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Away from the trade for a couple of months, Andy the apprentice has gone soft. “It’s quarter past six,” he cries with the sort of anguish more properly retained for funerals. It’s quarter past six and all Andy wants is a little more time in bed to dream his Food Dream™ and the promise of “a good old-fashioned Mystery Box”.
This, of course, is the crooked kingdom of MasterChef where any wish uttered is a wish ignored. So, thanks to lazy Andy the sleeping electrician, we will all now rise to a challenge that is neither old-fashioned nor good.
Actually, to call Sunday’s challenge “not good” is a bit like calling Lady Gaga’s outfits “not comfortable”. Which is to say, it is difficult to convey the horror without sound effects and vials of fake blood. Some of which will probably be used in the creation of an entrée by this evening’s chef celebre, Heston Blumenthal.
To those of us who enjoy eating actual food, Blumenthal’s name may be meaningless. If, on the other hand, you enjoy putting very, very expensive matter that is suggestive of food in your pie-hole, you will know all about this guy whose restaurant The Fat Duck is credited with starting the “important” trend of bacon in dessert.
Welcome to an invention test so cruel and so confusing, it makes seeing Prometheus a second time seem entirely palatable. Welcome to the enhanced interrogation of food where perfectly innocent vegetables and meats are turned into foams, airs, soils, dusts and, I don’t know, pterodactyl droppings for no just reason at all. Here, the food is held without questioning.
“Always a little change to keep your on your toes,” roared Gary; and I was almost sure I saw Heston look at his toes for their usefulness in a bacon-man-stew of the future.
“The odds are getting tougher,” said Julia the Fembot, acting on orders from the mainframe.
After much recapping of recaps and a whole lot of dialogue reminding us that we are “getting to the business end” where “food dreams” might perish on a road red with the blood of dead contestants, Heston revealed that which was hidden beneath twelve cloches. These were to be “six perfectly matched pairs of ingredients chosen by Heston”. But, only one of the pair will be revealed by Heston. And then, Heston will ask you to choose based on just one Heston ingredient. And then you will cook a wonderful Heston dish inspired by Heston with one more ingredient yet to be revealed by Heston.
Heston. Heston. Heston.
What is it about this maestro of the perfectly inedible “molecular gastronomy” that turns Matt, Gary and George into Three Little Maids From School? I mean, Heston has only to lift lids off plates of bacon and these three normally manly guys start doing the dance from the Mikado. I just couldn’t feel quite the delight everyone onscreen seemed to when Heston revealed bacon, Vegemite, cauliflower, beetroot, caviar and blue cheese.
This is, after all, some dude saying the words, “bacon, Vegemite and cauliflower”. But, apparently EVRYTHING Heston does, including saying the names of food, is quite iconoclastic.
When each contestant had chosen their dish, Heston Henstonfully revealed the Heston-approved second ingredient. Which, in all cases, was chocolate.
That’s just so Heston!
“It’s all about harnessing flavour,” says Matt. “It’s a bit of Heston magic.”
Many of the MasterChef contestants seemed to have caught Hestonia. Andrew said he was “excited” and Mindy seemed to want to drink Heston’s Kool-Aid and then cook it in a bag sous-vide. I haven’t seen this much fawning since Bambi.
This gastronomic hero-worship is funny but, it’s also a little troubling. One of the great previous strengths of MasterChef has been its unstinting commitment to actual food. That is to say, many of the things cooked on the show are inspirational to us home cooks and not simply “aspirational”. Sure, there’s the occasional Zumbo pastry horror but much of the time, the focus has been on fundamental techniques from which we all could learn.
Now, with its new tomfoolery, MasterChef is only encouraging Alice in her terrible whimsy. She seemed delighted to produce a dish that contained both “beetroot soil” and “beetroot dust”.
Perhaps we’ve all felt like a fish-out-of-water. Perhaps we’ve all felt like the only sane inmates of a lunatic asylum. Perhaps we’ve all had the same look of luckless desperation on our faces as Amina and Beau did.
Amina looked at Heston and his Hestonites and saw nothing but pretension.
A sane person with functional tastebuds, she was sickened by the thought of the flavour fate on which she had been thrown: chocolate and caviar. “The two can work amazingly together like angels singing,” said Matt before toddling off somewhere to chant Heston, Heston, Heston to the heavens.
“I’m bedazzled,” said Amina. This was a very nice way of saying that she’d rather be at home plastering everything in sequins because, darn, they’d probably taste better than caviar with chocolate. The hope ebbed out of Amina like the sobriety out of a Melburnian on Cup Day. In the end, her dish looked like a wilted drunk lady in a hat after ten hours in the Spring Carnival sun.
The other contestants set about producing unremarkable disasters save for Beau whose disaster was nothing short of magnificent. “I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m just whacking things in,” he said as he seemed to pile an entire delicatessen, five rats and a jar of Powerade into a blender in an act of culinary civil disobedience of which Ghandi might have approved.
The self-aware artificially intelligent chef-system known as Julia actually rose to the confounding brief. Her circuit-board gave us Vegemite macarons which George pronounced “inspired and familiar”. Familiar to whom? Inspired by what? Who commonly pairs vegemite with chocolate other than a person with a rare eating disorder?
During dish presentation, this sort of drivel continued. Wade’s Vegemite pastry was pronounced “edgy”. Deb’s beetroot cake was “gutsy and refined”. I don’t know what they said about the lazy electrician. Cubist. Cheeky with a hint of late Offal. So long as it sounded as though it came from the catalogue of a contemporary art show, any criticism was fine.
In the end, the winner was Kylie who seemed as though she had made something that didn’t taste of glass or sick.
Andrew, Amina and Beau were consigned to the Heston rubbish heap and will confront pastry pressure in the first elimination in a bumper week of cruelty.
As he bid his acolytes goodbye, Heston said of the exercise, “there was a winner and then there were losers”. This may have been the most sensible thing uttered all evening.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.