Having survived the first day by the clever strategy of there not being an elimination round at the end of it all, the contestants returned for day 2. And the programme makers belatedly acknowledged that maybe ten chefs is too many by splitting the group down the middle, stretching the episode length to an hour and giving us just five white clad young hopefuls to differentiate between. Menacing Monica and Grinning Greg were still at the helm judging wise.
Well, I say Menacing Monica. Things were about to change...
But before we found out how we had to be introduced to the first day's task, otherwise known as the skills test. The test in question was making a hollandaise sauce plus two other sauces which derived from it. Unfortunately I have forgotten the names of these secondary sauces (hollandaise is the primary sauce as all good historians know) so for arguments sake let's call them belgiumaise (with orange) and luxembourgaise (with cream). Any further sauces would not be permitted as I've run out of low countries. These would be served with asparagus.
Lanky Alan was first up. He set to a-whisking and the moment he did so a shocking change came over Monica. Remember she had spent the Day One channelling Michael Corleone in Godfather Part 2. And then, out of nowhere, she developed a smorgasbord of comedy facial expressions (Come up with a better collective noun for comedy facial expressions which hint at a food theme, if you dare). Greg whose whole schtick is comedy facial expressions looked like he'd found a soul mate. Even that didn't stop Monica. It took the viewer aback for a moment. But in TV terms it made sense. What the viewer was about to see was five people doing ten minutes of whisking. Even editing down to the Whisk of the Day highlights, like, for example, someone dropping a spoon, was not going to keep the fickle viewer's fingers from their remote.
Therefore the only fallback position the director had to maintain audience share was to intersperse the whole whisking thing with cutaways of Monica and Greg who had morphed into pantomime dames. Their mouths fell open, their brows leapt up and their eyes bulged. Watching their expressions grow increasingly horrified, the viewer could justifiably have expected the competing cooks to have given up the competition all together and just decided to throw eggs at Michel Roux Jr instead.
It was therefore a bit of a disappointment to see that they had all in fact served up with the asparagus some kind of attempt at a hollandaise which looked more or less like one. Monica told Lanky Alan he had got lucky and even praised Tatted Nat. Dour Scottish Michael was not so fortunate. He had, unwisely, served his vegetable upstanding giving it an unappealing phallic effect and bringing a whole new meaning to the concept of woody asparagus. However, it was his palate rather than his presentation which attracted Monica's ire. Dour Scottish Michael took one sour step towards the exit. Fortunately for Michael, Rickard with the Mohican saved him by forgetting to boil his asparagus until there was only one minute to go. There's al dente and then there's mal dente. And so for this episode of Masterchef at least, it was indeed the Last of the Mohicans.
Out went Monica and Greg and in strutted the main event Michel Roux Jr, two michelin stars, one glittering reputation and absolutely no house wines for under a tenner. He set the chefs the task of preparing a classic dish which to those of us with neither michelin star, nor glittering reputation but the compensation of a half drunk bottle of cheap red looked like posh jelly and custard. I was disappointed they didn't have to play pass the parcel before serving it.
The classic dish was followed by the return of Greg (though sadly not Monica whose rarely used facial muscles were still recovering) and the chefs were allowed to prepare their own signature dish before four were reduced down to three.
Tatted Nat had got herself in trouble during the classic test by not being able to make custard. She tried to rescue the situation by telling Michel and Greg during the getting to know you bit that “Cooking was all about passion!” I'm always a bit wary of people who tell me that something is “All about passion” because I think it is an impressive sounding way of saying “I'm doing things pretty badly but I'm putting my heart and soul into doing them badly so cut me some slack.”
Sadly for Tatted Nat, Lanky Alan and Bland Thomas were less about passion and more about taste and presentation. If she was going to survive she was going to have to rely on Dour Scottish Michael screwing up. Dour Scottish Michael was certainly in the business of giving her some hope. Having served under-cooked chicken yesterday, he made a sour hollandaise and was then a bit stingy with his custard. All that had got him this far was one good biscuit. As the final judgment approached he was hanging by a hobnob.
It came down to the two of them. Dour Scottish Michael seemed so doom-laden as the decision approached the viewer felt the production team would have been well-advised to remove all sharp implements. But it would have proved an unnecessary precaution. Tatted Nat's passion couldn't cover for a pasty which looked like it had recently been bombed by a bunker buster and a ballatine which tasted more like baler twine. So it was a one way ticket to Palookaville for Nat. Well, in fact it was a one way ticket back to a gastropub in Halifax. Hands up those who'd prefer Palookaville! Have you been to Halifax?