I'm a Masterchef quarter finalist, nothing more, nothing less.
Having never missed a beat of Masterchef series 10 I finally sat down to the lengthy application form for the 11th series of the programme. I took my time and considered my answers carefully; once I started it felt easy to write about my love of food and about the things I enjoy eating.
Rather appropriately, I was cooking an aged rib eye when I got the phone call from the production team. I jumped up and down on the spot for a minute before grabbing a big wine glass which was filled and emptied in record time. Before the competition had even started there were weeks of planning, shopping, washing up and cooking. It was an allconsuming obsession with ingredients methods and flavours. As an amateur I concentrated on various pastries including learning the ratios and getting used to working with actual quantities as opposed to my usual 'throw it in and keep tasting' technique. I also refreshed my knowledge of cuts of meat as well as fish and seafood preparation. Regardless of the impending competition, I really enjoyed this time and already felt more confident (if a bit skint).
After a tumultuous first day, during which I both under and overcooked two separate racks of lamb, I staggered back to the hotel feeling overwhelmed and crushed. That day also happened to be my birthday; I had a glass of wine and used selective memory to get through the evening, cringing approximately every thirty seconds.
The third round of the competition was better for me. I had been kind to myself when planning the menu and I knew I could do the ingredients justice; I'd made the dish so many times before. The three previous contestants (who had themselves all experienced this round) had beaming smiles as I entered the room to deliver the first course of pork tenderloin with baby vegetables and creamy mustard sauce. Their encouragement helped me to stay focused for the dessert of lime posset, brandy snap and truffle. Both courses were well received and I was happy with the comments having finally heard them when the show aired last week. Disappointingly, despite making brandy snaps every night for three weeks preceding the competition, I didn't get them spot on. I even managed to burn them a bit. Crazy things happen in that kitchen, I'm telling you.
Despite burning the brandy snaps I was taken through to the quarter finals, phew!
Having experienced two of the most stressful days ever, Simon and I arrived early at the studio ready for our third consecutive day of culinary scrutiny. I was really feeling the pressure and although I'd so far managed to get by on a selection of uppers (coffee, sweets) and downers (beer, wine) I felt like a very tired person. It also felt a lifetime ago since I'd actually practiced the dishes I was about to try and make.
I had a good first round in which we were tasked with making a dish with a staring vegetable. I chose beets done three ways with goat's cheese, pesto and an orange dressing. I love eating all those textures and flavours together, and although John didn't love it, I honestly enjoy a plate which doubles as a bit of a pick and mix; every bite is whatever dish you want it to be! Perhaps I have an impatient palate that constantly needs stimulating with something new, probably why I don't understand mash potato, it's just so samey.
I really struggled with the next brief 'fruit and spice and all things nice'. I changed this dish so many times and probably ditched some really good ideas in the process. My mind had attached itself to cinnamon ice cream so my menu was engineered almost backwards, resulting in a dish I wasn't happy with. Despite its slightly unorthodox conception, the peach dish looked so beautiful and tasted so moreish when I practiced at home. My Nan was particularly impressed. On the day I really struggled to work with the out of season peaches (my fault) and after two goes of plunging them in to boiling water to loosen the skin my stress levels were souring. From that point on I lost control of my nerves, overcooked the biscuits, took the peaches too far and topped it all off with rushed plating.
After lining up firing squad style in the kitchen, my name was called. I didn't win a place in Knockout Week and my Masterchef journey was over. When I returned to the waiting room after being sent home there were no off camera words of encouragement from Gregg or cheffy pearls of wisdom from John as you might expect; it was altogether pretty depressing, made worse by the return of Sarah, Pete and Simon holding glasses filled with fizz.
I didn't enter to win, that's not where my mind was going, but I think on a different day I might have gone through and lived to see another round. We'll never know far I might have progressed had I done things differently but I am sure the experience will even itself to be a positive one; so far I think I'm running at about even having taken months to feel just a little bit happy about reaching the quarter finals.
Now Masterchef has drawn to a close for me I'm going to continue to write my blog (www.sistersdofood.com), to live my life happily and to cook and eat as much as possible. What could be better than that? Well, perhaps a place in Knockout Week...