MasterChef roundup: The final three do battle
After last week’s semi-finals saw Saira sent home, this week’s triple-decker final has really seen Natalie, Dale and Larkin put through their paces.
On Tuesday, the final three jetted off to Italy, where they were tutored in the art of simple Italian food by the formidable Mama Agata. She cooked three of her signature dishes and tasked the finalists with recreating one each. Larkin cooked her stuffed squid, Dale a tomato and pepper papardelle and Natalie a gnocchi dish. It was some of the simplest food that’s ever graced the MasterChef stage, and it looked like some of the tastiest, too. Mama Agata, translated by her daughter, appeared suitably impressed by the amateurs’ efforts.
At Enoteca Pinchiorri a restaurant that has held three Michelin stars for a decade, the finalists were set a fine dining challenge. Larkin was tasked with the double-stuffed ravioli, and while he didn’t fail awfully, there was a lot of room for improvement. Natalie, meanwhile, excelled with the spit-roasted suckling pig. Dale impressed similarly with his reproduction of the restaurant’s amazing coconut dessert.
They then had to cook for some arty types, a round that saw Natalie and Dale do well enough (with Natalie still top) while Larkin served up that mortal MasterChef sin, underdone fondant potatoes.
Wednesday’s show saw the finalists tackle an invention test for Michael Caines. Larkin and Dale were apprehensive, having been utterly destroyed by Marcus Wareing in a previous invention test round, but at least they didn’t fall apart quite so spectacularly. Dale’s rack of lamb was tasty enough but overcooked, while Larkin’s fish stew was tasty enough but judged disjointed and clumsy. Natalie impressed all round with her grouse dish and we were beginning to see a pattern…
The finalists were then tutored by Simon Rogan, the head chef of L’Enclume (2 Michelin star) in some seriously complex dishes. Dale tackled the starter, a salad of some description, whose component parts we totally forgot once we realised it was topped with tiny fennel meringues. Meringues on a salad! Blimey. Natalie was tasked with the main course, a crispy duck breast that demanded she remove the skin and then, er, re-attach it. Dale was the dessert man again, with a rhubarb dish topped with the most delicate sugar tuilles.
They served their dishes up to four professional chefs and, unsurprisingly, Natalie impressed, Dale got good feedback and Larkin fell apart somewhat before serving up a dish that was serviceable, but he knew he could have done better.
In the grand final, the finalists were to serve one delicious three-course dinner to John and Gregg. It’s nice that, no matter how bombastic and complicated other rounds are, we get to finish on a focussed, quite simple challenge.
After inflating a plucked duck with a bike pump, Larkin served up a Chinese feast, with a mixed starter, a triple meat roast and a deconstructed chocolate mojito, which was well-received, and seemed to go some way towards redeeming him from his earlier mishaps. Dale went for fine dining, with a red mullet ballotine that clearly impressed John and Gregg, and a fruit salad dessert that, though simple, looked utterly mouth-watering. They both received excellent feedback from the judges, as is pretty standard for a finale: they’ve spent three hours making three amazing courses, so it’s unusual to get bad feedback at this stage.
Then came Natalie, with a menu as complex as it was covetable. She started off with a fennel and lobster tail dish, followed by a frankly spectacular posh roast dinner of roast pork three ways, and finished off with a dessert of panna cotta and hazelnut biscuits. If Larkin and Dale received glowing praise, Natalie’s was neon-lit. The judges enthused over almost every element of her final menu, and it was clear to see that John was actually pretty proud of how far she has improved and how much she has learned.
It was no surprise when Natalie was crowned the winner of Masterchef 2013- her talent and passion have been clear to see since her first round (when we marked her out as one to watch), and the judges clearly thought her food was spectacular. She has won the hearts of pretty much the entire audience, and frankly we were ecstatic when she got to lift that trophy. We can’t wait to see what she does with her newfound culinary fame.
Gregg’s best Grand Final Gregg-isms:
“I can’t wait to get my lips and spoon around dales dessert.”
“There is sweetness and Christmas in the parsnip.”
“It is like some otherworldly beautiful cheese cake.”Tagged in: masterchef
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