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make it thick, make it sticky, make it brown

24 Apr

“In a bar and I’m on TV… this is weird!  So twote Masterchef finalist Tony on the eve of the culinary showdown.

Emma, on the other hand wrote, “‘Twas so fricking difficult, I’m stressed just watching.”  Well, there’s no need for THAT kind of language, young lady.

Pete … oh, sorry, that’s the other one.  Simon?  Yeah, he probably muttered something softly and gave a shy smile.

I have to say I have not been impressed with this year’s series.  There’s been some back and forth on social media with John Torode defending the cooks against comments of ‘this year’s contestants are not that great’ – I agree with John in that the cooks are still up there with the best (certainly better than anything I can do) but I did tell him that I’ve had enough of the tweaking, thank you.  Yup, I went there.  

I’ll get on to the greatness of the contestants shortly but why oh why oh why the need to shake things up a bit?  Things were getting stale and passed their best before date but there were other ways to do it.  The new location, which was unveiled for the Professionals series, would have been enough to satisfy me for another year or so.  I still don’t like the Guantanamo style bricked dungeon they’re put into after feeding the food critics but, hey, I guess there are only so many suitable locations in London.  But why does it have to be in the capital city?  Leeds.  Manchester.  Birmingham.  They could totally accommodate a Masterchef kitchen then travel wherever for their lunch services.

Which brings me to another issue.  We now see the cooks in a professional kitchen less and less.  I used to think that these poor men and women were thrust into a kitchen far too early (do a mystery box and get though, YES!  Oh, wait, I’m straight into a lunch service?  SHIT!) but the focus seems to be on studio-based cooking these days.  Does this really matter though?  Were the 30 minutes of red-faced wannabe chefs being shouted at in Gilgamesh tedious?  Er, yeah, I suppose.  Did it increase their understanding and respect of what went on in a restaurant?  Undoubtedly.  The professional kitchen was probably the thing that most put me off applying for Masterchef but now I know I need to reach the quarter-finals or that weird in-between-quarter-finals-and-semi-finals bit (also known as ‘knock-out week’) to get shouted at by Theo Randall, WOOOOO, sign me up.  Although, they’ll probably change it all again by then.  Plus, there’s no passion test any more (thank god, this isn’t America’s Next Top Model, y’know) so they don’t have to pretend that their dream is to run a gastro pub in Wolverhampton or work for a Michelin starred chef.  They can continue blogging, flogging cookery books, get a spot on morning telly or work as a private chef.

*sigh* Let’s go back to the beginning, shall we?  Newbies get to cook their own food, their calling card.  No lifting of boxes no more (sad face) … then John suddenly explains “Two of you will get a bye into the next round – I pick my favourite dish.  Gregg picks his favourite dish.  If we pick the same dish, he has a second choice.”  WHAT?  There seemed to be not much in the way of discussion – I don’t recall Gregg saying “Wait, that was my favourite too!”.  At no point did John say, “We agreed so Gregg’s second choice is …”  So, it kind of seemed a waste of time explaining that one.  Anyway, the remaining people had to cook again using the main ingredient in the first dish to create a completely new recipe.  A reinvention test.  Okay, I’ll give you that.  Quite interesting.  Not reinventing the wheel though, guys.

Next round sees a mystery judge giving them a theme for a main course and dessert.  Jay Rayner wanted just three ingredients in his main and a really nostalgic pudding – that kind of thing.  Further on you had the room of critics, mainly previous finalists who were pretty honest in giving praise where it was due but also ripping dishes apart.  Creme de menthe, anyone?

There also seemed to be less team work.  I don’t remember many lunchtimes aboard a submarine or cooking for 300 hungry riggers in the North Sea.  Red Arrows, yes, I remember them.  I remember a tray of something falling to the floor.  C’mon, FIVE SECOND RULE, GUYS!  .. Guys?  A great piece in the Lincolnshire Echo on the furor surrounding the description of the Red Arrows:  “But less than two minutes into the broadcast, Twitter was awash with comments as the narrator of the show mistakenly labelled the Reds as an acrobatic team rather than an aerobatic team.  One person quipped that the pilots would be in leotards rather than jets if they were in fact acrobats.”

So, here were a via a trip to Sweden and the now obligatory chef Massimo Bottura to the final three.  All along my picks were Emma, Tony and Paul.  Poor Paul, he was a little shaky, then pulled it back … then ballsed it up.  Still, Simon had a bad start but has been steady and impressive since the quarters.  Emma has been near perfection although she has started to lose it over the last week.  I think the Chuckle Brothers are a little harsh on their comments about presentation.  The kind of food she adores and cooks wonderfully lends itself to big, sexy piles of food.  Not everything has to be neat, precise and clean.  Okay, clean, yes, clean is good.  Then we have Tony.  TOOOONY!!!  Most people I know saw Tony and said, “Oh, that hipster twat with the ‘tash?”  Yes, he has the twirly mustache, the bow tie, the trousers, the socks.  In fact, wait until you see what he’s wearing for the final.  Amazing.

This year has been good sartorially.  Paul was rocking those jumpers and turtle necks like nobody’s business.  There was that hairdresser who wore a bowler hat, jeez.  Don’t wear a hat in the Masterchef kitchen, you plonker!  As Tony once said, he is “Just an east end Greek boy!”  We had Masterchef fangirl Sarah with her rosy cheeks and fondness for leopard print and Laura and Ella, well, they kinda looked the same, didn’t they?

Paul

Trends running through this year’s series seemed to be laksa and Japanese food (although that was mainly Tattooed Pete).  Quite a bit of consume too – I gotta get me some Iberico ham consume btw.  YUUUUUUUUM!

But, the most important thing this year?  THE CHATTING!!!  Jesus, don’t get me started.  Carsmile hit the nail on the head when he said “It’s all a bit GBBO, innit?”  Yes, that’s it!  Finish your plate of food, look at each other’s attempts and forlornly say, “Oh, yours looks SO much better than mine!  I ran out of time, my fish cake’s burnt,” “No, yours looks fine!  Mine’s raw in the middle!  What’s John gonna say?”  Let’s all be chummy and fluffy and pretend it’s not a competition and say you NEVER thought Gregg would lick the plate clean (when you bloomin’ well knew he would).  Shut up, stand behind your oven that wasn’t switched on properly with the three plasters on your fingers, look at it with the contempt it deserves and deal with the consequences.  Suck it up, sunshine.

ANYWAY!  I really want Tony to win.  I think Simon will win.  BUT, it would not surprise me in the least if they did a Keri and awarded them both the prize.

tony

In conclusion.  Could do better but it was worth it to see the look on Theo Randall’s face when Sarah had a ‘mare in his Italian kitchen.  “Bring me the beef please.  Don’t put the beef on the pass, bring it on a tray or a plate or something!”

 

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