MasterChef: The Professionals 2023, Episodes 1 & 2: Witchcraft Flavoured Porridge

Images that precede unfortunate events.

This recap was made on the Japanese mandolin.

Just because of the scheduling of the show I will be condensing the Skills Test episodes of the initial heats into 1 recap both because I think it still works narratively with my recap style and to spare the email inboxes of the people who subscribed for the Strictly recaps and didn’t realise I can write as much about a fillet of monkfish as I can about Angela Rippon doing a rumba of Faustian erotica. TO THE RECAP!

Episode 1: Haggis Chimney

Well, well, well, look who the cat dragged in

and look who wished the cat would drag her back out with as little as one truly terrible Greggism

at least she gets to spend a good half of the episode screaming in the pantry because the show is really married to keeping PantryCam a key part of the show

but if you’ve gone out of your way to brand your own headphones, you might as well make the most of them.

A Brill Omen

The very first Skills Test of the series was set by Monica who wanted her two victims to fillet a whole Brill and serve it with a coconut sauce and a turnip garnish of their choosing

I’m not going to say it was a low bar but I’m not wildly excited by a dish that looks like a sad Low Carb Bruschetta you find in a diet book from the 80s that also advises you on a little bit of cocaine after dinner, as a treat.

The first person to take on the challenge was Cameron who was tempting a hubris laden downfall by immediately opening with “I work in a family owned seafood restaurant”

they also assure us he is in fact 25 and it’s not just a gig to keep him out of trouble during the post-GCSE summer.

Luckily Cameron did not bring dishonour upon himself, his family or his cow and managed to get through the hardest part of the task by perfectly filleting the fish but did suffer a 404 error the moment he ran out fish fillets to stall on and had to start thinking about the sauce

Cameron.exe has stopped working.

But after sniffing the sea herbs like a scandalised Victorian woman of little constitution

he managed to get back on track – kind of, the sauce didn’t turn out *great* but the fish was perfectly cooked and in authentic British fashion not seasoned at all

the turnips were turnips, I really don’t know what else to write about them, they’re the placeholder of root vegetables, a mere afterthought.

The second chef was Dara who my slight facial blindness is insisting might be the long lost son of John Torode

and he’s about to be even more long lost if the way Monica looked at him turning the Brill to tatters is anything to go by

he was very nervous and Gregg did have to give him a “you’re a very big brave boy, Dara” pep talk halfway through because Dara was hovering a pan of sauce over an extremely hot hob instead of just turning the heat down as Marcus screamed in the pantry

and with the one moment of clarity he experienced, he decided the best thing he could do for himself was activate the vegetable cheat code and just serve the turnip completely raw

I have to give him points for the sheer bravery and gall to show absolutely no culinary initiative in a culinary competition – the funniest part of which might be that backstage in the pantry Marcus was bitching and moaning about being served raw turnip matchsticks that Monica ended up liking

granted it was perhaps because the turnips were the most flavoursome part of the dish because once again, pepper? I hardly know her

it’s going to be a long series.

Guineafowl Play

For his Skills Test, Marcus has truly just designed nonsense – it’s not quite King Prawn Omelette levels of “Sir, this is meant to be a dignified establishment” but I can’t help but look at a plate of guineafowl, a Hollandaise and a salad and think “something got lost in translation here”

at least make them do something with Dara’s leftover completely uncooked turnips.

This was a slightly rougher Skills Test, and who could blame Himanshu and Catrin? Both of them at least kind of knew what they were meant to be doing in terms of guineafowl butchery because, as Himanshu, there’s only so much difference between poultry

warning: don’t say that to a novelty competitive chicken breeder, they will get angry with you. Some of us learn that the hard way.

Not that closing their eyes and pretending it was a chicken helped either of them that much as both of their fully prepared, de-breasted guineafowl looked a bit like they’d come off second best to a leopard

and then both of them had very different brainfarts when it came to the Hollandaise with Himanshu being possessed by the idea to clarify his butter in the oven instead of over a bain marie but nothing has made me laugh this week quite like the image of an entire pot of butter just sitting in the oven

the city of Dubai would like you to know that this is not the super secret Emirati method of Hollandaising and would like to be excluded from this narrative

he still managed to get a decent enough Hollandaise out of it though so the Church of Baked Hollandaise is currently looking for apostles and evangelists

which I think has more of a chance to catch on than Catrin’s accidental dessert Hollandaise

she got bonus points for actually tasting her food as she went along but instantly lost them for not thinking to u-turn out of the Hollandaise that tasted confusingly like a Mary Berry trifle because she’d hadn’t added any vinegar to balance the sherry

but it wasn’t the biggest misfire on her plate given her guineafowl was a little tough – and you knew it wasn’t going to be great the moment it came out of the poaching liquid absolutely bone white

