Out of hundreds of applications, only 50 amateur chefs were accepted to cook for judges Dylan McGrath and Nick Munier, of which 16 can only make the cut and the chance to prove themselves to be Ireland’s next big MasterChef, scooping a €25,000 cash prize too. Only six chefs made it through last week, so ten spots were left to fill.
In the second and final set of auditions last night, another batch of contestants cooked for the judges, trying to impress them with a knock-out dish cooked and plated within 55 minutes.
Seven managed to secure a collective ‘yes’ from the judges to collect their aprons. Among them was Terry Lyons, a Mayo native now living in Dublin, who cooked the classic herb-crusted rack of lamb, served with seasonal vegetables and fondant potatoes.
London-born but Dublin-based Nick McClune impressed with his rabbit and black pudding roulade, while Yorkshire native Andy Spencer was awarded his apron for his pan fried fillet of turbot dish that was complemented by sides of truffled celeriac purée, butter-poached cabbage and beurre blanc.
Taking a classic and putting a unique twist on it, Simon Morris sailed through with his coffee-rubbed fillet of pork dish, while similarly Jacinta Caraher from Monaghan wowed with her seafood-stuffed courgette flowers served with cauliflower purée.
Part-time caterer Dani Quinlan from Kildare outdone herself with her trio of rabbit dish, comprised of saddle, leg and dumplings, though the judges had critique, they awarded her an apron on her sheer determination, ethic and technique.
Mother of two, 29- year-old Dee Casey from Dublin surprised with her corned beef hash dish. Though time was tight and the room was incredibly tense, both judges gave their seal of approval to Casey and she earned her contestant apron.
A yes from both judges will see them earn a spot in the Final 16 and the opportunity to progress further. However, where contestants split the judges, or Nick and Dylan are undecided, they can be given a lifeline and asked to come back the next day and cook one more time in the Cook-Off.
Five contestant failed to receive a yes from both judges and returned to cook once more. Marie-Louise McGovern first failed to secure her place by cooking her dish of Carlingford hake. Upon her return, she changed gear and decided to try out a dessert with her chocolate fondant with Crunchie and Baileys ice-cream, however her undercooked fondant failed to impress the judges and she was sent home.
Cathy Gerrard went outside the box with her first attempt of ceviche and gazpacho. With one half of the judging team on her side, she returned to cook herb and honey marinated lamb cutlets which won over both Dylan and Nick and she received her apron.
Nicha Maguire played it safe with her fishcake audition, so when she returned her scallops in 3 oceans dish impressed so much that her versatility won her a coveted apron.
Fidelma Boyce also impressed with her scallop second attempt. Her audition of seasonal lemon and elderflower tart was a little stagnant, whereas her seafood second attempt showed creativity and the full extent of her flair for food.
Michael Maher’s smoked salmon crepe soufflé intrigued the judges, but only gained one yes. He returned with a sea bass main full of the flavour of fennel and tarragon.
With only one apron left, it was Fidelma Boyce who triumphed to take the last apron and complete the 16-strong MasterChef line-up for 2012.
Next week, the battle begins.