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  • Writer's pictureHeath Tredell

Episode 21 - THE FINAL...


Masterchef is one of those unique experiences that challenge you at every stage. It is an arduous journey and, like life, has its ups and downs. It offers opportunities to shine and revel in your accomplishments, harmonised with moments of dread, disappointment and resignation of your own journey; and without taking part one would never fully understand this.

The Final meant film crews coming to Pookie’s home and meeting her husband, friends and family. It also meant providing quite a lot of information about her as a person and her background…..

“I work extremely hard and I challenge my creativity. I was born in Bangkok, Thailand, we are a big family. Growing up back then we don’t have any worries in the world. When I first came to the UK I wanted to study and most of my university time I probably ate (mainly) pot noodles.”

Pom told producers “When Pookie was young she never cooked. When I first found out that she was on Masterchef I nearly passed out, I said “YOU WHAT!!?”

Heath was also asked about their background “I met Pookie back in 2007 and we hit it off from the very get go really. She’s very unique. Pookie goes into a room and lights the room up. She makes friends with just about everyone she meets and she’s the sort of person that nobody forgets. Pookie and I love throwing parties, we haven’t got the responsibility of children so we can throw a party whenever we like.”

Pookie “We married in 2011 so it’s been 10 years this year. I like my guests to come to my home and step into Pookie world. It is a Pookie land..” she says smiling. Heath added “Most people when they go round people’s houses they get a cup of tea. When they come round here there’s food in front of you straight away, we do know how to throw a party I think.. it’s quite good fun.” Pom (pictured here) added “During this competition I never seen her work so hard in her life. She’s really amazing.”

Pookie's Mother, Father and Brother Tor still live in Bangkok Thailand and when the producer heard Pookie say “It has been very emotional. I couldn’t do this without my loved ones to support me.“ he asked her to video call her family in Thailand. Her father wasn’t home but they briefly filmed her telling her Brother and Mother that she was in the final and that there were only three contestants left. Heath is lastly asked about how the journey has affected the relationship between himself and Pookie, he told them “I’m really so proud of Pookie, her love of food has increased through Masterchef. My pride in her has gone up as well, a lot.” Pookie was obviously given the final word in the whole experience “This experience has given me the boost to be more confident in every way; if I won the competition, I don’t know how it would change my life but I can’t wait to see. Now I’m here of course I want to see it until the end, I’m so close now. I just want to dream high and go grab it.”

Almost immediately after these interviews Pookie had to catch the train for the final time to London. The production knew that all the background interviews and final filming preparations would take a couple of days so they put her up in an apartment nearer to the studios. Then, it was D -Day, the final challenge, the final walk up the now famous canalside ouside the studios and chance to win the coveted trophy. Pookie stood with Eddie and Radha in her chef's whites. The judges announced to the cameras that for the 2022 season at least, it was the very last time and welcomed the audience to the Masterchef kitchen. Knowing the journey they had each experienced to get here, he then turned to the three contestants and told them that he hoped they realised how wonderful they each were, and that he was grateful for being there every step of the way.

For the final the cooking time had been extended to three hours. In that time, they each had to make a 3 course dinner. “These three dishes stand between me and the trophy, so this is massive!” Pookie told producers. The clock started and they began in earnest. “I’m ready to give it a go, Pookiestyle! These 3 dishes stand between me and the trophy, so it is massive.” Pookie told the producer.

Greg walked around as normal and asked Pookie about her ingredients and dish, “Are we going to Pookieland”?

“We are definitely going to Pookieland in all the courses” she replied, “I am going to bring Thailand into this kitchen today. It sums up my journey, sums up the story of my life. I am pushing myself extremely hard, and I am doing a new thing that I have never done before.” Replied Pookie.

For her starter Pookie was making a Tom Yum soup. It is a classic Thai dish and John told the audience that it is a clear broth, flavoured with lemon grass and lime, with loads and loads chillies served with chillies sharp, sour hot and should be hot and really, really, flavoured, and she’s got bits of chicken going through that as well…”

“How many chillies have you got in there? 1,2,3 ….10!!  some dried some fresh – wow!” exclaimed John as he looked at her dish. In reality Pookie never likes food this hot, but she knew Greg and John loved spicy foods and would enjoy it. She told the judges and the producer that she wanted to present the starter in a unique way at their table using a burner and coffee maker. “I will serve you your meal in a way you have never seen before. I am infusing my tom yum soup using a coffee machine.” She told them excitedly.