I haven’t seen a sadder bit of protein since I lived with a bodybuilding enthusiast at university. And it nearly got worse for her as she cut into the rapidly boiled guineafowl and found it was raw

another emergency flash fry later and the problem was solved…

kind of. It was still very tough but the salad was… crunchy *shrugs*.

Signature Menus

In order to decide which two chefs were getting the boot, they were tasked with putting together a menu of two signature dishes – 1 being a main course and the other a dessert. Having fully shown off his fish cookery skills, Cameron was looking for diversity brownie points by showing off that he could also cook meat and serving up a plate of Scotland’s Greatest Hits including Venison and a Haggis Chimney

it was another very good plate of food from Cameron with everyone being impressed by his treatment of the Venison as well as the novelty of his confit potatoes being made on the Japanese Mandolin™ which got a fair amount of screentime

that’s the JAPANESE MANDOLIN™! The Japanese Mandolin™, available now at Lakeland, make sure to use promo code JAPANESEMANDOLIN5EVA for absolutely no discount.

Cameron continued to shout the praises of Scotland from the rooftops with a Whiskey Panna Cotta and Honey Cake dessert, none of which was made on the JAPANESE MANDOLIN™

which again the judges all raved about – Gregg did say he’d never had a whisky panna cotta before and I would dispute that but I have stepped in the Whiskey/Whisky/Whiskthey bear trap one too many times before and I’m not having THAT comment section again, so the claimant will let the defendant’s comment stand.

Shouting out your hometown was a common theme for this group, which is too be expected, it gives your dishes a more personal touch that tells us something about the chef, such as Dara who likes apples and loves his JAPANESE MANDOLIN™

I do feel like the judges were perhaps a little bit *too* blown away by this dessert, I think it sounds and looks like a lovely mass catering wedding reception dessert but it was just a thin ribbon of raw apple with cream and jelly… he had 90 minutes, he could’ve made a biscuit? But I am but a biscuit loving plebeian who could not possibly fathom the complexity of the JAPANESE MANDOLIN™.

His Lamb main course I have no biscuit-based dispute over

I have made my peace with the fact main courses on The Professionals will be half the size of what a main course ought to be and you will always be in search of a decent potato, it’s taken 4 years but I have finally been beaten into submission and retired my potato soapbox. Well done, you won.

The Lamb Gambit didn’t quite work out for Himanshu who slipped right on down the Childhood Dream to Serving Raw Lamb Pipeline

and he didn’t manage to claw back too many points with his take on the South Asian street food, Falooda which is usually *kind of* like a Knickerbocker Glory with noodles in it – Himanshu had deconstructed it and served the noodles crispy with a block of pistachio kulfi

rose syrup and pistachio ice cream? I’m putty in your hands. The judges were a little cold on it, they liked the flavours and thought the dish was opulent but questioned his plating – personally I think the biggest crime is his choice of bowl, it’s too steep, you’re The Fox and the Stork-ing them. A smaller, flatter bowl? Perfect!

Lastly this episode we have Catrin who was doing her takes on her Swedish favourites, starting with Gubbrora, a pickled herring and potato dish she was doing everything in her power to not say she was deconstructing

she was absolutely deconstructing it

and the judges were not thrilled on the look of the dish, which is a shame because her Pear and Chocolate dessert basically looked like a photo negative of it

I promised myself I was going to be polite so let’s all breeze past the shape of the chocolate cremeux and move on to point number 2 which was the fact the liberal use of salt that they made sure to macro in on was a bit too much

The Year of Miso Caramel really did a number on everyone huh?

A Signature Menu Ranking:
1. The First Whisky Panna Cotta [CITATION NEEDED]
2. Mostly Just Lamb. It’s Fine. This Is Fine.
3. Now That’s What I Call Scotland 86
4. A Wedding Dessert Without The Free Wine
5. Himanshu’s High Falootin’ Falooda
6. Chocolate Salty Ba- CREMEUX
7. An Even More Deconstructed Sandwich
8. The Raw Lamb Pipeline

This episode proved to be a triumph for the Scottish-Irish allegiance as Dara and Cameron moved on to the next round

so we say goodbye to Himanshu and Catrin, which is a shame because I liked Himanshu’s hair.

