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Category Archives: Competition Genre

“there’s no drama like wrestling”

OK, OK, I had to shoe horn a wrestling angle in there somehow (all will become clear later)… that or a Marx Brothers quote.

There are always trends running through a Masterchef series and this year it seems to be duck, duck, duck (but no duck soup).  The current run continues apace with another trend – women!  Lots of them!  Quarter finals, semi finals.  Brilliant.  About bloody time.  There also seem to be a lot more curries than there have been in previous years or at least of the fiiiine diiiining caliber.

There have been some memorable moments already (the uber posh brothers, the ‘young grandmother’ who was a personal favourite, the dish that made Torode’s heart go thump) but my ultimate moment has to be the trip to Brasserie Joel for a lunch shift with Walter Ishizuka.  Anyone familiar with American culture or comedy will hopefully be aware of the genius (and I don’t use that word lightly) that is Mr Andy Kaufman.  He was a man of many characters and one of the funniest was Foreign Man with his accent and squeaky voice.  FM became known as Latka Gravas in the hit show Taxi.  I have no doubt in my mind that Chef Ishizuka is a serious, focused and talented man it just so happens that he speaks exactly like Foreign Man.  Walter, I’m so sorry.  I could not stifle my giggles and I am so glad that I was not part of that brigade – I would have been thrown out in no time and rightly so.   Read the rest of this entry »

 

disaster class?

On a wintry Saturday lunchtime, after wolfing down scrambled eggs, bacon and toast (with brown sauce) I happened to spot a triple bill on BBC2.  Country Show Cook Off.  Never heard of it.  Loved it.  The title sequence tells you all you need to know; a pair of top quality, celebrity chefs travel the country in a gorgeous Citroen van (H type, apparently) trying their luck at winning a rosette at a country show.  And it’s as difficult as it sounds.  As suspected, this show runs weekdays with a new set of chefs each week.  These catch up episodes featured Galton Backiston and Jun Tanaka with the smirky voice over talents of Ainsley Harriott.

Jun & Galton & that lovely van

Jun & Galton & that lovely van

I was immediately struck by the beauty of the vehicle (I’m almost tempted to learn how to drive just so I can have one) and, hold on, the curtain material!  I have that very same fabric for my kitchen cushions.  My kitchen that is an almost exact replica of Dot Cotton’s, I kid you not.  Not intentional either.   Read the rest of this entry »

 

masterchef: the cop out?

So, I’ve given everyone time to watch and digest the final of Masterchef: The Professionals.  How crazy was that?

The semi-final pitting Keri against Anton was, in hindsight, an indicator of what could follow.  Both were put through to finals week and a few days later, both were crowned champions 2012.

 

Poor Oli, he fell apart a little bit and in any other year it might not have hurt his chances but this series was special and he finished third.  His back story (which always fills the first 20 minutes of a final) focused on his current location of Camden,  Would love to find out where he works – poor @oliboon1612 has no idea!  He’s been thoroughly confused as hundreds of people tweet their congratulations: “why do people keep saying this to me Dave I can’t cook for shit ha!”  I also loved Keri’s story.  She had her hair down!  She wore a lovely dress!

Right, finals week.  There was the standard, cook-for-a-room-of-Michelin-starred-chefs round along with a day at Fat Duck.  Nowhere as good as previous trips to Noma or Arzak but, there you go.  It would have been nice to go elsewhere.  There were a few chefs at the grand dinner that I wasn’t familiar with – could’ve gone to theirs.

MC Professionals winners

As it hadn’t occurred to me that there could be TWO winners, I thought Anton would win by a very slim margin.  I was half right!

Well done Masterchef.  While I do think there should be one winner, I guess they couldn’t decide.  Next season will have to go a long way to top that.

 

he’s not a pheasant plucker …

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.
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DOUGH!

The Great British Bake-Off is brave in parts. It veers consciously away from at least some competition-genre staples – the candidates, for some bizarre reason, appear to have been chosen for personability, reliability and a general lack of character flaws and abrasiveness. No tears. The commentary is breezy but informative, the reaction shots and back stories brief, and the Mel & Sue hosting fun and a bit silly. The usual middle-class tropes abound; pastel shades, Union Jack bunting, Smeg fridges, dense Instagram colours. Well cosy.

This week: bread. People cook bready stuff, stuff gets judged, someone gets thrown out. The food appearing looks thoughtful and yummy. OK, it’s not the trickiest stuff: poor Cathryn thinks that trying to juggle one flatbread in the oven and one flatbread on the griddle is tricky. MC material she ain’t. The Terence Stamp-like Brendan, with his river-washed hot-rock oven techniques and his 106 grams of flour per portion fills the ‘bonkers’ quota on his own. The rest are a mix of amateur and ambition. You know the drill. Mostly pretty intense. Some haircuts. Pushovers, though. A well-known pair of other judges, shall we say, would have them for breakfast. Mmm, breakfast.

