Monday, 18 October 2010

Masterchef Professionals Week 3: Last of the Quarter finals

Apologies right off the top for not getting this out sooner, but all things being equal, I just didn't have the time to sit down and do the writing and photo captures. If I'm honest, I have a few more reviews tucked away in my notebooks gagging to get out before the new week gets under way in earnest.

Monday last, we started off the week with the first of three Monica skill tests. French trim rack of lamb  this time and I'm shocked to report that Gregg Wallace felt obliged to tell us what de-glaze meant. Honestly Gregg, If we don't know de-glaze by now, we shouldn't be watching. That said you'd think the same applied to the working chefs applying to Masterchef. Fat Simon did us a scrummy rack of lamb while Piotr (I was writing in Polish I swear, during his bit) served up surowe/raw slightly sealed meat. Lee was the best with a tasty looking well presented plate of food, while Amie plopped some scruffy inedible rubbish on her plate, then wept. Suffice to say that besides the much appreciated lesson in rack of lamb, the choice of who to send through was dead easy, though why Amie was passed is a mystery as we shall see in the Michel Roux test. Perhaps it was a sign of weakness to come throughout the week?

Michel Roux took our three hopefuls and  asked them to make a muscle soup.Invented by Maxime's in the 1930's, this is a soup even I could make with a bit of effort, I would hope trained chefs would breeze through this task. Lee presented a highly attractive plate but failed to put any wine in the preparation, sadly it was an essential element. Simon then used too much wine and made well presented thin but tasty soup. Weepy Amie didn't even use her broth and made a complete hash of things. The looks on both Greg and Michel's faces were enough for her to know she wasn't going any further. I sincerely wonder why Monica and Greg felt compelled to let her continue. Was it the producers? More on this later.

If it's Tuesday then it means Monica Galetti is teaching us another tasty dish of food and testing four new sacrificial lambs. Scallops in beurre blanc, I was already getting hungry thinking about it, and yes , Greg will have all the sauce you can spare. My now dearly departed ex Father in law used to do incredible things with scallops, so I expected great things from this lot. Unlike Monica, Jason made a messy dish showing equally bad technique, even though he knew how to make the very thing asked of him, hardly inspired cooking.  Nervous James was confused and totally out of his depth. His plate of food was so  bad it wasn't tasted.  Garry who showed promise, presented well and produced the best tasting dish of the lot, closely followed by two rosettes Dan . For the crime of wasting scallops and trying to poison the judges, James was sent home. I have made a gallery of the top googly eyes Monica made in this segment, as they are legend.

This had to be my favourite part of the evening, Michel Roux showed us sesame crisps with tipsy cream and grapes soaked in grapa. I remember a wedding I went to where I only drank grapa, I love my brain cells so I won't do it again in that great a quantity, but ohhh what a drink.  We already know how to make the crisps and the cream so I just need to peel some grapes and soak them.  I'm sorry, I'm getting carried way now. So how did the survivors of the scallop test do? Keep in mind that this pudding is an adult feast of the senses, a mature over 18 full on orgy for the taste buds. Dan  started well enough with a scruffy but unctuous plate of sin gladly eaten up by pudding boy and appreciated by Michel Roux. Garry went the opposite, great presentation but the sesame was too limp and the boozy cream was too weak and child like. Jason even had time to play with spun sugar but also disappointed with thick sesame, bad cream, hacked grapes and not enough booze. Sometimes the family friendly cooking has to be attacked for what it is, a dumbing down of even chef's levels of skill and bravery in cooking for adults, or is it he adults who've forgotten how to be adults? Either way, Garry was cut and the world continued to spin without incident.

