Sorry this is late - at the end of last night’s episode, I actually exploded into 27,000,000 overwrought little pieces and have had to be reassembled by a crack-force of technicians into a mere vestige of my former staggering beauty.
It's finally the final final of MasterChef - those first two were massive red herrings. We have a flashback to previous MasterChef winners to see how they've fared - I shall call them Curly, Curly, Ming.
Tommi Miers is now squadron leader of Mexican chain Wahaca (*cough* Oaxaca), James "I hated being a lawyer and now I'm a surfer" Nathan now works at Padstein's and my favourite Mat Follas is living the dream running The Wild Garlic in Dorset. Where are Peter Bayless (2006) and Steven Wallis (2007)? We love you Stevo!
Voiceover lady begins her aural onslaught "Tonight Droooov, Alex or Tim will be CROWNED MasterChef champion". Seriously, India love, I think we already established there is no crown - just a crappy trophy based on the @ symbol.
GREGG FACE! "I can’t separate these three right now"
JOHN FACE! "Never before has a competition been so close"
“There's no grey area, you either win or lose” (Hard-talking Dhruv)
“I want that little bit more. I want to win this” (Dr Gina G, I mean, Tim)
“Whoever cooks the best today is going to win” (Master of the obvious, Alex)
Except, pish, there are no sobstories here. They’re all really nice-seeming, well-balanced folks.
Tim Kinnaird is a consultant paediatrician in Norwich with a lovely wife and cute sproglings who wants to open a local, family-style restaurant with an emphasis on cakes. He's impressed with elegant and technical dishes, but hasn’t always hit the mark.
Ahh Perpetuum Mobile, our old friend, begins the tale of South Londoner Dhruv Baker. An uber-funky shot of his ma and pa and we hear how, inspired by his beautiful mother Uma Thurman (who looks better than she has for years), Dhruv has been cooking since he was in the womb. Dhruv loves feeding his friends and family and excels at fusion dishes, but can give himself too much to do (don’t cry, Dhruv). Aww, now Mrs Dhruv is crying too :(
Occasionally-bearded Alex Rushmer is a freelance writer in the beautiful Cambridge countryside who lives with his girlfriend Charlotte. "I cook and then I write about what I cooked" (massive blog plug AWOOGA AWOOGA). His modern and truly experimental style is memorable ("AAAAAAAAAAAH!" belches Torode in approval), but can often divide the crowd.
BACK TO BASICS:
We're going right back to the Invention Test - the challenge which sorted the wheat from the chaff at the very beginning (a bit like Ready Steady Cook). The random list of ingredients are rack of lamb, langoustine, spinach, pears, chillis, jerusalem artichoke, lemon sole, anadin, blu tack, witchazel … I dunno, voiceover lady speaks too fast.
Tim has made fish soup with langoustine tails, and pan-fried fillet sole served with rouille.
Gregg says it looks "absolutely lovely", but I'm getting orange flashbacks of Andy Oliver's 2009 seabass dish.
After tasting, he says “Sweet almost caramel sweetness, but too watery” and John agrees that though it tastes absolutely fantastic “there's nothing to hold onto” (NO, John. Do NOT offer to pull Tim off again).
Dhruv's dish is roasted rack of lamb, spinach spiced with fenugreek, celeriac puree with cardamon and chilli, spiced poached pears, and a red wine and lamb jus.
Gregg says the fenugreek against the lamb is delightful, but opines the pear an unnecessary step. Torode flat-out contradicts him by saying the lamb is soft, the spinach full of flavour and that the pear is a risk that has paid off so the whole dish works really well.
Suck on that, Gregg.
Alex has made mustard-crusted lamb with Dauphinoise potatoes, spinach, glazed carrots, Jerusalem artichoke puree and a sauce made from the lamb juices.
John says the vegetable side is all perfect, but the lamb which was undercooked is now overcooked and the sauce has split: “I like it, but it's not right”. Gregg says "It's a greasy finish". And then says something about the food too.
The two judges withdraw to deliberate, cogitate and digest (off-topic - I had no idea Loyd Grossman was American when I was a kid - I thought he was simple) or at least to sit opposite cameras in completely different rooms to pretend to discuss what just transpired.
"There is mistakes throughout their cooking" says Gregg, and then he sums up their strengths thus:
Dhruv = Asian spicing, great fusion food
Tim = Everything cooked almost to perfection
Alex = Presentation very good - best thought-out plate
John says "F*ck it, let’s send them to Europe!"
Tim's off to Alsace, northern France to study under Chef Marc Haeberlin at his restaurant, l’Auberge de l'Ill.
Alex is off to Le Calandre in Rubano, Italy to cook with Chef Massimiliano Alajmo.