Episode 2: Hob, Paper, Monkfish

Monkfish-y Business

This time it was Marcus’s turn to design an actual plate of food with his Skill’s Test being another spin on the mutilated fish roulette wheel, this time landing on Monkfish which they were having to spice and serve with Polenta and as a litmus test for whether baked butter was catching on, he made a call for a Chilli Butter Sauce as well

the first chef to go toe-to-tail with the monkfish’s seven layers of membranes was Rosie who has been training for this moment by being solely responsible for keeping her local fishmonger out of the red

unfortunately she never got around to the cookery portion of her seafood ninja training and has a mountain of filleted fish to make hell of a bouillabaisse out of when she gets home

and she might need the comfort because this was… not good, her fish started burning just about instantaneously and she was forced to play an emergency game of Hob, Paper, Monkfish to attempt to turn it around

it was potentially too hard a handbrake turn

she was equally flummoxed by the polenta which both Marcus and Gregg tried their best to help her with by signposting her towards porridge

which did not help as she scoffed at the advice and just hucked a handful of whole sage leaves into the pan like she was performing a drive-by cleansing ritual

at least we all know to absolutely not go to Rosie’s for breakfast because you’re going to get witchcraft flavoured porridge and you’re going to like it, and it will be a textural mystery

and while Rosie conducted everything at the pace of someone trying to flee a sinking ship, the second chef, Tommy, rather took his time to overly care for the preparation of his monkfish and making of his polenta which didn’t leave him with the most time to actually cook the lovingly prepared monkfish so he had to emergency flash fry it

but they were still very happy with the dish and based on the approving nod he got from Marcus the moment he added a fistful of butter to his polenta, he’s Marcus’s Adoptive Son this year

I’ll get the paperwork.

Girls Just Wanna Have Sundae

Seeing out this week’s Skills Tests was Monica’s version of the instant banana ice cream that every parent tries to fool their kids with at least once a summer as her two potential contestants were tasked with reinventing the banana sundae with flambéed bananas, whipped cream, a chocolate caramel sauce and whatever they could find for texture

first up was Charlie who was entirely too competent and composed to be having to make a year 5’s home ec project. His extremely relaxed attitude make have been because I imagine he’d just returned from a long Maui based honeymoon because he got married only 6 weeks prior to this

he does get slightly side-eyed for plating a sundae up on a plate but I think they may have put the sundae glasses on the high shelf because Cristina did the same thing

and Monica was particularly happy with the Charlie’s result

we now go live to the living rooms of Rosie and Tommy

we are only about 4 format changes away from them developing MasterChef into a The Voice like competition at which point they may jump the shark fin soup.

Finally we have instant Masterchef icon, Cristina who if not memorable for what happens in about 20 minutes time, certainly is for the life events that lead her to this moment that I will be buying the film rights to

the most loaded “I wanted to change a little bit” you’ll ever hear, I love her. I’ve sent a casting notice to Indira Varma’s people.

Enough about my Oscar baiting film, Cristina’s Skills Test wasn’t nearly as good as Tommy’s as her face completely collapsed the moment she heard “instant banana ice cream” and who could blame her, she’s a professional chef

and then she spent quite a lot of time just watching the blended bananas going around and around like a cat transfixed by a lava lamp as she thought about the day’s wages she’d sacrificed for this

to be fair, maybe she has good reason to keep a watchful eye on the blenders

they will sneak up on you.

Another problem she, and so many other MasterChef contestants, faced was getting used to the hobs

you know how Big Brother has a psych evaluation and inclusion training before the housemates enter the house? Maybe MasterChef should have Induction Hob Training? But don’t bother with the psych evaluations because then I won’t get things like a Confit Whiskey Egg Yolk

no matter how many blenders blow up in your face, you will never be as big a disaster as Big Meat Man Nic.

In the end Cristina’s Sundae was better than the her general harriedness suggested it would be and flatter than it should have been

her chocolate caramel sauce wasn’t chocolatey enough and Monica wasn’t a fan of the fact she’d garnished it with raw oats like she was serving it to a horse. She did not get a fun celebratory dance from Monica BUT I’M DANCING FOR YOU CRISTINA, IT’S A LES DENNIS QUALITY SAMBA BUT I’M DANCING NONETHELESS.

