Episode 20 - The Final Four & Gordon Ramsay
The four finalists flew back from Ireland and now had to face off to get into the final three. Pookie was getting increasingly excited and anxious about upcoming events.
"The quality of your dish will decide which of you make it through to the final three.. don’t leave here with any regrets. You have 1 hour 45 minutes for your interpretation of a classic dish, you have to deliver." demanded the judges.
“When I ask my husband if he thought I’d get this far his answer was NOPE! Now I am here, I am going to go in there and WOW John & Greg" said Pookie to the producer.
In recognition of presenting a traditional dish, Pookie had decided to wear a traditional Chinese dress to match.
"The judges said “Pookie has Chinese and Thai influences in her food. I have no idea which classic dish she is doing today but I find it hard to believe she is going to do without a little Pookie Magic!" said Greg, excited to see what the contestants came up with.
The producer asked Pookie about her journey and the dish she was presenting “I think they get it now that I’m not normal, I don’t think other people would be this bonkers. Today is probably more subtle in comparison to my other dishes. But subtle can be so.... beautiful.” she smiled.
The judges asked her about her dish and how traditional it is “I am doing something close to my heart. If we go to the restaurant one of the dishes that I remember my mum would order is Snowfish!”
Greg asked where the term snowfish comes from? Pookie replied that “Its just a fancy term that the restaurants named their dish. There’s no such thing as a Snowfish, so the fish that I chose today is just actually a black cod with ginger, spring onion, sesame oil. So of course there’s going to be my touch to it or PookieStyle to it, by serving the fish over dry ice so you have the visualisation of the steam.” Greg smiled in anticipation.
Pookie began to cook fervently but had to keep her mind in check so kept reminding herself to calm down. She knew she had a lot to do but it needed to be Yummy!!
John decided to inform the viewers about her dish "Pookie’s dish is based upon a classic Hong Kong dish which is steamed whole fish and its something like a ‘sunday night comfort food’. That Black cod should be velvety smooth, really really beautiful, that’s going to be served upon Pookie Rice which is bright green. Its got the flavours of shiitake mushrooms and spring onions and ginger going through it." Greg added that "The fish is going to come on dry ice and then Pookie is going to sprinkle “snow” over it and the snow is little balls of white soy and cream. WOW!
As Pookie cooked and prepared John turned to the camera and said “There’s lots of theatre going on here, but I hope it doesn’t detract from the flavour. Steamed fish with ginger and spring onions is glorious.” Pookie was confident that the flavours she’d tasted as a child and growing up would be just what the judges asked for.
As time went on and the final four raced round preparing their dishes, Pookie asks how much time and is told 10 minutes. Watching how hard she was working Greg couldn’t help himself with a little light encouragement “Come on the Pooks!” he laughed.
“I’m trying!” replied Pookie.
Push push push push!
"Come on Pookie Quick quick quick quick quick!" said John, and before they’d all realised the time was up once again on this latest challenge.
“OMG scary! – fingers crossed!!" said Pookie to the camera.
Eddie was the first to present his dish to the judges. He served Rogan Josh. His rump of lamb was served with Savoy cabbage, pumpkin and spiced with cumin, ginger and green chillies. It was received very well with John saying “ It’s great Eddie”. Eddie was really happy having thought he did the dish justice.
The next of the four to present their dish was Radha. She served up a deconstructed Black Forest Gateaux. It consisted of a chocolate brownie, chocolate soil, mascarpone cream, cherry gel, ice cream and chocolate shards. John made one remark that “At this stage of the competition with ice cream it needs to look like its being served in a restaurant. Rather than at home.” He also criticised its dryness saying “it needs more cherry jam and that cream..” but overall he thought her flavours were great. Radha was annoyed with herself for not following her mum’s advice and making her shards into a shape.
The next waiting anxiously to be chosen was Sarah. Sarah had made a Scottish traditional dish of Haggis Neaps and Tatties. She served a canon of lamb, a pastry wrapped deep fried haggis, potato fondant, crispy kale, neep puree and a tatty scone; all finished with some pickled shallots and a creamy whisky sauce. The haggis in the pastry was seen as a great idea, but John wasn’t very pleased with his tatty scone “The big problem I’ve got here is with these little tatty scones, that is what’s commonly known as burnt”. But otherwise thought it was delicious.” Poor Sarah was beside herself for such a simple error “I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped”.
Next it was Pookie....
