Friday, 29 October 2010

Masterchef The Professionals: 8 become 3 and Alan Davies Whites hots up

Ohhhh it gets exciting now doesn't it cookery fans! Top quality chefs and top quality food, and the winner is .....US. I'll be doing a some research at the week end to add the best recipes over the current series to my Masterchef tab.

EDIT: Reviews for Finals week Part 1 and part 2 

And now without further delay, Masterchef professionals semi final week.

Monday, first we have to reduce 8 to 6, and that's done by doing a final invention test allowing 80 minutes for the remaining chefs to come up with something brilliant. Something that will raise the bar proove with certainty they are worthy of moving on . For this stage, Greg Wallace took a day off set, probably to have a conjugal visit with some long neglected dessert plate at home. In his place stepped in Monica Galetti with sufficient gravitas and striking terror into the faces of the contestants who had though they were through with her.

Geordie David presented next with his Roast chicken and Yorkshire pudding. The plate was arty in presentation and the chicken was butchered to allow three kinds of roasting. As the different styles were succesfull , the only thing that let down our boy was his Yorkshire pudding that was flat and listless. In the end, a lot of skill was on display and it tasted good.

Weepy Stacey did a duo of lamb with parsnip puree and beetroot. It was judged to be well seasoned and prety. However her beetroot was underdone and crunchy. As Polish man,I can tell it's not that hard to make properly sturdy but smooth beetroot.

French Ben prepared a char grilled rack of lamb, using a pressure cooker for some of the lamb. A risky move if it doesn't work, but as it happens ...some parts let him down with rare rack of lamb  but well done braised lamb.

Liverpool Claire cooked pan fried mackarel that was 99 out of a 100 for Michel Roux. A flawless dish of food that was both pretty and tasty.

John took the Provençal route of roast lamb with a ratatouille twist. Dull and without finesse, what it lacked in appearance, it made up for in taste with it's olive tapanada and finely cooked lamb. Monica  loved it.

 Matthew with his ballantine of chicken leg duck with hearts and other assorted goodies.He had so much going on that he ruined his food with too much sugar.

Lee's roast monk fish was perfect, tasty and good looking, I want some even now, but his ginger was a step too far.

Alice was last to go doing a lovely cod, frogs legs, and chirizo foam. A fun plate of food, I do hope she stops banging on about girl chefs, like she's still 12.

Even I knew who the two people with a one ticket home were.... Stacey with her crunchy beets and Matthew of the heavy sugar hand. At this level of the competition, there was no room for simple school boy errors like that. Stacey culd have saved herslf simply bu not plating the beets. But here are the ratings for the record.

1- Claire most complete
2- David showed most skill
3- Alice showed off her palette
4- John who made a flavour party

The rest were bottom feeding and they knew it. So much for Monday, let us move on to Tuesday and the first of two head to head battles between mostly top contenders.  Gregg btw is back from whatever food tryst he had on the day before.

Claire and Ben  had to go to Edinburgh and cook for Tom Kitchin, arguably one of the city's most demanding chefs, his restaurant The Kitchin exudes modern but serves the best traditional food. Ben had the seared scallops and asparagus three ways while Claire was charged with rump of lamb crisp potato and peas. The best way to sum up the experience is that Ben cried, Tom Kitchin stepped in and dressed his plate but not before he warned that any ruined scallops were coming out of Ben's pocket. On the whole Claire held her own and showed she belonged in that kitchen, while Ben was fraying at the edges and loosing his French cool.  After that, both had to reproduce Chef's bone marrow made three ways. A difficult job, especially if you've never worked with bone marrow. Ben produced  Michelin star seasoning on the first  then was ok followed by bland by the time he got to toast.   Claire followed the same route running out of bone marrow by the third dish.   

Step two was back at Master chef HQ, they had 90 minutes to showcase everything they had learned from the experience in Edinburgh. Ben John Dory with spinach with a dessert of fried banana and ice cream to Claire's goat cheese ravioli and Calf liver main  Each excelled at one thing but were let down by another, so the choice was hard in the end. Which to choose, gorgeous ice cream or  perfect goat cheese ravioli? Based on previous form, Claire going through was the right result.  But in the end , both were brilliant and are an asset to anybody who hires them.

Round two of the elimination rounds was Alice v John who travelled to the Whatley Manor's The Dinning room, with it's classic look and refined atmosphere. Here in contrast to the Victorian décor, the food is out there on the edges of strange. Little wonder the presiding lunatic in charge is Chef Martin Birch, a self confessed sufferer of OCD.  This madman is obseesed with perfection and pushing the envelope.

Young chef of the year Alice was charged with the roasted beef fillet and even got a food critic while poor John was saddled with pigeon loin that had to be laid on perfectly laid down lines of sauce. John who at the best of times has accuracy issues, was flustered beyond belief. TBH, I didn't see anything wrong with half the plates of lines Martin Birch rejected.  This escaped mental patient was a punishment no one deserved. But it gets better people, and by that I mean it gets worse, much worse. The recreation test shown  on Wednesday, called for a praline and chocolate soufflé. I very nearly wanted to murder this man  at this point....John's effort was qualified as Spot on, well cooked, tasty, excellent quinelling skills, presentation nice.....It was almost good enough to serve. I tell you there was no difference from what the chef expected and what he got, but somehow it wasn't good enough to serve! Just how much better did this maniac want things????? Poor Alice who had until then been enjoying her stay in the mad house, was told her soufflé was not high enough, undercooked and her quinnells were scruffy, truth be told , he was right.

