MasterChef: The Professionals 2013 – week 4

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 week four and the last of the quarter finals with a mixture of compassion and wonder at why some chefs do it to themselves...

Who would be a chef eh? As Patrick from Norn Ireland pointed out last week, he regularly does 70, 80, 90 hour weeks. Crazy hours in other words. Crazy hours cramped sweating over a stove, peeling and scrubbing, chopping, stirring, mashing, sautéing, sous-viding and er, spherificationating; in an environment akin to a kettle that is constantly on the boil. I can’t imagine what it’s like really.

So I have decided that when this series is over, I am going to apply for a couple of stages around town, just to get a flavour for things. And so that I may feel qualified enough to take Chad by the shoulders and shake him whilst asking “WHY? WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO CHANGE CAREERS? AND WHY DID YOU SERVE UP SAUSAGE AND MASH TO MONICA? WHY?”

Because if there is one thing this series is proving, it’s that some chefs were crazy (and perhaps a little deluded) to apply for MasterChef: The Professionals in the first place. But hey, out of the last group to get through to the semi-finals, we did see some shining stars, so let’s crack on. As usual, the first invention test of the week resulted in highs and lows for our judges Monica and Gregg, who by his own confession is a bit of a pork dumpling.

Ingredients such as sausage, spinach, squash, Gorgonzola, walnuts, apples and almonds were deployed and chefs such as Nick and David came up with mediocre efforts in the form of three-way sausage and a mountain of pastry. Jack, a chef de partie for a right bunch of ol’ bankers, showed technical skill with his pomme maxim and Adam came up with an Aladdin’s cave of puddings. Chad made the aforementioned bangers and mash.

The skills test that followed in episode 14 asked four of our chefs to show off their butchery techniques with a demonstration on how to debone and roll a saddle of lamb, something that apparently even Gregg knows how to do.

However for David, it really was a case of all fingers and thumbs and his string tying skills were so bad……..well don’t go asking him to wrap your Christmas presents this year, let’s just say that. Michel Roux Jr really outdid himself when he introduced his master class classics dish this time around.

The French that rolled off his tongue went on for at least five minutes so you can imagine my surprise when it turned out to be just a plain old mackerel tartlet with a chive buerre blanc. I expected so much more. Michel’s expectations however were met as all the chefs delivered good plates of food. Except for David, who delivered another mountain of grub.

Which was a shame as in the final round, an interpretation of a classic, David finally delivered some finesse with his ‘Dover sole on the bone’ but ultimately, his desire to feed people heaps of Scottish food got him the boot. For the second group of chefs, their skills test came in the form of a soufflé flavoured with a crème patisserie. Or “Crim Pat,” as Monica kept calling it with that New Zealand accent of hers. Of course, whipping egg whites is no laughing matter, so when Mancunian Adam stepped up and put the bowl over his head, his clownish attitude was not tolerated and neither was his chocolate smudge.

In fact, no-one really nailed this one as none of the efforts were up to scratch and old pudding face was left as deflated as some of the soufflés turned out. Poor man. Kidney shaped offal with a three mustard sauce was on the menu for Michel’s first classics test, offering a journey into the unknown for all four chefs as they had to produce the mysterious-sounding Savoyard potato cake.

The resulting dishes were another mixed bag really. Chad and Jack did well with their bacon-clad rostis but served up rather raw kidneys. Adam’s swirly-whirly plate looked pretty but he should have used more spinach. And Patrick gave Michel burnt offerings and iddy-biddy pieces, which ticked the man off no end. Although Michel doesn’t really get angry as such, he just turns on this peeved dad persona. “Grrr Patrick, I am very disappointed you know.”

Redemption looked like it was going to be on the cards for Chad in the second interpretation round as he finally cooked up a well-executed dessert but compared to a colourful fish bourride, a deconstructed Sunday dinner and a scattered chicken supreme, his efforts were far too late. So off he went, to possibly consider another change of career.

Being the last quarter finals of the series in episode 16, another invention test beckoned and as the chefs wandered into the room and spied the ingredients set up at their stations, the look of ‘WTF?’ was palpable on some faces. Alex’s suggestion of Scot-Med cuisine was met with derision. Jack’s bouncy yet beige plate of gnocchi and stuffed chicken was debated at length and Patrick’s neat looking chicken Kiev was totally undone by bland, bland, bland flavours.

Adam however (not Manchester Adam) just kept going from strength to strength and soon assumed the title of ‘Goldenballs’ with his classy, first time effort at goat and fried bone marrow. Sadly, people had to be ruthlessly dropped and Alex and Patrick were soon sent packing. Then in strode the critics, for the final assessment. Food critics who by their very nature look for faults and boy did they look angry; especially Jay Rayner, who looked like he might have just had a tiff with his hairdresser as he walked past the camera. Gambles were undertaken and alas for the likes of Jack, his rhubarb cornucopia was a step too far.

Nick’s vanilla mussels didn’t go down too well either. Both Adams however fared very well with their conventional yet contemporary twists on lamb and citrus based dishes; dishes that showed imagination, skill and the impression that they gave a damn. So they both made it through to the semis.

Given that this is the most strenuous, nervous part of the competition though, I really have felt for the chefs at this last stage throughout the series. The critics often say that they don’t want frivolity or acrobatics but at the same time they expect exceptional plates of food, so to get the combination right must be very hard.

Abominably hard. Like I said, who would be a chef eh? But most importantly, who would be a MasterChef;:The Professionals chef? Two more weeks and we’ll soon find out.

Read Danny’s previous Masterchef blogs: Masterchef - the professionals the blog Masterchef - the professionals the blog week 2 Masterchef - the professionals the blog week 3 Read our article on past Masterchef: The Professionals winners here

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).

>>> Read more about Masterchef: The Professionals 2013 here

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 2nd December 2013

MasterChef: The Professionals 2013 – week 4