MasterChef: The Professionals 2015 – week five

MasterChef: The Professionals 2015 – week five

by Food Urchin 11 December 2015

Danny Kingston commentates on knockout week, the final round before this year's semi-finals.

View more from this series:

Danny is a food adventurer, home grower, supper club host and writer of the entertaining and quirky epicurean blog, Food Urchin.

Danny is a food adventurer, home grower, supper club host and writer of the entertaining and quirky epicurean blog, Food Urchin.

You know, they totally got the knockout part of the competition all wrong this week. I was really looking forward to some pure entertainment, some belly laughs and the odd wince or two. But no, that didn’t happen. We didn’t have any inflatable sumo wrestling. No running of the gauntlet across slippery telegraph poles, whilst Marcus and Monica fire blancmanges from cannons. And no leaping around from Gregg, dressed as the Mad Hatter, screaming through a megaphone; a role he was surely born to do. No, we didn’t get any of that. Instead, we got a load of chefs cooking their hearts out and to say that I am disappointed would be an understatement.

So I hope that the producers are taking note here. Bring in a proper, physical knockout segment to the show for next year or I am going to pitch this brilliant idea elsewhere. Like Channel 5.

Right, with that rant over I better plough into what was deemed to be the ‘knockout’ week on MasterChef: The Professionals. Which, OK, was still pretty damn exciting. I just wish there had been more custard, more foam and the opportunity for Mr Wallace to slip and fall on his backside. I better shut up now.

Final chefs
The final twelve
Danilo's fish
Danilo's fish dish was very well received

Episode thirteen

For this episode, it was the return of the twelve chefs then, who had made great strides in their respective heats. As a reminder of who actually made it through though, it might be helpful to have this brief recap of the chef’s attributes:

Nick – Big and bald, a pastry chef to be trusted.

Joey – The only woman left in the competition, with the lightest of touches.

Scott – Cheeky Cockney chef who loves a gin and tonic.

Mark – Unshaven gastropub maestro with good hair.

Josh – Wacky, raw, tattoos and huge earlobes.

Danilo – Quiet Italian, who pretends to not know what he’s doing.

Andi – Sensitive cook with a soul, despite looking like a henchman.

Gavin – Old warrior dog, schooled in the classics.

Mark – Beardy and serene chef, smiles too much.

Dean – Action man who takes food very personally.

Darren – Part traditional chef, part Willy Wonka.

Bobby – Wants to be better than the best.

And there we have it. To go further, our illustrious gang had to complete yet another invention test but this time, the chefs would have no access to water baths, gadgets or chemicals. Yes, no sodium alginate or calcium chloride for these guys, it was to be pure cooking all the way. Some of the ingredients on hand were duck, pork belly, quail, venison, oxtail and baby octopus, and the chefs quickly cracked on. Gregg did have to remind them constantly that time was running out, though. He shouted ‘Come on!’ so many times that I do believe he ended up passing out.

Danilo was up first and I wasn’t sure by the sound of his simple wrapped sea bass with oyster water and neither was he, but Marcus was very impressed. Then along came Nick who executed his dish superbly, a vision of duck and plum with butternut puree, chou farci and a rich sauce that silenced the judges into submission. Dean did well too by combining venison with oxtail, mushrooms and beetroot, proving that he had finally ‘grown up’. Joey, with her quail faggot, confit quail egg, pork scratchings and quail tea, didn’t do so well. She was pushing for it, yet ultimately her dish lacked refinement. Scott did amiably with his plate of duck with freeze dried raspberries but it also lacked vegetables. Then falling further down the ladder came Darren. His sweet Madeira and red wine sauce did not do justice to his pork fillet and pork tortellini.

Thankfully, Bobby then arrived with a trademark plate of pork belly, flavoured with galangal, lemongrass and chilli, complete with merguez sausage and a cardamom squash puree. In the wise words of Gregg it was ‘complex but relatively simple’. Unshaven Mark, who also went down the venison and oxtail route, fluffed his dish with too much beef flavour and Josh totally messed up his pudding made with pearl barley and saffron. Monica really didn’t like his car crash and boy, did she show it.

