MasterChef: The Professionals
Friday, August 29, 2008 by Graham Kibble-White
“They’ve got to really kick it up a gear!”
Yes, Gregg Wallace is unleashing the hyperbole again, but John Torode’s no longer shouting back. That’s because in this latest off-shoot of the MasterChef hydra (which is apparently soon to sprout a ready-meals franchise) he’s been left behind in his Smithfield restaurant, while a slightly discomfited Michel Roux Jr steps in to hawk it over the working cooks. And you can’t deny Michel’s more subdued, yet still stentorian approach, sprinkles a welcome new flavour over the mix.
Stalking tonight’s quarter-finalist in the kitchen, he continues Torode’s habit of pulling faces and asking pertinent questions. He’s impressively equipped to do so. The man has held “two Michelin stars since 1991″ (as Gregg has informed the daily intake across this week), and has a laser-like precision when it comes to food criticism. Yesterday he clocked – on sight – one hopeful’s Omelette aux Fine Herbs had been knocked together with a whisk rather than a fork. And he brings a new portent to the word “good” (As in, “the flavours are good”), while becoming positively apocalyptic when tasting Adrian’s crab tortellini: “For me, this is just not on!”.
Gregg, meanwhile, has acquired a sense of seniority in terms of presenting duties (Michel is “the gentleman standing beside me”), but is clearly the junior partner when it comes to dishing out opinion. Nevertheless, our hero is having a brilliant time. “He’s only practiced this dish once, and he was 40 minutes over!” roars the fruit and veg guru in reference to poor old Adrian. “What was he thinking?!”.
To decide which of tonight’s four are on the next rung of their ambition to “climb to the top of their profession and become an inspiration to a generation”, the critics are once again wheeled in to MasterChef HQ. They always make for a satisfying episode, remaining stoically poker faced… until news arrives their umpteenth course is to be five minutes late. At this point a round of pouts breaks out around the table. When Murray then serves up raw scallops, it’s pretty much an international incident. Nonetheless, he makes it through to – er – the finals (I thought tonight was the quarter-finals?), despite his inadvertent sushi dish and transforming a cut of beef into something resembling a birthday cake.
Joining him is Dan, whose addition of brie to a mushroom risotto confounds and then delights Michel. These are punch-the-air moments,
If MasterChef: The Professionals has one drawback – and there is just one – it’s that it has to work especially hard to build up interest in the cooks. While the vanilla-flavoured version of the show tags contestants with epithets such as “busy mum” or “experimental home cook”, and the Celebrity edition can rely on an element of recognition, it’s hard to work up much enthusiasm for a room full of identically clad young blokes, all from similar backgrounds, all sporting impressive knife sets and all indoctrinated in a heads-down kitchen culture. In fact, it’s hard to tell them apart.
But at the end of week one, I guess I’m satisfied I know who Murray and Dan are. And when it comes to the actual cooking on the show – and the whole of the MasterChef canon thus far – cooking really doesn’t get better than this. That’s what it boils down to.
So it’s compliments to the chefs for MasterChef: The Professionals. I find it good.