Back to Monica and possibly the bravest, unique, different, request I've ever seen on a cookery programme, 10 minute soufflé with caramel sauce ! Yes you heard me, and Monica was up to the task. Having seen it done I can honestly say, well of course. But we all knew this was a disaster in the making. First up was Stacey who made a heavy undercooked soufflé that wasn't safe to eat, but the caramel sauce was ace. Sam the hobbit, seems to have gone to the same school. But Daniel who also attended, didn't graduate as he burned his caramel sauce and had the nerve to serve it despite the billows of black smoke emanating from his pot, and his soufflé was inedible of course. Gregor from Scotland, ( I know you expected a Hungarian accent didn't you?) was the worst of the lot not getting a sauce and ruining his soufflé. So here is where I get a bit angry. for the first time in the series the producers are faced with not two, not three, but four rancid awful inept poisoners unworthy of putting on an apron. And yet, AND YET! They put through Stacey, Sam and even sugar burning Daniel. I could see the thinly disguised, "this was not my choice to let you through" look, when Monica gave them a bollocking and suggested they raise their game. Alex Ferguson would have given them the hair dryer treatment and sent them packing. This was the one group of contestants too far, as we then saw in the next test.

Poor Chef Roux, what was he thinking when he thought these losers could do anything with Blanquette de Volaille? In all  honesty, it should have been 15 minutes of dead air or a maybe a summary of the chefs that had made it this far and would compete in the semi final round. I would even have accepted that they do a behind the scenes thingy to fill the space that was instead occupied by the farce that followed. They were all bad, none of them knew how to cook pillaf rice, with only two managing a semi decent sauce. The less said the better, except to inform that Daniel and Stacey were for reasons not known to us, allowed to progress. regardless of how they fared later on, they should never have gotten as far as they did.

And so with great trepidation and squeamishness we move on to Wednesday and the last quarter final.

The invention test pitted 6 chefs who tried to out weird us with increasingly bizarre combinations. Simon's venison was badly sliced and underdone, his beets gritty, in short, BAD.  Stacey shocked the judges with some decent food and made celeriac mash with vanilla  somehow work. Dan's quail  was well cooked, tasted fine but needed to be off the bone for high priced clients who also would not tolerate unpeeled tatties. I don't see the problem myself, but hey if you're paying 35£ a plate, I suppose you would expect no peels. Lee made an elegant skilful rabbit with TWO sauces, but was accused of putting too many flavours on the plate. Dan (the 2nd) dumped a lot of rare lamb onto a plate and lastly Jason made a ghastly tasting combination of Quail  on chocolate cake. Greg told him " You may be a genius, but you are ahead of MY time ".   In the end Simon and Jason were cut loose, even though one of the Dan's was surely also considered for the chop. Yet again I smell the hand of the producers.

The critics hurdle was the usual combination of bravery, originality and "hey look at me" menus. First up was Daniel with his Lamb curry and cabbage. His puree was cold and th sauce not curried. For pudding he made a stodgy looking school dinners Cinamon sponge on a bed of pear purée. On the whole not good and cost him dearly. Stacey was back with more meat. This time beef mushy peas and vanilla mash. It was daring once , but twice it's silly. Her dessert was fine I suppose, but she had to redo her tuiles and cried. I know she's 21 and punching far higher than her ( pardon the pun ) weight, but it's no reason to cry. She should consider herself lucky to not have been sent home during the soufflé disaster. Lee cooked inspired venison with spinach and pancetta, followed buy a tarte tatin that had an innovative filo crust and star anis ice cream. I'm no fan of licorice , but I would have tried that.  Lastly Daniel the 2nd made confit of salmon that looked pretty but was not seasoned and turned out too raw. His main of spring lamb on mash was embarrassing.  You have to see it to believe it. Imagine three piles of slightly green turd on your plate with some meat next to it. Besides being tasteless like all his cooking, it was comedy plating not worthy of cooking at this level. Having had to choose somebody, both Daniels were dropped with Stacey and Lee now the last entries intp the semifinals.

I have to say, that aside from some cracking recipes, week three was weak and a bit forced. It wasn't the only thing weak and forced, Whites also aired in the week of the Chilean miners. I'd like to tell you it was brilliant, but the two anchor stories in the ep were so un-engaging that despite decent writing I cannot in all honesty recommend you devote a half hour to this wank and fast car inspired ep. Even Scoose being a complete twonk was wasted. Though if you must watch it, look out for the Aslan fusion jokes, they are nerdtastic.  Next ep promises to be a cracker, the health inspector visits and threatens to close the place down. Plenty of drama and comedic potential I think.

Happy cooking people, and here's hoping the semi finals will be as exciting as the chock full of promise participants list seems to be. As always, you can catch up any and all episodes Masterchef: The professionals you might have missed on the iPlayer right here.

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