he’s not a pheasant plucker …

10 Dec

he likes to pluck pigeons!  So proclaimed James, one of the current batch of chefs on this year’s Masterchef: The Professionals.  Joining the self confessed huntsman is Anna ‘giggles’ Spooner, a pastry chef who started her career in the waitron department before getting stuck in behind the scenes and Andy, a 20 year old commi.  An early favourite is Karl, a pub chef with higher aspirations and Morton is promising too, with his Danish/Scottish accent.

James Burton: licence to shoot

The group of ten are split in two and the first major test, as always, is when Lovely Monica sets a challenge.  Well, I say challenge.  This is something a professional cook or chef should know off the top of their head, surely.  Butterfly a sardine and make some pommes dauphine – piece of piss.  Or so you’d think.  After explaining that this delightful sounding treat is choux pastry mixed with potato and deep fried, some got the gist.  Others weren’t familiar with the choux element either.  We also had many interpretations of a butterflied fish and after a disastrous attempt, poor Andy was put out of his misery.  “I know, with every inch of my body, I could’ve done better.”  Well, better luck next time, son.

The highlight of the next episode was undoubtedly the ‘cooking for Monica’s boss’ round where Karl explained his French background to Chef:

K:      Yeah, I grew up in France.
MRJ:  So I hear.  You also have your CNP?
K:      Yeah, I do.
MRJ:  The CNP is the [insert full title here].
K:      Yes, it is, yeah.
MRJ:  I’ve got my CNP too, you know!
K:      Oh!  … Well done, chef.

😀 Hil-ar-ious!  They both had a giggle and chef was pretty impressed with Karl’s dish.

The second group of five contain Stefani (sadly not as in Gwen) who describes her style as “quirky, Mediterranean, different” and works in a “posh cafe” where they give classes and generally are probably quite cool.  One standout chap was Rob, a rather sulky, self-assured chef at a private members club but he fails at Monica’s request to make honeycomb and gets the boot.  He was looking less self-assured on his way out the door, I can tell you.

Once they progress and cook for Roux Jr, James the forager incorporates ground elder in to his dish.  Chef is not so keen; “there are certain things we forage for that we should just walk past”.  Yeah, that told him!  We, at Fanny Towers, were intrigued by his choice of weed – it’s rampant in our garden 😦

Moving swiftly on to week two, a fresh batch of ten chefs make their way along the MC conveyor belt.  Then, as quick as you like, week three and a further ten – I can’t keep up with it all!  What with the climax of MC Australia, I can’t cope with the failed tuiles, split mayonnaise and burned fish skin.  I’ll admit, I’m a week behind so as we part company with a nice Scottish pastry chef and a promising Alexander McQueen look-a-like I wonder whether I should start afresh and restart my MC:P journey at the semi-final stage.  Maybe the 12 week Australian odyssey has spoiled me – I am drawn to a small number of Aussie contestants from the ‘final 25’ in the hope that I can will them through to the last 10 at least, maybe the final itself.  Already most of the UK professionals I pinned my hopes on have swung through the kitchen doors never to return.

Yeah, who am I kidding?  I’ll plow through the episodes – for the sake of my readers, of course 😉

As I continue to watch, getting up to speed, there are some cracking one liners and Monica face pulling.  I will never forget Ms Galetti’s exclamation to a terrified looking Thomas “WHATONEARTHISTHIS?”  It was a kind of, sort of, vague attempt at a gratin.  Kind of.  “THIS makes me hate my job because I have to eat stuff like THIS!”  Wowzers.  Other classics included Anton saying the Roux’s were “my Superman, my Spiderman” when growing up.  I think Michel Jr could carry off a lycra onesie, no problem.  Oh and some other dude wanted to be a shepherd.  Where do they get these people?  🙂

The crepe souffle test was a corker with Monica’s “you know how to make a souffle, don’t you?”  Er … you just put your lips together and blow?  Though this pales into insignificance after Keri was asked what she can bring to the semi-final table being the only woman.  “Oh, y’know, a bit of girly love!”  Quick as a flash, Michel replies “we like girly love!!”  Priceless.

I soon realise that my favourites are the aforementioned Karl and Keri, a 40 year old from Nunhead.  She has nerves, talent and a great collection of facial expressions.  As she cooked for Tom Kerridge the, quite frankly, adorable chef at The Hand and Flowers, Michelin starred pub in Marlow she really came into her own.  Mind you, so did her competitor Anton.  Naturally, as is the way at least once each season, both progressed to the final.

I wasn’t initially sure I approved of the pairing off of chefs but I think it works; placing them in an establishment that echoes their existing experience and preference (modern British or traditional French for example) and stretches them to their near limit.  They then attempt the chef’s signature dish then back to MCK to cook a two course meal.

Tonight, we lose one chef before the final proper.

At the recent BBC Good Food Show last seasons winner, Ash Mair seemed to be doing well for himself as he did a little turn and promoted his new book.  Needless to say I cannot WAIT to set foot in his restaurant next year.  Lovely Steve Groves from the class of 2009 isn’t doing too badly either after leaving the amazing Launceston Place.

move over Pizarro?

Can Keri be my champion?  Maybe James will win.  Or perhaps newly married Anton will steal the prize.  As a comic book fan I’m sure Anton would agree with Mr George Bernard Shaw when he wrote “there is no love sincerer than the love of food” (Man and Superman 1903).


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