Friday, 27 November 2009

MasterChef Live 2009 article published!

The title says it all really doesn't it. The MasterChef Live 2009 review I posted on here on the 14th has been printed in a London newspaper. I went to the event courtesy of They haven't told me which paper it's in yet exciting! See it here:

Saturday, 14 November 2009

MasterChef Live- the review

MasterChef Live- the review

Black garlic, flowering tea and how Masterchef Live can “change your life”.

Over the weekend of 13th-15th November the awe inspiring MasterChef Live took place at the iconic venue of London’s Olympia. With the likes of past MasterChef winners, celebrity chefs, Gregg (the pudding spoon) Wallace and John (change your life) Torode hosting and piles of seriously yummy food how could I not attend when invited me?

It was opened by Gregg and John who had a little comic trouble fumbling with the safety catch on the scissors. After overcoming this difficultly the ribbon was cut and Masterchef Live was decreed open. Press cameras flashed and a beaming Greg said:

“Wow, we’re just normal people doing a normal job, doing something we love and we’re lucky to do it. Go and discover amazing food and drink vodka!”

It was a little early for the Vodka, at 9.30 in the morning, but that didn’t stop the animated crowd from pouring into the main hall, eager to be first to bag a culinary discovery from over two hundred stalls.

I followed the crowds to the ‘Cookery experience’ where former MasterChef winners went head to head in a 20 minute cook off. Two kitchen stations were set up on stage and Gregg and Jon were loudly and exuberantly introduced by Olly Smith of Saturday Kitchen. Thomasina Miers and James Nathan bounded on stage and their bags of food where revealed. Prawns, harissa, basmati rice, chocolate, spinach and raspberries. The two MC winners rifled through their bags and got to grips with their ingredients.

James told us he wouldn’t try and make a tableful of dishes like he mistakenly (but astonishingly) did when he was on MC but that he’d stick to just one dish this time. Smiling, he explained he’s currently enjoying working in Padstow for Rick Stein, and loves his new professional chef status - a far cry from his previous job as a Lawyer.

Tomasina (MC winner 2005) seemed to be getting in a bit of a fluster and Jon joked that it probably seemed like he and Gregg were going to be judging her forever. However, she still managed to inform us that since winning MC she’s opened 3 restaurants all called Wahaca and written a book on Mexican street food. Gregg held up her left hand and Tommy sheepishly admitted ‘Oh and I’ve got married to”.

As the 20 minutes drew to an end it was apparent they were going to be given more time. Does this normally happen I wondered?

James hastily binned burnt rice and changed to couscous instead: “I’m changing continents” he exclaimed. Tommy was jokingly told to shut up and stop talking when it was time to plate up and after a frenzy of plate wiping the contestants stood back and let the judges decide. James won with his prawns in chilli and ginger against Tommy’s harissa, prawns and rice. I sneaked a taste of both dishes while the ‘clean team’ were cleaning up and both were mouth wateringly delicious. I had to agree with Jon and Gregg, James dish was the best. The textures were wonderful (crisp slivers of shallot anyone?) and boy did it have a zing from the chillies. Beautiful. I’d order it from a restaurant right now.

Afterwards I wandered around the amazing stalls. It was a cornucopia of colour and smells and not unlike a huge bustling continental market .People called out, exclaiming the virtues of their wares.

The unusual grabbed me. Black fermented garlic, oak smoked rapeseed oil, green tea that you eat, huge walls of cheeses and the most expensive apples I’ve ever seen. I loved it. It was like being plunged into a Willy Wonky world of foodie treats. When I came up for air, I realised that what really struck me about this event was that everyone really did have a genuine passion for good food and wanted to share that passion. Strangers excitedly talked to each other about the goodies in their bags. I overheard one middle aged lady invite another to ‘have a go’ at her corn fed chicken from the Well hung meat company:

“Go on, look at the colour of that, have a feel of it, go on really squish it”

To which the other lady replied:

“Oh you should see the tea bulbs I just bought; they flower when you put them in hot water!”

Now, I’ve had meat from the 'Well hung meat company' before and frankly it was fabulous, but I’d never heard of flowering tea bulbs. So in the spirit of the event I sought out Choi Time Tea’s stand where I discovered they don’t only have flowering tea but also ‘pearls’ of tea. How beautiful but boy, how wonderful it tastes. Their Jasmine scented green tea pearls have been described as the ‘Dom Perignon’ of the tea world by the Sunday Times and with one sip you can tell why. I bought two packs at £6.00 each. I’ll never go back to a plain old ‘builders brew’ again. Melissa Choi who owns the company told me she’s even converted hardened coffee drinkers to it, which is probably a plus as her tea is high in antioxidants.

One of the genius ideas in MasterChef Live is the ‘restaurant experience’. Here you can sample the signature dishes of all those restaurants that you’ve always want to go to but for one reason or another (the credit crunch?) couldn’t. The Ivy, Min Jiang, Launceston Place and the dishes of the MasterChef Winners were all available.

I tried Thomasina Meir’s’ duck liver and hazelnut ravioli, Min Jiangs duck dim sum and Theo Randall’s pan fried scallops. In order of preference I would put the ravioli first for taste and presentation (I could have eaten it forever), the scallops second followed by the duck dim sum. I found it deeply rewarding to be able to sample all the dishes in one place. Where else would I have that opportunity?

If you ever want to have the Masterchef experience without actually competing then this is the way to do it.

In the invention test paying members of the public, aspiring MasterChefs, had a go in a live 30 minute cook off. Complete with cooking stations, a mystery bag of goodies to cook from, your very own sous chef, provided by Southgate college. Andi Peters interrupts you as he commentates on everyone’s progress. You really do get the essence and feel of MasterChef. You can see hands shaking, smell the overly ‘caramelised’ mistakes and be subjected to that Masterchef fervour. Gregg Wallace and Jon Torode judge and they don’t disappoint with their witty banter. I spoke to one of the ‘runners up’-and asked her about it:

“I loved the experience although I was nervous (Gregg said that my chicken was undercooked) but I’d love to do it again, now. It was exhilarating”.

So to (dim) sum up (sorry),. MasterChef Live is a fantastic place to experience your very own culinary voyage of discovery. It’s inspired me so much that I’ve actually applied to be on MasterChef. You can get top tips from the foodie greats and can wallow in every conceivable food dream you’ve ever had with people who probably have the same or similar dreams. I know that I for one will be back next year whether I get accepted for MasterChef or not.

MasterChef Live: “It’ll change your life”

Black Garlic:

Oak smoked rapeseed


Choi time tea: