MasterChef 2023, Episode 17: Cheese Casino

She’s back and she’s face-ier than ever.

Draw me like one of your MasterChef judges.

A Taste of What’s To Come

Much like the previous episode, the second half of the Knockout Week victims unit were tasked with creating a dish that they would like to include on the menu of their restaurant or in their cookbook. Gregg however was still ill and Anna Haugh had been wrestled back into the MasterChef pantry so standing alongside John ahead of her triumphant return to MasterChef: The Professionals was Monica Galetti

which had ultimately undermined Chariya’s attempt to use this episode to pitch her John and Gregg anime: Fullmetal Masterchef

John is clearly the protagonist because she gave him the Sailor Moon shōjo eyes while Gregg is left to languish in the supporting cast with those fatherly black dots, but you better believe when he pushes those glasses up to the bridge of his nose, it’s over for… whoever the antagonist in this anime that I definitely haven’t thought far too much about is

Chariya could always just add some hair to the Gregg drawing and it’s not *not* Monica

now I don’t know how to get out of this tangent, so here’s Chariya’s Khao Soi inspired dish

it’s literally perfect and I hope to God I’m not mad she didn’t save it for the final because John and Monica both praised it like it was a series winning dish

I genuinely think John would have chosen that bowl as his final resting place if he could have just lain down and died there and then – there’s always such a sadness in his eyes, I think the extra knockout week has broken him

and Chariya knew she had nailed it

but she knew that before the challenge even began

we stan an unhumble queen who knows her self-worth.

Jack and Anurag also both had very successful dishes, Anurag perhaps gilding the lily with his Masala Prawns and Squid Ink Pasta in a coconut curry sauce

John and Monica both felt that the polenta cake was so good that he hadn’t really needed to add the pasta, and I regret to add that everyone is still refusing to adopt “Squink” instead of saying “Squid Ink” – we’ve bullied them into properly using “raviolo”, we can make this happen. Speaking of a raviolo, Jack made a Crab Raviolo finished off with a shellfish bisque and enough caviar to repopulate the Caspian Sea

I love that once they get into the meat of the competition we suddenly shift from cheaper salmon and trout roe to the fancy sturgeon stuff. However, his raviolo held up on its own merits with the pasta being perfectly made and the filling generous and tasty

it’s even more impressive because he had to remake his pasta pretty late so was in a bit of a flap whereas Josh could lie back and play Fake Cheese Blackjack with John

Monica has a worse poker face than Pinocchio.

When not trying to open his Cheese Casino (“His Quesino?”), Josh was making Mac’n’Cheese to serve alongside his Beef Short Rib and Jalapeno Cornbread

it’s a lovely looking plate of food. Sorry, I mean it’s a good looking paddle of food but unfortunately for Josh there were a few technical issues with his Macaroni Cheese being too dry and his short rib quite chewy. There was a silver lining in that they at least liked his cornbread. Josh wasn’t the only one to fall short of the judges’ expectations with Adam getting the harshest critiques for his Pork Belly dish

John offering half a compliment about the Duchess Potatoes doing nothing to stop the conveyor belt of critiques he and Monica gave to him feel any less harsh

and then it got to John dealing the finishing blow and the way he worded it, for a split second, I genuinely thought Adam must have given himself a manicure halfway through the challenge and left a clipping on the plate

is that a metric or imperial measurement of crackling?

Omar, who thus far has pretty much been on top, had a little bit of a stumble with his Lamb Curry Congee – congee being a very wet rice porridge or as wikipedia unappetisingly calls it “gruel”

the only thing preventing John and Monica loving the dish was the fact it lacked much of a texture and after a few spoonfuls of what kind of amounted to lamb curry soup, it was getting a little rich for John.

