MasterChef 2023, Episode 4: Radioactive Sommelier

He’s a real pot stirrer.

At least one sea bass was harmed in the making of this episode.

Playing Family Favourites

Kicking off this week’s proceedings was Nigerian born leader of the vowel resistance movement, Nky who was cooking Spicy Fried Chicken and Rice and trying her best to woo John and Gregg by putting her rice into heart shaped moulds

the broken-hearted rice mound is indeed a symbolic precursor to how today goes for Nky because unfortunately Gregg’s chicken was too pink for him to eat

but John’s was perfect so I imagine they shared? Or John at least tossed Gregg the bones to gnaw on because they both complimented her flavours and spicing of the chicken which was allegedly not too spicy for John despite Nky threatening to go all out on the spices and John sweating if you so much as mention Paprika to his face.

Also going with fried chicken was Claire, who was proving not all heroes wear capes

She was bitten by a radioactive sommelier during a trip to the Loire Valley and she was certainly putting her superhuman tastebuds to good use with her Korean Fried Chicken

I am a fiend for Korean Fried Chicken but I am also a heathen because I prefer the popcorn chicken version so what I’m eating is mostly sticky, deep-fried breadcrumbs. The success of Claire’s dish was that she kept it simple – deep-fried chicken, rice and pickled vegetables can only go so wrong. Fellow fried food aficionado, Victor, could have probably taken a leaf from the same book with his Hungarian Pork Schnitzel that came with two salads and a pile of lemon gels that looked like novelty soaps you make in Year 8 DT and as Johns said, should have just been wedges of lemon

the cucumber salad makes sense and was fine but I strongly believe the potato and avocado salad might deserve jail time

but at least the schnitzel was good.

I did think Anurag was going to go the same way as Victor because he had shown up with an entire Excel spreadsheet to accompany his dish

it turns out he’s just a chartered accountant so everything he does requires a spreadsheet. Doubling my worry though was the fact his menu listed “Cucumber Ribbons” and “Paratha Strips” which in the wrong hands would end up plaited into their own makeshift plate but Anurag is much too sensible for such a venture and was just getting a bit arty

it’s a very pretty dish and extremely well cooked but Gregg was right, he could have given them a little more of the paratha, although I do not condone Gregg’s reasoning

he’s like a thesaurus for the worst possible way to phrase anything, and don’t get me started on John being possessed by Jamie Oliver

You’ve heard of The Pope’s Exorcist, get ready for The Chef’s Exorcist.

Adam was also putting his profession to good use and proving that you can take the boy out of bricklaying but you can’t take the bricklaying out of the boy with his bricks of Pommes Anna that certainly caught Victor’s attention

I fully believe this is why Victor ended up trying to corral his salads into ring moulds – geometric envy will get to a man. Adam’s dish was more successful though

there were a few issues here and there – the carrots were a little hard and his red wine jus hadn’t been reduced enough but the fillet steak was perfectly cooked and the whole thing was well seasoned, so not a bad start at all.

The last of our main courses was from Omar who was making Big Burger Dumplings (which sounds like the name of a fake restaurant in The Simpsons) and were quite literally burger meat inside a dumpling accompanied by a thatching of shoestring fries

it’s a fun and memorable dish which will always serve you well early on, I might have taken the fact it was served to me in a dog bowl a little personally

but Gregg has once eaten a stir-fry out of a deep-fried fish skeleton

so his only issue was the fact it was a little bit too vinegary for him.

Despite the fact Omar was the one reatomising a burger into a MasterChef dish, he wasn’t the one having to talk circles round McDonald’s, instead it was Forest who was playing Bletchley Park

for his take on the menu of the Fast Food Place That Sells Chips, Burgers and Apple Pies™ he was making an apple cake accompanied by cinnamon mascarpone ice cream and an oat cookie

he did specify that the apple cake was “warm” which does somewhat take away from the magic of the first bite of the McDonald’s Apple Pie that feels like you’ve permanently branded the roof of your mouth, but it’s probably for the best in a competition. John and Gregg loved it, and it’s a very clever dish – lots of textures and a variety of elements that show off a lot of skills which he pulled off perfectly. Plus he has a cute dog so he’s my winner

his boyfriend is also there.

We had a couple of other desserts, the first being from Jo who was making her go-to Cherry Cake but MasterChefing it up by adding Kirsch, which she swears isn’t part of the usual recipe, but I’m choosing to believe she takes a booze laden cake into every Mums and Tots group the local library runs

she’s basically the walking speakeasy of Lossiemouth, I can’t say if the version she serves up if you say “The tipsy nightingale sings at midday” in the biography section is as capable of receiving Freeview as the version she served up to John and Gregg

John and Gregg loved the flavours – you can’t really go wrong with a cherry cake – but given that the cake was soaked in kirsch and accompanied with whipped cream and custard, it was a bit too wet which does make me quite impressed that the tuile kept its shape so well. But most damning of all was that as Jo left the room Gregg called her “That lady” when she was barely out of earshot

somehow it’s both a compliment and an insult.

