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Category Archives: Gregg Wallace

mystery box

As an armchair critic of shows such as Masterchef (UK/Australia/New Zealand) I am often bemused at the contestants lack of knowledge with the culinary basics.

I am, at best, an average cook and I know I’m being harsh but once you get through the audition process and the screen tests you surely must practice, practice, practice. 

If you can’t make the perfect shortcrust pastry – KEEP TRYING!
If your first few attempts at pasta don’t make the grade – MAKE IT AGAIN AGAIN!
If your mayonnaise would fail to impress Monica – DO IT BETTER NEXT TIME!

Really!  I would make gnocci until they were beautiful, light pillows that melted in Greg’s massive gob.  I wouldn’t sleep unless my flatbread was fantastic nor my souffle superb.

Memorise the recipes.  Carsmile is the pastry king of Fanny Towers: “6oz flour, 3oz fat and about 6 big spoons of water” is the automatic response to my often asked question “how’d you make pastry again?”

If you know the basics inside out, you will go far.  As a little green fella once said: “Ready are you? What know you of ready? For eight hundred years have I trained.”

 

 

deconstruction! what is it good for?

He didn’t lose — he was bold rather than timid — but the top-flight guest pastrybods on Masterchef evidently disliked Tom’s “deconstructed lemon tart” for look (“Did he drop it?”) and taste. All those screwed up little faces! And it did look like it wasn’t all there…

I don’t really get deconstruction, as deployed in cookery: it’s like the “list” bit of the recipe without the “then do this” bit (where “this” is combining everything on the list). Surely the combination of the ingredients is the best thing — how is keeping them all carefully separate going to be better? Readers, school me! Have you ever read Of Grammatology eaten a so-called deconstruction to pleasant effect? And what was it?

 

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masterchef: passing the test

As La Fanny notes in the previous post, the essence of cooking well is actually “IT’S GOOD ENOUGH TO EAT”, rather than “IT’S BETTER THAN SEX” — culinary excellence is not (in itself) that high a bar to clear; there are tens of millions of excellent cooks in the world, and only a very few of them wish to be high-profile chefs in the Ferran Adrià sense. Masterchef has to preserve this low-bar high-bar dichotomy: essentially it’s a very severe (and carefully calibrated) obstacle course to discover the very very very best “ordinary” cook.

(Hence the need to siphon off a different class of competitor, with Professional Masterchef, which has a somewhat different sequence of pathologies…)

The obvious ones (for Masterchef OG) are:
i: technique (not burning stuff; not undercooking it; knowing how to prep meat; a basic knowledge of what to do in a kitchen and what not to)
ii: palate
iii: timing
iv: inventiveness
v: working knowledge of the tradition
vi: dealing with pressure
vii: curiosity and ability to learn Read the rest of this entry »

 

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soufflegate

Ever wondered how the completed, slickly edited, television programmes we see differ from what actually happens in the studio?  I do.  I think about it quite a bit.  I cry “nooooooo!” when a Masterchef contestant responds to the question “what will you be cooking for us today?” with “well, Greg, I’ll be making a chocolate fonant” or, even worse, “a souffle, John”.

Think of the heat, the pressure, the time constraints, the oven you’ve never used … and do you normally have a gurning, bald man stood behind you shaking his head, muttering “you’ve only got 5 minutes until Jay Rayner wants his souffle, mate”?

The Daily Mail cried fowl over Tom’s apparent flop in the souffle department with The BBC explaining that more than one can be made and “As time is called at the end of cooking they must put only one up to be filmed, tasted and judged,” the statement added.  “We always cut back to the shot of the food as it was when first plated up as a reminder of how the dish looked before the tasting.”

Pretty straightforward to me.  How often are shots of a half finished meal inter cut with the original clip of the (usually dry rather than) fabulous fondant?  It’s there to remind us of a glorious plate of food before Pudding Face has licked it clean.