Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Masterchef The Professionals 2010: And the winner is.....Plus Whites wraps up

You could look at the bottom or you already know, but if you didn't watch, you won't know just how bloody brilliant the 2nd half of the Final was. It started with the usual half time show where we learn the full names and the back stories of our chefs, You'd already know most of that if you read earlier today's blog. Did you know Claire is pregnant according to the local Liverpool paper? Well she is. So there, now the warm and fuzzy bit is over, all you need to take from that is that these three are devoted to the idea of cooking as a life's work.

Watch this episode online

So the commentary booth disappears and the teams form up in the tunnel.....and our cookery gladiators walk out on the pitch. Surrounded by millions of watching on telly, David, Claire and John are told they are cooking for the annual gathering of the Michelin starred ones. 30 of the best chefs in Europe are all in one room, three of them are three star chefs. Put another way, if a bomb went off, the fine dining world of the UK and Europe would be devastated for at least 10 years. This now traditional gathering of the clan chiefs, is now ready to chew up and spit out our three amigos for the smallest misstep. How will they fare? The whistle blows and Michel reveals the three dishes on the menu for tonight.

David has the starter of salmon sashimi with crispy skin. A complex dish to prepare that tests a number of his problem areas and pushes his comfort levels with new ingredients and cooking styles.

Claire gets the main of Pan fried mullet with potato scales and asparagus created by Chef Paul Bocuse. This tricky dish has so many places where a ny number things can go wrong, only a truly talented and brave chef will take this one on for a crowd of 30 hungry Michelin starred chefs.

John, lastly closes the evening off with a dessert of assiette de framboise.... or plate of raspberries...You know none of this sounds the remotest bit posh to me as I speak, and read French like a native. But it does simply matters for me when I have to figure out the mangled form of a French word that has come down to us over decades or in some cases centuries. Like tweels for example... spelt tuiles or tiles. So John has to master his time issues and make sure the various creams set, biscuits don't burn and the like. I've done some of these , but not all of them at the same time... it takes a brave soul to tackle this and it's been chosen to see if John has learned anything or taken on board the advice given him.

And the ball is in play..... David forgets to scale his fish causing him to fall back and loose control early. He then forgets to remove the bloodline from the fish after recovering from his first mistake, not that it cost him much as he was picking up pace and calming down, he even had the wherewithal to do a test prawn  before he committed to an entire batch of potentially badly wrapped spaghetti pastry.

Claire was effortlessly handling the the bone pinning and other preparations, being the one who may well have shown David the example by doing a test mullet with too thick potato scales. 180 asparagi? asparguses? in the end were not a problem, but one or two may have not been completely cooked the satisfaction of a few of the gliterati. On the whole , she moved like George Best and dodged trouble like Thiery Henri at his best when he was at Arsenal.

South Shields John got a case of the Brambles and made a complete hash of the tuiles  needing to make a whole 2nd batch as the first was too thick and did not set then avoided na own goal by reducing by half the required amount of shortbreads from 60 to 30.  And as if the football analogy wasn't already playing in my head Michel Roux comes in and yells "One hour to kick off!" It was particularly nice to note the cooperation typical of Masterchef finalists during  service.

And so Masterchef FC leave their half and go on the attack. David principally but with the cooperation of fellow contestants  plates up his starter  and the servers stream out to see how well 30 Michelin starred chefs and a former Michelin guide director take to the food.......It's a blistering goal from midfield Wayne Rooney like. Good flavours, nicely seasoned, one chef said it was not as neat as it could have been. OOOOO so the food was good and it wasn't scruffy. Derek Brown formerly if the Michelin guide  says well done!

Next in was Claire and her main, well plated and well sauced,  her fish hits the Michelin crowd with a hard smack and despite the odd bit of Asparagus not being cooked to satisfaction, the plates come back empty. Resident Edinburgh special person, Tom Kitchin  speaks for the chefs when he tells Claire it's not an easy dish and "Well done , it's perfect"

Last few minutes and the dessert has to get out and John sends food from the basement to the main kitchen for assembly and he's not later. Despite a school boy error of not setting the biscuits with a bit of jam to the plate initially, John recovers. The finished product hat enters the dining room was worthy of the crowd in appearance and the only real complaint was that a few of the tuiles were  not as crisp as they could have been. The soufflĂ© was  perfect  and again we had empty plates. The Michelin spokesman tells John "Most of the room were pleased they didn't have to make that dish as they themselves find it difficult.  Congratulations".

