This is a diary my wife kept after we talked each night. I won't comment more until the show is over but for anyone following the show it may be of interest, the diary is my thoughts on the day ... its very personal and my opinions at the time ... don't read anything too much into it !
2nd Semi final challenges
Wednesday 13th August:
Knife skills masterclass with Eric Chavot the 2 star Michelin Chef at The Capital
Eric said Mats knife skills were great. He said Mat could be a Fishmonger or a pretty good Butcher.
Thursday 14th August:
Studio test (The Breakfast Test – 10 plates the same) - in London & then travelling to and overnight at the first challenge location
Mat was partnered with Chris. Mat and Chris cooked scrambled egg with flat crispy bacon cooked in maple syrup and mushrooms, on toast. The other pair, Andy and Christopher cooked Kedgeree. John and Greg didn’t personally like the bacon cooked in maple Syrup.
Friday 15th August:
Location challenge (South Wales Steel works) (The Mass Catering test – for 950 people). Travelling back to and overnight in London
Mat and Chris were partnered again. Mat made Madras curry, Chris made a Stir-fry. The other pair made Fish (it’s Friday) and Stew. All the dishes sold well, there were no dramas, they just got on with it, the curry sold the most. Mat took charge of his pair Chris was really down in the mouth and did not enjoy the day but he did work hard and do his share. It was the biggest mass-catering exercise that MasterChef have ever done, and it went fine. The biggest mistake was that the Stew, the other pair made, was too watery and delayed service while they thickened it up, Mat’s curry was judged to be too hot so he took some heat out by adding yogurt.
Saturday 16th August:
Studio test (The Classic Test – Beef Wellington)
Mat’s Wellington was a little undercooked, there was not enough spinach on the plate and he burnt his sauce so he didn’t serve it; but his potatoes were good. The others had mistakes too, like under-cooked and under-seasoned potatoes, collapsed pastry, red wine sauce covering the entire dish so it looked like a blood bath.
Sunday 17th August:
No filming on this day
Mat was full of cold and slept till lunchtime … thankfully no challenges today, he spent his days budget on a great Chinese lunch in Soho then spent £15 on a movie !
Monday 18th August:
Location challenge (in London) (High-end dinner party for eight high profile guests)
It was at the Institute of Directors. The guests were Tim Campbell (who won the first series of 'The Apprentice', the manager of the IOD, Simon Woodroffe (Yo! Sushi), a lady who has been on The Secret Millionaire and a brewery owner and others Mat didn’t know.
Christopher made the starter, Ravioli. Chris made the fish course, Sole fillet with a chutney. Mat cooked the main course, lamb. Andy made the pudding, Peach soup with wild strawberries.
John said to Mat, “That’s the first elegant plate of food that you’ve cooked!” He said it was hot but he liked it. (The Salsa Verde had a kick and the Lamb was rolled in white pepper, so it was quite hot).
Tuesday 19th August:
No filming on this day
Mat needs to do his laundry ! He spent the afternoon practicing his critics dishes and is worried about cooking tarts and getting them out of their tins.
Wednesday 20th August:
Location challenge (in London) (Learning and improving key skills in a Restaurant)
Mat was sent to The Kyashii Restaurant in The Kingly Club in St Martin’s Lane (http://www.kinglyclub.co.uk/). Andrew Lassetter is the Executive Chef. The food is a Japanese / British fusion. The lesson that John and Greg feel mat has to learn is PRESENTATION. Mat was responsible for the lamb dish (which you can see on the website) and he did lots of plating-up at the pass, including plating-up the Sea Bass. Tomorrow, back at the studio, Mat will be cooking a scallop dish, designed by the Kyashii Restaurant. He saw one of the sous chefs making it today, so he even knows how to present it (it is also on the website).
The lamb dish that Mat did today was Japanese. A loin of lamb, marinated in a miso paste, on top of samphire; beside it was Japanese seaweed, reduced down so that it tasted really meaty/umame, with a dumpling on top of it, made from Japanese paste and the inside was lamb, leeks and potatoes; with a lamb sauce (reduced lamb jous mixed with miso (fermented soya)). Mat really enjoyed today. Chef was a really nice guy and so was Alexander, the aussie head chef, who was very supportive and ‘held’ Mats hand all day. The Restaurant was so amazing, it’s almost beyond words to describe today’s experience.
Thursday 21st August:
Studio test (Plate of food to demonstrate the key skills you learnt in the Restaurant)
Today went really well. Mat made the Scallop and Prawn dish from the Kyashii Restaurant and it turned out superbly, it’s presentation was fantastic. John and Gregg were both very pleased with Mat. Gregg said, “It’s one of those dishes that’ll stick in your memory; I bet you didn’t think you could make something like that with those fat fingers”.
Christopher had been to an Indian Restaurant so he made a curry, Andy had been to a French Restaurant so he made veal and Chris made Hallibut with sea vegetables (samphire and seaweed). All the contestants had a good day today.
Friday 22nd August:
Critics table (ONE PERSON WILL BE GOING HOME AFTER THIS CHALLENGE)
Mat cooked Steak & Oysters on parmesan mash with Samphire, followed by Lime Tart with Mascarpone and a glass of chilled Hermits Hill Botrytis Semillon.
MAT WENT THROUGH !
The design and presentation of the dish was lovely and Mat even used an Oyster shell to put the sauce in, inspired! Mat felt that the steak was too big and it was definitely undercooked, it was blue. Mat’s kicking himself that he didn’t just apologise to the Critics and say that he’d be 10 minutes late with the main course. As it happens, he had to tell the Critics he’d be late with the pudding because it hadn’t had long enough to cook in the oven; and in the panic he forgot to put sugar in the lime filling … I wonder whether they noticed?
John and Gregg told the contestants that the Critics had said it was the best semi-final they’d had, the quality of the food had exceeded their expectations. Mat approached John for some feedback on his dishes; Mat said “I wasn’t happy with the flavours, I was in a flap with the timings … it wasn’t my best dish flavour-wise”, John agreed. John said “you focused too much on the presentation and not enough on getting flavour into the dish”.
A GOOD DISH HAS TO BE HOT, SALTY, SWEET AND SOUR.
PRESENTATION, PRESENTATION, PRESENTATION
FOCUS MORE ON DISHES THAT INVOLVE THINGS YOU’VE HUNTED FOR, DIVED FOR, OR COLLECTED FROM THE HEDGEROW ETC. STICK TO THINGS THAT ARE YOUR KIND OF FOOD”
So Mat needs to produce dishes that are un-fussy, but beautifully presented, using natural/local/british products like Elderberries, Elderflower, Blackberries, wild strawberries, seaweed, samphire, seakale, dandelion, chervil, feijoa, mushrooms … using the 3 golden rules above. Food that makes you salivate when you see it.
Dishes that are really good examples of what Mat needs to be producing more of:
Rhubard Crumble with Whiskey
- Baby squid and clam soup
- Lavender Ice cream and Hokey Pokey
- Smoked scallops in wild garlic butter