Episode 16 - My Birds' Nest!
Once she was into the Semi Finals Pookie had to wait a few weeks to return to face the next challenge. It would have been easy had it not been that we had just bought a boat. Pookie’s time therefore was spent flying back to Spain to see how the improvements were going. Whilst she was there she had an email telling her to prepare to make either a starter, main course OR dessert for 12 people!! She made a recipe for a “Birds Nest” starter, a venison main course she called “Arigato my Deer!!” Arigato is a polite Japanese word meaning Thank You! For her dessert she designed a Mango and Coconut Milk dessert with Sticky Rice Pudding. Pookie wrote out some ideas for each and emailed them back.
Once back in London each of the semi finalists were given a chef’s whites to wear “I feel like a Michelin Chef!” she said gleefully to the camera.
In the short time before cooking John, Greg and Pookie were asked some questions:- John was asked about her dish and said “Every dish that Pookie’s cooked in this competition has been completely original. They’re not out of cook books they’re just lots of ideas that come together PookieStyle!” and Greg said “She loves Thai Flavours; she loves Chinese flavours but what she loves John is Presentation! Can I say, she’s got the WOW factor!” Pookie was asked how she felt about cooking in the MasterChef Semi Finals “I’m so happy to be one of the semi-finalists… I love every minute of it, I love to bring out my creativity and my imagination.”
Once in the cooking area, the challenge was to cook for a pseudo restaurant set up and run by John Torode. In front of Pookie were the ingredients for her “starter” and so she knew that she’d have to make up to 12 of these within the time allowed. Then the clock was started.
Greg walked around and asked her what she was making, when she told him she was making a confit egg in an egg cup he was amazed “What!!?? OK we have an eggshell how are you going to make that sit up?” Pookie in her own inimitable way was surprised why he’d asked such a question and said “Well in an egg cup! It’s like your head, if it doesn’t have a neck it wouldn’t stand up would it?... it’d fall off!” Pookie gave Greg a strange look as if to say he’d asked the most stupid question ever!
Greg understood then that he might have not thought about what he’d asked so laughed with her saying “Oh Pookie don’t ever change, don’t ever change!!” The producer then asked him what he thought of her dish. “Pookie’s got her work cut out here really as she wants to give us Thai basil flavoured chicken with rice, but being Pookie she wants to give us more than that so she wants to bring some theatre to it. Confit egg worries me at the best of times but an egg white mousse, I don’t know what to think of that either!” Clearly expressing concern about her idea the producer then asked John what he thought, he was also unsure .. “I think it’s so creative, it’s so unusual, it will be interesting to see what the guests think of that."
The time flew by so quickly and before you knew it they were shouting out how many had ordered their dish. Because it was so unusual and because Olayemi and Eddie were also offering strong starters Pookie’s Birds’ nest was chosen the least of them with only 5. Eddie was offering a Beef Cheek Ravioli with pepper soup broth and Yemi was doing South Indian Mussels with pan fried Brill. Pookie said afterwards that it didn’t really make it any easier however as you never really knew how many were going to order just that it could be up to 12 people. So, the preparations were made for that amount regardless of how many actually got ordered.
As the food was due at a certain time, John wrote down the times of the orders to get them all set up and told the group “You have 5 minutes before I give you your orders”. “Pookie 2 birds nest”… “You have 5 minutes to Pass,” shouted John
At this point Greg asked Pookie about her rice. “I’m guessing you know your rice is blue?” he asked, “Well yes, but it’s my Bird’s Nest so it can’t be normal can it?” she smiled in return. John asked them if they were talking to each other. At this Eddie asked how much time they had left, “Three and a half minutes” replied Pookie. Meanwhile John in the background shouted “One of each should be coming up in 2 minutes!!” and so Pookie adjusted her timing and quickly finished off and took her dish to him. “What the heck are you bringing me?” said Greg with a look of surprise. Pookie didn’t know what to do as she felt she had brought it up within the time “Pookie you need to talk to them (Eddie and Yemi), go back and tell them you put the plate on the “pass” because you’ve what’s commonly known as drop them in the shit.” Not knowing that despite what John asked for she had to make sure that her dish was in time with the others she returned back. “Guys I just dropped mine off” “What the first one?” asked Eddie, “Yes” replied Pookie.
John then barked once again “Eddie how long?”, “Three minutes!” called back Eddie. Knowing that now, despite being on time for John’s calling, she’d have to wait for another three minutes. She asked if she could just keep it warm in the oven until needed but was told no and that she’d have to make another.
John said “Olayemi and Eddie are not ready so I can’t serve the table.” Being asked Pookie said “It’s very difficult, very intense cause I have to listen to the team as well and listening to what the head chef tell us (about how many seconds before serving) so it’s like uuuhh!!”