Lastly we have Terri who had all eyes on her as she was the only person making a dessert, doing a Lemon Tart accompanied by French and Italian Meringue which looked stunning

and for the most part, John and Monica thoroughly enjoyed it – there were a few issues in that they couldn’t really taste the yuzu she’d used and her tuiles, which bore an alarming resemblance to Adam’s black pudding, were a little too thick. But the main parts of the dish, the tart and the meringues, were perfect.

An Aspirational Dish Ranking
1. Chariya’s Fullmetal MasterChef Pitch
2. Jack’s Caviar with a Side Raviolo
3. Squinking The Lily
4. Terri’s Mostly Good Tart
5. Omar’s Dense Soup
6. Josh’s BBQ Paddle (but it pains me to do it.)
7. A Fingernail of Crackling

After the first round, it was pretty clear Adam was going home – many things can save you on this show, a single swirl of Duchess Potato is not one of those things

and that left John and Monica umming and ahhing over Omar and Josh as the second eliminee and I was going to be sad to see either of them go but I did make the mistake of calling Josh a favourite and thus he joins The Blog Fave Graveyard

on the plus side, he has posted on Instagram that he is currently working in the kitchen of The Woodsman in Stratford-Upon-Avon. He hasn’t managed to get his Fake Cheese Macaroni on the menu. Yet.

Piazza La Vista, Baby.

For this episode’s Professional Kitchen Fieldtrip, the remaining 5 contestants were sent to the Royal Opera House to cook at the Piazza restaurant under the guidance of Richard Robinson

kicking off the menu were Jack and Chariya, Jack having to make an autumnal soup, the important first step of which was to make a well fortified sourdough dam wall to protect one half of the bowl for reasons that are known only to Robin Richardson Richard Robinson

it took Jack a little while to get into the swing of things as he found himself struggling with a few of the finer aesthetic details – his hands were fighting a losing battle against the micro herbs, as Richard would call for more finesse and Jack would be hunched over a plate trying to flick a piece of tiny greenery off his fingernail

he may have been a little slow at plating things up but his plates were going out looking beautiful by the end of his portion of the service.
Chariya’s starter was a precariously stacked Duck Hash starter

the only thing really needing to be done to order were the fried eggs, so she was quite fortunate that she could do so much beforehand, including preparing her abundant five (5) potatoes

she was however thriving under the pressure and never let the stress or pace of the kitchen get to her

he’ll consider it, but only if you stop bleeding his duck egg profits dry

nobody tell Richard about the 102g of hake Terri wasted as she tried to eyeball 150g fillets

given that she had never filleted a fish before, she did really well and out of everyone the whole restaurant experience seemed to come the most naturally to her and she didn’t have an easy dish with her Hake, Pumpkin and Ambiguously Pronounced Mouclade Sauce (nobody pronounced it the same way and eventually everyone just started saying “mussel sauce”)

a big part of the dish was trying to maintain the erect pumpkin, which Richard commended her for managing to do right as the editors decided to go to a shot of a flaccid pumpkin

it happens to everyone.
Also on mains was Anurag who was cooking whose prep went very well and he only had one near miss when three of his pork chops went to the pass a little underdone

but a quick flash on the grill and they were up to standard.

With those 4 all being on starters and mains, time had finally run out for Omar to bite the dessert bullet as he was tasked with making a Raspberry Tart that even Junji Ito might call “a little too much”

it’s hitting that Uzumaki/Trypophobia overlap that makes my skin itch a little bit. Apparently everyone had come out to witness Omar’s monumental first step into pastry, as two of the restaurant staff watched on from the doorway like Dante and Virgil watching the damned souls locked in eternal combat

and I’m sure Omar felt a little bit like he was in the seventh circle of hell because I’m not sure how much of this dessert actually warranted being made to order but that’s what you get for making a main course in the challenge to showcase chocolate. But given that I think he’d have sold his right toe to never have to make a dessert, he did great and is now the proud father of 15 beautiful pastry cases

they’re cute when they’re little.

And so we move on to the final episode of Knockout Week with a whole 30 minutes being dedicated to 10 contestants so we might well be getting that brawl.

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