Luckily the judges here are dotty old Mary Berry and the ludicrously-named Paul Hollywood; a roly-poly Scouse fusion of Simon Callow and that well-trimmed bloke who started Paul Mitchell. I’ll give it to him, he looks like a professional baker, and he has a cheery but precise manner. It’s not nasty. The tough-test bagels bit at the end comes with a cheery, informative insert where they go to a proper old Jewish bakery. No one gets their bagels made even remotely right, apart from the Rick Moranis-alike James who supplies an I’m-over-the-moon reaction straight out of the reality book. These people clearly watch too much telly. Then the kicked out Peter gets a hug from the judges and the hosts. That wouldn’t happen on you-know-what.

Yes, I like a bit of pan-banging and cock-in-the-piping-nozzle macho bullshit as much as the next foodie-reality-genre fan, but there’s something great about the Cath Kidston alternative too.

 

adj., n. pur-fikt

So, home alone for the night, I decided to start watching my eight hours of cookery nonsense that’s stacking up.  First up is two episodes of ‘Perfect…’

‘Food For Friends’ and ‘Curry Night’ were on my telly menu.  The deal is thus:

  • two chef types duke it out to see who ‘wins’
  • each cook a simple starter, followed by a ‘classic’ and ‘ultimate’ meal
  • a panel of three food writers/presenters blind taste each dish and vote

FFF pitted Paul Merrett against Allegra McEvedy and the starter dishes were so-so (ham and pea croquetas and crab on toast with serano ham/fig ciabatta).  The classic round is where both chefs make the same dish.  It’s quite interesting to see how each chilli con carne, in this case, differs and little vox pops of other chefs tell you their favourite way of cooking it.  I love that chefs have no qualms on things like baked beans being an essential ingredient of chilli!  Now, the ultimate dish was quite interesting too.  Allegra’s rabbit lasagne sounded pretty awesome with Paul’s bouillabaisse also looking exciting if a bit too much fanny dangle. Read the rest of this entry »

 

i’d quite happily put my face in it

I think if a certain Mr G Wallace Esq were ever a guest judge on Top Chef: Just Desserts he might actually explode.

I’ve watched quite a few series’ of Top Chef and Top Chef: Masters over the years – they have the intensity of your MC OZ (screened six days a week) combined with our own MC: The Professionals.  Contestants on Just Desserts are all pastry chefs of differing experience and abilities with their main judge and pastry king being 50’s throwback Johnny Iuzzini.  Gayle Simmons is our master of ceremonies (a regular TC judge) and the Arsene Wenger of French cuisine, the wonderful Hubert Keller, completes the head panel.

Iuzzini, Simmons, Keller & the other one

Season openers always begins with the 12 (or so!) chefs meeting for the first time – it’s a common occurrence that there are familiar faces or the people have crossed pastry paths in the past.  The judges turn up and give them their first challenge.  “I couldn’t believe how beautiful Gayle was in real life and how Johnny’s eyes starred deep into your soul” was how one chef put it.

Let me tell you now, JD is camp.  Very camp.  You are beset by a visual feast of pink, chocolate, sugar and cream – your teeth will itch.

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what we don’t see is what we don’t get

had an interesting twitter discussion afer the MC final on thurs, with BDGTtT commenter @zone_styx, about the issue of all the hidden elements in masterchef:

zs: curious about the timeframes with Masterchef generally – competitors sometimes seem to improve by magic mastering super technical skills they haven’t been exposed to; dramatically more complex palettes out of nowhere do they get intensive research/brainstorming periods? help from series researchers?

self: working as sou-chef under the “mentors” = intensive research/techniquestorming surely? the winners are v fast at picking stuff, and the palate doesn’t come out of “nowhere”; the confidence under pressure is the real (showmanship) element. These three [eg the winners] all every evidently had better latent palate and skills from early on; just unfocused and (in koj’s case) anxious

zs: it’s prob just the compression of editing & missed a lot of this series, BUT am often surprised at disparity btwn hopeless task performances etc, then sudden rabbit-out-of-hat elimination dishes. would have to go back and find you examples really — maybe the schedule leaves them time to ‘woodshed’ in american phrase in between eps.

self: one of the things i find interesting is that you VERY rarely get a shot of anyone working from notes, yet clearly they can’t all be working purely from memory and improvisation.

