It's funny, you go through life throwing peanuts at the telly when occasionally you see something that knocks you for six. Regular readers will know that I quite like MasterChef, and it was whilst I was watching this year's show that I had my "WTF?" moment.
So there we were, my husband and I, sitting on the sofa watching the quarter-finals (confession - I don't watch the whole series - if I did, it would give me a stroke), when I poked him in the ribs and said "'Ere, I know that bloke. Kind of".
"That bloke" was a gentleman by the name of Dhruv Baker. And when I say "kind of", I'm referring to the fact that he was one of my followers on Twitter (though to be fair, he didn't say much). Hubby said "Yeah, whatever, lunatic woman", but I was spurred to ascertain if it was indeed him.
Long story short, it turned out that three of my Twitter chums were competing in MasterChef - @DhruvBaker1, @DrTimKinnaird and @justcookit.
And then all three ended up being in the final, which frankly left me rather nonplussed (and annoyed, because I couldn't be quite as rude about proceedings as I would have liked).
Anyway, thanks to the fact that Dhruv, Tim and Alex are my imaginary friends (Twitter is evil by the way), I was somehow able to
So here's the first interview from the lovely Alex Rushmer - rather apt for today's UK General Election, as it turns out he's a politics graduate ...
meemalee's kitchen - The MasterChef Interview
Alex Rushmer is a freelance writer based in Cambridgeshire who specialises in all things edible. When he's not writing professionally or cooking, he writes an extremely popular food blog called Just Cook It, documenting his culinary adventures. His next mission is to write a book and (hurrah) open a restaurant. I like his beard.
Has there ever been a kitchen mishap that's driven you to tears?
When I was first experimenting with molecular gastronomy I managed to block our cottage’s drains by innocently pouring sodium alginate down the sink. For cooking purposes it can be made to react with calcium/sodium to form a clear, heat-proof edible jelly – so when I happily sluiced the alginate down the sink, our hard, calcium-rich Cambridgeshire water turned to a solid jellified mass, sealing our cottage’s drains.
Neither the sink nor the shower drained properly for a few days, and when the source of the problem was discovered my girlfriend (who normally has the patience of a saint when it comes to my culinary experiments) was considerably unimpressed. Half-heartedly fishing bits of jelly out of our drain while she supervised was quite a low point. Only after that did I read the following words in the accompanying instruction leaflet: 'Warning! Do NOT dispose of alginate solution in the sink'.
You're hosting your dream dinner party and you can invite 1 living person, 1 dead, and 1 fictional (no friends or family) - who would they be?
Anthony Bourdain (c. 2002), Ernest Hemingway, and James Bond (the Ian Fleming version rather than any celluloid re-creations). I don't think any explanations are needed.
Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
The chicken, the egg faked it.
Describe yourself in three words
Cook. Writer. Eater
What’s the worst thing you have ever cooked?
Not sure about cooked but I've eaten some fairly bizarre items: century egg was the worst.
[Fool! Century eggs are lush - recipe for a Burmese century egg salad here]
What was the final push that made you enter MasterChef?
A whole bottle of red wine on a dark Sunday evening in the deepest depths of winter, and the thoughts of Monday morning at my marketing job running through my miserable mind.
What would you want as your epitaph?
I'm too young to think of such things. Ask me in 60 years.
What's your guilty food pleasure?
I love hot dogs beyond all rationality. Topped with fried onions, ketchup, Swedish mustard, gherkins and jalapeno peppers.
Who would win in a fight between a baboon and a badger?
I have no idea but I would pay good money to see it happen.
What would be your last meal on Earth?
Rare roasted rib of beef with Yorkshire puddings and gravy. Probably with a hot dog on the side.
If you were a superhero, what would you be called and what special powers would you have?
Wonderf-Al? Either invisibility (for raiding the fridge late at night) or the power to remove people’s fear of food they think is going to be disgusting. 'Try it, you might like it!' would be my motto.
How many cardigans does John Torode own?
I'm not entirely sure, but if rumours are to be believed the collection has been bequeathed to the V & A Museum. They are building a new wing for them at present.
Who do you most admire?
What do you love cooking the most?
The bits of an animal that need nurturing and teasing into tastiness. The cuts beyond the fillet.
Has Gregg Wallace ever actually put his face in a plate of food or swallowed the spoon by accident?
Tim - I'll leave this one to you.
What keeps you awake at night?
What's your favourite cuisine when eating out and what cuisine would you like to try that you haven't before?
I love the food of South-East Asia and when we manage to go out for a meal, we tend to eat the same things at the same noodle place in Cambridge (gyoza and edamame beans followed by wok-fried noodles).
[he's talking about Dojo, a favourite of mine too]
There’s so much cuisine I haven't tried yet – from genuine deep south American barbecue to a traditional Japanese Kaiseki meal – and I look forward to discovering it.
What's the stupidest/naughtiest thing you did as a child?
Probably releasing the hand-brake of a car at the top of our, rather steep, drive. Only the quick thinking and strength of my friend's dad stopped us from rolling into the road.
Do you have a nickname (childhood or current)?
Rather unimaginatively, “Rush” (or variations thereof) although more recently I've become known as ‘A-Rod’ thanks to ‘Te-bow’ and ‘Dhruv-ster’.
What's your favourite TV programme (other than MasterChef) and favourite band?
I love American dramas: The Sopranos and The West Wing, in particular. Music-wise it is hard to choose although, again, I tend to look across the Atlantic: The National, Band of Horses, The Gaslight Anthem. Arcade Fire and Nick Cave also remain firm favourites. Behind cooking, music is my other great passion.
What's been your proudest moment so far?
Getting to the final of MasterChef was pretty special – however, I’ve got plans to surpass it soon. Watch this space!
Who would you least like to be trapped in a lift with?
Someone with chronic flatulence and objectionable politics.
What's your favourite holiday destination and why?
I really enjoyed visiting Thailand last summer – the street food was incredible and almost endless in its variations – and my photographer girlfriend and I are planning a trip to Sweden this summer. My mother’s Swedish and my family holidayed there quite frequently when I was small. I have incredibly evocative food memories of eating wild raspberries with my Swedish grandparents and celebrating with huge, smorgasbord feasts of herring, hushållsost cheese on knackerbrod, crayfish, glazed hams, creamy Jansson's Temptation – even the names have my mouth watering! I’m really looking forward to exploring the cuisine properly and documenting our discoveries on my blog.
Tell us three more interesting things about yourself: two true, one a lie
- I've been writing my first novel for 7 years
- I never lie
- I have a degree in social and political sciences from Cambridge University
Stay tuned for more MasterChef interviews with Tim Kinnaird and Dhruv Baker ...
Relive the 2010 MasterChef Final
Special thanks to @Photolotte for the photos and @FoodUrchin, @Suzler and Popb*tch for questions