Lastly, Dhruv is studying under Jonnie Boer at De Librije in Zwolle, Holland.
John, stuck in a studio somewhere in London, says "There’s no way they’re not going to be nervous, BUT they have to hold their nerve". Yeah, thanks for that.
l’Auberge de l'Ill was opened 170 yrs ago by Haeberlin’s grandfather (do those dates work? Shome mishtake surely?). It’s held 3 Michelin stars for 42 yrs and some original dishes still appear.
Tim’s task is to recreate cotelet du pigeon with truffle and cabbage. This apparently requires absolute precision and the wearing of a jaunty cap.
Chef Haeberlin is mighty impressed as a woman with compound eyes declares that Tim’s pigeon “smells and tastes very good”. His verdict “you can stop medicine and begin cooking hurr hurr hurr”
Le Calandre has been renowned for its reimaginings of traditional meals for three generations and Chef Alajmo achieved 3 Michelin stars at the tender age of 28. Alex is there to make grilled rabbit sandwich with mozzarella spaghetti, aubergine sorbet, oregano caper sauce. The sorbet is made using liquid nitrogen, making it “taste more like an aubergine than an aubergine”.
Alex says of the dish “it’s like a symphony, it’s so well composed”.
I’m wondering if we’re looking at the same thing, cos the dish I’m looking at is:
(a) fugly and (b) not a sandwich.
But it's okay, a robotic-sounding woman says “Very, very good and tender. Eggplant sorbet very, very nice”.
This place must be magical cos the pseudo Danny Elfman music has begun.
The brutishly sex-ay Johnny Ball and his wife Therese are so adamant that the produce at their 3 Michelin star gaff reaches exacting standards that they have a glasshouse complex stuffed with microherbs and suchlike.
Jonnie says “Everybody who comes in the restaurant gets a little ice cream” and shoves it into Dhruv’s mouth before he knows what’s hit him. Then he tells Dhruv to smell the cheese, before giving him the daunting task of making his complex interpretation of crab and shrimp cocktail.
These guys are deadly serious - Dhruv is even made to check crabmeat under ultraviolet light to make sure there are no bits of shell left. Please tell me I’m not the only person to have lewd thoughts at this point.
Next Dhruv preps wild rice to look like the soil in the glasshouse - it reminds me of Heston’s edible garden. I want.
It’s fiddly and meticulous work but Jonnie is pleased that Dhruv’s working well “you say it once and he does it”. Grrrrr.
Dhruv’s dish dubbed “Cocktails and Dreams” is going to a customer even scarier than Tim’s Flywoman or Alex’s Terminator - 2 Michelin Star holder Russell T Davies. Russell is happy though and says the dish is “really sexy and gives him goosehair” O_o
And now - Tim, Alex and Dhruv have to recreate a signature dish from each restaurant.
FRANCE AGAIN AGAIN!
Tim’s making Haeberlin’s best-known pudding of pork pie, mash, baked beans and parsley.
No, apparently I’m wrong, it’s warm chocolate mousse in thin filo pastry shell, caramelised mango and vanilla ice cream sprinkled with pistachio pieces.
It’s not attractive.
Haeberlin gives the thumbs up though - it’s “perfect, not too sweet, sure you will win, hurr hurr hurr” and declares Tim “very clever and very talented seems to have been cooking for years and years”.
ITALY AGAIN AGAIN!
Alex has to impress Chef Alajmo and his brother Raphael with his interpretation of their saffron risotto sprinkled with liquorice root powder.
It looks like a dainty sick, but Alajmo says “you understand what it means for me this dish; you can work with us”.
So that’s good then.
HOLLAND AGAIN AGAIN!
Dhruv has to make the irritatingly named and constructed “2 dimensions 2 spaces” - a salad of white fish cooked four ways with pickled mushrooms and baby vegetables.
Jonnie and his wife take some Dutch Courage (boom boom), before saying that it’s exactly the same as what they serve in their restaurant.
Therese says “You were born to be a cook, it’s in your blood, you can see it”.
Then a gaggle of urchins are coerced into clapping for Dhruv as he leaves the restaurant.
FINALLY, THE FINAL ROUND. I’M NOT SH!TTING YOU. IT ACTUALLY IS.
Gregg and John are released from their carers to shout “Right now, 3 plates of food divide you from MasterChef title - let’s cook!”
Alex’s final three dishes:
“I’ve finally managed to work out what my style is. Classic dishes with a modern interpretation”
- Pheasant saltimbocca, beet leaves, sage, beetroot jus and spheres of butternut squash
- Loin of venison, porcini, celeriac chips, braised red cabbage
- Pear and star anise tarte tatin with blue cheese ice cream and walnut and tobacco brittle
Gregg is uber-excited about this culinary magical mystery ride.
