As a food junkie and self-confessed reality TV addict, I was positively fizzing with excitement at the prospect of a new series of Masterchef: The Professionals. Last year’s series, which saw the Ash Mair’s supreme talents win him the coveted title, would be hard to beat, but so far this series hasn’t failed to deliver.
Gone is the John Torode / Greg Wallace partnership of the celebrity version, though Wallace remains, accompanied this time by the fearsome Monica Galetti, the legend that is Michel Roux Jr and a trio of food critics, ready to salivate and sneer their way through a series of dishes before spitting their vitriolic verse all over the contestants’ carefully prepared plates.
Last night’s skills test involved a sea urchin, an avocado and frisée lettuce, waiting to be whipped into shape under Galetti and Wallace’s eagle eyes. As if the nerves aren’t bad enough, a single helping of Galetti’s steely gaze is enough to make the most talented contestant spontaneously impale themselves on their boning knife.
No sooner has Galetti lulled the fumbling contestants into a false sense of security with an encouraging nod and her sweetest smile, then she hits them where it hurts, “I hate you for making me eat this”, she spits at one hapless contestant before ejecting him from the kitchen – and the show.
For the lucky few that gain her approbation, an appointment with Wallace and Michel Roux Jr awaits. Wallace, “the punter” and Roux, “the pro”, make a partnership of pure genius. Roux genuinely wants the contestants to do well and provides encouragement at every turn. He is exacting and unrelenting in his pursuit of perfection, but he is also a gentleman – a refreshing antidote to the expletive-laden diatribes and bullying for which some other celebrity chefs are famed.
The beauty of Masterchef The Professionals is that it showcases real people with real talent, meaning mouth-watering offerings to tempt the taste buds from the very first show, whilst still delivering its fair share of culinary disasters to keep the car crash brigade amused. Highlights so far this week have included a misguided attempt to cook a soufflé in a frying pan – cue Monica’s facial muscles in overdrive – a bleeding duck and everything involving the sea urchin.
With only two weeks left, things are hotting up in the kitchen and Wallace and Roux are fast running out of adjectives. But luckily, when things are this good, just a “phhhhhhwwwwoooooaaaaaarrrrr” from Greg will do. Don’t miss it.