MasterChef SA: Episode 18 reviewed. Margot Janse takes MasterChef to a whole new level.
MasterChef SA hit the big time last night as Chef Margot Janse challenged the final three to recreate some of her intricate kitchen masterpieces.
The end is nigh. The end of MasterChef SA that is. Only two emerged from last nights’ foray into the mystical world of molecular gastronomy and it is they who will duel it out next week for the top honours.
The evening kicked off with the judges asking each member of the remaining trio whether they could see themselves cooking as a professional chef. Reassuringly, they all answered in the affirmative. Both of the women claimed they were in a fighting mood, whilst poor Deena simply said that he was “scared as hell”, whether he was scared of the challenge or the women was unclear.
The challenge of the day was then announced and the contestants were whisked off to Le Quartier Français in Franschhoek for a three-course meal. At the end of the meal, each contestant would have to pick a course and recreate it in the Nederburg kitchen.
Le Quartier Français has been ranked in the top 100 restaurants in the world for the past 7 years, making it one of South Africa’s most well-respected restaurants.
Executive chef Margot Janse is known for her stunningly innovative cuisine that combines African ingredients with modern cooking techniques to create dishes of world-class masterfulness.
Margot sat with the contestants and talked them through each of the three courses. First up was a Beetroot sponge and spinach purée with buttermilk labneh, and a dill and cucumber granita, with a dusting of buchu.
Quail and crayfish ballotine with truffled beetroot puree and foam americaine
The contestants jaws hit the floor as they appreciated not only the striking presentation of such a dish, but also the amount of creativity required to develop such a combination of flavours and textures in the first place. Sue-Ann chose this dish for the elimination challenge.
The main course was quail and braised fennel with porcini, liquorice root purée, and a liquorice glaze. Balance was emphasised here as the quail had to remain the focus of the dish, despite all of the bold flavours involved. Manisha felt that this dish was the one she would have the best chance recreating.
The grand finale was baobab and pear parfait, served with pistachio crumble, honey jelly, and a salted mango gel. It was perhaps the most South African dish of the three and was Deena’s choice.
They looked a nervous bunch as the ninety minutes started, understandably so given the immense complexity of the meals involved. All three seemed to understand the importance of precision in this style of cooking and thus cooked carefully, showing how far they have come from the crazed panic of the earlier episodes.
Tanqueray no. ten deglazed prawns with coconut crumbs and pina colada mousse
Sue-Ann was brave and opted to only make one of each component, giving her no room for error but showing that she has a good pair of kitchen cojones. Deena got a touch squirrelly and lost a big chunk of time overdoing his parfait. Manisha seemed relatively serene and confident but, upon plating, realised she had missed out the pea shoots, a minor component but bad slip-up nevertheless.Margot joined the judges for the tasting and Sue-Ann was the first to be reckoned.
The presentation was fantastic, Margot conceding that it looked as good as hers. Taste-wise, her labneh and granita were flavoured well whereas the beetroot crumbs lacked beetroot. Overall, it was pretty well received by the wizened judges.
Manisha was second to the plate. She admitted to finding it difficult working with so many components, particularly such novel ones. Her presentation was deemed to be a bit off, with Andrew condemning it as too rustic.
Her quail was perfectly cooked but Pete hated the fennel, saying it was too stringy. Margot turned out to be almost as much as a seasoning-lover as Benny claiming that most of the dish was badly under-seasoned.
Coconut-and-mango "fried egg" with biscotti soldiers
Deena was last to face the judges and looked rather drained after wrestling with his dainty dessert. He struggled with the parfait, spending too much time cooking it which meant that he wasted a good 25 minutes and gave the parfait too dense a texture.
Pete complained that it did not have the “frozen air” consistency that he so loves. His plate had perhaps too many pistachio crumbs but Benny gave him “big-ups” for his honey jelly.
It was close between Deena and Manisha as to who would get the boot and in the end it was Manisha who fell short. She was bid farewell, leaving Sue-Ann and Deena for next weeks extra-long culinary battle-royale.