Monday, 5 November 2012

New Series Of MasterChef, The Professionals (or We're All Eating Ready Meals And Watching Food Porn)

M. For MasterChef. No P for Professionals. Who took the P?
"On the hunt for the next culinary superstar - a professional with the talent to cut it in the world's top kitchens."  So says the opening voiceover for this new series of MasterChef The Professionals.  I still hanker for India "I am about to orgasm" Fisher doing the voiceover, but it's not her, it's Sean Pertwee (son of Jon "Worzel Gummidge" Pertwee - I wonder if Sean can swap his heads over?) trying to be her.  Which is peculiar and disconcerting.  We've got our old favourite angry boiled potato Gregg "Greggggg" Wallace though.  But, as usual on Professionals, no John Torode - so no foghorn competitions in the "COOKING DOESN'T GET TOUGHER THAN THIS" stakes.  Which I'll miss, if I'm honest.

First, the soundbite smuggery round-up where they all do the "I will win" shouting much-beloved by programmes such as The Apprentice and X Factor.  It's basically the part where the programme can edit in any bit of a particularly boastful candidate which will embarrass them later on in the show when they cook an upside-down cake the right way up or something (horrors!).  For this first episode, where we don't know the contestants, they just go for out-and-out epic statement braying, such as, "Cooking is my life." No, son, eating is your life. If you just cook and don't eat, you won't get very far. Think on.

As ever, Professional MasterChef is about finding some "serious, serious talent". They want to discover the next "cookery genius".  It's cooking, folks, not brain surgery.  But, anyway, let's suspend our disbelief that anyone gets this earnest about putting ingredients together and applying heat to some of them in different ways and watch them sweat and pant and stress and chop things and drop things and swear under their breaths and generally splice beetroot with fudge sauce and bodge blackcurrants into mackerel.

Unlike A-levels, every year, this competition apparently gets harder, says Monica Galetti (who I like to think of as "not-Michel").

So, what are the would-be chefs doing?  Their invention challenge sees them use ingredients such as gurnard, apples and vanilla to make - well, apple and vanilla gurnard, I guess (there's a reason I'm blogging this, not competing).  Other ingredients include squid, basil, chillies and raisins.  They definitely all go together - I do hope they each use everything #rubshands

The first contestant, James, is a personal chef.  He hunts it, shoots it, fishes it and cooks it. Let's hope he doesn't fuck it (up) too.  He can pluck a pigeon, he can butcher an animal, he wants to take it all the way.  I hope he's not talking about the pigeon still #shudder

The next contestant is Danish-born Fife-dweller Morten. Calm down, ladies, he's not Mr Harket.  And, yes, he probably has had that comparison in the past.  He says, "If you just play safe, you won't go anywhere."  Can you tell what it is yet?  #wobbleboard  Hmm, it's creamed vanilla apples with fish.  Er, yum?

He's making a bowl of green stuff (I suspect basil plays a part in this - I am good at this ingredient Sherlocking - oh, and they said "basil" too and I listened. It's chilli and basil salsa).  And potato gnocchi.  But no raisins.  Why no raisins, Morten?  What did raisins do to you?  Why you eschew the raisins?!

Waitress turned chef and insurance accounts girl Anna is desperate to spend more time in the kitchen. I don't think this is sexist though.  She's making custard (because she's heard it's Greggggg's favourite - the giant jam roly-poly that he is), stacking up raising and apples in a big ol' pudding and will spin some sugar, if there's time, a la James Martin.

The next chap, Matt, looks like a Pillsbury Doughboy.  He's from a really small village in Wales too.  He's the only Doughboy in the village, I believe.  He's making a chilli basil rosti, which we see sizzling oilily (that should be a word) in a big greasy pan several times.  And searing the fish.  Gregg asks him "how on the edge is your food?" to which the obvious reply is, "It's in the middle, Gregg, it falls off the plates otherwise, you fool!".  But Matt says he's done lettuce milkshake before, which sounds revolting, frankly - so maybe that was more the answer Gregggg was looking for (another reason I'm not in this competition - too flippant.  And flippant's only good for pancakes.  Ba-doom-tss).

Rob's dad's a chef, so cooking's in his blood (let's hope it isn't the greasy rosti sort of Doughboy Matt, or he's headed for a coronary before the end of the episode).  He wants to be the best at cooking. Good job he's in a cooking competition, really.  He's a sous chef and runs the kitchen (is that how it works, hierarchy-wise? I'm not convinced...).

Long-necked 20yo Andy is creative with flavours as evinced by his basil beurre blanc with vanilla and fish with apple puree and Gregggg and not-Michel aren't sure it'll work.