The pheasant has extraordinary flavour and the sage brings it alive - it’s really tasty, really lovely, and the sweetness of butternut and beetroot is an interesting combination.
The venison has appropriate beefiness, creaminess and softness and other words that make me throw up a little in my mouth when I hear Gregg utter them, but for John the balance is not quite there and the sauce too sweet .
Gregg dubs the “tatatan” absolutely delicious, but his reaction to the blue cheese ice cream is “Please no”. John says, “Your tarte tatin is just lovely, but the salty cold cheese ice cream does detract from what is otherwise good”.
Dhruv’s final three dishes:
“I’ve got to show that I’m worthy of that title; everything I’ve learnt will be on those three plates of food. Maybe I need more than friends and family saying I can cook very well”.
- Saffron and ginger poached lobster tail with celeriac purée on blanched fennel with a beurre noisette foam
- Venison with a potato, brunoise and fenugreek crust, sugar glazed carrots on a carrot and cumin puree, confit chestnuts and a venison jus
- A trio of desserts poached pear in sauterne and star anise, masala chai ice cream and a chocolate truffle with a pistachio topping
Gregg is knocked out by the warmth of the ginger and mellow flavour of celeriac “I love it, love it, it’s gorgeous”. John simpers “This is v v accomplished cooking”
As for the venison, John feels everything on the plate is beautifully cooked and really lovely, but as a whole needs more oomph. Gregg says it looks fantastic “like a piece of pop art” but despite its spangly looks it’s again “a subtle dish”.
Then it all goes soft focus, and slow jazz starts up, as Gregg suddenly confesses to Dhruv ”I don’t know where you’re going with this, but I’m rapidly falling in love with you”
RUNNNNNNNNNNNN DHRUV RUNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN.
But Dhruv doesn’t run - instead he feeds them some pudding which is one sure-fire way to get Gregg to shut up.
Except Gregg’s ardour is far too powerful to be dampened and he’s now saying words like “very exciting” and “sticky cocoa”.
Thankfully John chips in at this point “Although stone cold, the whole thing left me with warmth on my palate. The whole thing looks stunning. The whole thing, I love it”.
I think they liked it.
Tim’s final three dishes:
“I’m going to go for it, show I can cook worthy of a winner - it’s still core Tim food, just a bit better at it now”
- Open lasagne of butternut squash and wild mushrooms and sage
- Roast pheasant, Savoy cabbage, pommes anna, bread sauce, and sloe gin and blackberry and quince jellies (uh-OH)
- Mont Blanc, chestnut puree, pear poached in coffee
(all three of his dishes are truly stunning)
They love the beautiful textures of the lasagne, the woodiness of mushroom, the sweet pumpkin - it’s elegant, sophisticated and moreish.
As for the pheasant, Gregg says it’s fantastic and beautiful and what really makes it different is the flavour bursting out of those (successful) jellies. John’s raving about the beautiful buttery bits and finally decides “I want to sit there and eat the rest of it right now”.
Gregg thinks the dessert is stunning and fundamentally fantastic, though there are a couple of little things he would tweak and change.
John is less happy - he says ”that coffee and those pears are extremely strong; the coffee is a mistake. But the skill that has gone in should be applauded - I think it’s extraordinary”.
And then Gregg and John retreat to their cave to sling rocks at each other/decide who will win the title.
FINAL VERDICTS FROM THE GESTALT ENTITY THAT IS GRORODE:
“I am really proud of these three - they excelled - all created great textures and flavours”
“Alex is one of the bravest – really daring, extraordinary style”
(cut to Alex saying “Winning the title would be the icing on the cake but I still have the cake” - I don’t know what that means exactly, but it sounds adorable).
“Tim is truly delivering great, great food - his main course set my toes on fire - such style - such precision”
“For crying out loud - Dhruv’s food is just pffffffffffffff” (at this point Gregg deflates like a ragged balloon or Phil Mitchell - but it’s a positive gesture, genuinely).
“That’s three of the nicest dishes I have ever had”
“Tasted amazing - little touches there that I think were brilliant”
I’m sitting there going Drooooooooooooooov partly because I want him to win and partly because it’s by far the best name for chanting.
My mum’s going “Oh, you know he won’t win, don’t you? Everyone on telly is racist. Inherently so. Remember what happened with that nice Hardeep Singh Koli?”
I’m batting her away like that will make any difference to the outcome.
The music builds, I can feel myself going redder and redder.
I might actually pass out from excitement.
“And the MasterChef Champion for 2010
And that’s when I explode.
ps the other day, someone suggested to me that there was a clue in Dhruv's Twitter name all along.
DhruvBaker1. Dhruv Baker One. DHRUV BAKER WON.
All photos/screencaps copyright BBC / SHINE Limited