Pookie was the final contestant to be asked to present her dish. She put the water on the dry ice and took the “steaming” snow fish over to the judges. Knowing that the dry ice would quickly cool the hot dish inside if she wasn’t careful she made sure the Chinese bamboo container had an extra self so that the two competing temperatures stayed apart. She then carefully removed the fish and placed it carefully on top of the green rice. She then used a flour sieve to shake the snowflakes over the dish, happy with her dish she stepped back and watched carefully and nervously as they ate.
Greg was the first to speak “The fish is beautiful, flaky and falling apart, I’ve got subtle sesame almost nuttiness, the beefiness of the mushrooms, we’ve seen you give blue rice before and now you’ve given us bright green rice. But it’s very nicely cooked, I love this foam, just the light touch of ginger. This for me is one of the best dishes you’ve delivered. I think this such subtlety and such lightness and beauty.” Pookie was relieved “Thank you so much”
“No thank you!” replied Greg.
John was next to comment. “Those little pearls which shouldn’t taste of anything are salty with soy but rich and creamy with soymilk. You I think for the first time have got to the stage where you understand how to have your fun but keep the heart the soul and the flavour dish, true to what it should be and that’s what this is.
Asked by the producer after Pookie said “They love it, just don’t know what else to say, I’m just really really happy. I miss home and that dish does send me into that zone.” As Pookie walked back to her station Radha kindly congratulated her. As they sat in the room, judges deliberated and the producer asked them what it would mean to get through to the final three. Pookie said “It would be like a dream come true, I can’t wait to hear the result.” and Sarah added that “This is probably the worst time to go home really..”. Soon it was time to return for the verdict.
John was first to speak “You four ARE really gifted, This has been a really tough decision”, and Greg announced that Sarah was going home adding “You’ve had an amazing competition you really have, incredible.”
Pookie was full of mixed emotions and fought back the tears when she saw her go as she had built up a very close friendship with Sarah, however now was also a time for celebration as she was in the final three. “Oh My God we are the Final three!”
Radha suddenly realised she was in the final with two people who had come all the way from the first day together “You two are still the same heat!!” “Yeah!! Pow!” replied Pookie.
Off to Meet Gordon!
The next stage was a chance to cook for a table of culinary legends and led by Gordon Ramsay in his Chelsea flagship restaurant, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. Famously this location has held a Michelin 3 star award for 21 years. The contestants were not told where they were going but instead the location was kept secret. After being driven around London they finally realised where they would be cooking as they drove up to the famous place.
Greg told TV watchers that here “Food is at the absolute top of its art, it’s the absolute pinnacle of fine dining, it’s going to push them to the very limits.” Gordon told viewers “Deep down I am somewhat nervous, these may be prolific chefs in the making but they are still amateurs, I just hope they don’t screw it up.”
Knowing Gordon spent much of his time in the United States Pookie walked into the kitchen and was amazed to see him stood there to welcome them
Gordon started by telling them how important it is to him that they perform. “Today is a very significant day for us. Because today marks our 21st anniversary retaining 3 Michelin stars, and today you three are going to be running our lunch service.”
Pookie was overwhelmed to see that Gordon Ramsay was actually there and listened as it was confirmed that not only would they be cooking famous dishes but guests judges were Pierre Koffmann who Gordon had trained with, Claire Smyth who was Gordon’s Head Chef for 10 years and now owns her own 3 star restaurant, Paul Ainsworth who was part of Gordon’s original 3 star brigade and James Knappett a rising star with 2 star restaurant who had worked with Gordon.
Pookie was tasked with a starter, Eddie the main and Radha the dessert on the menu. So Pookie was first to face the pressure of a 3 star service. Claire said “I have to say I’ve made tens of thousands of these… if there’s any fracture in it, when it goes into the water it will just fall to pieces.”
Pookie had to check herself once again “I have butterflies in my stomach, I mean butterflies from my head to toes, almost everywhere now.” But now was not a time for nerves. Gordon presented her with the dish she would need to recreate. It was a lobster & salmon ravioli with a truffle puree that has been on the menu since the restaurant opened and was a hallmark dish for the restaurant
Gordon was very excited and wanted her to try his dish, he is super proud of it and said “Every time I eat this I want to cry” Pookie agreed but Gordon brought her back on track “Well don’t do that we haven’t done service yet. It may look one of the simplest dishes on the planet, but let me tell you, its one of the most technical.”
Pookie had never done ravioli before and hoped she could do it justice. Eddie was given the roast chicken breast filled with a chicken bacon and thyme mousse, served with garden of seasonal vegetables and a crystal clear consommé and Radha had to do a trademark Ramsay dessert of classic custard tart with mascarpone ice cream.