zs: yes! one shot of *very* long itemized to do list tonight: several A4 pages! (Andrew’s).

self: aki tweeted that one big difference between what we see and the actual kitchen is NO MUSIC: it’s very quiet. my guess is also that in the “task” sections, they actually get a lot more coaching and advice, from professionals, than we see. now it’s over may actually quiz some of the contestants on twitter about such production details for the food-on-telly blog

in the interests of dialectic i am perhaps repping somewhat over-strongly here for the programme’s “integrity” as a genuine competition, but i entirely agree that the intensity of the demands of watchable (hour-long) drama over 12 weeks leaves a lot of mysteries, when you step back and think about it. Obviously you can’t go from untried amateur to in-reach-of-a-michelin-star in half a day: so how long does it take to shoot? How much off-camera time do they have? People reading is dull TV: it’s only fair to let people practice (which to start with means fail) off-camera. But is there a lot of talking — teaching basically — that we don’t get to see?

 

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wwjtd?

Something I’ve heard on more than one occasion this year on Masterchef is “but you don’t even LIKE [insert foodstuff]!  Why on EARTH are you cooking with it?!!”

Calm down, John.  Is he really saying that he a) only cooks with ingredients he likes or b) he likes every food known to mankind?  I read somewhere that our favourite antipodean chef is allergic to crabs (no sniggering please) and that once he tastes the contestants food he nips off to have a shot of adrenaline.  Now, that’s hardcore.

I understand that there are types of food or certain ingredients that one might abhor – my own food hells are coffee and olives (EVIL, EVIL) and I can’t say for sure that I could give a fair and balanced critique of a coffee cream parfait.  I would, however, attempt to cook one in the hope of wowing the judges although my ability to taste as I went may hamper my efforts.

As I peruse a menu deciding between meat or fish, pudding or cheese,  I know what to avoid.  I may go so far as to chose a great sounding dish and pick out the offending fruit but don’t feel I should be divaesque with demands to “hold the olives!”  If a chef deems that they bring all the flavours together, who am I to quibble?

John and Greg’s apparent shock at Afsaneh’s attempt at cooking liver was well founded in the end.  Even though she knew it didn’t need much cooking, it was very over done.  As two experienced food guru’s I believe their dismay is pure entertainment.  Many years ago they found it hard to believe that chocolate and beetroot could be combined to make a tasty cake.  Well, it did and you can find it in many gastro pubs around the country.  They must be aware of all the new food trends and blends so, just maybe, they like to flatter the amateur in to thinking they’ve discovered a new flavour combination.

 

Baking Mad with Eric Lanlard

Two episodes in to the second outing for this ad for cookery classes Channel 4 Food ship-of-the-line, and it’s all pretty familiar.

Eric Lanlard is a French patissier who looks like a puggy crossbreed of Alex James, Richard Herring and Peter Andre, hiding slightly underneath a beard which looks weirdly like it’s been drawn on with a black biro. He seems pleasant enough, but with a slightly reticent, sod-you-gits manner, like the whole thing was his agent’s idea, which it probably was.

The format is pretty standard, and inexpensive. It opens with a gushing fruity voiceover about the ‘master’ over a montage of Eric slebbing it with Amanda H and Claudia S and the like, followed by a few standard pan shots across his lovely puds. Eric makes a carrot cake in his ‘home’ kitchen, deploying his essentiel cheffy accent and pink KitchenAid mixer (they sponsor him). There’s some soft-peak frosting porn, lingering soft-focus pull shots, “rosted woolnuts”, “arsing sugar”, and a great tip about pulling a knife down the centre of a half-cooked cake, the better to give it a nicely domed top. But so far, so what.

The obligatory competitive element has a trio of contestants (a classic mirepoix of posh / ambitious / worthy) piping macaroons flavoured with champagne and the like, as Eric watches them from a peephole. I think that’s what he says, anyway. There’s some seriously bored who’s-gonna-win-then cutaways before the strangely alien-like Dwayne takes it, and (after some hot pastry funnel action) gets to help Eric construct a showcase macaroon tower fit for emperors, with ganache, chocolate beads, glitter, raspberries and more which he then puts in the window of his shop. Did he mention he had a shop? Yes. Yes he did. He has also swapped his pink KitchenAid mixer for a covetable ‘Conran rainbow’ model, which I presume is a custom job cos I can’t find it on their website. Want.

The last section is suddenly riddled with sexy technique and talent and excitement. A properly-thrilled Dwayne gushes right at the end that it’s a day that he’ll remember for the rest of his life. Actually, I believe him.