The judges were very excited and Greg said “Bring it on, it’s the final, if she’s not going to run wild in the final when is she going to run wild?” he said excitedly smiling at what was to come. Sadly though, the producers wouldn’t let her serve it to them as she’d hoped. Now most people realise that food doesn't keep hot whilst waiting for the judges to taste, and so most food is tasted cold. Maybe the producer's thought that serving hot food gave Pookie an advantage, its not known. Anyway, this was a real shame as Pookie’s food was as much about the presentation, sounds, smells and whole experience of eating rather than simply food on a plate. Her experiences with fantastic food had often included the ambience, the presentation, the smell and (of course) the taste. She knew that just like a meal is greater than the sum of its ingredients, fantastic food is about the whole dining experience. This is why two or three Michelin starred restaurants ALL had fine drinks, great service and a fantastic dining experience to go with their award-winning dishes.

However, the producers had spoken. They did allow her to use the coffee machine to prepare her food and the judges were mightily impressed to watch the red broth be heated up in the bottom chamber of the coffee peculator. It then bubbled and infused with the ingredients in the top chamber and mixed with all the herbs and spices. In doing so it gathered the final elements and then returned down to the lower chamber. However, as it did so the filter got rid of most of the colours and impurities and she was left with a clear Tom Yum consommé – Pookiestyle!  “Oh! how wonderful! Oh Pookie you CLEVER cook…...” said Greg in wonderment. John looked on speechless.

Impressed with that, Greg then pushed Pookie for information on what her main course would be. She told him she was doing Pookiestyle “Surf and Turf”. Knowing her unique style Greg laughed and pushed her for more information “You make me laugh, come on what is Pookie style surf and turf?” he asked.

“Well, to celebrate the final it’s going to be filet steak covered with gold. In Thailand we celebrate (big occasions) with gold. This Masterchef kitchen has been a golden time of my life and that’s what has inspired me.”

Greg raised his eyebrows and John looked at her ingredients and told the audience what he thought “That filet of beef, I’d like it to be rare but not too rare. She’s got big tiger prawns on the bench and she’s making a tamarind sauce. “I am doing a Thai dish… but it won’t look Thai” Pookie told producers.

Greg looked at the main course and said "I really like the idea of a broccoli stem salad served with Thai flavours" but John was more interested in the dessert. "Pookie’s dessert, is sticky rice and mango. She’s going to flavour her rice with pea flowers, she is going to serve it with a mango mousse, that needs to be soft and light and delicate. Then she’s going to add a little Pookiestyle to it." The producer then asked Pookie about her dessert, “It’s a dish that’s been in Thailand for such a long time, people love the flavour of Mango and Sticky Rice!” but when Greg looked at the menu and then Pookie cooking the rice he was surprised. Pookie had coloured the rice purple by infusing it with Butterfly Pea Flowers. "Purple rice? I LOVE purple rice – I haven’t had purple rice… ever!" laughed Greg, amazed at Pookie's inventiveness.

The producer then went away to visit Eddie and Radha and when the cameraman returned Pookie was making a Gin & Lychee cocktail drink for the judges. "This is spherification" she told the cameraman "I hope it works." Greg asked Pookie about the flavours of her dish "It’s a flavour I was born with, it’s a flavour I miss. I haven’t been back home for two years so that’s quite.. with things that are going on in the world right now (with Covid), so its quite.. it brings me back home a bit.  At least I can cook and I can transport myself there..... I am going to cook my heart, my soul, my everything out for this.  I’m just so thankful I have chance I can share it with the Masterchef kitchen."


With 10 minutes to go and everyone including Pookie was running round the kitchen.

Knowing all contestants are running round, Greg sarcastically asks “Pookie, you’re rushing aren’t you?”

“Yes.” Replied Pookie. “Why are you rushing?” Greg pushes.

“Because I’ve got a lot to do Greg, What do you think?” Pookie replied looking up at him incredulously.

5 minutes! 5 Minutes to go!!

“There’s nerves everywhere” announced John. However, with about a minute to go, Pookie was the first to finish and finished before the time was up, raising her hands in glee just before the clock stopped. “We’ve done it guys we’ve done it!!” she gasped in delight. Radha had really struggled getting complete in time for the clock and was speechless whilst Eddie, exhausted, said “Oh my god that went so quick!”


Radha was first to present her food...

