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MasterChef: The Professionals, 2014, Week Five

MasterChef: The Professionals, 2014, Week Five

by Ella Timney Friday, December 5, 2014

Finally, it’s the semi-finals. After four weeks of quarter-finals, the contestants face five semi-final final cook-offs, before progressing on to finals week for three days of solid finals.

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.

Finally, it’s the semi-finals. After four weeks of quarter-finals, the contestants face five semi-final final cook-offs, before progressing on to finals week for three days of solid finals. I find the finality of all of this quite jarring.

The transition to semi-finals makes my job much easier - there are no new faces to take note of, no skills' tests to get excited about, no critics to despise; just some serious food fan-girling. As a result, expect a whole lot of good looking food in this post, it’s been a stunning week of dishes.

Week 5, round 1 - It’s strange to think we haven’t seen some of these faces for a month, and there’s bloody loads of them. With all of the rough and tumble of the quarter finals, it’s hard to remember sometimes how straight-up amazing these chefs are.

What about Darren! Amazing shaky Darren! And lovely Jamie, and of course, dreamboat Sven.

The format in this first heat is essentially one big cook-off, but no modern fun-time equipment is allowed. It’s all about being on the stove! Cooking the food! There’s a lot of caramelisation, lots of sauce, lots of Happy Marcus.

Sven’s in his element here. I have to say, he’s one of my favourites to win, even at this point. This has a lot to do with his approach to food - delicious, classic skills in modern context - basically the judges' dream guy.

Everyone's looking fairly focussed, and now for judging. Luciana's dish gets a bit of a beating due to tough cabbage and a tiny portion of guinea fowl...

Ollie submitted to the cardinal sins of gritty trompettes and a half-cooked fondant, so he was put through to the cook-off.
Monica Galetti unimpressed
Monica's left unimpressed by Luciana's sour plums

And how do you like them plums, Monica?

Them plums are sour.

Ollie submitted to the cardinal sins of gritty trompettes and a half-cooked fondant, so he was put through to the cook-off. With Luciana's sour plums and Ollie's gritty mushrooms, Katherine's unrefined food also saw her being tested. The most surprising person to cook off though was Ben, who I thought was a shoe-in to go all the way. He just seemed to lose a bit of confidence, it was heart-breaking.

All of the dishes produced for the cook-off were pretty fabulous, though. Luciana whipped up a dreamy looking bacalhau dish, while Ollie got seriously redeemed by a flawless deconstructed black forest dessert.

I was hopeful for Ben's dessert - Monica is an absolute fiend for coconut, rum and mango flavours, and it looked stunning. Even looking at it now, I still can't quite work out why he went. Oh well.

People were freaking out about Katherine’s goat’s cheese and honey dessert - come on now - what about cheesecake!? It’s delicious! Stop being silly! Marcus loves it, because he loves dishes that are made of peoples' memories and souls, and this particular dish was made from Katherine's childhood memory of cheese and honey sandwiches, which to be honest, does sound a bit gross. However, it wasn't quite enough, and Katherine and Ben were sent home.

Now, on to round 2. The chefs are now paired off and sent to cook in a properly incredible kitchen, before cooking the chef's signature dish, and producing two final dishes for the judges. This format is nerve-racking, as you always hope that your favourites are paired with someone who isn't your favourite.

Hélène Darroze on Masterchef
Jamie learning from the master
Helene Darroze duck breast technique
Molten lard being poured onto duck

In this episode, they were sent off to cook with Hélène Darroze at The Connaught Hotel - a 2 star establishment where Hélène blends her French, Spanish and Italian influences into beautiful dishes. Richard was put in charge of tandoori-spiced scallops, while Jamie took charge of the fabulous duck.

This part of the series is where foodies get treated for their perseverance - it becomes less of a reality series, more of a reverence-filled tribute to chefs in general and the craft of cooking. We get to see the techniques that go into these dishes, such as the amazing molten cone of lard that gets drizzled over the duck before serving.

We get to learn about how Hélène doesn't pan-roast in butter - because she's from the south of France, she digs duck fat. And how if you line your hot pan with a sheet of parchment paper, the spice-coated scallops will cook without the spices burning. All top knowledge to have.

