MasterChef 2023, Episode 19: Cracking Chekhov’s Eggs

I’ve never felt more unsafe.

Somebody please just pull the snail trigger.

A Pain in the Mass Catering

The Mass Catering Challenge is back, having triumphantly returned in last year’s Celebrity MasterChef and causing Lisa Snowdon to have a mental collapse over finding out parmesan isn’t vegetarian halfway through making an Aubergine Parmigiana

but it’s finally back in the civilian series with the semi-finalists being taken to the Fire Service College in Gloucester, which was quite handy

I cannot believe they didn’t do everything in their power to drag Fire Breathing Chris to this point in the competition for the jokes alone.

It was a big challenge too as they were catering a special banquet for 120 members if staff – the Fire Service College would like to make it abundantly clear that their 15,000 people they train annually are not regularly fed venison for lunch.

The teams were split into two with each team doing 60 covers of a main and dessert:

Red Team: Jack, Robin, Endang and Vanessa
Blue Team: Omar, Anurag, Chariya and Terri

the first port of call was to elect a leader and while Omar was designated Captain Blue quietly off-screen, Jack was democratically elected against his will and ironically drawing the short straw

I did feel sorry for Jack as there’s really not much he could have done to avoid this going a bit tits up because the only thing you can really do with 5 saddles of venison and a roll of thankfully pre-made puff pastry is make a Venison Wellington (who is my favourite tennis player.) They did however make a rod for their backs by deciding to smush together parsnips and butternut squash to make an accompanying Vegetable Wellington, which was being made by both Endang and Vanessa while Jack was left to turn the kitchen into a venison graveyard by himself

Was this cinematic pan down the venison production line necessary because it’s giving me Hannibal. It’s giving me camp.

Jack did end up falling a bit behind time and once Robin had slayed the ice cream minotaur and escaped the Gloucester Labyrinth

he, with his authoritative spatula in hand, commandeered the captaincy from his crepe station

not that there was much to captain because by this point morale was so low Endang’s knife skills were becoming increasingly lackadaisical and Vanessa was contemplating walking the plank of her own volition

but despite the ever increasing likelihood of the world’s first fourway mutiny both the wellingtons were better than they had any right to be

I do applaud them for achieving it and for treating the vegetarian option with as much of a fine dining polish as the non-veggie main – they could have easily shrugged and made a butternut squash curry to make their lives easier. Although I don’t know how much of a compliment it is that the general consensus was that the Cabbage BonBon was the best part of the dish

or “that little ball” as some of us call it.

The other team did have it marginally easier having been given cod and signposted to some sort of Thai curry and with Terri having prepared and cooked a hake dish in the Professional Kitchen last week she got on very easily with having to fillet the 5 cod while Omar was being punished by Poseidon himself and forced to deshell 60 people’s worth of prawns for the accompanying dumplings

stare into the crustacean abyss and it stares back.

I did find the decision to not include any sort of rice with the dish to be an odd one and it wouldn’t have been that much extra time to just boil some rice – that’s 4.5kgs of rice if you’re a normal person or 27kgs if you’re doing The Apprentice maths

I will never forget Akeem boiling nearly 5kgs of rice for just 10 people who had been brought on a corporate away-day against their wills.

The strength of the blue team was the fact they very quickly fell into a production line instead of all going a bit solo, so when Chariya wasn’t cracking Chekhov’s Eggs

she was shaping the prawn dumplings with the help of Anurag for their very tasty, if perhaps slightly too small, plate of food

the diners loved it, the dumpling being the highlight of the dish, which the vegetarian option wasn’t missing out on as Anurag had made a lentil dumpling to accompany his Aloo Tikki and Tamarind Sauce dish

which was also a hit with the diners and I wouldn’t expect anything less from something cooked by Anurag.

Robin was a natural selection for preparing his team’s desserts given that’s where he’s excelled throughout the competition so far, sadly they hadn’t given him all the necessary ingredients to make a Jordan’s Super Nutty Granola Syllabub so he settled for making a Pear and Almond cake, which came out a little burnt but he was doing his best to use icing sugar to hide all his sins

I’m not sure that’s going to get passed anyone in a college full of people trained to smell fire from 5 kilometres away – but the burnt bits didn’t prove to be the shortcoming

Sir, any more and you’d be an occupational hazard. Gregg however was distressingly happy about it

I will never be clean again after hearing about Gregg Wallace’s “inner depths”.

