MasterChef: The Professionals 2013 – the final

The  Staff Canteen

MasterChef: The Professionals 2013 is heating up. The Staff Canteen is following the contestants’ progress closely with a series of blogs from food blogger Danny Kingston aka Food Urchin. This week Danny looks back at the final ...

So there we have it. The champion of champions has been decided. The tournament is finally over and we now have a new triumphant professional MasterChef. The valiant victor should of course remain unannounced until the end of this blog but I have to admit, as this series has gone on, the notion of the show becoming a gladiatorial spectacle always keeps popping into my mind.

After watching chefs fight tooth and nail and rise up through the ranks, I keep wondering what it would be like if the contestants were placed into an arena for the next series. Imagine the final then. Imagine three wily warriors using all the water bathing skills and tempering techniques at their disposal to usurp each other.

One by one they would fall, stricken and mortally wounded by thumbs turned upside down, until one hero remained. To a baying crowd, he could tear off his whites and raise a cauliflower aloft or something. A cauliflower shaped like Gregg Wallace’s head.

Imagine what that would do to the ratings? It is quite possible that I have been getting caught up in the drama of it all though and that perhaps I should let that thought go. And I should, because in all honesty this latest series of MasterChef has been exciting enough, especially the last few episodes. So what did happen this week and was there any blood spilt in the race towards the end, all to be patched up with a blue plaster?

Well at the start of the week, our four chefs, namely Scott, Adam, Steven and Tom had to be whittled down to three and the last invention test was presented as a feasting on the best of scraps from the kitchen. As the camera panned across an array of fish heads, peelings, bones and trimmings, some of our competitors visibly blanched at the prospect of having to conjure something exceptional from buckets of food waste.

But it was a clever, not to mention worthy challenge to introduce and everyone cooked admirably. Cod cheeks were a dominant feature on most plates, as were richly flavoured stocks and consommés. Scott’s pain perdu with banana parfait and berry foam was a particularly big hit and Tom’s bouillabaisse received credit for its intensity but overall his two dishes didn’t quite provide the ‘Wow’ factor that the judges were looking for. Crestfallen,

Tom knew that he hadn’t done enough and so off he trudged to his locker and bang, we had our final trio. In episode 22, after a quick flight to Modena and a montage of Italians wandering around cobbled streets and smelling fruit at market stalls, we were then transported into the crazy world of Massimo Bottura, chef patron of Osteria Francescana and owner of three Michelin stars.

Labelled as some mad, avant-garde, creative culinary genius, Massimo evidently revels in this status and likes to leap around the place, slapping chefs at every opportunity, telling them to let go of their fears and of what they know. “Eat your emotions!” Massimo yells as he throws lemon custard around the kitchen and at first, it’s obvious that the boys don’t know what to make of him. But slowly they warm to his ideas and methods, producing psychoanalytic plates of their own, inspired by anger, childhood holidays and humble beginnings.

To be frank, it was all a bit too bonkers but it was entertaining to watch nevertheless and I bet that Adam never ever thought that he would create a dish called ‘The Fight and Love of a Terracotta Warrior’ for Monica and Michel. Interestingly, I don’t think Monsieur Roux Jr was entirely enamoured with this whole freeing of the reins business.

When Scott put his ‘My Garden’ salad under his nose, the way that he squeaked “It looks……great!” sounded like everything was becoming one step too far for this rigid, classical chef. However, the biggest test of the whole series came in the penultimate episode when the finalists had to cook for 30 of the biggest names in the country, top chefs all dripping with Michelin stars. On the hottest day of the year, the conditions were nightmarish and our competitors had to deal with nerves, sweaty legs, faulty blast chillers and a whole lot more.

Steven summed up the situation with his swan analogy, saying that on the surface he looked calm but beneath he was paddling furiously. Or in other words, he was bricking it. Still they all ploughed on regardless, wrestling pasta, peeling artichokes and flaming mussels with a blowtorch. Soon it was showtime and with Monica at the helm, working the pass, their two hour service started off fraught but slowly everyone pulled it together and found a rhythm. Anxious glances were exchanged as the orders came in.

Adam’s octopus, pork belly and squid flew out at first but then Scott and Steven caught up with their respective dishes of venison with smoked consommé and salt crusted pork rump. All of which were received with praise and just a couple of minor critiques.

Barring a mint sorbet disaster, the desserts also went down well amongst the crowd, particularly Steven’s witchy hat apple parfait and all three were brought out to tumultuous applause, which was curiously emotional. At least it was for me anyway. The final of finals then came along and to up the sentimental ante, we were treated to a hokey-cokey journey of each contestant’s life and career, which was heart-warming yet slightly nauseating in parts as family members poured out their love on screen (“Ah fugging love that boy I do”).

But of course, it is necessary, for otherwise we viewers might well think that these chefs are simply cold killing, chopping machines. In terms of who was going to go through and actually win the title, well at this stage it was just too close to call. Each chef had their own brand. Scott was the solid grafter, building on confidence, hitting big on flavour. Adam had precision that was matched with invention and elegance.

And Steven brought a level of emotion and instinct to the table, constantly surprising with his flavour combinations. The person to go through couldn’t afford to make any mistakes. So when Steven served up his pigeon with beetroot, feta and apple; stone bass on a bed of orzo, crab and parmesan; and honeycake with peaches, pistachio and yoghurt and received full on compliments all round from the judges, it soon became obvious that he would take the crown. And deservedly so.

Saying that, I am sure a great future is in store for all three chefs Another series of MasterChef is over then. So what next? Well, I am sure Michel and Monica will go back to the heady business of running the Gavroche Empire and all that is associated with it and more telly and whatnot. But what will Gregg do in the meantime?

Well I reckon he should write a book, a gastronomic treaty of our times to rival Brillat-Savarin. Because what the man has had to say about food throughout the series has been invaluable. Seriously mate, I mean it.

Danny is a food adventurer, enthusiastic allotmenteer, supper club host and writer of the entertaining and quirky epicurian blog, Food Urchin. He also writes for Great British Chefs and past credits also include writing for Delicious Magazine online and MSN Food and he is an absolute sucker for East End pie and mash (with loads of liquor and vinegar).

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 13th December 2013

MasterChef: The Professionals 2013 – the final