“30 seconds!!” Shouts John.
Olayemi and Pookie put their plates up but Eddie was late still. He managed to get it there in time to serve with the other two and after that they all got more in tune with each other and timings were within 30seconds of each other with each of them calling out how much time they needed “I need a minute and a half” “30 seconds” “20 seconds” as their timings were much improved.
John was impressed “I am loving you lot” Pookie was enjoying it, she said it was scary but a such a buzz. Eddie called it intense and Yemi said it was the toughest challenge so far in the competition.
In total there were eight orders for Olayemi’s dish, seven for Eddie’s and five for Pookie’s. With the one that had to be thrown away she ended up making six and waited to see what the guests thought of her dish. She was never told on the day but later watching it on TV she saw that Hanna Miles said “it’s quite hot!, I may have just got a bit of chilly but wow!” and Yui Miles said “I really love the spiciness of it, you really get the punchy, and I can taste the Thai Holy Basil, it’s a really great street food flavour but presented in the fine dining.”
She found out when watching the program about these comments and was thrilled at these comments and others such as Brodie Williams who said that “The egg really bound it together, the heat for me was just right, it was punchy, I thought it was really tasty.” In summary Greg said “Pookie’s dish in the egg is amazing, I mean it looks fantastic and it tastes even better that’s incredible.” All three starters were considered good dishes.
Once complete, the three contestants were led into the waiting room whilst Farokh, Holly, Sarah and Radha cooked the main courses. Farokh made a pork and apple cell cycle tenderloin but found it hard with timings and burnt his black pudding and fell behind a bit. “This is me now, like a porky Sisyphus!” he said jokingly. Holly made a Seafood Scotch egg & Scallops but wasn’t too consistent with her six orders. Sarah made a Roasted Pigeon and although it was well received it was considered very rare by some. Radha’s jackfruit dish was well received. “It was synchronised chaos!” said Sarah afterwards.
When these four contestants returned to the waiting room, they all knew it was time for the final three with the desserts. These were made by Thomas who made his Chinese Dumplings, Ioan who made Sticky Toffee Apple Pudding and finally James with his Chocolate Semi Spheres. Thomas struggled with the time allowed and as they needed to reach the table at the same time this made the ice cream on both Ioan and James’ dishes melt.
John was getting worried at the timings and asked “What the Hecky Decky is going on!!” before finally just shouting at the contestants “Just give me the desserts! I need the desserts – I need them!! Please please please!!”
“John is having kittens over there!” said Greg to the camera. Finally once it was all over John said “Gentlemen, you are done, that was agonising..” Thomas knowing he’d made it difficult for the other two with the timing apologised to them afterwards. “No apology necessary” said James “Just make sure you haven’t got us voted off!” laughed Ioan.
Once all three courses were finished the ten were asked back into the main room where a summary was given to the camera by Greg and John. They agreed that all three people that did starters did the best, the next to be praised was Radha.
For Holly Greg said “I had a fish mousse around an undercooked egg”
Summarising Farokh John said “In service trying to get him to understand that everyone is trying to work together was very very difficult” with Greg saying “I have an issue with the cookery of that pork, it was too under for me.”
For Sarah Greg announced “I liked the flesh of the pigeon however, the skin needed more cooking.”
For Thomas John mentioned “He couldn’t work out his timings… and he got slammed (with lots of orders)"
For Ioan Greg told the cameras “It could have looked a lot better but the sticky toffee apple really worked for me.”
For James Greg summarised by saying “I liked James’ flavours… but his ice cream didn’t work and you then have a very nice tasting cold puddle.”
Everyone was invited back into the main room to face the decision. “What a massive challenge huge effort well done. Four of you were outstanding and you are going through to the next round – Pookie (looking amazed her name was first), Eddie, Olayemi and Radha – well done you absolutely deserve you place in the competition. Two other people performed really well during service and they deserve a place in the competition, Sarah and Ioan well done”.
Turning to the rest he said “That now leaves us with you four Farokh, Thomas, James Holly– the first person leaving us is Holly, Holly you’ve always dared to be different your food’s been theatrical it just didn’t quite work out in this round” “Thank you guys so much” replied Holly.
The second person that John announced was Farokh, “Farokh, it’s been absolutely wonderful having you, your imagination’s incredible, thank you so very much indeed.”
In interview afterwards Holly said “I am going to cherish this the whole of my life, it’s been amazing it’s been so much fun”
Farokh said “Ultimately I feel I’ve had my fun I’ve done my best and got to the last 10 so that’s good”
It was sad to see them leave but exciting to go onto the next round of the final 8. James said he felt he’d dodged a massive bullet and Sarah said “I am feeling totally blown away, I think Pookie and I are going to go out and celebrate tonight” and Pookie agreed that it was “Cocktail time! Definitely Cocktails!”