Gavin delivered a great albeit safe plate of duck with fondant potato and garnish and Andi burnt the bejesus out of his pork belly, shocking and surprising our judges in the process. Then bearded Mark showed up with his work of art, again, another stab at venison and oxtail that showed Marcus he had ‘immense skill’. Immense skill eh Mark? No wonder you smile so much.

Four chefs had to go back into the kitchen to decide which two would leave and which two would stay and to be fair, after cooking their way through the leftovers from the previous round, it was quite obvious as to who was going through. Simply put, Darren and Andi really pulled their pants and socks up, delivering excellent plates of salmon and onglet, whereas Josh and Joey were undone by an undersized steak tartare and a salad. And as the credits rolled, I whispered to myself, ‘Why Joey? Why did you make a salad?’

Andi seemed surprised to make it through to the next round
The Law Society
The contestants had to cook for The Law Society's most respected members
Guinea fowl
A 'triumph', according to the judges

Episode fourteen

In the next round, our valiant chefs had to show there was no ‘I’ in the word ‘team’ and the first five comprised of hirsute Mark, tearful Andi, startled Dean, happy Darren and feisty Nick. Their mission? To cook a three-course meal at The Law Society for a bunch of lawyers, one of whom was the President of this esteemed organisation. And it was also his birthday. So no pressure then.

To get through the challenge, the guys had to talk to each other and evolve. Or in other words they all had to pick their knuckles up from the ground and communicate. Not with grunts and barks. Like real, actual words. Fortunately, they got a menu together in no time at all and showed just how professional they are. Mark and Darren were in charge of starters, a crab tortellini with a crab bisque, complete with mango and radish. It sounded lovely but Marcus wanted more, so Mark made a crispbread with some aioli to accompany it and lo, Marcus saw that it was good. And he smiled. And so did the guests.

For mains, there was a slight wobble when Dean suddenly forgot how to count to six but with Andi by his side, they pulled it back from the brink and produced a very handsome plate of food that consisted of poached and then roasted guinea fowl breast, pressed leg, onion puree, pancetta croquette and chargrilled leeks. In the eyes of the diners and the judges it was a ‘triumph’.

All eyes then focused on Nick and dessert, who had been cooking on his lonesome but seemed quite at home with that. The pudding was to be a warm pistachio and polenta cake, coupled with a pistachio curd, raspberry jelly and raspberry sorbet. Mark took a bullet and stepped in to do the quenelles for the sorbet and again, everyone was in riotous applause.

Back in the MasterChef kitchen, all five chefs became the best of enemies again, for they had ninety minutes to create one plate of outstanding food. The most bestest, amazingest, stupendousnessness plate of their entire lives. Beardy Mark was interviewed first. ‘What ya gonna do Mark?’ ‘I am going to make lamb rack with sweetbreads, goat curd, olive crumble, courgettes and a tomato tortellini.’ Mark kicked it out of the park, again.

Andi was next. ‘What ya gonna do Andi?’ ‘I am going to do loin of venison with fondant potatoes, butternut squash, roasted hazelnut and shallots.’ There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Nick steps up. ‘What ya gonna do Nick?’ ‘I am making a white chocolate cheesecake, wrapped in strawberry jelly with elderflower beignets and a flipping flapjack.’ Marcus and Monica were beside themselves with rapturous joy.

Dean enters the frame. ‘What ya gonna do Dean?’ ‘I am cooking a pork tenderloin, wrapped in Parma ham, with vanilla parsnips and sous vide scallops, to be scorched, with a scorching gun.’ Monica normally hates vanilla parsnips but at that moment in time, she loved him for it.

Finally, Darren comes into view. ‘What ya gonna do Darren?’ ‘I am going to make you the best pudding ever. A chocolate mousse, layered inside with raspberry custard and raspberry jelly. You will have kittens after eating this!’ And they did. Marcus and Monica delivered kittens, right there, on the spot.

At the end, it was no wonder that all five chefs had to go through to the semi-final. Apologies in advance if you have spotted a certain facetiousness creeping towards the end there; but it really was the most successful of cooking rounds in the history of MasterChef.