Chariya was in charge of her team’s dessert and nobody quite knew what she was making because it, much like Shatoon Bringer of Corn, went by many names including “Mousse Layer Cake”, “The Gateau”, “Sort of Coffee, Chocolate Tiramisu, Deconstructed Chariya Invention” and “Chocolate and Coffee Delight” – although the making of it was anything but a delight as having baked her cakes and them coming out of the oven looking slightly like she’d baked doormats

Chariya realised that instead of using 20 eggs, she’d used none eggs

this did not fluster her for a single second as she just merrily carried on because at least it still tasted like a Nebulous Coffee and Chocolate Dessert

and that’s probably going to be a crowd pleaser no matter what

I mean, they’ve got 20 eggs going spare if you’ve got room for a really big omelette?

Both teams ended up with perfectly good menus but given how well they’d managed their time and workload in the kitchen the Blue team were the clear winners meaning Vanessa, Jack, Robin and Endang would all be cooking again to see who would be the first eliminated in Semi Finals Week.

Canned Bits

For their redemptive showdown the Red Team faced an invention test in which they had to create a dish using tinned and canned products

but these weren’t just any cans for amongst the Doomsday Bunker Starter Pack were treasures such as Confit Duck and Snails

they have been trying to bait someone into making a snail dish for so long now they might as well just explicitly make it a challenge because nobody in their right mind is going to pick them of their own volition, so it’s another year in the cupboard for the tin of snails.

While nobody fell for the siren song of the escargot, the round was not completely devoid of brainfarts as Endang really embraced the snatch and grab mentality of the Invention Tests of Yore with her Corned Beef and Coconut Curry

although finding that combo confusing is kind of burying the lede when she’d just whipped up a batch of herby scones as a side dish

I know Biscuits and Gravy are a thing in America – their biscuits being similar to our scones because of course that’s how America works – but “a curry and scone” sounds a bit too much like a Beef trifle situation

to her credit though, the actual curry sauce was great just nothing she’d thrown at it really got along with it, like a trio of Siamese Fighter Fish in one tank. It’s certainly an all time MasterChef Wildcard Dish, I’ll give her that.

While Endang went about making a curry like Thomas Pynchon writes books, Robin went much more minimal with his White Bean Pasta Pyramids in a Sweetcorn Emulsion

it’s not one of his strongest dishes with the whole thing being very subtle and bordering on bland but he did at least have some technique on show with his very good pasta making.

Jack and Vanessa both opted to do desserts, neither of them deciding to go for the easy option of just heating up the tin of rice pudding

instead Jack was going for the more technically demanding Pear and Frangipane Tart and very much distancing himself from Robin’s efforts in the Fire Service College

“how well it went” *smile*

the tables were turned for Jack though as he once again found out how to lose the time war with his tart not making into the oven early enough and being visibly undercooked

but much like Robin there were some things to fall back on – the pastry was perfect and the fact he’d whipped up a solid enough ice cream out of a tin of custard, whipped cream and a prayer impressed John

it’s a dangerous revelation to those of use with a tin of custard in the cupboard and too much free time on our hands.

While Jack tried to hurry his oven by turning it up to 250 like a man after my own heart (it’s my toxic trait) Vanessa was running the gauntlet with the blast chiller and trying to get her Chocolate and Cherry creation set in time, having a much more successful time of it than Jack

she wanted it to be rich and it certainly was as John struggled to talk properly through the chocolate coating his throat. Gregg wolfed it down, obviously, but proceeded to only talk about the crumble so that we wouldn’t notice.

A Canned Food Dish Ranking
1. Vanessa Only Does Dishes For One
2. The Pyramids of Pisa
3. Pear and Frangipane 2: Undercooked Boogaloo
4. Thai Red Afternoon Tea

It was a pretty tight run race at the bottom of this round and you could probably make a solid argument for either Jack or Endang going home – John and Gregg ultimately decided that the latter’s Beef Trifle Situation of a curry was the more egregious offense

I’ve really enjoyed Endang on the show – she’s had an interesting point of view and has showcased many a dish and ingredient that we haven’t seen on the show before which is always something to be proud of.

And so, 7 contestants remain

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