Masterchef Recap: WTF With Marked Marron

Publicity claims Gordon Week is “off to a flying start”, but actually it was off to a terrible start, as on the first night literally nobody was forced to the brink of a nervous breakdown by his persistent verbal abuse. Hopefully tonight will see someone truly broken, as last night’s three losers attempt to stave off the elimination they so richly deserve.

I still think there needs to be some kind of inquiry into the fact that Michelle is doing nothing in the opening titles. Nothing at all. Everyone else is at least running with a basket of herbs. Michelle is just standing there grinning. Was she so inept at every basic kitchen task that they had to give up and just have her stay immobile?

Anyway here we are and Chloe is missing her son’s first day at school. She feels homesick and misses her children terribly, making her all the more determined to stay away from them for as long as possible. Ben counters the first-day-at-school gambit by saying that last year he was sick and it made him appreciate not being sick, but you know that Chloe has won this round of BackStory Battle. Michelle is in last place, though, with a rather feeble “I want to do my family proud”. It’s like she doesn’t even want to be there.

In they come, and up on the balcony everyone cheers and claps and rejoices in the fact that they are not losers like the idiots down on the floor. Gordon is in his whites, which can only mean one thing: cricket.

Matt claims today’s pressure test is “a jumbo-sized bottle of pressure”. He doesn’t specify whether the bottle is the size of a passenger aeroplane, or the size of a fully-grown elephant. Seems a pretty important distinction if you ask me.

Matt then tells the losers that they will have to “cook like a chef”, which is very unfair because they’ve already shown that this is well beyond them. Specifically, they will have to cook like Gordon — he will cook a dish, and they must cook the same dish by keeping up with him as he does so. Their time will end ten seconds after Gordon finishes. It is a great challenge, designed to cause maximum humiliation to the incompetent.

All three losers immediately start pondering the terrifying prospect of a raviolo such as they have never seen before. A raviolo like you’d see in a horror movie about a mutant raviolo escaping a government lab and destroying cities in its attempts to find a mate.

And they’re off! Gordon turns his stove on. Already the contestants are struggling. He tastes his stock. They taste their stock. He asks what the stock needs. They mumble “salt”. He demands they mumble louder. They mumble “SALT”. Gordon gets out his mixer. He drops a banging new floorfiller in time for summer.

So the cooking goes very fast because Gordon Ramsay is a good cook, so it’s pretty hard to keep up with. Suffice to say he is telling them to do a lot of things, and they are sort of doing them, but not quite properly. Michelle knows she can nail pasta because she loves making pasta with her kids. This is a non sequitur: kids are stupid and have no discernment, so making pasta with your kids is no evidence that you will be able to make pasta well for real people.

Then Michelle cuts herself, having apparently lost all hope. Up on the balcony, George looks incredibly pissed off, like she did it just to spite him. And maybe she did. I hope she did. If George is really upset by people cutting themselves, I’m all for it. Gordon asks Michelle if she’s all right. Michelle is far from all right. A medic brings her a blue bandaid while she falls further and further behind. She has also bled into the pasta dough, meaning eating it would technically be cannibalism. She will have to make the dough again. Gordon recaps the procedure for her, which is unfair to the others who were smart enough to not cut themselves.

Meanwhile Gordon is putting his marron in the pot. Marron is some kind of revolting ocean monster that clearly should not be eaten: that’s what makes it fine dining. He then begins making something called “miraquois”, which I don’t know how to spell. “How much fennel?” asks Ben like some kind of dullard. “It’s gotta be perfect,” says Ben, but he is wrong: it only has to be better than Michelle’s awful mess.

“Don’t relax,” calls George, but who the hell could relax with George Calombaris watching you? You want to stay on guard at all times.

“Keep the stock boiling,” says Gordon, in reference to some kind of food thing or whatever I guess. He rips the tail off his marron, out of pure malice. “I know what I’m doing at this point,” says Ben, a sentence that has never been true throughout his entire life. “Let that tail slide out of the shell,” says Gordon, which is either a cooking instruction or sexual harassment.

“I’m still a few steps behind,” says Michelle, continuing her hilarious, Lucille Ball-esque catchup routine. On the balcony the people who weren’t crap last night start clapping at irregular intervals for no apparent reason. Meanwhile Chloe missed something and doesn’t know what to do with her shells. George shouts instructions at her, but refuses to pay her minimum wage.

Chloe is bent intently over her marron tails, attempting to de-shell them, something she has no idea how to do. Meanwhile everyone else is already in the pub laughing at her.

Ben and Michelle are pouring wine all over everything in the hope that the fumes will help them forget. Chloe is still fucking around with her tails. Ben tries to help her, but in doing so he has neglected to take his claws out. Gordon does not tell him to open his fucking ears, demonstrating that this is not an authentic Gordon Ramsay experience.

Michelle has caught up, proving that this is a fairly easy task requiring no great skill or urgency. Chloe, having fallen behind, tries to make up time by burning the building down. Gordon tells the losers to season. Chloe decides it would be a good idea to not season. Four-dimensional chess etc.

Gordon tells them to remove the “shit-sac”. “You know what the shit-sac is, right?” he demands. Up on the balcony, Matt looks extremely disturbed by this rough sailor’s talk.

It is time to fillet a fish, the most pointless part of the chef’s job. You can get fish fillets at the supermarket. Waste of time. “Don’t piss about with pinbones,” Gordon says, quoting the title of his best-selling children’s book.

