For someone who ignored MasterChef for the first 42 or so eliminations, I’ve talked about it a lot in the past week. We’re down to the final eight of which there seems to be two main contenders, two possibilities, and four who can’t seem to work out how they got there. Neither can I. Except that everyone on this series cooks too well.
For a nation of people who, according to various media outlets over the past five to ten years, have forgotten how to cook, these contestants are tempering chocolate and making elaborate pastries with the best of them. Julie’s homemade chicken soup wouldn’t get a look-in this series – it would be deconstructed, reconstructed, foamed and flambed with one of those little blowtorches before being garnished with an ice statue and a lemongrass twist.
I was watching the episode tonight where the contestants attempted to re-create Heston Blumenthal’s Snail Porridge (pictured) and Meat Fruits. I know it’s not fashionable of me, but all I could think was ‘ugh’. The chocolate candle with the salted caramel inside – big yes. The meat parfait enclosed, mandarin-like, in mandarin jelly, not so much. When one of the contestants chortled with glee about having Heston’s cookbook at home, I could only gaze in awe. Imagine attempting something like that for next Saturday’s dinner party. I’d have to start, um, let’s see… last June.
It was the second time I’d seen Heston and his handsome spectacles in less than a week. Last Thursday he appeared in a documentary about Tetsuya, waxing lyrical about ‘Tets’s’ genius with food. Here, Heston and I are in complete accord. I enjoyed one of the most memorable meals of my life at Tetsuya’s eponymous Sydney restaurant, in the company of good friends. A lunch that lasted about, ooh, five hours and then continued long after we’d left the restaurant.
On Saturday night, I shared a steak in a local pub with two of the friends from that lunch, and we reminisced about the joy of it all. A lunch that we enjoyed about seven years ago. That’s one hell of a meal.
I agree that eating Heston’s Sound of the Sea, complete with iPod in a seashell so that you can listen to the ocean as you eat, would be memorable. It’s memorable just to watch. And I know that he’s taking food to a whole new level. But it all just seems so tricky. And so fiddly. And so damn hard.
The other British chef we’ve seen in the first two nights of MasterChef’s London experience is Jamie Oliver. The Naked Chef. Mr Slap-a-bit-of-oil-and-pepper-on-it-and-lovely-jubbly. The opposite end of the spectrum.
The opposite end of the spectrum.
It’s towards this end of the spectrum that I fall. The end where the meat and the fruit are not blended into a smoothie and then moulded like play dough. The end where dishes such as ‘Sausage Hotpot’ are served and there is no irony involved. The end where the food is not dressed up to the nines, but, rather, rocking a smart casual look.
I don't think MasterChef will be calling any time soon.