The Masterchef UK final part 1: the remaining contestants cook in Michelin-starred restaurants

See also Masterchef final part 3– the winner is revealed, and  Masterchef final part 2– cooking for the mentors

Last night, the first of this week’s three Masterchef UK 2012 finals took place. The three remaining Masterchef contestants were each sent to one of Europe’s top 3-Michelin star restaurants to test whether they could keep their cool in the heat of some of the world’s most famous kitchens. Shelina, Andrew and Tom were really put through their paces under the supervision of the professional chefs, creating some incredible-looking food to set the Masterchef 2012 finale off with a bang.

Tom Rennolds was sent to London, to cook under the guidance of Jocelyn Herland, the head of Alain Ducasse‘s restaurant in the Dorchester Hotel. Andrew Kojima headed off to Holland, where he had the chance to work in the kitchen of Oud Sluis, alongside the legendary chef, Sergio Herman. Meanwhile, Shelina Permalloo, who has been the only female in the Masterchef UK 2012 competition since Aki left a few weeks ago, went to Belgium, to cook alongside Geert van Hecke, in Bruges’ phenomenal De Karmeliet.

The Masterchef final 2012, English version

Shelina, Tom and Andrew are the final three contestants left in the Masterchef UK 2012 competition

To begin with, each of the 2012 Masterchef finalists were shown a trial dish by the Michelin-starred chefs. Tom learnt how to make crayfish tails with girolles mushrooms and hand-made pasta. Andrew, who appeared to be totally in awe of Sergio Herman and his eccentricity, had to master ‘Sea and Land’, a creation involving a variety of types of seafood served alongside pearl barley. It was a complicated dish, from a complicated chef, which prompted Andrew to remark

“It’s like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, but in savoury food.”

Andrew was like a kid in a candy shop in the Oud Sluis kitchen, but he impressed Sergio with his dedication and professionalism. Sergio impressed Andrew with everything he did.

Sergio Herman, head chef of Holland's Oud Sluis restaurant which featured in the 2012 Masterchef final

Sergio and Andrew- perhaps the start of a blossoming bromance?

Shelina started her Michelin star crash course with De Karmeliet’s famous marinated mackerel with fennel salad and sea urchins. Apparently, Geert van Hecke was the first chef to bring mackerel to the kitchens of Belgium’s restaurants, where it has since remained a regular feature on top menus throughout the country.

Cooking a signature dish from a chef with 3 Michelin stars!

The next challenge for our Masterchef finalists was to recreate a signature dish from the Michelin-starred chef they were working alongside. Andrew had an extremely complicated dish to master, which involved barbecued beef, served with an aubergine and courgette caviar, a pickled butternut squash, emulsions of artichoke and basil and a lime beef jus. The pièce de résistance came in the form of a jelly barbed-wire border around the plate, made using a molecular gastonomy technique that involves adding algae to the mixture. Sadly, his meat was marginally overcooked, but his presentation was spot on.

Tom made stuffed langoustine ravioli, served with a chilli & ginger consommé. He was heavily criticised by Jocelyn Herland for his sloppy presentation, having left grubby fingerprints all around the side of the dish, and having not positioned all of his langoustine facing in the same direction. However, his seasoning was perfect.

Shelina made a sole colbert with a bearnaise sauce- a technical dish that involved ensuring that the filleted fish kept its shape whilst cooking with the use of wooden stakes. Not surprisingly, Shelina nailed it, and Geert couldn’t think of anything to say other than “PERFECT!”

Shelina Masterchef finalist 2012

Shelina really impressed Geert in the first part of the Masterchef final

The Masterchef finalists cook during paying service

After their trial run, the Masterchef contestants had to actually cook for paying guests during service. When people are forking out the likes of €90 for a starter, as was the case in De Karmeliet, there was no room for error from our three amateur chefs. Andrew Kojima struggled a bit with the preparation of his oysters that were to be smoked in hay, and Sergio turned from inspiring to just a bit scary. Andrew looked a bit like he might cry and kept muttering “I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t good enough”.

Poor little cooking mouse. You did a great job!

Masterchef's very talented cooking mouse, Andrew Kojima

Masterchef's very talented cooking mouse, Andrew Kojima

Shelina had the task of preparing the world’s most expensive starter – scallops with black truffle, pommes purées and a truffle jus. It was an extremely delicate dish, and not one that you would want to muck up due to the sheer cost involved with getting it wrong. However, the end result was professionally presented and cooked ‘simply brilliantly’. It was clear that the beaming Geert van Hecke has become the latest member of the Shelina Permalloo appreciation society!

Tom had to create a halibut dish with squid and a marinières jus, served with celeriac teardrops (shame that weepy Andrew wasn’t around to help out). He accidentally broke one of the pieces of fish as he took it out of the pan, meaning that it couldn’t be sent out. It seemed very wasteful, but Jocelyn Herland was adamant that the quality of the dishes sent out in his restaurant was top-notch.

