Mastering MasterChef – Haute Cuisine in Hong Kong
The MasterChef competition continues to surprise. There have been many twists and turns along the way. Now that we are nearing the sharp end of the competition it really is getting even more intense. Tonight we are looking at the best four contestants; namely, Delia, Irini, Geoff and Jilly.
Did I mention surprises along the way? In this episode we discover how the competitors got on with a couple of days of cooking in Hong Kong. I am pretty sure that the trip would have been a surprise to them.
As Judge, John points out in the commentary “Hong Kong has a food culture like no other, this place is an attack on your senses.” He is not wrong and I tend to agree with him. Considered to be one of the best culinary destinations in Asia, Hong Kong offers a multitude of venues and cuisines that keep foodies interested, from traditional dim sum to creative concepts in which East meets West.
The final four faced three really tough challenges in Hong Kong.
Challenge one was dim sum
The first challenge took place at Lung King Heen, the first Cantonese restaurant in the world to be awarded three Michelin stars. Basically, the contestants had to master one of Hong Kong’s oldest food traditions, dim sum. The origins of dim sum come from ancient China. Travellers and traders on the Silk Road would break their journey and eat snacks. It was found that drinking tea helped digestion, so small pieces of food were offered with the tea. The tradition of dim sum or yam cha (drinking tea) began.
Back to the present day in the MasterChef competition and we find that each cook was tasked with recreating one of the dim sums from the menu to serve to specially invited diners.
The contestants did have some help with this ancient cuisine as they were mentored by the restaurants Executive Chef, Chef Chan Yan Tak. He was such a nice chap. Full of encouragement but also very mindful of exactly what was needed. Nothing was going to get past him. If the dim sum wasn’t good enough it wouldn’t be leaving the kitchen.
Different pressure points
All the cooks had different pressure points. Irini had the challenge of not making her dough too tough, Geoff needed to ensure precise portioning, Jilly had to be exact with her amount of filling and Delia had to be skilful in her shaping of the dim sum by hand. This really was an intense challenge. The cooks struggled not so much with the cooking but more with the assembly of the three Michelin star dim sums.
The final four worked in an unfamiliar kitchen, with new equipment and new ingredients. They did an amazing job. It was beautiful to watch. After an exhausting challenge, finally they could rest before another day of twists and turns.
The following day the cooks took on two tasks.
Cooking at the Tate
For the lunch challenge, they worked with Chef Vicky Lau at her Michelin star restaurant Tate Dining Room. Vicky took the food scene by storm earning a Michelin star just a year after she opened the restaurant in 2013. Two years later she was named Asia’s best female chef. Her menu uses the flavours and ingredients of her Chinese upbringing and combines them with French cooking techniques to create artistic fusion dishes. Wow, to be working alongside Vicky would be honour enough but to produce haute cuisine for her would be an exciting opportunity not to be missed.
The final four worked a busy lunch service at her restaurant, the Tate Dining Room. They were given three hours to each prepare and cook a dish from Vicky’s tasting menu. Her cooking is precise and her standards exacting, which meant that there was no room for error, under her watchful eye. That I think is the challenge. I know I felt it during my time when I competed in MasterChef. You have to do each part of the cooking with finesse, however, you also have to do it fast. The time evaporates. If you have to re-do some of the cooking because you made a mistake then it can be very disheartening. The only thing you can do is to focus and block everything else out.
Finally, the competitors faced the challenge of creating a beautiful dinner at the five-star Kerry Hotel for mentors Chef Tak and Vicky Lau as well as some of the leading figures in Hong Kong’s food and cultural community. This dinner could be used by the cooks to show the judges how inspiring their trip to Hong Kong had been and also they could showcase the skills they had developed through their MasterChef journeys.
What was interesting to me in this final task was how the competitors all pulled together. Yes, they all want to win the competition but when things went wrong they helped each other. It was just lovely to see. All too often things go wrong in a professional kitchen but that it is when the team will pull together to get things done. In this competition they didn’t need to help each other. I am glad they did and I salute them.
In the next episode, the final four will be back in London, competing to be one of the final three. I cannot wait to see what happens next. I know who I think will win. We will find out soon enough.
Learn Train Recruit are delighted to be working alongside former contestant, and uest judge for over 10 years, Daksha Mistry. Since the competition, Daksha has established herself as a chef, owns her own catering company and is a guest speaker on the hospitality circuit.
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