The Macaroon, sorbet, and Panna Cotta dessert, which top Chef David Higgs of Five Hundred restaurant at the Saxon Boutique Hotel prepared for the Pressure Test on MasterChef SA’s 14 th episode last night, was a tough one to replicate, and cost two of the Finalists their aprons in the competition, the final 10 being whittled down to the winner in the next six weeks.
Chef David was introduced by Chef Pete Goffe-Wood as one of our country’s top chefs, who was named as Top Chef and Rust en Vrede Top Service and Top Restaurant in Eat Out’s Top 10 Restaurant Awards in 2010. Chef David introduced his dish, which he said he had made with one of the country’s top pastry chefs, but the name was not mentioned. He said that dining is more than about food, and preparing food for it can be tricky and technical too. A chef is more than just someone cooking, he or she is an artist too. His dessert of liquorice macaroon with a litchi sorbet and litchi panna cotta on black crumble was exquisite in its presentation. The Finalists were warned to follow the recipe carefully. A macaroon must be crunchy on the outside, yet soft and chewy on the inside. It’s all in the timing, he added. His dish ‘is difficult but not impossible’, he said. The five Finalists in the Pressure Test had 2 hours in which to replicate the dish, and Chef Pete made the shock announcement that two Finalists would be eliminated. In doing the rounds at the work stations, Chef David had a kind word for each Finalist, telling them to ‘relax’, and to ‘not get carried away‘, i.e. to not be nervous.
It appeared that everything went wrong for Mary Martin, making a mistake with her litchis, and whisking her macaroon mixture by hand, as she had too little of it to whisk it in the blender. She wanted to give it her everything. She wanted to focus on her timing and be meticulous about everything, to stay in the game. She was running ahead of time, not usually a strength. Her macaroon mix was runny, as she had not left it out for 10 minutes before baking it. The macaroons were not cooked properly. Facing the judges, she said she had wanted to do well, but that everything had gone wrong, and that she had forgotten to make the chard, time running away with her again Chef Pete said. Chef David said one should never give up, and that she could have made a chard in the last ten minutes. Her panna cotta was praised by him as being the best of the day, and for being faultless. Her sorbet received praise for being ‘clean and acidic‘. Chef Andrew Atkinson added that despite there being no reduction and no chard, her sorbet was good and the dish was well balanced, but the macaroon could have been baked for longer. Khumo Twala said that she was not good at following recipes, but would do so, being mentally prepared for the challenge. She told the judges that her panna cotta had let her down, as had her macaroon, and Chef David fed back that the hole of her piping bag had been cut too small. He praised the consistency and flavour of the macaroon, even though it did not look good. Her panna cotta let her down, ‘weeping‘ in oozing liquid. Chef Benny Masekwameng said that she should be proud of herself, despite her dish not looking like that of Chef David. Chef Andrew Atkinson said the macaroon was ‘rough’, but it worked as her ganache gave it balance.
Herman Cloete had not been in a Pressure Test before, and knew it was going to be tough. He seemed in control, and Chef David reminded him to leave enough time for the plating. He did his macaroons twice, but the bottom part did not bake both times, not having beaten the egg whites enough each time. In wanting to get the ganache mix out of the shaker, nothing came out, as he had mistakenly put the crumble mix instead of the ganache into it, his nerves clearly getting the better of him. His panna cottas did not set, and melted on the plate. He hoped that the taste of the elements on his plate would make up for the problems he had experienced. Chef David said that the panna cotta did not hold, and that he did not follow through. Chef Pete added that the macaroon was one of the key elements of the dish, giving it colour and texture. Herman’s macaroon had the correct taste but no texture. Chef Andrew liked his sorbet and chard. Chef Benny said that Herman made mistakes, panicking due to running out of time.
Amanda Beck also went into her first Pressure Test. Chef Andrew liked her ganache filling, while Chef Pete liked the chard and panna cotta, saying that she had made a ‘valiant effort’. Chef David provided feedback that the macaroon had not cooked long enough but that the panna cotta was perfect. Chef Benny said that she had done a ‘great job’, and that all the elements were on the plate. Ozzy Osman seemed nervous, because of the problems he had experienced with his panna cotta in the previous episode, which led him into the Pressure Test in the first place. He said that he was ‘cursed’ by panna cotta, having to make it twice in two days. He was following the recipe ‘word for word‘ to prevent making another ‘panna puddle’, especially the instructions for the use of gelatine in the panna cotta. He became very emotional when he presented his dish to the judges, crying even, and shared that he had considered giving up in the Pressure Test, but then he pulled himself together and believed in the recipe. He said that MasterChef is very important to him, having a ‘dream and a vision‘. Chef David fed back that his panna cotta was not quite as it should have been, but praised him for making it a second time when the first ones did not set. His macaroon was good and crisp, and the chard with poppy seed was ‘nice and thin‘. Chef Benny said that the plating was closest to that of Chef David’s dish, and that his strength and fighting spirit had paid off. Chef Andrew added that he should be proud of himself, especially as desserts are not his strength.
The judges did not mince their words in summarising the Pressure Test, and announced that Herman and Mary had to leave the show. Chef Pete praised Herman for being a ‘damn fine cook‘, while Mary said that she wants to get better at cooking and that this is not her end. Chef David said that challenges build character.
The fun Checkers TV commercial with entertainer Nathaniël and Chef Gordon Ramsay was flighted again, and appears to overshadow the beautiful Woolworths advertising, for being clever and cute. Amusing was seeing Nederburg advertising its Red Table Restaurant as being ‘masterful’, a total overclaim as we discovered when we ate there in December and in January.
The Top 10 MasterChef Finalists are Kamini Pather, Joanie Mitshell, Karen Els, Amanda Beck, Khumo Twala, Ozzy Osma, Seline van der Wat, Leandri van der Wat, Jason Steel, and Tiron Eloff. Seeing that there are only 12 episodes left over six weeks, one can expect that two Finalists will be eliminated per week from now onwards.
For an overview of what is lying ahead for the rest of Season 2 read here. For behind the scenes information on the filming of Season 2 in January read here. For an overview of episode 1 of Season 2 read here. For an overview of episode 2 of Season 2 read here, for episode 3 read here, for episode 4 here, episode 5 here, episode 6 here, episode 7, episode 8, episode 9, and episode 10, episode 11, episode 12, and episode 13 read here. Enter our competitions, to predict the Finalist who will be eliminated in the next Pressure Test, and which Finalist will win MasterChef SA Season 2.
POSTSCRIPT 27/7: Almost literally bumped into Chef David Higgs outside Burrata this evening. Very special to chat and to catch up. He is very happy at The Saxon and with his new restaurant Five Hundred in Johannesburg, a huge loss for the Cape! The photograph is from Wednesday evening’s MasterChef SA broadcast.
MasterChef SA Season 2. Tuesdays and Wednesdays 19h30 – 20h30. www.masterchefsa.dstv.co Twitter: @MasterChef_SA.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage