It’s crunch time for three contestants, and I’m not talking about pork crackling. A pressure test will see the elimination of either Sashi, who cracked under pressure in the invention test; or Jess, who cracked under pressure in the invention test; or Chloe, who learned how to turn on the stove three days ago.
The opening titles are now an In Memoriam segment, making Katy Perry seem grotesquely inappropriate.
As the three losers are chauffeured to the kitchen in the familiar Masterchef hearses, Sashi reflects on how sad it will be to lose someone today, as they have become “family” and being eliminated from Masterchef means, as always, instant death.
“It’s a little strange to be welcome by the clapping of two people,” says Gary, referring to Ben and Khanh applauding smugly from the balcony. Yes, it is. Why weren’t the judges clapping as well? Sour bastards.
Matt introduces the guest chef, Ashley Palmer-Watts, who works with Heston Blumenthal and is therefore an expert on building a working perpetual motion machine out of Spam. The challenge that Ashley has set the losers today is sherried marron, which is, in a technical sense, marron that has been sherried. The losers taste the dish while Ashley brags about how wonderful it is. “I think I just had a stroke,” says Jess, but everyone just laughs at her instead of calling for urgent medical assistance.
The losers have four hours and forty-five minutes to make the sherried marron, meaning that Ben and Khanh have to stand on the balcony for all that time. Are they allowed phones up there? It must be hell.
The challenge begins, and Jess immediately starts underlining and circling words on the menu, in a futile attempt to exert control over her life. The recipe calls for sauteeing three kilos of button mushrooms. “That’s a lot of mushrooms,” says Khanh, wisely.
“My plan is to read the recipe carefully,” says Sashi, apparently ironically, because his first move is to screw up the first step of the recipe by not measuring his oil. From the balcony, Ben instructs Sashi to “read the recipe, understand it”. So this is what it’s come to: taking advice from Ben. Sashi reflects on how low he’s sunk.
Feeling pretty full of himself after his success in lecturing Sashi, Ben wanders down the balcony to bark orders at Chloe. Chloe is really happy with the smokiness of her mushrooms, but she can’t help feeling that there must be more to life. Seeking fulfilment as a woman, she puts her mushrooms in a plastic bag and drops them in some water. But will this be enough to satisfy her?
Ashley asks Sashi if he’s checked all the measurements, because his marinade is crap. “I need to stop doing mistakes,” Sashi says, cleverly identifying the major flaw in his overall strategy. Boldly, he shakes things up, setting fire to his recipe. This is effective in distracting everyone from his mushrooms, but has the unfortunate side-effect of burning half a page off his recipe. Which is a problem because the recipe is the thing that tells him what to do. Well, the recipe and Ben.
Jess has caramelised her button mushrooms for the consomme. Fascinating isn’t it. “Sashi’s got a great caramelisation on his mushrooms, compared to Chloe’s — they’re a little bit blonder,” says Ben, the pervert.
George talks to Ashley about cooking while Ashley tries as hard as he can to pretend he sees George as an equal.
Meanwhile Chloe has brewed up a big pot of dirty dishwater, which is the main ingredient in consomme. “This consomme needs to be super clear,” she says, smuggling her theories on racial purity into the show.
Ben is worried about Jess because there is nothing happening on her bench. “What’s going on with the pressure cookers?” he calls down. Jess checks her recipe and finds she left her mushroom stock in the pressure cooker for too long. Jess panics, while Ben strokes his beard with glee, delighting in the chaos he wreaks.
Khanh is also worried about Jess, because of her ruff. Or her raft. I don’t know, they keep saying this word and I don’t know what it means. It’s something you need for consomme. Possibly poisonous.
Ashley and Gary discuss Jess’s laughable slowness. Her pain is amusing to them.
Chloe is working on her marron. A marron is an animal a bit like a lobster, only more self-conscious. She plunges her marron into ice water, as the recipe calls for the marron to suffer as much as possible. Ben demands to know whether Chloe has removed the intestinal tract. Chloe tells him she has, in a tone suggestive of a woman who has had just about enough of Ben’s fucking bullshit.
Sashi is very relieved that his consomme has turned out good — it no longer has the appearance of a filthy swamp, and now looks like a smooth, delicious bowl of sump oil. He has also hit upon a brilliant plan for overcoming the handicap of his burnt recipe — ask Jess to read hers. Jess agrees to let Sashi read her recipe. Sucker.
Jess is also relieved that her consomme has turned out good: “It’s really brown and clear,” she says, paradoxically. It is now time to concentrate on her plating, which is very important for those who value superficial appearance over substance.
“Time is running out,” says Chloe, in a clever bit of foreshadowing. The texture of her marron tartare seems a little bit off, and we are forced to consider the very real possibility that a world-famous professional chef of decades’ experience might be better at making a dish he himself invented than an amateur cook who has heard of the dish for the first time several minutes before having to make it. Dark days.
Sashi is fretting over his marron, as he believes it has to be cooked perfectly, not having read the part of the recipe that says it only has to be cooked slightly better than Chloe’s. All three losers are frantically assembling their dishes, meticulously putting every tiny piece of meaninglessness into place. “THIRTY SECONDS!” George screams, determined to make Fetch happen.
Time is up. Sashi says it’s the most beautiful plate of food he’s put up in this competition. Beauty, though, is in the eye of the beholder, and frankly in aesthetic terms sherried marron is no quarter-pounder meal.
The judges sit down to talk crap for several hours before tasting. Then they taste. First they taste Chloe’s. Chloe is a little unsure about the tartare. “I really enjoyed watching you work,” says Ashley, who is a big fan of physical comedy.
“There’s some obvious problems here, isn’t there?” says George, scrutinising his wage bill. Moving on to Chloe’s dish, there are problems with that as well. The tartare is mushy, it’s lacking balance, and it tastes so bad that Matt is forced to shake his head in disgust.
Next is Jess, who you’ll remember suffered a stroke at the beginning of the episode, so she’s done well to plate up a dish at all. Ashley thinks her marron looks good, and there’s a good texture on the tartare, so she’s beaten Chloe before they even eat it. In fact, George and Gary find the tartare pants-moisteningly good. And Ashley likes the consomme, to his surprise as Jess was 20 minutes behind the others. I guess it proves the old aphorism: Ashley takes too long to cook things.
Sashi brings in his marron. “You’ve got your serious head on,” says Gary, in a deeply disturbing way. They taste. George explodes. Matt doesn’t shake his head in disgust, although he does squint into the distance as if trying to read an eye chart on a helicopter. It’s not quite perfect. Gary says it’s lacking refinement, but so is George and they let him go on TV.
In the end, Jess’s is great, and she can’t quite believe it when they tell her. She had naturally assumed that she sucked, and yet, somehow, she didn’t. Unless they’re pranking her…nope!
Sashi’s is only OK, but Chloe’s is even more only OK than Sashi’s, so CHLOE’S GOING HOME!
Chloe expresses her excitement for making her dream of starting a cooking school come true, in the hope that there are enough people who didn’t watch Masterchef this year to make up a viable student base.
Tune in tomorrow, when everyone cooks for poorly-defined reasons.
Chloe’s dream is over, but mine lives on with the help of you, if you contribute to my Patreon.