Lastly we have Cliodhna who for her dessert was making the good old Sticky Toffee Pudding and just by reading the dish description Gregg experienced the highest of sugar highs

and the lowest of sugar crashes

both his and John’s biggest concerns were that the dish, which was being accompanied by a caramelised banana ice cream and a peanut brittle, would be too sweet and when she served up Bruce, The Great White Toffee Pudding (You’re going to need a bigger spoon) I had similar concerns

but despite being big enough for Adam to pave a driveway with, it worked – well, most of it worked, the peanut brittle did look like it could be used to stake Dracula through the heart

it’s doubly effective if Dracula has a peanut allergy.

An Audition Dish Ranking
1. The Lamb Spreadsheet
2. Non-copyright Infringing Apple Pie
3. Super-Tongue’s Korean Chicken
4. A Burger By Any Other Name
5. Cliodhna’s Sticky Toffee Brick
6. Follow The Potato Brick Road
7. Why Are You Boozing Me? I’m Right!
8. 1 out of 2 Chicken Legs Ain’t Bad
9. Victor By Virtue Of That Salad

I really liked this group, I thought the stuff they made at least felt more relatable than last week – there were obvious standouts with Forest, Anurag and Claire who all got aprons – but the others showed enough promise to at least give you an idea of how they might develop if they went further on which feels much more MasterChef-y than walking in and cooking a lobster straight off the bat.

Redemption Arc

Faced with the endless array of brainfarts that present themselves with an Invention Test, Adam immediately clung to the mildly impressive life raft that is making your own pasta, presenting John and Gregg with a bowl of Lemon and Mascarpone Cappelletti, which differs from Tortellini in that I don’t know where to put the double letters and Cappelletti (thanks autocorrect) look more like hats (apparently)

it was a very good dish and a nice delicate contrast to his steak dish in the previous round.

Cliodhna was also making her own pasta, but was also competing with Omar because both of them had gone for the seabass – not that there was a lot of competition considering Cliodhna filleted her fish perfectly and Omar seemed to have hung drawn and quartered his

the brutalised fish ending up as a single tiny minnow of a strip swimming in a Lemon Grass, Ginger and Lime Leaf broth

Rest In Pieces to the 70% of the fish that never made it to the pan – I’m sorry for your lack of purpose. But at least what did get cooked was well cooked.

As for Cliodhna’s perfectly prepared fish, it ended up atop Non-specific Pasta Strips covered in Pesto and crushed pistachio nuts

John was very relieved that he couldn’t taste the pistachio nuts whereas Gregg was enjoying the fact that he could and obviously Super-Tongue Claire could taste them from the next room.

Also going for fish was Nky who was cooking Salmon alongside a sort of Everything Vegetable Stir-fry

the resulting plate having a very exhausted Thursday night meal for one energy about it

it’s the sort of dish that’s fine, it’s tasty but you do get halfway through it and realise you couldn’t actually tell anyone what it is or how you made it. It was also all a little bit overcooked and John didn’t quite know how to handle the one (1) scotch bonnet she’d laced the Everything Vegetable Stir-fry with, but Nky had provided them with a vanilla milkshake served like it was intended to be poured over the salmon

luckily Gregg has more cognitive ability than I probably give him credit for

but I do think this might be the first milkshake ever made on MasterChef?

While those four mostly went for the tried and tested Keep It Simple, Stupid method of an Invention Test, Jo decided that she was going to make Tapas which you could not pay me to attempt in the MasterChef kitchen

it wasn’t bad – each of the elements was well done, I think she mostly did it because she wouldn’t have to think too hard about the plating but I think the tortilla would have been better served as a slice – Everybody, PUT. THE. RING. MOULDS. DOWN! John’s big complaint was that she hadn’t made an aioli – and he was VERY hung up about it, he mentioned it 9 times in the space of 12 minutes.

Victor was also giving himself a little too much to do, opting for the guineafowl and deciding he was going to stuff the leg, fry the breast, make a potato fondant, a fennel puree, fried leeks and a king oyster mushroom as well as a stock reduction – which did all get on the plate, it wasn’t pretty but it was all there

and by some miracle the most successful part of the dish was the potato fondant which was soft and buttery the whole way through

but with every miracle comes an anti-miracle (I think?) and John had issues with his breast

(remember to check thoroughly) while Gregg’s leg was a little bit too pink which really spelled out the end for Victor.

A Redemption Invention Dish Ranking
1. Teeny Tiny Pasta Hats
2. Seabass (pos) on Pasta
3. Seabass (neg) in Broth
4. Holy Moly, Where’s My Aioli!?
5. Everything Stir-fry All At Once
6. The Little Potato Fondant That Could

It was a pretty cut and dry decision this week with Nky and Victor not making it to the next episode

I hope Nky’s family has the “At Least You Tried” cake ready

there’s always Bake Off for your 51st?

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