After cooking Hélène's signature dish, and a fairly problem-free service (Jamie's rice was spot on, while Richard got a better roasted flavour to the squid), it's time for their final dishes.

This is where things get really, really close, and you realise how great these chefs are. Richard's Gressingham duck dish was spot on, apart from a lack of fennel flavouring in the pomme purée.

 
 
Richard's dessert had Marcus coming over all smiley and emotional.
Jamie's Masterchef hogget dish
Jamie's hogget dish

His dessert had Marcus coming over all smiley and emotional and getting rapturous about Devonshire clotted cream (too damn right, that stuff is the bomb).

Then Jamie produced a dish of hogget neck, Mediterranean vegetables and a separate salt-baked shin of hogget, setting some rosemary on fire for a bit of lovely aroma.

Monica was totally sold, as was Marcus. His dessert was stunningly beautiful, a chocolate and raspberry party on a plate - the colours were a bit Anne Summers, but in a really good way.

In the end, Jamie just about won out, such is the power of a salt-baked hogget and a sexy pudding.

Next up in round 3 were Sven and Scot. They were off to French culinary legend Pierre Koffmann's restaurant at the Berkeley Hotel. With a fearsome reputation and 3 Michelin stars under his belt, this chef must have been even more of a daunting prospect. Tom Kitchin popped up in video form to tell us how Pierre Koffmann took him to hell and back, made him a man. A black and white image of that dastardly duo Gordon Ramsey and Marco Pierre White flashed on the screen.

But don't worry, Pierre says that he is older now, he has mellowed... up to a point.

Sven got to grips with Pierre's stunning snail ravioli, full of garlicy, snaily goodness. He grappled with some elements throughout, but I think Pierre was fine with it, in the end.

Scot had a fight with the sea bass, at one point displacing the skin. And the broccoli purée proved a menace when plating up, to the point where Pierre shows some of his classic fire and took matters into his own hands.

Incidentally, if you'd like to cook that sea bass with citrus recipe you can find it here!

Pierre Koffmann on Masterchef
Pierre Koffmann lays down the law with Sven
Pierre Koffmann with Scot
Pierre tucking in to Scot's interpretation of his signature dish

Pierre's signature dish was fascinating, a dish he created in the 1970s, simply salmon confit in goose fat, on a bed of tomato. To throw another spanner in the works, Pierre's kitchen is completely free from timers and temperature probes - it all has to be cooked by the chefs' judgement, and with a few pokes of a metal skewer to test the resistance of the flesh.

Scot sat down with a little trepidation, but Pierre loved his salmon, despite the plate looking a little 'mean' - Scot's smile at the end of it showed it all.

'How do you feel? Sweaty?' Pierre asked Sven - the fish was almost overcooked, but he brought his flair to the plate and it all went well.

They both did fantastically, now on to the cook-off. With both chefs cooking squab, 'It's a battle of the pigeons!' cried Marcus. 'It's going to be a massive squabble' said Sven, in one of the best puns of the competition so far.

 
 
'It's a battle of the pigeons!' cried Marcus. 'It's going to be a massive squabble' said Sven, in one of the best puns of the competition so far.
Sven's pigeon dish
Sven's glorious pigeon dish

While Scot went down the sous vide route for a consistently cooked crown, Sven stuck with pan-roasting - something that the judges loved, of course. Scot used trimmings to make a rich pigeon sauce though, packing in plenty of flavour.

And what a stunning dish Scot produced - not only devilish little beetroots, and beetroot purée to pair with the pigeon breast, but a beautiful little rad el hanout infused leg meat pastilla - beautiful! However, he didn't clean the bones properly - could this land him in trouble?

Scot's dessert had mostly high points too, pairing pistachio, white chocolate and elderflower. Some minor quibbles here and there, but sometimes minor quibbles can send someone home.

Sven's pigeon dish also looked fabulous - he had chopped up the innards to thicken the sauce (such a beautiful, glossy sauce!) and lightly smoked the confit leg with woodland flavours in a nice bit of theatre.

The dessert was a spin on a classic Paris-Brest, which to be honest, had a relatively lukewarm reception, compared to his other work.

However, possibly because of his sterling past record in the competition, Sven secured a space in the final FINAL week. Well done Sven, and well done Jamie!

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MasterChef: The Professionals, 2014, Week Five

 
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