MasterChef: The Professionals 2013 – week 3

The Staff Canteen

MasterChef: The Professionals 2013 is well underway. The Staff Canteen is following the contestants’ progress closely with a series of blogs from food blogger Danny Kingston aka Food Urchin.

It’s week 3 and the competition is starting to heat up with pork pies, sabayons, champagne veloutes and moments of abject terror…

We’ve all had moments in our lives when our minds go completely blank. In fact, it happens to me all the time. Just a short trip from room to room is enough to wipe the tape clean. Remembering names is also a personal minefield of mine, particularly in social situations. Introducing ‘whassisface’ to ‘thingymajig’ does nothing for your credentials, especially when one of the persons is your wife.

And then there is the final frustration of forgetting how to spell simple words, like ‘can’ or ‘the’. The meltdowns I have had in the past I tell you, worrying that this is the beginning of some deep, dark slide towards dementia. Terrifying. So when army chef James from Birmingham lost the plot earlier this week, during the skills test, I have to say that I really felt for him.

The terror on his face was palpable as his brain stumbled from one place to another, trying desperately to recall how to make a sabayon. Can you imagine the pressure James must have felt whilst the judges eyeballed him into submission? They were willing him to succeed I am sure and thankfully he did (after a fashion). But from here on, every time James wakes from his sweat soaked sheets, he will forever rue the day he forgot because there is no doubt that Gregg’s sweaty pudding face is now indelibly etched on his brain.

Like I said, terrifying. However, that was just one moment of high drama during this week’s MasterChef: The Professionals. What else happened during the third wave? Were there any more jaw dropping moments of perilous angst?

Well, not really but let’s see how the chefs got on anyway. As ever for Monica’s first invention test, the next 8 were introduced to a fairly innocuous set of ingredients such as brown crabmeat, sea purslane, aubergine, baby fennel, mango, ricotta and coconut.

The aforementioned James presented a beautiful looking plate of ravioli with crispy aubergine skin and Da’Vid, from Spain, wowed with his crab mousse and charred mango. Oli’s crab on the other hand didn’t look very nice at all and I think this anonymous comment from Twitter summed it up best really: “Oli’s made a fish stew!” No “Oli’s made a crab poo.”

Episode 10 and the brutal, fearsome, excoriating skills test reared its ugly head again. The champagne sabayon moment happens and passes and we breathe and then Oli makes an even worse hash of things. Not by forgetting how to make a sabayon but by not knowing how to make one at all. Gregg goes so far as to say he is “disgusted” and swiftly ducks off camera to swill unused champagne straight from the bottle.

Michel Jr’s master class looks simple enough as he asks the competitors to make a pork pie with chestnuts (“pork pie avec des châtaignes dans le style de Ginsters”) and everyone does…..OK. Aline from Brazil strays from the remit by serving up a sausage roll and James goes to all the effort of carving lines into his pie in the style of a pithivier but then uses egg wash and undoes all his wonderful work.

The interpretation of a classic round is better, with fantastic looking dishes such as a gazpacho with lobster tail and chorizo and an intricate roast chicken dinner but ultimately Oli and his three-way parsnip gets the kick up the backside. To be fair he deserves it and whoosh, he’s out. According to narrator Sean Pertwee, the next lot of four contestants in episode 11 have to “prove that they are good enough to go through to the next round.” Which sort of states the bleedin’ obvious but we forgive Sean because his Dad was Doctor Who.

Bread is the big demon skill this time around. Yes that staple of life that needs a delicate touch and all the boys rush into things like whirling dervishes, spinning rolls with both hands and knocking the bejesus out of the proved dough with rolling pins. Marcel from Slovakia actually tears his dough apart like a muscle bound hulk and Monica’s reaction is to turn into the Incredible Hulk. For Michel Jr’s master class, the chefs have to present a celebration of seafood complimented by a champagne velouté and cocksure Ryan delivers a rallying cry for French classic cooking by claiming that all chefs should “Respeck the forefathers of cuisine, innit.”

And he executes his dish well. However, Ryan’s efforts are in vain as his three-way scallop takes a tumble in the classic recipe round against James’ formidable chicken carbonara and David’s plate of teeny-weeny bits of rabbit; a plate so small, its bang on trend. So, despite all his “Respeck” Ryan just wasn’t good enough.

The quarter-finals ushered in the last invention test of the week and the chefs had a selection of neck of lamb, rabbit, chorizo, rhubarb, apricot and amaretto to choose from and they all did rather well. James from Northern Ireland presented a beautiful dish of poached rabbit loin with kidney. But at this stage, the smallest mistakes are always going to cost and army chef James really, really should have peeled his potatoes before crushing them (what was he thinking!?) and alas, Aline had to go too.

You can’t beat a good cliché and for the critics round, David G made us all smile. “If you can’t stand the heat, don’t come on MasterChef,” he says and everyone smiles, especially at his braised turbot with langoustine. However, his strawberry sorbet is a disaster and the needle skids right off the record. James doesn’t impress with his dessert either, with his unpleasant rhubarb smear and oh-so fashionable popcorn.

Marcel’s sweet effort, a homage to the cherry and almond strudel of his homeland is shot down too. By this point I was practically falling of my seat, screaming “My god! Who will save the puddings?!” But then Da’vid swings to the rescue with his chocolate tart with caramel foam, salted peanut, sablé biscuit and lime curd ice-cream. The critics were bowled over, murmuring words like “historic”, “celestial” and “golly” and Da’vids place in the semi-final was assured.

The other David made it through too, by the skin of his teeth. Week four is now upon us and it’s going to be interesting to see what the very last group is going to bring to the table because I believe we have already witnessed this year’s winner. Of course, I am not going to say who it is, that will affect the odds at the bookies and I’ve yet to put my stake down. But there is a clue, hanging around somewhere in this post. Have you spotted 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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Editor 25th November 2013

MasterChef: The Professionals 2013 – week 3