Back at HQ, the battle continues with Alice conjuring fillet of beef and langoustine with a chocolate praline cake.While her main was well platerd  and tasted good the surf portion just didn't seem to impress Michel or Greg. Her pudding was considered too heavy and not poncy enough , Short of a disaster, John was going through on his Sea bass with fennel and warm ginger cake for pudding. The main had exquisite colours, great tasting with a wonderful dressing, well worth the wait of a few extra minutes. Again his dessert was colourful but heavy and the cake was dismissed as not being worthy of haute cuisine. Is it possible Chef Roux is not a cake fan? Most likely, my uncle lived in Paris for 25 years and was more into delicately stuffed tubes , and small multi-layered gateaux filled with creams and thin crispy dough. Milles feuilles, petits four, cornets, custard tartelettes  I need to stop now.... Where was I? Ah yes the winner... Alice was sent home leaving John to rejoin us in the finals coming up next week.

Heat three pitted Geordie David (wor lad he is) v Lee. I have to admit my bias here and now, sweaty nervous David is my favourite after Big lass Claire. Our chefs first needed to get to The Ledbury in Notting Hill, yes that Notting Hill... where seasonal cuisine chef Brett Graham rules the roost. I like the idea of Chef Graham but I'm not so sure about the actual plating of the food,which resembles something from an art museum and less food to be eaten and enjoyed with tongue. Don't get me wrong, presentation is terribly important, but I still want to feel that my main "was enough food". David was assigned the flamed grilled mackerel and Lee the new lamb and artichokes.  David shoke some but managed to get through the day without too much incident, as opposed to Lee who frankly cocked it up first serving raw meat then overdone meat. Clearly he let his nerves get him and he could not tell when when meat was medium. Now they had to recreate the house speciality green sad with parmesan custard, truffles and pheasant egg. This warm salad looked lush and if I could afford the ingredients I'd make it. David made what was called a natural looking salad which was perfectly cooked.... simple and too the point.  Lee presented nicely as well , and his salad was cooked perfectly. but failed to shell the egg. Not much separated these two on the test but the clear winner on the day was David with fewer mistakes during service, while cooking an admittedly incredibly complex dish that could have gone wrong at a number of points.

HQ time and David created scallops on potato pancakes, then pork loin wrapped in Parma ham, braised pig cheeks on mash with a tofee apple that Greg was afraid would not work, and Lee did pan fried mullet in saffron and garlic puree and lime posset for desert. Reaction to Lee, was that it was well cooked but overpowered by wild garlic ( I love garlic, so I would not have complained) His lime posset was fine dining exemplified with Greg in hog heaven grunting in a corner. David's starter of pork loin was fine dining and made Greg giddy happy, it was so good he compared it to a plate of presents.  On the back of the full evidence, our boy was chosen over Lee who had the good  sense to say he was chuffed to have got that far. Now if only we can do the same to the Mackems in the derby, I'll be over the moon!

So we have Claire, John and David in the finals next week. If I had to choose on the strength of only what we know now, I'd be giving the prize to Claire right now, but as we know, championships are won and lost on the oddest of things. Like football, cookery is a funny old game.

Is fine dining still relevant? Now I don't want to sound like I'm biting the hand that feeds me so to speak,  but  fine dining does seem to take the piss sometimes. Does food always have to be so plated that you cannot imagine that the chef  was ever thinking of your stomach or without thinking he had an eye on your wallet and just how much he was going to lighten it by. The loony in Edinburgh and even The Ledbury lead me to question if  they are worth the high price tags. Clearly they are places to be seen in and not so much about the food itself. I'm not impressed by foams  or perfect lines of miniature scallops shaped like eyes on a bed of cat sick. I love food, to eat it, to taste it , to have my fill. If eyes were the only sense needing satisfaction, a picture of a steaming cup of tea  would suffice. If I'm going to give up that much money for food, It had better be more than just bizzaro art on a plate.

And now for the digestif. Alan Davies and Whites, is now one ep away from closing it's current run on the BBC. If we are to judge based solely on the quality of the programme, it will be renewed, but if we just trust the ratings, it could be in trouble. I suppose playing it earlier than half eleven could help, so perhaps the ratings won't be such an drag on the recommissioning. Regardless, barring the sperm episode which was weak, Whites had gone from strength to strength. In this fifth ep, we are in part one of two in which the conflict between Bib (Darren Boyd) and Skoose (Steven Wight) is but a provocation that leads to all out war with Rolland. Without giving it all away, Rolland, who has never been the sensitive kind and rarely shown any generosity towards rivals real or imagined, truly gets up Bib's nose this time. Rolland is invited on Sunday Chef, the thinly disguised Saturday Kitchen, when somebody gets hurt in an toy helicopter incident. Should he take Bib or mental midget Scoose? Who will make him look better? Scoose of course, this leaves Bib free to run the kitchen as the head chef for the day... Should he be flattered by the offer to move to Oz that results??? Should he show loyalty to his alleged friend Rolland?  His determination and judgement are strongly tested and he decides to set up a finale worthy of Doctor who.  Speaking of Doctor Who, Kiki does a brilliant imitation of the Who theme, I will get the youtube clip if it exists. Now even if you knew how it turns out, the point of a good comedy is to also have a strong supporting cast with lovely little gems scattered throughout the script. Besides the Kiki Who hum, we get some great lines like "Why don't you just get naked and wrestle" or the vanity of the "it's not purple it's foxglove" when Rolland dresses like a clown to be on Sunday Chef. Here's a scary thought, if Kiki and Scoose had children, how stupid would they be?

Enjoy the week end and don't eat any undercooked liver !


Anonymous said...

Fine dining? Some of these plates of so-called food look like they've already had a decent meal scraped off.

None of that fancy dan nonsense can hold a candle to the Cottage Pie I made yesterday.

Mietek Padowicz said...

I am looking forward, Paul , to your cottage pie.