I have been watching avidly and I now have my own personal favourite to win. He shall remain nameless for the time being, just in case I jinx him but some of you may be clueless as to what has been going on. You may well have been hiding under a rock or have been doing something more constructive with your lives but if your interest is now curiously piqued, why don’t you hop aboard the Tardis and take a short step back in time with me, for this is the lowdown thus far……….
So, in week 3 our eight chefs were called Oli, David, Da’vid, James, Aline, Marcel, James and Ryan and for the first invention test Monica threw crab and mango right into their faces. Some spluttered and stumbled about blindly as a result but some did well and served up delectable seafood mousses and ravioli and very pretty things on a plate. There was one severely half-cocked bowl of brown slop; masquerading as fish stew but that didn’t stop Gregg from ‘liking’ at least three of the chefs.
In episode 10, Gregg’s unrequited love for Monica continues as she knocks out a savoury sabayon in 10 minutes. Four chefs step up for the skills test and one of them gets caught like a rabbit in headlights, making 10 seconds of television the longest 10 seconds in television history. Next is Michel Roux Jr’s master class and he has evidently been hanging around petrol station forecourts, late at night because he wants them to make him a pork pie. They all do their best. Oli tries to give more than 100%, which is mathematically impossible and he messes up his sums even further with his duck and three-way parsnip, so he has to walk.
For the next episode, our next lot of chefs have to tackle bread and quite literally, they do. They all smash into the proved dough with all the finesse of a rugby player, knocking the life out of the stuff. Monica tuts and Gregg sighs as all four produce four plait loaves that resemble truncheons. Michel’s instruction to produce a seafood velouté also gets mixed results. He is looking for elegance, refinement and ‘evacity’ which I am not sure is a real word and he is disappointed. “Grrrrr,” he even says at one point. But there is a fight back in the interpretations round, particularly from self-taught Marcel who makes magic fish and chips. Ryan, who had glimmers of potential, doesn’t do quite so well and another one bites the dust.
Episode 12 heralds another invention test with pesky wabbit and lamb on the ingredients list and again, the chefs become divided. David from Durham (or thereabouts) delivers a striking, vibrant dish. Aline on the other hand, simply delivers too much food and Army chef James doesn’t impress either with his foamy potatoes. The last four of course then have to hit the critics with something special. No, not with a frying pan, we are talking about an exceptional plate of food. Fashion costs James and Marcel’s deconstructed take on a cherry and almond strudel is described as the “aftermath of a massacre. Da’vid however excels with his celestial lime curd ice-cream and David G hits the spot with turbot and langoustines.
Week 4 and it's back to the drawing board with the last eight, namely Adam, Patrick, Adam, Alex, Nick, David, Jack and peaceful and calm Chad. This time Monica dangles sausages in front of our contestant’s eyes and they all salivate like a pack of dogs. The spectacle was quite cruel actually because to make a sausage a beautiful thing is quite an impossible task and a few of the chefs proved that point.
Second Adam ignored the sausage altogether, which was a clever move and his butternut panna cotta made Monica’s day.
Mad butchery skills were on display in episode 14. Mad insofar that no-one seemed to be able to tie a knot with string. They could debone a saddle of lamb but they were all rubbish at wrapping Christmas presents. Apart from Adam, who got a special “I like him” from Gregg. Michel then showed us how to make a classic mackerel tart using Jus-Rol puff pastry and David did himself no favours by declaring that there are no French restaurants in Scotland. I know I started to think of deep fried Mars bars once he said it. So, sadly, he had to go but there was some very good cooking in evidence from Nick and his spherificated cherries and chocolate truffle mousse.
The last four chefs to take the stage in episode 15 had to prove their worth by making magnificent soufflés and all four had varied success. The difficulty being that they had to match the standard of Monica’s crème patisserie which sent lovelorn Gregg gaga. Michel’s master class was also deceptively tricky. Lamb kidneys with a three mustard sauce and Savoyard potato cake should have been a walk in the park (he says) but again, all four didn’t quite make the grade. It was only once the chefs hit the interpretations round that they began to hit their strides. Jack’s bourride of fish truly was a thing of beauty. For the likes of Chad though, his effort was far too little too late.
To get through to the quarter finals, Michel and Monica were only looking for perfection in the invention test, that’s all. And some delivered. And some didn’t. Adam H took his goat, a meat he’d never touched before and turned it into something miraculous. Jack divided opinion over his gnocchi and Alex stuffed her chicken thigh to the gills with anchovy and garlic, which was a misplaced decision that saw her leave the room, along with Patrick.
The critics waddled in for a semi-final assessment and scoffed and praised in equal measure. Nick’s boho seashore chic (seabass, fennel and vanilla mussels) looked good yet smelled bad. Jack’s singularly sounding dessert of rhubarb (done a trillion ways) posed a risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Adam’s Sunday lunch left William Sitwell very sad and pining for roast spuds.
And Adam H swept the board with his lamb loin with stuffed courgette flowers and dessert of chocolate orange with salted caramel, convincing me in one fell swoop that he is perhaps both the Messiah and a naughty boy. Whatever, he is definitely going places and is definitely my favourite for winning the title.
Although I didn’t just say that.