Last night the Final Twelve MasterChef Ireland contestants were battling to take a step closer to the coveted MasterChef trophy by taking part in their first Team Challenge of the series, cooking for 200 hungry athletes after the Kilkenny Triathlon.
The contestants were divided into two teams with each having to cook two main courses, two side dishes and a dessert to try and impress the hungry diners waiting to be fed on the grounds of Kilkenny Castle.
On the Black Team were Joe, Terry, Nicha, Simon, Sinead and Nick while on the Amber Team were Andy, Conn, Tamarin, Jacinta, Fidelma and Brian.
The athletes chose which tent they wished to eat at, based on the menus written up on the blackboards. The two menus offered to entice diners were:
Moroccan Slow Cooked Lamb
Hearty Seafood Chowder
Mixed Berry Tart with Vanilla Cream
Roast beef with Leek mash
Poached fish with rice and fennel salad
Cherry cake with rhubarb fool.
With just three hours to prepare their menus, the pressure was on to ensure that they could serve up all courses in time. The Amber team worked well together, helping each other all the time. They managed to get all their courses served up in time and fed their happy diners.
The Black team struggled to come up with their menu, spending a lot of time early on deciding on what to cook. When service time started, they still didn’t have all the food ready, leaving lots of hungry diners hanging around.
After service finished, Nick and Dylan announced that the winning team were the Amber team and were most impressed by Conn Mac Cormaic, who was deemed Best Overall Performer on the day, earning himself the opportunity to cook alongside Chef of the Year 2012 Garrett Byrne at Campagne Restaurant in Kilkenny.
Garrett Byrne is chef/owner of Campagne in Kilkenny.
Garrett Byrne and his partner Brid Hannon opened Campagne in 2008, serving modern French food using the very best of local and Irish produce. They say they are “are passionate about supporting local and artisan producers and constantly seeking quality produce which is the basis of our food.”
Garrett was head chef in Chapter One when they won their Michelin star in 2007 under his hand. He was awarded Chef of the Year, and Best chef in Dublin in 2006. Garrett was awarded Chef of the Year 2012 and Best Leinster Restaurant 2012 at the Irish Restaurant Awards.
For the runner-up Black team, their challenge was not over and returned to the MasterChef Kitchen the following day, where it was revealed to them by the Vice-President of Catering with Emirates Airline Robin Padgett that they must design and cook a 3-Course menu that would be suitable for the First Class passengers of Emirates and reflect the importance of the Emirates dining experience, recreating the finest restaurant-quality food in the sky.
With the best of ingredients and Irish produce in the Pantry, contestants had ten minutes to think about their courses and choose their dishes. They then had just an hour and a half to cook their starter, main course and dessert.
The pressure was on from the start, and some contestants struggled more than others:
Nick McClune came up with a menu of Salt and Chilli Squid with Cucumber and Soy Dip, Pan-roasted lamb with oven-roasted vegetables and cous cous, and crepes for dessert. He reveals that he panicked in the pantry when he picked the squid and Dylan felt it was an ‘insane’ choice. Nick failed to meet the brief in full, as he only managed to plate up two dishes, struggling to get his dessert finished in time.
Joe Somers cooked Salmon Mousse with Blinis and Sour Cream, Pan-fried quail with glazed vegetables and pan juices and for dessert he made a Cardamom and Cinnamon Custard with sautéed raspberries. Robin was critical of Joe’s dish choices and all the judges felt he was cooking for himself rather than the customer.
Simon Morris Simon cooked Lobster gratin for starters, pan-fried seabass with gnocchi, asparagus and shellfish bisque and a Crème caramel for dessert. Simon felt that the task was not just about saving his apron, but really pushing himself and showing Nick and Dylan what he could do. The Judges and Robin were impressed with Simon’s menu, felt that the presentation was really strong and that there was harmony in the whole menu. However, Simon’s time management also let him down and his crème caramel was not cooked in time.
Sinead Considine cooked a menu of Scallops with celeriac puree and asparagus, Lamb with fennel puree and puree confit and summer berry tart. Robin thought scallops were a great choice for her menu and really liked her dessert. Dylan thought her main course was simply not good enough. Nick thought she had created a nice balanced menu.
Terry Lyons impressed all the judges with his menu of Tomato and mozzarella salad with basil pesto, Fillet of beef served with broad beans, peas and asparagus with a balsamic reduction and a lemon tart with vanilla cream and fresh raspberries. Dylan felt that every dish he chose was closest to what was required in the brief. Nick also was impressed and felt the menu flowed very well.
Nicha Maguire Nicha cooked Pan-fried duck on chargrilled asparagus and carrot, Monkfish and smoked salmon on roasted vegetables, and Vanilla pannacotta and carpaccio of pineapple. Dylan said he liked how Nicha ‘continually pushed herself’. Nick felt that there was too much gelatine in her dessert, but she still had managed to pack all her dishes with flavour.
At the end of the day, it was Joe Somers and Nick McClune who failed to impress the Judges enough and were sent home, in the first double elimination of the series.
Neither were surprised by the Judges’ decision. Nick felt he had made bad choices on the day and was ‘fuming’ by these. But, he had come to MasterChef to learn and ‘as a cook I have progressed’.
Joe was also disappointed with the choices he made, but said he would continue to cook at a career in cooking.