It is time to make the filling for the ravioli. “Michelle, watch your fingers on the blade,” says Gordon, slightly bitchily. “Act like a chef now!” he commands, in the day’s most futile command. Then I think he says you have to “chop the gerbil”, but that can’t be right can it? Gerbil isn’t seafood. I guess you could throw a gerbil in a pond, then take it out and eat it?

Anyway they all stuff a bunch of stuff in with a bunch of other stuff. Ben knows his is inadequate. Gary urges him to try harder. Ben doesn’t see the point. He yearns only for oblivion.

Now everyone needs to reduce their bisque, in much the same way as this exercise has reduced their humanity. Then, moving on to the dough and the making of the pasta. “You can’t be too thin because otherwise it’ll start to tear,” says Michelle, and she knows what she’s talking about because she used to be a model.

As the losers roll and pull and cut and fill their pasta, one thing becomes clear: nobody in this kitchen really knows when to use “ravioli” and when to use “raviolo”. Gordon demonstrates the correct method: “Pasta so thin you can see the marron,” he says. I disagree with him on this — seeing marron is never an enjoyable experience.

“This is service time, you three!” Gary yells, as if someone asked him to shove his big buttery oar in at any time. Meanwhile Gordon continues to instruct on how to cook the ravioli, and Gary keeps shouting, “Come on!” pointlessly, and Ben says raviolo when he means ravioli. Again, the great wheel turns.

Gordon tells the losers to get their spinach in. “Come on, spinach in!” yells Gary the weaselly fanboy. “Where are your plates?” asks George, who no longer has any idea where or when he is.

It is almost over. Gordon tells the losers to put their claws in the water. Michelle realises she never took her claws out of their shells. It’s ironic, because earlier she said she wanted to do her family proud, but now she has made them deeply ashamed of her.

Meanwhile Ben can’t find his claws. Everyone is yelling at him that they’re next to his plate, but he long ago blocked out the balcony shouters because they are far too annoying to listen to. In the nick of time he locates the thing that was right in front of him the whole time, and finally this whole nightmare is over.

OR IS IT?

No. It is not. There is still tasting and judging. Everyone looks extremely depressed. Including me.

Chloe is worried about many elements of her dish. “But in the end, how many people can say they’ve cooked with Gordon Ramsay?” she asks. The answer to this is, judged on the last 20 years of television history: lots and lots. Don’t think you’re so fucking special, Chloe.

The judges eat Gordon’s dish and it is agreed that, even before the contestants’ dishes have been tasted, Gordon’s is much better than the contestants’ could possibly be.

Ben enters to serve his raviolo, to the tunes of an instrumental piece that sounds remarkably like The Sound Of Silence. Gordon asks him why he risked destroying his own chances to help Chloe. Ben says he will always help a teammate in need. Gordon wants to tell him he’s a fucking donkey, but because he’s under strict orders to be completely unlike himself, he says that this is “the mark of a great chef”, when actually it’s the mark of a loser.

The judges eat Ben’s dish. It’s fine. Gordon says his sauce “kicks a punch”, which is confusing, but apparently that’s what this dish should be. Gary says he wants more, but Gary says that about everything.

Chloe comes in and starts crying about missing her son’s first day of school. Gordon tells her he’s missed pretty much everything in his kids’ lives and if she wants to be a chef she has to accept that she will be a terrible mother. Encouraged by this brutal ideology, Chloe leaves and the judges eat her ugly food.

Gordon says her dish looks awful but the pasta looks good. “For me it’s all about thickness,” he opines, and indeed a lot of women I’ve spoken to say the same. Chloe’s dish is fine. Probably less fine than Ben’s. Not enough seasoning. To think she missed her son’s first day of school for this disappointment. Dreadful.

In comes Michelle, and everyone congratulates her on overcoming her many obvious shortcomings to put something of some description on a plate. “This is a fraction of what I’m capable of,” she says, indicating that she is already assuming her dish is shit and trying to convince them that she’s worth keeping anyway. But as she says, this shit dish is a fraction of what she’s capable of: she’s actually capable of many, many shit dishes.

As the judges poke around in Michelle’s dish, the dread words are spoken: “Is that raw?” If Gordon were allowed his head, he would bellow, “THIS IS FUCKING RAW” and bring Michelle back in and make her apologise to celebrity diner Michelle Trachtenberg. But this is Masterchef and Gordon is allowed only to rub his forehead and look sad. “You can’t rush a ravioli,” says Gordon, but what he means is, “Jesus fucking wept”.

The three losers come back in. “Well done,” says Gordon, not meaning it. “There’s never a good day to leave the Masterchef kitchen,” says Matt, but explains that today is sort of a good day, by which he means Michelle is going home. It’s a surprisingly speedy execution, nobody wanting to dwell on how terrible Michelle’s pasta was.

“Oh Michelle,” says Gary, unhelpfully. “Oh Michelle,” says George, even less helpfully. “You’ve been a shining light,” George continues, lying. He compliments her on “going out of your comfort zone”, which presumably means “cooking in public even though you’re no good at it”. Michelle pauses briefly to force Gordon to hug her against his will, and then leaves.

We are informed that post-Masterchef, Michelle has launched “Fast ’n’ Fancy” on her website, an intriguing bit of information that appears to have no meaning whatsoever.

Tune in tomorrow, when someone nobody has ever heard of enters the kitchen and acts like some kind of celebrity.

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