Back to the Masterchef kitchen

It was with relief that the 2012 Masterchef finalists headed back to the familiarity of the Masterchef kitchen. For the last challenge of part 1 of the nail-biting final, they were each given 90 minutes to prepare two of their own dishes.

“This is the clash of the titans” said Gregg Wallace, dramatically.

Shelina went back to her Mauritian roots, and prepared a menu of spicy soft shelled crab, followed by red snapper with green papaya, spinach cake and a traditional Mauritian reduction.

Andrew cooked a fillet of zander fish, which I have to confess I had never even heard of, let alone eaten. It was served with a crayfish tempura, a zander and nashi pear paté, pickled daikon and a sorrel mayonnaise. I just cannot even imagine what that must have tasted like, but I would love to know. He followed it up with a venison fillet, served with chocolate, beetroot and orange, with a chervil root purée. Again- wow!

Tom opted to do a duck egg fondue with black pudding and smoked bacon, followed by a fillet of turbot with celeriac, fennel and moules marinières. The judges observed that he was totally in the zone, to which he responded

“I could tell you the past three Masterchef winners – I couldn’t tell you the past three runners up”.

Fighting talk from Tom Rennolds.

His egg fondue was praised for being ‘absolutely lovely’, and ‘near on perfect’. The judges even went as far as to say that it was Tom’s ‘best dish in the competition.’ Such a pity then that he had to ruin his glowing review on his second course, where he served up a totally undercooked piece of turbot. The Masterchef UK final 2012 is not the time to be making mistakes like that. John Torode was gutted for Tom, and could only manage to say

“Bugger Tom. Absolute Bugger.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Tom Rennolds served an undercooked turbot to Gregg Wallace and John Torode in the Masterchef final

Tom Rennolds was really disappointed after undercooking his fish in the Masterchef 2012 final


Andrew’s food was truly incredible. His only mistake in an otherwise perfect dish was the fact that the skin on his fish was not crispy.

“An absolute KNOCK-OUT dish! Hallelujah!” enthused Gregg.

You’ve got to admire Gregg’s passion for a good plate of food!

There was no stopping Andrew when he presented his venison, to which John just said

“I LOVE YOU!”

Things couldn’t have really gone better for Andrew Kojima, the lovely Japanese/Scottish/fieldmouse Masterchef finalist.

Gregg & John get to try all the amazing Masterchef dishes

Gregg & John have a pretty cushty job to do when the food is as good as that of the three finalists from Masterchef 2012.

As for Shelina, the ever-perfect Shelina, her spicy crab was a huge success. Personally I thought its presentation wasn’t quite up to some of her previous efforts, but it was clear that the taste more than made up for it.

A smitten John said “I love the way it smells, I LOVE the way it tastes!”

Shelina’s best dishes come when she makes the Mauritian-influenced food that she loves to cook, and this passion shone through the TV all the way to my living room in France. Her food really does make me want to go and be cooked for by Shelina. It is so exciting, inspired and elegant, and I think that regardless of who wins Masterchef 2012, Shelina has an exciting culinary future ahead of her.

Gregg’s final thoughts on Shelina’s cuisine last night were

“This is an innocent-looking plate of food….but it packs a wallop, it really packs a WALLOP!”

So, after round one of the final, who is going to win Masterchef UK 2012?

Sadly for plasterer Tom, he did fall behind contestants Andrew and Shelina in the first of the three final episodes. Breaking fish in the Michelin starred restaurant was forgiveable, but failing to cook it properly in the comfort of the Masterchef kitchen could well have been an error that sees him kicked out of the competition. Shelina didn’t put a foot out of place, and excelled in all the challenges that were thrown at them. Andrew had a couple of small glitches (namely the slight overcooking of his beef, and the slow preparation of his oysters), but let’s not forget that for an amateur chef, the guy is a complete genius. The dishes he prepared in the Masterchef kitchen were nothing short of legendary.

So after round one of the Masterchef UK 2012 final, my prediction for the winner of the cooking competition goes like this:

Third place: Tom. Very talented, but prone to mistakes.

Second place: Andrew. Has an amazing creative flair and has so much to give, but gets very flustered under pressure.

The winner of Masterchef UK 2012: Shelina. Shelina. Shelina. The judges fancy her, most of the British public fancy her, and her food is nothing short of divine. Surely Shelina and her mangoes will be crowned the winner of the competition.

Stay tuned for more news from the Masterchef UK final on Wednesday 15th March 2012, and Thursday 16th March 2012.

Things are going to get even tougher for the remaining three contestants…..

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One thought on “The Masterchef UK final part 1: the remaining contestants cook in Michelin-starred restaurants

  1. Pingback: The Masterchef UK final part 2: Shelina, Tom & Andrew cook for their mentors | The Secrett Kitchen

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