So with the the big game played and no obvious howlers, there's still little separating the three. Though as I said last night, this morning, Claire looked least faulty and most naturally talented of the three. Put this way, if  Top Gear were testing three great cars, a German one, an Italian one and an English one, they'd all be pretty good, but most of us would gladly go off in the most efficient one of the lot. In cooking terms, Claire had the efficiency and the pretty in one package. Only thing was, that the distance between her and David was so slim that all he needed was one brilliant  performance to zoom past her. What Claire needed to happen was that the other two would maintain form, which of course they did most predictably in the Michelin banquet.

It was down  to penalties with loads of chances for any or all of them to miss a shot. Greg and Michelle set them the task to create one final meal consisting of three spectacular dishes. Could David make that absolute stunner of a triple perfection, would John finally get all his ducks in a row and on time? Or would reliable cuddly and creative Claire nose them both out in the end?

John took the field first and presented his starter of lobster, mango and basil. He managed to make a bland avocado salad. His turbot celeriac with truffles was ever so slightly over it was still perfect followed by the chocolaty rich light and tasty pud that had his second miss of grainy ice cream. That's two misses if you're counting.

Claire produced an elegant  appealing  well cooked trout wit apple, even her mistake of allowing the apple to take away some of the flavour of the fish was delicious. Her main of wood pigeon, peas and spuds was "salivatory". Both Michel and Greg were reduced to guttural noises that spoke volumes about just how good her main was.Only dessert remained and Claire was ruthless here as well. White chocolate mouse with raspberries and thyme jelly. Greg's reaction summed it up.... "That's the sort of thing I would dip my head in mate". Not only did Claire convert every shot, she had humiliated the goal keeper. BTW, who else agrees with me that Greg Wallace is a closet splosher?

What could David do to counter this spectacular display? Mackerel tartar that looked clever  and tasted good, it left Michel wanting more. I need to point out that there is nothing original or clever about combining a pickle with raw fish, it's standard in Polish cuisine and you can buy jars of the stuff in any delicatessen, His main of Chicken morel pie was no ordinary chicken pie, it was de constructed. A real attempt to raise the game. Chef Michel was so impressed he said "I love when I see new things" Greg followed with more yummy noises as he ate his bit of the plate.  Nearly there David.  Just the dessert of hot chocolate mouse with rice crispy layer. Rich intense and outstanding craftsmanship, nearly there David... "Pity it has such a poor visual aspect"..... damn!  Oh well David you tried and nearly got there.

If we are to finish the football analogy, Claire was Germany, efficient and technically perfect and she was also Brazil, pretty and boastful and hard not to admire. John was England circa 2010 and David ? That brilliant African side that very nearly made it. In the end there could only be one winner. and that was Claire Lara.

Did you miss an episode of Masterchef? Catch upon the iPlayer
Recipes for all dishes prepared in theMasterchef Professionals series can be found using the link in Masterchef Tab

Alan Davies Whites, wrapped up series on right after Masterchef. In the 2nd of two parts in which Bib has decided to leave for a better life in Australia, Roland is listlessly trying too hire a new sous chef, his interview skills are comically bad and  he knows he's out of his depth.  On the night of the hotel talent show for staff, most everybody seems to be depressed or on the verge of succumbing to lust or maybe love. Problem is that the men are too clueless to notice.  In  two scenes that are telling of what it means to work that closely together with somebody, Roland confesses that his life is empty, the business has sucked him dry. And after much tentative tooing and froing, the two men declare their love for each other ( in a brotherly way) the way men admit they are best mates and they have a bond deeper than any mere beer induced camaraderie. These two business partners and friends come to realize on the one hand Roland sees Bib is a real friend and an asset, and on the other other hand, Bib realizes he really doesn't want his friendship to end that way. Even Skoose has his moment where he knows he's a twat and should be nicer. The subsequent moment of honesty when he's told he's not ready to be sous chef is all the more painful. There are some great sight gags, the elephant in the room and Caroline carrying the weight of the world much like Atlas. There is particular vulnerability about Caroline in fact this time. Even when she is playing with helium, it interferes with her moment to say goodbye to Bib. In the end Bib stays and all is ok, a happy ending of sorts. Just enough tension left for writers to pick up on in a 2nd series should it be commissioned, and if not? It answered just enough questions to make you feel less bad if they never make another episode of Whites. I hope of course for more, but only the adult sitcom boffins deep within the bowels of the BBC know what happens next.

Catch up the series while you can
Thank you BBC for a brilliant evenings telly, now if only every night could be this good.

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