Signature Menus

In order to decide which two chefs would get eliminated they once again had to design a two course signature menu, or go toe-to-toe with an IEB – Improvised Explosive Bisque

I have never screamed as loudly at the TV as I did when that NutriBullet full on Oppenhemier’d Cristina right out of the competition BUT SHE’S FINE AND DEFINITELY NOT PRESSING LEGAL CHARGES

it’s a shame because her menu sounded genuinely interesting – we don’t see a lot of Brazilian food cooked on the show (why couldn’t the explosive bisque have taken one of the boys that look nigh on identical instead!?) but I hope she’s making a full recovery and perhaps they’ll ask her to come back next year – I’ll pen her in as my 2024 champion anyway.

None of the others had anything spectacularly blow up in their faces, in fact quite the opposite as they all did incredibly well, the weakest dish of the bunch was perhaps Rosie’s chicken?

the only complaint was the fact she’d cooked the chicken too early so it had gone a little tough – I did think the dish could perhaps look a little more lively? Something about it feels a bit like it’s off a Gastro Pub’s healthy menu – I would have maybe pulled the chicken and served it with a flatbread? Because I really liked the sound of her chickpea, date and preserved lemon salad, she’d gone for a Middle Eastern theme and her dessert being a set yoghurt with poached rhubarb toasted filo shards was a perfect follow up

she did narrowly avoid disaster because her yoghurt very nearly did not set AND IT WAS ALL PRODUCTION’S FAULT, THIS WAS SABOTAGE, SHE WILL BE SUING YOU INTO THE GROUND

that side-eye could curdle even the firmest of yoghurts. She’s now my favourite.

Charlie had opted to risk it on a main course of lamb and I genuinely thought he had just served up an entirely raw lamb cutlet because it looks vampirically cold

you could convince me that it was actually a lovingly rendered wax lamb chop because it looks cartoonishly like something Fred Flintstone would eat

but the judges loved it, Gregg did say that he would prefer it too look a little more like it had once upon a time known the sweet, warm embrace of heat but was more than happy to eat it and the tart. Now I am finally on board with Two Things And No Potatoes on a Plate *eye twitches* but I think I might have to draw the line at a tartlet being an accompaniment to one (1) lump of meat

sir, that is a very well made canapé.

Charlie’s dessert equally confused me because he spent so long really bigging up how incredible and important his mum’s Fairing Biscuits are

and then when it came up to plating his Rhubarb and Custard dessert…

I just… let the biscuit be a biscuit? This could have been served as a lovely set dessert with a whole biscuit on the side and felt like more of a celebratory nod to Cornwall instead of playing biscuity peekaboo? (I would still eat the entire coconut rum custard dessert in one mouthful and ask for seconds, don’t get me wrong.)

Lastly we have Tommy who was celebrating his new found love for Thailand after doing the gap yearest of gap years

his main course being Lobster in a Thai Yellow Sauce with courgettes done various ways which looked very pretty and spring-like

but at the end of the day, your lobster dish lives and dies by the quality of the lobster cookery, which thankfully was exceptional so Tommy can live to cook another day, and his Chocolate Orange Cremeux bought him even more time on the MasterChef Hourglass of Doom

see, that’s how you avoid your cremeux looking… unfortunate.

A Signature Menu Ranking
1. Tommy’s Well Treated Lobsters
2. Chocolate Cremeux [tone indicator positive]
3. Big Meat Little Tart
4. Rosie’s Yoghurt Court Case
5. Biscuity Peekaboo
6. Rosie’s Premature Chicken

Given that they had all witnessed a traumatic bisque-based massacre and had all managed to still hold it together and cook impressively well, this group all moved on to the next round

Cristina plots her revenge from the shadows.

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3 thoughts on “MasterChef: The Professionals 2023, Episodes 1 & 2: Witchcraft Flavoured Porridge

  1. Meerium

    Surely they will ask Cristina back next year? Not only did her food sound lush and it would only be fair, but we all need a LOT more of her backstory.

    (Also, Northern Irish person here. Eschewing potatoes is a brutal colonialist insult. Or something. Either way, give us some bloody carbs)

    1. Ariadne

      If they do invite her back, they will absolutely orchestrate it so that her skills test is a bisque and the redemption arc will be beautiful.

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