Three hours of mad cooking started. Pookie’s first task was to make the pasta dough by hand then cut up lobster claws and tail meat and also salmon filets.
Can you feel the burn? Asked Fiona who had this task every day “Yes!” replied Pookie “Yes! You don’t need to go to the gym!”
She then had to pass the ingredients through a very fine sieve where the consistency of the mince was really important.
If it is too wet you really struggle to make that nice shape. She added vegetables to the reduced alcohol and it steamed up, she was asked to stir it immediately but burnt her arm on all the steam.
Whilst they all cooked Eddie fell 45 minutes behind and Gordon asked him to multi task and get the pace stepped up. Radha said “The pressure has just gone up, you can feel it”. As Pookie was first to present Gordon put the pressure on her too “Pookie, I want you to start to hurry up, we’ve got 30minutes to go, now you have the pasta out for cutting we need to move quickly otherwise its going to dry out and if it gets dry we’re not going to be able to make ravioli’s.”
In such a panic Pookie forgot to use the egg white to seal the ravioli. Gordon came over and asked her to start one again. He then offered to show her how to fold the ravioli over the ingredients. His skill was brilliant and so quick. Pookie thought it would take many hours of practice to make such a perfect shape so quickly.
But before she had time to breathe it was time to serve. “Drop four ravioli’s in” demanded Gordon. “Yes chef!” replied Pookie.
Behind the scenes the cameraman had asked Pookie to let him know when she was taking the pasta out of the boiling water that had to be in for an exact time. “Let’s go lets go lets go!” demanded Gordon. Pookie quickly removed the ravioli and presented it to the preparation table. However, she had miscalculated due to the minute she had promised to the cameraman and the ravioli wasn’t quite ready. Confused, Gordon asked her if the water was a generous boil and asked her to resubmit the ravioli for an extra minute and make sure the water was boiling hard.
Gordon watched as Pookie brought her ravioli and gave her instructions about how to pour the truffle puree. “Are you happy with those?” he asked her. “Yes chef” replied Pookie cheerfully. The second set of three ravioli’s were done a lot faster and without error. In summary Gordon said “A Slight bump at the beginning, we can’t serve ice cold ravioli, we have to check these things, slow start strong finish, clear down well done.”
Pookie was delighted with the completion of the task “I have never held my breath this long before in my entire life. The pressure pressing down on me like when you try to go up and the lift its like coming down. That kind of pressure, yes immense”
The judges were generally very impressed with Pierre saying “I’ve got to say it’s beautiful, it’s very good… there’s not too much salmon mousse. Just enough to keep all the shellfish together. It’s a top dish.” Paul added “The thickness of the pasta, that’s not an easy thing to do, whoever’s done that, I mean that is a glorious plate of food.” Claire also added “Delicious to eat, we can pick little faults but I’ve done it tens of thousands of times, this person’s approached it for the first time and I think they’ve done a phenomenal job.”
The Masterchef judges John and Greg also got to taste it. Greg was very impressed “Mate feast your eyes on that! It’s absolutely beautiful well done Pookie!”
Eddie was next with his main course, his chicken was ready but he was asked to represent his vegetables as they were too “wet” It was also a very complicated dish. Eddie had fell behind though and Gordon became a little frustrated “Earth to Eddie, bring the first two portions over please”
Eddie tore the chicken and frustratingly had to get another one. Gordon “time is of the essence now… The essence of draining those vegetables, you make a stunning consommé let them taste it, not the left over dregs from your vegetables” Eddie was under a lot of pressure. Gordon added that his vegetables were getting cold as he was taking too long to do the precise cutting of the chicken. However, the dish was also very well received with Claire saying “You can’t fault it” and Pierre giving it 10/10.
Radha was finally ready to present her dessert that she’d been working on. Her enthusiasm meant that her pastry had sadly been worked too hard and was too crumbly and they had to be replaced with some the chef had made. She presented her first ice cream cornel but was asked to do it again. This fine presentation of food pushed Radha to her limit and on the final three she did the size perfectly. Claire said “It’s not very refined but it is really tasty and delicious”
Meeting the Judges
Paul said “There was some outstanding cooking there today, you should all be very proud” Gordon was impressed with all three saying “The 3 chefs here today have got potential, there’s no 2 ways about it”
“I just feel so honoured to have cooked in Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen, I will treasure this moment for the rest of my life now.” – Pookie.