‘What ya gonna do Darren?’ ‘I am going to make you the best pudding ever. A chocolate mousse, layered inside with raspberry custard and raspberry jelly. You will have kittens after eating this!’ And they did. Marcus and Monica delivered kittens, right there, on the spot.

Danny Kingston

Nick's white chocolate cheesecake went down a treat
Mark had yet another impressive round

Episode fifteen

Compared to the previous episode, I felt quite sorry for the next five chefs in this one as they were really done up like a kipper with their challenge of cooking at Lords’ cricket ground. Not only did they have to contend with racing between two kitchens at either end of the stadium, they had to deliver food to a bunch of sportsmen and professionals well known for the dark art of ‘sledging’, which really wasn’t fair play. But that’s the way the cookie crumbles I suppose.

Not that Bobby, Gavin, Scott, Danilo and unshaven Mark didn’t do a good job. They did admirably well given the circumstances. For their menu, unshaven Mark and Danilo were responsible for starters and after a little time trying to get warmed up, fleshing out ideas, they delivered six extremely attractive plates of food. Their light pickled mackerel with broad beans, pea shoots, borage and radish went down very well with Mike Gatting and co. Mike himself was very much in awe at the overall flavour of the dish, as he often finds that ‘mackerel can be very fishy.’ I mean, heaven forbid that fish should ever taste like,

Gavin and Bobby were in charge of mains, a rustic rabbit dish based on cassoulet and almost immediately you could see a relationship form. The former assumed the role of head chef and the latter was the sous, which I think was slightly to their detriment. If Bobby had piped up and stood his ground over last minute additions from Gavin to the plate, such as an offal and a pastry parcel, their dish would have been a lot more refined. Instead it became overly complicated and beige, which was a shame.

Carrying on with the tradition of a pastry chef working alone was Scott, who was intent on making an apple crumble that was in reality a deconstructed apple crumble and poorer for it. A mishmash of caramel panna cotta, calvados and apple granita, vanilla crumb and compressed apple, it didn’t quite hit the mark for the guest. I know Mike Gatting wasn’t that impressed. If only Scott had asked Danilo for his panna cotta recipe. Because he is, like, you know, Italian.

Things did pick up for the signature round though. Especially Scott, who was full of beans when he introduced his take on a rack of salt marsh lamb, complete with sourdough, Caesar dressing and anchovies. Marcus and Monica had their reservations at first, but in the end they both had to admit that it was an inspired combination.

Mark (the unshaven one) also started out of the traps with confidence with his promised braised short rib and pan-fried fillet of beef, to be served with smoked bone marrow and Gentlemen’s relish; a relish untested by Monica by all accounts. However, he became quite flustered as the minutes ticked by and as such, forgot to season his food properly, an element soon picked up by the judges.Best of the best Bobby had a great name for his dish: English beef by an Indian chef. And as always with his food, there was an air of the unknown. His fillet of beef and soft beef shin were presented with style and panache, as were his lentils, but the dosa he made to encase the juicy shredded meat was totally undercooked and doughy. Worse still, the spiced sauce he made to accompany the food completely obliterated the overall flavour of the dish. And it was quite sad really, to suddenly see Bobby stop smiling.

As one went down, so did another, in the form of grizzled veteran Gavin, who I hope doesn’t mind me harking on about his age (he is still younger than me). But by his own admission, perhaps he was a dog that had ran out of tricks. His loin of lamb with breaded sweetbreads, onion puree and pistachios was more than ably cooked but as Monica put it, the dish just didn’t ‘scream out the wow factor’.

Danilo, on the other hand, definitely flew the flag of the brave and the new with his effort. Confounding and disobeying his mother’s wisdom that you should never put fish and cheese together, Danilo served up mackerel done two ways. One marinated in balsamic, one blow torched fresh and finished with a smoked buffalo mozzarella fondue (along with some aubergine and tomato tortellini). It was just the experimental plate the judges were looking for. So he went through, along with a very chuffed Scott and very relieved and unshaven Mark.

So next week come the semi-finals, with more knockouts to come. But who will end up with egg on their face? We shall wait and see.

Marcus and Monica
Marcus and Monica thought Danilo's signature dish of mackerel and smoked mozzarella was genius