Karl is a traditional chef.  He knows what works.  He wants to win (strange, don't think any of the others does).  He's head chef in a pub - he does burgers, fish and chips and sausage and mash - proper haute cuisine then.  He's making chilli squid with apples and sultanas (they're raisins, Karl, you plum!).  Squid crumble?  Again, er, yum?

Craig has done a couple of local competitions and come runner-up twice.  He doesn't say whether they were cookery competitions or not #mindboggles  He's had classic cookery chef training.  He, rather ambitiously, wants to get past the first round.  But you can tell he thinks he's better than that.  He's making green mash, a guaranteed winner with the judges.

Stefani makes imaginative food.  She works in a posh cafe in a cookery school as head chef (head, not sous - there's a definite difference there - anyone?).  She's thinking about making a shaved apple salad (er, hang on, I don't want to eat hairy apples - who would?!).

Mark is completely self-taught, so he's the underdog, according to him, where cookery skills are concerned - but he's head chef in his own restaurant, having been a joiner till three years ago.  He's making a caramelised onion and basil tart.  If he makes great pastry today, he may win (if only chilli vanilli had realised this was the way forward!).

How did they do?

Matt the Doughboy has made a too-salty basil leaf (like the Indian Ocean, Greggggg says) with an enormous stodgy rosti.  I don't fancy him much (or his chances in this competition, fnar).

Morten has made gnocchi and vanilla and apple and gurnard and chilli basil salsa.  Everything good except the chilli is too hot for the apple and vanilla.  His questionable palate is a quandary for Gregggg and not-Michel.

Anna's made a pudding and did find time to spin sugar.  Hurrah!  And it's a very well-done plate.  Greggggg is delighted to have a nice pud (you wouldn't know it to look at him, would you?).  She had him hooked on the custard (frankly, if you can hook someone on your custard, it's probably got too thick a skin, don't you think?).  Anna, giggling, is happy to have had smiles from the judges.

Rob's pan-fried gurnard is served with crispy squid and apple salad with basil oil.  Greggggg doesn't like the salad.  He calls it "unpleasant".  Apple juice spilling into oil and lemon juice.  Monica says it's all too sharp.  The squid and the gurnard are well cooked, but - unpleasant isn't the best way to begin a competition, is it?

Andy has also pan-fried his gurnard.  Well, of course he has.  What else do we fry things in?  Shoes?  Top hats?  For heaven's sake!  His sauce is like a pudding that doesn't go with fish.  And pudding doesn't go with fish, ever. Andy says he feels he's let himself down a bit today.  Well, yes, yes, you have.  AND US, ANDY!  Think on, again, Mr Cooking Is My Life.

James's fish and squid are cooked perfectly.  Not-Michel loves it - it's the kind of plate she has been waiting to see (round, white, flattish, you know).  Greggggg also has no criticism.  He uses the word "punter" to describe himself, just so that we know he still has the common touch and is still a greengrocer at heart (we hadn't forgotten, Gregg - the last "g" in your name reminds us every time - GregGreengrocer. See?).

Karl has made wonderful potatoes, his fish is cooked and seasoned wonderfully.  The squid salad is a letdown for Monica, she says it tastes of nothing.  Tsk.  But Gregggg really likes the salad, but not with hot fish and potatoes in the middle.  Like finding a surprise steaming turd in the middle of sorbet, from his face.

Craig has made a LOT of mash - even Gregggg doesn't like that much mash.  And it's basil-green too - er, nice?  The fish is cooked well (he fried it in a cat litter tray. Just kidding, he used a pan - the traditionalist), but the vanilla beurre blanc ruins the dish.  It's positively seething with black dots of vanilla, like bedbugs in a cheap motel.

Stefani has lyonnaise-style potatoes and a load of old other stuff including fish, with a lemon dressing.  But her fish is overcooked and she's got a clash of styles on her plate.  Fgs, will these people never learn (mind you, if they keep it simple, they get criticised for not being adventurous enough - it's a balance, guys, remember that!).

Mark has made a caramelised onion, chilli and basil tart with a chilli and basil vinaigrette.  Monica loves it.  Greggg likes tarts (so I've heard).  Yep, soft, slippery onions too - mmm, slippery onions, Greggg.  Your favourite!

And that's the end of round one.  Gregggg says there were some exciting dishes there.  No winners or losers today though - there's another instalment tomorrow.  So that's the end of the programme.  Over far too quickly - should've been an hour!

Off they jolly well go, till tomorrow...

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