Friday, 27 February 2009

MasterChef Final 2009 (TV Review)

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The finalists and the key talent

So last night was the Masterchef final. I’ve been a fan since Loyd Grossman’s tenure, but it took Gregg Wallace and John Torode (aka the Egg and the Toad) to elevate this humble show to a true art form known as “SHOUTING ABOUT FOOD”.

This year’s been an emotional roller-coaster. Having been glued to BBC2 every night since forever, I’m still mildly upset that Call Centre Chris (a strangely pleasing cross between Nasty Nick Cotton and Mark Thomas) was turfed out last week.

Anyway, our three finalists are Andy, Christopher and Mat.

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L-R: Mat, Andy and Christopher

I’ve been rooting for Mat since the day I saw him fashion an ugly bread bowl for some monkfish chowder, Mat with his one T to make up for Gregg’s two G’s. He was a train engineer for goodness sake and he cried like an angel, looked like Ming the Merciless, foraged for his own food and had an accent you couldn’t pin down. Plus in the last episode, voiceover lady got a mite too personal, saying Mat's big hands spoilt his presentation (smashing a path like Gojira).

It was mentioned so often I thought she was about to say “Will Mat’s sausagey fingers destroy absolutely everything?”. The infuriating thing was that latterly he’d been plating some of the most beautiful dishes they'd had. His progress had been amazing, going from making sloppy home-cooked dishes to breath-takingly beautiful creations.

Comeback Kid Andy was someone who had tried but failed last year to win the title, and for reasons unknown been given a second bite of the cherry. We were told repeatedly that he’d worked all year for this (I’m not sure they ever told us how though), but he’d come across as a somewhat smug and unappealing mix of guppy and yuppie.

Christopher aka “Neckbeard” was a Prince Harry look-a-like who couldn’t organise the proverbial in a brewery and had been cooking for only three years (their emphasis). Toadie and the Egg constantly drooled over how beautiful his presentation was, though near the end his stuff wasn’t a patch on Mat’s.

Last night’s final sees them begin with the Invention Test - a revisit of the task which got them through the first round. There’s a plethora of ingredients for them to choose from and the three come up with wildly varying dishes.

Christopher who’d totally muffed up his last attempt at pasta bravely tries again and this time it’s spot on. Andy goes for sea bass (am I the only person who finds sea bass dull?) and Mat for a risky venison dish with artichokes. Judges’ verdict - all pant-wettingly good - “it’ll be a sprint to the finish”.

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Andy's dull sea bass - look how orange that sauce is. Dull.

Next our three contestants are whisked to Europe to work in the kitchens of three Heston Blumenthal-style multiple Michelin star restaurants.

Andy’s at Arzak in Spain which has its own carefully labelled ingredient library! Here the father and daughter chef team give him seared tuna and moho (mojo??) sauce to prepare. He does well and must then recreate their signature dish of pineapple and spurting pina colada. The father gives a fulsome benediction according to neon pink lipsticked daughter, though I’m sure I hear him say “muerte” meaning death.

Christopher’s in [French place whose name escapes me] where he has to cook pancakes and oyster porridge (looks gross) for the chef’s father who also possesses a Michelin star (just for being him I suspect). The verdict is good and when he recreates their signature [help?] with aubergine caviar more praise is heaped upon him.

Mat’s at Noma in Denmark where he has to prepare skate with foraged beach vegetables. The head chef Rene Redzepi is so proud when Mat successfully fillets his first wing, I think he’ll adopt him on the spot. I’m tickled when chef Redzepi then uses fingers to cram Mat’s take on his signature beef tartare in his mouth and then when they high-five, it’s so touching I weep (no lie).

Then it's back to the studio for the very last round - two hours to create three mind-blowing courses each.

Those menus in full:

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Christopher

  • Scallop mousse ravioli with black pudding and cauliflower puree
  • Roast belly of pork with clams, bubble and squeak cake and a cream calvados sauce
  • Chocolate tart with a sesame seed snap and crème fraiche

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Mat

  • Trio of rabbit with nettles and pancetta crisps
  • Spider crab thermidor with mussels, foraged sea vegetables and chunky chips
  • Creamy lavender and blackberry mousse with hokey-pokey (I genuinely thought these were Pom Bear) and blackberry sauce

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Andy

  • Thai-style coconut crab salad with chili lotus root crisps and micro herbs
  • Glazed duck breast with duck leg ravioli, mushrooms, chili, spring onions and ginger
  • Mango, crispy coconut and passion fruit sundae

Two hours later, time’s up, step away from the bench!

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It's gonna change your life for-EVAH!

VERDICTS:

  • Chris’s pork is overcooked but the rest is “larvely”
  • Every one of Mat’s courses is “shocking” but in a fantastic way
  • Andy’s gone for "full Asian", but the risk pays off save for his “cheap” sundae glass (which contained a dessert so lovely Gregg could have barfed in it. Or maybe he meant bathed?)

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All good sports

I’m squeezing the other half’s hand chanting “Go Maaat! Go Maaat!” T’other half says “You do know this is pre-recorded right? So however much you crush my hand it won’t affect the outcome.”

I shush him and after an interminable build-up the winner is … MAT!

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Go MAAA-AT! GO MAAA-AT!

I squeal and immediately text a workmate to say “Mat the New Zealander has won!”.

She doesn’t reply.

All photos copyright BBC


Still my favourite MasterChef moment ever: