MasterChef 2023, Episode 20: Hawaiian Pizza Chowder

‘Allo ‘Allo zis is Nighthawk.

This recap is kiki.

Wring Wrang Wrong

For their first challenge of the episode the contestants had to create a dish that was “so wrong it’s right” which was almost explicitly set up because not enough people went absolutely mental in the invention tests this year – if you’re not going to give us the steak and strawberry jam sandwich, we’re going to force you to give us the steak and strawberry jam sandwich.

I think the more successful dishes were the ones that pulled from divisive flavour combinations as opposed to the contestants that tried to reinvent the wheel, like Vanessa felt as though she was trying to be a bit too clever with it, as well as potentially ushering in the umpteenth sign of the apocalypse we’re now on

the “with anchovies” was a little bit misleading because I kind of would have loved to have seen John and Gregg having to navigate an anchovy ripple ice cream, instead it was merely a grating of dried anchovies over the top

and given that Gregg had been mentally fortifying himself for the anchovy assault he was a bit disappointed that he couldn’t actually taste the anchovies

and it was a similar case with her Black Garlic Brownie which you could see the chunks of garlic in

but it was so richly chocolatey that you couldn’t taste it, so it was just a nice brownie and one of my most vivid MasterChef memories is from a very early series when someone made a beetroot cake, and you know it was an early series because everyone was scandalised by the very concept and nowadays you can walk into just about any cafe and there’s probably a slightly unloved vegan beetroot cake at the back of the display, ANYWAY – when John tasted it and couldn’t identify the beetroot he said “it’s all well and good saying you can put a mackerel in your birthday cake but if I can’t taste it, what’s the point?” which was very much the trouble that Vanessa had run into.

Vanessa wasn’t the only one using fish for nefarious deeds as Chariya put together an afternoon tea featuring Salted Fish and Cheese Scones

and given that John and Gregg loved them so much, I might owe my uni flatmate who used to eat sardines on fruit loaf an apology? Although he also didn’t seem to know you had to use oven gloves to take things out of the oven so… maybe not.
As well as her scones that seemed to have John seeing through time and space itself

Chariya had also made a pair of cakes: White Chocolate and Wasabi & Dark Chocolate and Chili

which again the judges both liked a lot, I was surprised by the fact most of the contestants went with savoury food – I just think it would be easier to make a ~controversial~ pudding work. The only other contestant to do something sweet was Anurag who was using carrot halwa as the inspiration for his Carrot Mille Feuille and you were certainly going to know it tasted of carrot because it’s more orange than the cast of Strictly Come Dancing by week 7

it’s just a really pretty plate of food and I would argue one of the prettier Mille Feuilles we’ve seen on the show, I enjoy the colour combination and I like the use of the almond frangipane which makes it look a lot more generous that usual.

Over on the savoury side of things, the only person not doing a fish dish was Terri who had opted to make a Mushroom Tart

so far so ordinary, except this one came with a chocolate sauce that was alarmingly chocolatey and made me feel a bit sick because one of my biggest fears in life is accidentally putting gravy on my ice cream at a buffet thinking it’s chocolate sauce (once bitten, twice shy)

the actual tart was perfectly made but the sauce divided the room as John didn’t think a tart actually needed a sauce while Gregg was more than happy to just drink John’s unwanted chocolate gravy if he wasn’t going to be using it.

Jack and Robin were both going for a fish and vanilla flavour combination with the result going very different ways for the two of them, both John and Gregg really loved Jack’s vanilla’d scallops and celeriac

but when it came to Robin’s Sea Bass, the vanilla component was much too subtle, which I did not expect to come from a dish that looked slightly like Pig Pen from the Peanuts comics

but going in Robin’s favour was the fact everything was actually perfectly cooked.

Lastly we have Omar who was going with the divisive flavour combination of Ham and Pineapple – and the way he talked about this dish I thought we were getting a truly unhinged Hawaiian Pizza Chowder but it wasn’t quite that, with the centrepiece of the dish actually being trout and scallops with the ham and pickled pineapple being bit parts

it’s a very pretty, clean looking plate of food and both John and Gregg were relieved that after the threat of pineapple the whole thing didn’t taste like you’d accidentally spilled Um Bongo on your plate.

