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MasterChef: The Professionals, 2014, Week One

MasterChef: The Professionals, 2014, Week One

by Ella Timney 07 November 2014

Ella takes a look at the new series of MasterChef: The Professionals, featuring all new star, Marcus Wareing.

More from this series:

Ella is a Food Editor at Great British Chefs. She frequently puts her analytical skills to good use observing (and partaking in) drinking cultures in her favourite London ale pubs.

The time is finally upon us. For long-standing MasterChef: The Professionals fans such as myself, the news of Michel Roux Jr’s departure from the show was met with utter dismay. The nail-biting wait then came to see if the real star, Monica, would be staying, and who would take this Classic French juggernaut’s place as mentor, critic, and general benevolent God of cooking.

Cheers went up as it was announced that Monica would stay, but when Marcus Wareing was announced as the new boss, many were not happy to say the least. Many judged him only on previous TV appearances, where his shtick was distinctly stick with no carrot. However, from this week, we can certainly get an idea of what makes Marcus tick, and more importantly, that he’s going to be a great person to take on this role.

So here we go, Episode 1! Here’s Marcus, with an opening gambit of ‘Today’s my first day, as it is yours. I’m also nervous, you know my expectations: I love great food, I love precision, I love flavour’ - too right.

Highlights in the first round came mainly in the form of Darren: shaky of hand, gentle of voice, mad of skills. ‘Enjoy yourself! We’re looking for happy food!’ cried Marcus - and despite the shaking, Darren pulls of an incredible quail dish. We see a touch of ‘Scary Marcus’ when Justin leaved the bloodline in his halibut, but aside from that it’s all nervous, reverent chefs trying not to mess up, the same as always.

One of the cutest moments, possibly ever on MasterChef, came from Mark and his Lamb and shepherd’s pie dish. ‘I love shepherd’s pie’ twinkled Marcus ‘I’m a Lancashire lad!’ Mark’s heart exploded… ‘I’m a Lancashire lad too!’

Sadly, all this Lancashire lad bonding was for nowt when Mark plated up a disappointing pie, with Marcus giving him the thumbs down for a runny gravy and lack of browning on the topping. Poor Mark was given the chop, and went from Lancashire lad to Lancashire sad.

Monica was on top form as always judging the distinctly wonky croque on bouche assemblies, and in the final cook-off, we see a very welcome change in format that I find very exciting.

Masterchef contestant
Mark's shepherd's pie left him down
Wobbly croque en bouche
Ollie's collapsing croque en bouche

In series gone by, we would find Michel in his kitchen whipping up a Classic French Dish (CFD). These CFDs were considered the ‘benchmark’ against which a chef would be judged, so important it is to ‘know the basics’. I’m not going to lie - I ended up finding the CFD section a little tiring after years of the same Franco-centric fervour.

In the reboot, we join Marcus in his kitchen, full of enthusiasm and love as he talks you through a dish of his creation. The contestants are then provided with these ingredients and asked to produce a dish of their own - a move that will surely allow different kinds of cuisine to shine through, and more scope for personal style and creativity.

 
 
As we enter Marcus’s kitchen for the final round, his eyes go a bit twinkly and so does the music.
image
Marcus in his element

After this test, and some truly brilliant plates of food, Justin was the second person to go - I don’t think he ever recovered from that bloodline. Sadly though, had he or Lancashire Lad Mark appeared on Episode 2, they might have faired better.

Samantha was the first chef to go (the classic lack of seasoning downfall) and the judges worried deeply about Jogi’s bold combinations - no fear though, his dish turned out to be delicious, if a little scruffy. We saw him slip up in the tortellini filling skills test though, as he produced some pasta that looked more like pastry scraps than tortellini.

As we enter Marcus’s kitchen for the final round, his eyes go a bit twinkly and so does the music. He recounts tales of being the only boy in home economics classes and everyone thought he terribly uncool going to school with a basket of ingredients, but on the way home he had all of the delicious food and people flocked to him like gulls to a trawler. The lesson here is, kids - do home economics, people will like you more.

The chefs in the most part didn’t match up to the brilliance of Marcus’s bafflingly beautiful take on pineapple upside down cake, so both Jogi and Zack were shown the door - ‘only the best chefs can go through’, Marcus and Monica noted, sagely.

On to Episode 3, the quarter final, where they faced the classic ‘polish this lot of scraps into something majestic’ invention test. Darren once again quivered his way through cooking to produce something of ethereal beauty, and Brian, who is now seeming like the dark horse of this competition, produced a beautifully-flavoured dish which left the judges scratching their heads, so low were their expectations.

Jethro’s dish raised questions, so much so that it moved Marcus to poetry: ‘Is there enough sausage to make it a dish? Or is it just a bowl of bisque?’ - quite.

It came down to a battle of the well-trimmed beards, with Jethro’s pencil-thin bootstrap managing to knock out Daniel’s sharply kept chin. Despite Jethro’s bland bisque, Daniel’s combinations were just too odd for the judges, and he was shown the door.

Rose panna cotta
Ollie's beautiful but flawed panna cotta
Masterchef doom chamber
A contestant awaits the verdict in the antechamber of doom

Now for the critics. Marcus and Monica loved Darren’s salmon, cooked sous vide for a moist, tender finish. This was divisive, yet again with the critics favouring classically well-cooked fish over sous vide trickery. Everyone was happy with his Bakewell tart, though, so that’s something we can all agree on.

Brian yet again proved that he worked in the most mysterious of ways - judges and critics alike found the potential pairing of lamb, samphire and goat’s cheese a bit much, but this proved to be a genius combination. Tracey even went so far to say that it was one of the best dishes she had ever tried on MasterChef - well done Brian! Beards verging on the unkempt are the way forward, clearly.

Sadly, Jethro was 15 minutes late, and they didn’t much like his rabbit and langoustine combo. William Sitwell found his dessert ‘filthy’ and Monica said it was ‘like eating butter’. Delicate flower Charles Campion was 'intimidated' by the rose petals on Ollie's dessert, and the agar agar used in the panna cotta left judges and critics disappointed.

On the upside, when chefs are sent to have a little sit down after cooking their meals, this series has provided them with a strange circular antechamber, like they’re in some Medieval castle waiting to have their heads put on spikes. A nice touch in this rebooted series.

With all that fun, drama and food, Jethro was sadly given the boot. The first round of exhausted and relieved chefs are through. Roll on next week!

 
 
 

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MasterChef: The Professionals, 2014, Week One

 
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