Evil Pancake Masterplan
6. A Collection of Things On a Plate

It wasn’t overly surprising how the judging went with Zoe, Jonny, Nickolas and Woei all getting aprons – meaning the latter will now be easier to spot in the kitchen

this also perfectly captures Nickolas’s essence, to the point where I am mildly convinced his soul is now trapped in that screenshot.

This did of course mean that Geva and Jo were the first contestants to be eliminated this year

wear that badge with pride, you’ll always have the lamb curry and the pocketful of Haggis.

And so, we’re off to a roaring start this year and if you’ve enjoyed this recap and would like to support the blog, you can leave a small donation via my Ko-fi HERE.

One thought on “MasterChef 2023, Episode 1: Blue Rice Pavilion

  1. Charlotte

    Hi, you can get that sort of keta caviar really cheaply …it’s not the same as the really posh stuff! You can even get a sizeable pot of the trout version (could be the type she used, looks v similar) at Ocado for £6. Lumpfish roe is also pretty affordable (at least compared to proper stuff) and is great on a blini!

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