A So Wrong It’s Right Dish Ranking
1. Now I Want a Hawaiian Pizza Chowder
2. There’s Something Fishy About These Scones…
3. Anurag’s Helluva Halwa Mielle Feuilluva
4. Vanilla (pos)
5. Terri’s Saucy Tart
6. Vanilla (neg)
7. Hidden Garlic, Crouching Anchovy

This was a bit of a brutal round with two contestants being eliminated off the back of it – the obvious choice was Vanessa because for someone who served a whole punnet of blueberries in a ragu, she hadn’t managed to shock the judges in this challenge

which left John and Gregg muddling between Terri and Robin – and given that Vanessa was being eliminated for her flavours being too subtle, it would have been hypocritical to overlook the same mistake on Robin’s behalf so he was following Vanessa out the door

and just like that my hopes for a Lucky Charms Brulee died a death.

For Crick’s Sake

The remaining five contestants’ reward for having successfully navigated that minefield was to assist Jozef Youssef in putting on a special banquet at the Francis Crick Institute to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the discovery of DNA

Each of the contestants had a different course, not that the workload was in any way equal and I did feel sorry for Omar having to juggle both a doughnut an a tostada while Terri made rice pudding ice cream – although to be fair to her, the whole thing was being run with the precision and timing of an Ocean’s 11 heist scene lest anything melt

they can argue about who gets to be the George Clooney and who gets to be the Brad Pitt.

But Omar was truly having a Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day in the kitchen as he struggled to get the doughnut batter to the right consistency and by the third attempt Jozef was hovering behind him like he was about to make doughnut batter out of Omar

The whole concept of Omar’s starter was the Kiki and Bouba language experiment in which the vast majority of the world’s population would be able to tell you that “Bouba” means rounded or soft while “kiki” means to gossip with a drag queen pointed or hard. This did then result in diners sounding like they were trying to activate sleeper agents as they assessed the bouba and kiki merits of the dish

God I love a high concept nonsense dining experiences – but to Jozef’s credit as theatrical and a little bit exhausting as the table dressing and dry ice were, the actual food was relatively normal, if I looked at all of these plates of food outside of the context of this banquet, they still look like food and quite appetising, which I cannot often say for chefs of his ilk – remember the Eucalyptus smoked loin of lamb with its cultivated fur?


Following Omar was Anurag who was in charge of a Squid Ink Risotto which had a single piece of golden tempeh sinking into it like Artax sinking into the Swamp of Sadness

he had a better time of it than Omar, only being mildly setback because he burnt his onions and perhaps got a little carried away with unleashing his inner Jackson Pollack on the bowls

Anurag could paint Autumn Rhythm (Number 30) but Jackson Pollock could never cook Scriptura Vitae.

Chariya was on mains duty and battling against her greatest nemesis: shallots

I adore the fact that the only protective eyewear they could possibly find her in the entire Francis Crick Institute were a pair of goggles that make her look like she’s either about to have the scientific breakthrough of the century or go scuba diving. Although it wasn’t only the teary eyes that were causing her issues as things got a bit hectic in the oven and her wafer thin shallots were coming out a bit distorted

she and Jozef did manage to suplex 9 of them back into the desired flatness and the dish was ready to go

and was of course accompanied with dry ice that smelled of soil because they really had to keep up the pretence of it being scientific somehow.

Terri was next with her Rice Pudding Semifreddo, the most interesting part of which was the fact it was served on magnets to make it look as though it was levitating

and if you’re wondering how they ate it, apparently spoons go against the core scientific values of Francis Crick, so the guests were forced to kind of lap at it like they were in the Rum Tum Tugger scene in CATS (2019)

but that was only the pre-dessert as Jack was making the main dessert, which was themed around the importance of bees and given that he’s struggled to do more delicate things in the past, he got on extremely well with the delicate chocolate moulded beehives

they were a bit schmuck on the brioche toast though.

and so, 5 chefs are left battling it out for four spots in Finals Week…

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