Your tea’s out
MasterChef: The Professionals BBC Two, every night forever
There must have been crazed activity in the kitchen after Wednesday’s penultimate episode (the ‘false final’ to aficionados) when four became three.
Matthew, champion-elect, pre-anointed child messiah and tweeters’ favourite, got binned. Bloody hell. He was upset, sure – but think of the producers. They had only a day to melt down the Matthew-shaped trophy and throne and re-embroider the robes for one of the other guys.
Matthew’s blunder was just slinging out braised turbot with cockles, clams and mussels, shallot purée, herb oil, summer vegetables, and a fish sauce, accompanied by sounds of the seaside (seagull noises coming from under the plate), like some tatty playground snack. He might as well have done Monster Munch and an apple in Tupperware with a drill track.
His inexplicable fish fumble was stamped out by Laurence, who hit the same notes but higher, with roast turbot, a dashi jelly wrapped around a crab salad, charred pickled cucumber and fresh sea herbs, a tempura oyster on oyster emulsion, and a lobster salad with fennel and orange – finished with a lobster consommé, and a seaweed aroma. Come on. You can’t beat that.
There was a seaside theme here, because the last four standing (and it’s a miracle they were – any normal people would have long since melted into a puddle of fat, digestive tract unremoved) had been asked to provide food inspired by a special memory.
This was a tickle towards the emotion orgy of the final day of the final (the ‘final final’ to aficionados), where the backstories take up half the show in a sweet and sour sauté of happy families and tragedy overcome.
But it was sedate this year. No amputees, orphans or dysfunctional homesteads, just one double-mum family. The slaying of Matthew proved the series highlight.
Joining Laurence in the final were Oli, the daredevil, who kept discombobulating the judges by mixing rhubarb in with this and that – not custard – and Dean, who looks a bit like one of those Lord Charles ventriloquist dummies.
Dean said coming runner-up had not been an option since the start, and introduced us to his fiancée. She said that she wasn’t ready to fall in love, but when she met him she saw something different, really special. Maybe she’s a ventriloquist.
Laurence was weaned on frogs’ legs, we heard, and Oli liked foraging in the woods. It was all very pleasant.
On they went, the three who weren’t Matthew, who had never wobbled until he fell down. Dean had wobbled, and now he was gunning into the home straight trying something he’d never done before. Spiced monkfish.
Oli, who said he wasn’t tempted to change his style for the final, stuck a can of beer up a duck’s arse and put it in the oven, which didn’t surprise Monica Galetti, but was probably a shock for the duck, and got on with some reindeer moss and mugwort.
Laurence started with scallop – a bit passé in MC terms, but perhaps it’s coming back, like desert boots and gin – and finished with mint Aero, surely a bit passé in any terms.
It was clear as soon as Oli plated up that he was out. His duck was overcooked and stone-cold sober. His hogweed shoots tasted like tea, said Gregg Wallace, as a compliment; Monica said it was like he’d been born in a forest, as a compliment. But he was toast.
Then Dean looked like the winner. No one said anything about overcooking, or tea, and Marcus Wareing told him he was one step away from his own kitchen. Virtually standing in the hallway.
But up came Laurence, who was even more perfect, proving that perfection is not an absolute state, scoring eleven. Marcus told him he was the next generation, which he is, for Marcus.
Laurence won, and it was all over. For now. Seven weeks of genuinely good telly, featuring genuinely talented people, including some women, who didn’t make the final, doing something genuinely good for no obvious material reward. With a shock winner, who’d nearly crashed out days before when his parfait didn’t set. It had everything. Everyone loved it.
What can be done to mitigate the threat of MasterChef, or remove it entirely? Is deterrence really an answer? It has achieved little so far. Should snipers be deployed? These are tough questions that cannot be properly addressed in this context. But one thing is certain. Without measures being taken, it will continue to grow – and will, eventually, become unstoppable.
Photograph: Potatoes by Pixabay/Pexels