Tuesday, 17 November 2009

MasterChef LIVE!

Last Saturday I took the 'rents to MasterChef LIVE at London's Olympia.

First stop was an interview with Steve Groves, the sous-chef from Launceston Place, who was recently crowned this year's MasterChef: The Professionals champion.

Dad asked him if he had any tips for the Invention Test. Steve suggested making something tasty, remember to season and remember to taste, taste and taste again.

We then did a tour of the gallery. Amongst the numerous cheese, sausage, chilli sauce and oil vendors I did find some real gems:
  • Yum Yum Tree Fudge - unbelievably smooth fudge in a vast array of flavours. We bought 6 packets.
  • Kitchen Queen - Queen Hannah gives bespoke cooking lessons and is an inspiration to me.
  • The Ham and Cheese Co - I bought a hunk of absolutely AMAZING organic Parmigiano Reggiano
  • I also joined Slow Food UK the UK arm of the international campaign for good, clean and fair food. I'm looking forward to getting involved with some of the charity projects.
  • Unfortunately I missed out on osso bucco from The Real Veal Company: they'd sold out after less than two hours!
Having "done" the gallery there was just enough time to watch the Invention Test. This proved to be a daft idea as I started to get nervous, nearly an hour before I was due to report for my Test. It seemed very professional. I was staggered at the 5 deep crowd. Anyway, at least I knew I wouldn't be having pork to cook!
I'm not really sure what we did before me and my Dad reported for our Invention Test. I think there was a fair amount of wandering but I was concentrating on diverting myself from thinking about the task ahead to pay much attention.

3:15pm came round far too quickly. Dad and I reported to the Invention Test stage and were shown back stage. We donned our MasterChef aprons and waited while everyone else arrived. A hen party soon arrived en masse and provided a welcome distraction. Surely they'd be the focus of much on stage fun, wouldn't they? They were each wearing a customised apron with a picture of the hen, but they were forced to remove them. We were expecting 30 people to be taking part but there were only about 25 in the end.

About five minutes before the start we made our way onto the stage to choose a work station and get a sneaky peek at our ingredients:
  • Salmon
  • Raspberries
  • Paneer
  • Fennel
  • Spinach
  • Watercress
  • Chives
  • Crème fraîche
  • plus loads of "store cupboard" items like a potato, lemon, flour, sugar, pasta, salt, a few spices etc.
Now before reading any further, what would you have cooked?

We were ushered off backstage again and the tension really began to ramp up. I spent the next few minutes trying to control my nerves and work out what to cook. I presume with the paneer and spinach they were trying to tempt us down an Indian route. However, I was not drawn. The most obvious choice for me was to do the salmon with some kind of watercress/spinach side.

Before I knew it we were back on stage and the next 1800 seconds went in a flash:
  • I tasted the paneer and rejected it immediately as tasteless rubber that I didn't have time to experiment with
  • I was surprised by the blunt knives
  • I could get used to having a sous-chef to fetch things!
  • I didn't notice my Dad having long conversations with Andi Peters or Greg!
  • Andi came by me and apologised for not talking to me. I didn't mind too much but got him to promise an autograph for my sister.
Even though the time went so quickly, this video proves I was definitely there. Check me out under John Torode's armpit:
Although the time went in a flash, I did feel in control of my domain. The worst thing was not knowing where to find things. This is what I managed to produce:

Pan fried salmon (Greg appreciated the crispiness of my skin) with a chilli coating. I served it on crushed potato that was made with crème fraîche and watercress. As a side I did wilted spinach with shallots and crème fraîche. As I was putting the chives on as a garnish right at the end, one of the roving cameras cam e and took a close up of my plate. It took me an eternity to cross the chives my hands were shaking so much!

Our mentors were Mat Follas and Steven Wallis the 2009 and 2007 MasterChef champions respectively. They were wandering around the stations before whittling us down to three top contenders who would be judged by Greg and John. Unfortunately I didn't make the last three even though I though I'd made a handsome plate of food (two of the fi nal three were very similar to my dish).

Steven was kind enough to speak to me afterwards and apologise for not really having a chance to have a look at what I'd done. I think he was reasonably impressed and gave me the impression that I'd only just lost out. My sous-chef seemed quite surprised when he tasted the spinach and remarked "that's pretty tasty".

Once Greg and John had come out and done their usual shtick we were free to leave. Surprisingly no-one seemed to be eating their food. I took mine b ack stage and chowed down. Everyone seemed quite miffed that they hadn't had the same idea. And even if I do say so myself, it was a very tasty lunch!

I got Andi's autograph (I must say he really seemed incredibly nice) and photo with Stephen. Stephen seemed very positive and encouraged me to "keep cooking".
After that we went for lunch in the Restaurant Experience. Ma and Pa had Lobster soup with brandy and saffron cream from Launceston Place. Somehow they got Steve Groves's autograph. I'm beginning to worry that Mother is stalking the poor chap!

I had a wonderfully bitter soft chocolate cake from Theo Randall's at The Intercontinental which marked the end of a terrific day.

All in all, I had a great day at MasterChef Live. I'd happily do the Invention Test again. I've got a host of info to follow up and a whole heap of desire to dive even deeper into London's foodie scene. And I met Andi Peters!


  1. what fudge did you buy? m+d didn't say anything about it, esp if you bought 6 batches!

  2. Dear Boutros Bourtos Ghali
    Thank you so much for enjoying our fudge, we hope to see you again soon next year. Thanks also for taking the time to linking our website to yours, please keep checking for events near you in 2010.
    Muchas Muchas Gracias
    Yum Yum Tree Fudge x


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