MasterChef 2023, Episode 21: The Travelling Apostrophe

That’s how I describe myself at parties.

Burn the witch!

I’m sorry the MasterChef recaps have been a little off schedule, they changed the days MasterChef airs this year so I’ve kind of ended up with a three show pile-up in the middle of the week, which is an inconvenience to me alone and I sadly haven’t found a way to make myself central to the BBC’s scheduling… yet.

It’s Theatre Darling

Their final bid for a place in Finals Week came in the form of a challenge to design as theatrical a plate of food as they possibly could – dry ice is advised but not necessary. It’s always a fun brief because it lets the contestants let loose a little

tell that to Pookie who I’m convinced puts on a one woman production of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert every time she makes a piece of toast – wig changes, musical numbers, lights, a cameo from RuPaul herself! It will take 3 hours (with an intermission) but it will be the best slice of toast you’ve ever had.

Most of the contestants went with sweet dishes which I think are easier to make look a little more whimsical because nobody minds if you cut a sponge cake into funny shapes but if you cut fillet steak into tiny stars you might be sectioned by The Guild of Chefs. Omar however was risking the rarely sighted whimsical main course with a take on a Mohinga, a Burmese fish soup, through the lens of Hocus Pocus, I think, he was only allowed to say “old school Halloween film” because the BBC used all the licensing money on Strictly’s Halloween Week

sadly Omar’s theatricality did not involve either John or Gregg being put in Hocus Pocus drag but I think we can all safely assume that Gregg is the Kathy Najimy and John is the Bette Midler – Monica and Marcus can fight over who gets to be the Sarah Jessica Parker. (it’s Marcus)
Instead the theatricality came from serving the dish in a cauldron with some extra components on the side that John and Gregg had to add as directed by a spell Omar had prepared

we’ll ignore the travelling apostrophe in the second verse – witches may be able to spell but they never quite got the hang of grammar. The idea of having the judges essentially build their own dish was a good idea and I think it always goes down well and the quality of Omar’s cooking hadn’t suffered for ~the whimsy~ and he’d certainly captured the CBBC slime of it all

out of all the dishes this challenge, this one felt the most Great British Menu, he had called charred corn “witch’s teeth”, and I think was actually a stronger dish than a fair few of the ones served up in the last series – The Disastrous Scottish Heat, I’m looking at you!

never have I regretted not covering a series in my life but I cannot commit to it, mental health is important.

Over with the desserts and Terri was going with the good old tactic of making an illusion dish with her Dippy Egg dessert

and for an extra bit of theatre, John and Gregg gave us a little bit of dinner theatre as they put on a show for all the hardcore Joregg shippers out there (I’ve browsed AO3, I know they exist and there’s a lot of meringue-based wooing)

all Terri was trying to do was make a dish that referenced the fact her nan often made her dippy eggs and was going to be so excited to see her on MasterChef, so back to the dish! The whole coconut mousse and mango gel egg isn’t the most original concept but I really enjoyed seeing this from Terri – she very much leans towards the fine dining and does it so well that I was expecting something that maybe took itself a bit too seriously but this was very cute and very much hit the brief, even if the churros were a little greasy and the coconut flavour a little lacking.

Terri wasn’t the only one going for breakfast as Anurag made a coffee-based dessert inspired both by his trip to Vegas and the fact as a child he wasn’t allowed coffee so he thought it made you drunk – which is a fair assumption, as a kid I thought coffee was just tea that you left the teabags in for longer; I was not a smart child, my favourite pastime was reading car number plates to my increasingly concerned mother, but my God did I feel sophisticated drinking my extremely strong cups of tea.
As for what Anurag was doing for his What Happens in Vegas, Stays In Vegas dessert – he was making floating islands on a coffee liqueur custard accompanied by a basket of bonbons in various flavours as well as a meringue rose

naturally the vases were filled with dry ice

the judges did like the dessert and how well he’s managed to cook the poached meringues but they did find it all a little bit too sweet with the dusting of cocoa powder of the top of the meringue being a necessary addition but not being quite enough to mellow it all. I personally don’t know if there’s such a thing as too sweet a dessert so much as there’s a lack of valor, but as a child I did eat an entire bowl of cake icing that a restaurant in Mozambique was selling as “chocolate mousse” – can you tell why I’m the way I am yet?

Chariya was also running the risk of creating something that was a bit too sweet for John’s dental bills as her dish involved candyfloss – with meringues and candyfloss featuring heavily on the menu tonight John looked thoroughly defeated

guess who’s responsibility it is to scrape Gregg off the ceiling? And it really exacerbates his restless leg syndrome, he wasn’t getting a wink that evening!

Chariya’s dish was themed around the Japanese cherry blossom season but would not feature a single cherry, but it was all delightfully pink and certainly capture the vibe

the candyfloss tree reminds me a lot of the trees in Tim Burton’s Coraline which were made with popcorn (they used 250,000 pieces)

I did also love that after she added the dry ice, the moisture it created somewhat wilted the candyfloss which reminded me of that raccoon that tried to wash its candyfloss in a pond

it’s a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions.

Gregg was more than happy to only be a mildly irritated raccoon though and she’d managed to bring more of a balance of sweet and sour into her sort of Trifle containing layers of raspberry sponge, lychee jelly and Lime and Yoghurt “snow”

and of course that time honoured theatrical hail mary: popping candy

not that she was in any real danger of going home because John and Gregg were both big fans of the dish and were very impressed with the balance of it all.

Lastly we have Jack who was basing his dessert off of Bone Marrow and Bread

do we? I wasn’t even aware this was an established thing – I don’t even have a childhood anecdote to share! But then again as a child [NO, WE’RE NOT DOING THIS! JUST GET ON WITH IT. – editing Ariadne] his dessert took the form of a creme brulee which he was serving in bones but wasn’t quite committing to the full Jono of it all (as far as I’m aware) and making it using bone marrow – I will never forget Grace Dent suffering through every single slightly beefy bite

and in order to reference the bread he’d made doorstop biscotti to go alongside it and some chocolate soil to make it look more like you’ve dug up someone’s femur

where he kind of lost it a little bit was with the pot of fruit on the side which he’d tried to carbonate and make fizzy but it unfortunately hadn’t worked so it was kind of just a pot of cold continental breakfast fruit. But I do think there’s a clever and inspired dessert within this dish, I think it just needs a bit more development.

A Theatrical Dish Ranking
1. Omar’s Non-specific Witch Movie
2. Chariya’s Cherryless Cherry Trees
3. Alexa, play Waking Up In Vegas by Katy Perry.
4. John and Gregg’s Romantic Sunday Mornings
5. Bone Today, Gone Tomorrow

As sad I was with this outcome, given that his dish just hadn’t come together as a cohesive whole, it was Jack who was hitting the road

he’s been one of my favourites since his first episode and I’ve loved seeing his progression over the series and I hope someone out there recognises the potential in him because every kitchen needs someone who can reach the top shelf.

And so, 4 contestants head into Finals Week

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