Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Masterchef 16/2/09

Welcome to Masterchef for semi-final time. Now, Masterchef doesn't have semi-finals and a final in an FA Cup knockout head-to head style. Instead, they start off with a big load of contestants and whittle away until they decide have enough left to contest a final. It's more like Big Brother. Sometime this seems cruelly arbitrary, as in last week's "best of the best previous losers" quarter-final when a poor lass didn't even get to cook. She was shown the door because she couldn't identify a random selection of fishes and root vegetables laid out on a table. Less 'Masterchef' than 'Master of bizarre parlour games.'

So tonight, we've got 6 contestants and tonight we're paring them down to 4. I presume that by the end of the week we'll have 3 left, in time for next week's finals.

So it's Angela, Andy, Chris, Christopher, Dennice and Mat livin' the dream.

It's just one simple task tonight. CHICKEN! CHICKY-CHICKY-CHICKY-CHICK-CHICK-CHICKEN! They have one hour to produce a restaurant quality chicken dish. Sadly no-one is doing twizzlers, and there's nary a jar of Chicken Tonight in sight.

First up it's Chris, a 40 something call centre manager who wants 'a life in food' which could be a bit Peter Greenaway but probably has a different meaning. He has Cypriot heritage but usually cooks Thai food, though tonight he's gone all retro and is doing a simple meat and veg dish - chicken baked with leeks and bacon, carrots, Tarragon sauce and a spud gratin.

Next we have Angela, a 22 year old office temp. Has something of the Nigella about her. She's "wildly exciting" claims Torode. Giddyup! She's heavily into experimenting. With her cooking. She wowed the judges with her Basil and Lemon (!!!!) tart in the last round. Determined to keep on with her crazee concoctions, tonight she's offering chicken stuffed with aubergines & pine nuts, a peach and basil sauce (!!!!!) and peach and potato cakes (!!!!!!????!!!!.) Good luck with that.

Christopher ticks the Masterchef cliche checkcard early doors by announcing he "wants to open a deli." I'm still waiting for the Masterchef contestant who wants to open a burger stand. He's young, he's hip, he's happening, but he's inexperienced as he hasn't been at it long. And he hasn't been cooking long either. He's doing a sort of Chicken Wellington, bird stuffed with mushrooms and baked in flaked pastry. Sounds pleasant to me.

Andy is the comeback king, the best of the best of the best of last year's losers from last week's quarter final week. His magnificent ravioli got him here, described as one of the best dishes ever by the judges. Even better than that Heinz ravioli in tomato sauce your mum gave you for tea when you were a kid? I doubt it, that was a quailty tea. He's described as 'arrogant' by Greg and he proves this by doing pretty much eff-all with his chicken: a quick fry with a noodle side-salad that seems to require minimal effort. It looks more Ready Steady Cook than M'Chef. Will it be enough?

Matt is a forager. He collects his own food. Even dives for it. If it's a choice between a five minute trip to Tesco's for scallops or a six hour round trip to the seaside to fanny about underwater with a waterproof torch & an oxygen tank he'll choose the latter. Possibly. He has a weird Kiwi-English garbled accent and looks like Tolkien's Gimli. His food is plain and rustic and he freely admits he can't do that fancy-dan presentation. It's chunky and hearty and there's plenty of it. I like him, and think he's good.

Lovely Afro-Carribean lass Dennice is a social worker and mum of four. She's got eff-me boots and a magnificent barnet not seen this side of the glory days of Jason Lee that makes her look like a walking palm tree. She's very nervous. She's cooking chicken, carrots and a thing called a polenta & onion cake. For those who remember Chris Morris' fictional drug 'Cake' on the infamous Brass Eye episode: that's what Dennice's polenta and onion cake looks like. It's roughly the same size too.

So, down to the judging. "Your time is up, step away from the benches!" bawls Gregg, with the air of a LA cop with his finger on the Tazer trigger.

And so, we'll hastily summarise the results:

Angela - her peach and basil based nonsense was as awful as it sounded. G & T give her short shrift, basically telling her it's complete crap, and the tears well up before she gets shirty and defends her experimental style. She's gorn.

Christopher - One part of his dish is too salty, the other part is underseasoned, but otherwise it's delicious.

Andy - Gets told off for doing eff all but his food is lovely & the noodle salad is crunchy & crispy with a delightful sauce.

Matt - Gets told off for having too much chicken and too much meat, no balance. Sounds ridiculous, what? Don't listen to them Matt, serve it large and hearty like you're feeding a coachload of Texans. If it's too much I'll get a doggy bag.

Dennice - While her food is being judged she's shaking and quivering like the proverbial shitting dog. All well and good apart from the ridiculous big polenta cake. I'm no gourmet but even Blind Tony could see that. It's like "a big alien thing that's landed on the dish."

So the six entrants retire while G & T go through their brief deliberations. They return to the maudlin strains of Adele's 'Hometown Glory' before that low, ominous one note Moog tone kicks in, straight out of Pertwee-era Dr Who, that always gets played to signify high tension in this programme.

Thumbing their noses at the BBC's equality & diversity guidelines, all four men remain. The two ladies are shown the door, wiping their eyes to the strains of a rawking Coldplay tune, while the fellas clink champagne flutes. And so onto "the most intense cooking experience of their lives..........."

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