Radha first met the judges and her starter was called Scallops of the Forest which was Oyster mushrooms in a Parsnip Puree presented on a black plate. It was considered a nice way to start a meal with great textures, great flavour and judges considered it a brilliant dish. The judges felt her main, of Paneer two ways with Peshwari rice, smelt fantastic and her sauce was fabulous; but sadly Greg and John agreed that they couldn’t actually taste the filling in the fried paneer. Her last dish, the dessert, was her take on an Eton Mess. She’d added fennel and fennel pollen to it which the judges thought was fascinating and really liked.

Talking to the judges, Radha got a little tearful and even made the judges well up. She returned to Pookie and Eddie and was congratulated by Pookie.


Then it was Pookie’s turn “Pookie we are ready for you.”

"Ah! you brought us flowers!!" smiled Greg.

"Yes!, Sawasdee kha!" replied Pookie whilst she presented the Gin & Lychee Sphere she'd made earlier. "So, just a little Sawasdee kha drink. So its going to be a cocktail sphere. Cocktail is a flavour of Thailand, so its got lychee, we’ve got ginger and lime, vodka and gin. Welcome to Pookieland." Pookie smiled.

Pookie wanted to present the sphere on a rose but she couldn’t find any for sale but the very small ones. Instead she chose another flower and as Greg tipped the sphere off it and into his mouth he blew on the flower sending the pollen flying all over him and his jacket. Pookie couldn’t help but laugh at this. John had more success and said "That’s really, really, lovely, I like that."

For her starter, Pookie had made chicken breast cooked sous vide with fish sauce, coconut milk and galangal. Shimeji Mushrooms and a coffee pot filled with Tom Yum soup, flavoured with lemon grass, coriander and chilly.

Greg took his first sip "Whoa! That is serious chilly isn’t it!" Pookie smiled as she knew he liked the spicy soup. John tasted it and afterwards said "Your Tom Yum is delicious! Look! At my learned friend and what he’s doing with that bowl, literally taking every single last drop. Beautiful bits of chicken cooked perfectly, Beautifully flavoured, but its well balanced and well rounded I CAN'T FIND FAULT WITH THIS." Pookie was delighted.

"Thank you John." replied Pookie, now getting quite emotional at how her creation had been received.

Pookie's journey throughout the competition had been totally unique. Her and Heath had been back and forth continuously to Spain trying to buy Sawasdeekat and this had meant that she'd had virtually no time to prepare any dishes or practice. The boat at this point was sat in a hard dock in Cartagena in Spain having its generator repaired. After Greg finished his dish he said "This is a great flavoured soup, its light in texture but no way is it light in flavour. My lips are now buzzing. I thought that was great."

Next was the main course. Her main course was a soy marinated filet steak coated in gold leaf and topped with Wasabi and Tobiko roe. This was served on a bed of King Prawns and Broccoli stems that had been marinated in Lime, Palm Sugar and a Chili fish sauce dressing. These sat in a Chili powder and Lemon Grass Oil and had been smoked in oak chips. To finish it off, Pookie decorated it with gold dust. A pot of Tamarind Sauce blended them all together.

Greg and John were equally impressed.. "That is wonderful pookie." said Greg, "Look at that! Gold wrapped steak, masterchef emblem, it’s a really elegant looking dish Pookie I have to say. Your filet of beef is cooked beautifully." said John. "It's got a lovely crispy

outside and still medium rare centre. Your prawns have a lovely crunch and a bounce to them and on top of that we have flying fish roe pop in your mouth and adds another sensation. There’s these amazing flavours of Thailand with fish sauce and palm sugar, with chillies and lime. I think this is a great display of real cooking talent. I think its delightful. Delightful!" Pookie loved John's comments.

"I really love the crunch of the broccoli stems, but what is fantastic is the quality of this sauce. Slightly sharp there’s almost a hint of fruitiness about it. Well done!" added Greg.


For dessert Pookie presented a dome of mango mousse topped with gold leaf and edible flowers. Spheres of mango gel, fresh mango. Purple Thai sticky rice with sesame seeds and a coconut cream all finished with a sprinkle of gold dust.

Greg looked at the dish and then pointed to Pookie saying "I’ve never had purple rice, I only had blue rice a few weeks ago and that was you!" Pookie laughed at this but hoped he liked the infused taste. He did. "I love mango, and I’ve got mango in different forms of intensity here, the dome is quite mild then the slices of mango themselves, more sunshine, more juiciness. Until you get the proper intense mango flavour inside that gel. The coconut milk is a surprise because there’s a slight saltiness to it and that contrasts all of that tropical fruit mango. I think that is lovely."

John agreed saying “This dome of mango mousse cloaked in that gold leaf is as light as a feather. Mix that up with the salty coconut milk, wonderful. The rice is cooked beautifully, but purple? I know you want to be different, but I don’t know if you need to be that different because your cooking is SO GOOD!"

Summarising Greg added "I’ve never met a cook like you Pookie. You want to serve good food, but you want to do more than that, I think you just want to give to people. You want to make your guests feel special, and I’m really impressed and I’m really thankful."

"Thank you." replied Pookie. "Thank you so much for understanding what I try to do and try to achieve; and thank you so much for enjoying my food from the bottom of my heart. This competition has been such a tremendous challenge for me. Kop Koon Mak Kha!"

Pookie spoke to producers waiting for the result, "I feel, like, on cloud nine in a way. I mean the comments, made me feel like I’m floating at the moment. So, yup! Just bring me down to the ground from the spaceship."


Eddie was last to present his three course meal. His Turbot topped with caviar and served with a Beurre Blanc was considered “very very impressive” with John simply saying “Boom!”.

He followed this up with his take on a biryani… a Hyderabadi dish that the judges said was addictive to eat and incredibly  more-ish “Absolutely delightful” His dessert was also very well received  Saint Emilion aux chocolat. Greg said it was “Naughty, but absolutely delicious”, John had one minor criticism in that the dish was a bit large for him as it was so rich. Eddie was also delighted with the reaction.

All three contestants retired to the waiting room nervous about the result. The judges spoke together about the final three.

They felt Radha’s confidence had grown and she was definitely able to cook “We know what Radha is all about, the highlighting of vegetables, the use of Indian spices and some quite knockout desserts” saying she was a talent to watch.

They felt that Eddie had really stamped his style on the competition and wanted to indulge people in the food he loves and that’s what he’d done in this competition. Greg said "Eddie makes the difficult look easy, and that is the skill of any skilled person.”

About Pookie, they felt that Pookie throughout the competition had given them some extraordinarily imaginative dishes "She wants you to walk away from the table and everything to be memorable. We had a soup brewing at the table, we had smoke under a clotch. We got gold dust, and I had to swallow a cocktail sphere off a flower. Now WHO DOES THAT!? It’s not just about the theatre, the music and the sparkles, it’s got to be about the food and that’s what Pookie’s got, She’s got the heart and soul, she understands what good food tastes like. I’ll tell you what, that lady is special."

Producers asked each of them about their journey.

Pookie said “I’m feeling sad that it’s over as I have fallen in love with Masterchef, I think I did myself proud today.”

Eddie said “We’ve all cooked flawlessly today, I couldn’t have given any more. The whole process, it’s just been the greatest thing that lifes’ ever offered me.”

Radha said “I don’t know if I’ve done enough to win the competition, but if I could lift that trophy, it would honestly mean the absolute world, it would be life changing, but we will just have to wait and see.”

 

Three incredible cooks, three completely different styles, who’s it going to be?

Greg spoke first “What I really admire about the three of you, is how much in love you are and how strongly you feel you about your own individual cuisines. We didn’t just see good cookery from you today, we saw passion, emotion, food that you really believed in.  I’ll tell you what, today was magical.”

 

John finally got down to the words of “Our Masterchef Champion is…” and all three held their breath. When Eddie’s name was called out, a wave of emotion took over the whole studio. Delight and disappointment swirled round the world in equal measure. Pookie had always from the very start of the journey said it was about showing off her dishes and Pookie Style and having fun. So whilst she was personally disappointed that she hadn’t won, she was also very happy at Eddie’s success instantly giving him a round of applause.

“I am very proud of my achievement, It’s been a blast throughout the competition. It would be nice if I had held the trophy but there is only one winner and Eddie is well deserved of this trophy.” As soon as Pookie was able to, she telephoned Heath and told him of the news who’d been nervously waiting in the apartment. There was a small party at the end of the filming and before she knew it Pookie was with Heath on a train home and a plane back to Spain to sort out the boat.

When the programme went on TV, the media and internet went mad with thousands of messages of congratulations and commiserations and Pookie was constantly asked about her plans for opening a restaurant. She told them all what she had said from almost the first show… she loved being in the spotlight on television but she had no plans to open a resturant. So, unless she had invitations to do TV work, her plans were to slowly sail around the world trying out foods as she went and maybe recreating them on the boat with her husband.

That's the last in the Masterchef series of blogs, I hope you liked to read them. When we get chance we will also put up more posts about sailing and cooking.


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