Day 1: Mystery box Challenge
Week 12 started with 7 remaining contestants. These 7 participants, Ammara, Rayyan, Madiha, Gulnaz, Amna, Khurram, and Zain, were in for a surprise. The judges announced not one but two surprises at the start of the episode. The first was evident as there were Mystery boxes placed on the counters for every contestant. The second surprise took everyone’s breath away. Every challenge hence forward is going to be an elimination challenge, so no second chances and no chances for redemption. The smallest mistake, the smallest oversight will lead that participant out of the Master Chef kitchen.
This week the Master Chef enthusiasts faced the third mystery box of this season. Each time, the mystery box lived up to its name, i.e. it truly has been a mystery. The first time, the Master Chef participants were surprised to find a live crab. The second time, the contestants had to exchange their mystery boxes after they selected the ingredients for their favorite recipe. The third mystery was expected to be equally surprising, and that is what it was.
When the 7 participants, with racing hearts, lifted the boxes, they found a whole duck – feathered and skinned. The judges explained the challenge, asking the Master Chef contenders to cook a stunning duck dish. Duck meat is very unforgiving and has to be cooked with meticulous preciseness. A second less in cooking time leaves it undercooked, a second above increases the risk of over cooking the meat.
Gulnaz was given the chance to use her immunity pin, which she refused to do so. Given her last challenge’s performance, Chef Mehboob tried to convince her to use the immunity pin, but Gulnaz stuck to her resolve of cooking in the challenge.
None of the participants, except Gulnaz, had ever cooked duck. All of the contestants were pretty excited to be trying out a new meat, yet all of them were pretty scared of what was going to happen. Cooking with a new protein was itself a pressure, the pressure increased manifold with the contest being an elimination challenge.
The contestants were given 2 hours to prepare a duck dish. Minor disagreement between Gulnaz and Rayyan ensued over a bottle of star anise, but that just added to the suspense of the episode. Rayyan prepared Duck Breast with a cherry plum sauce. The judges found his duck cooked to perfection, but the potatoes he served as a side were not seasoned properly.
Gulnaz presented Duck steak and legs with 4 sauces and semolina cake. She did not get good reviews as she could not do justce to any of the sauces. The honey sauce was too sweet, over powered with the taste of honey. The apple sauce tasted like apple puree, and the duck lacked flavor. Chef Mehboob against implied that Gulnaz should have used the immunity pin.
Amna gave the duck an Asian twist and cooked Stir Fried noodles with Honey Soy Duck. According to her reviews, the duck was bland, and the egg placed on top was over cooked. The meat was hard, and the dish even though looked visually appealing, lacked the Asian taste that Amna was trying to bring in her dish. If I have my two words, pasta has been overdone in this season of Master Chef.
Madiha made Oven Roasted duck with plum sauce and pomegranate seed salad. She was able to cook the duck nicely. Her salad tasted good too, but the Chef Mehboob did not like the excess of Pomegranate seeds. Chef Zakir reprimanded Madiha on the Duck breast sliced in an amateur manner. Madiha was not able to utilize her time properly and ended up with unevenly sliced duck meat. At his stage in Master Chef, such a small oversight in presentation can send a contestant home.
Khurram also gave the duck an Asian flavor by making Sweet and Sour duck with fried rice. Chef Mehboob found the meat in his dish to be cooked moist and tender, but the rice had a bit too much salt. The accompanying sauce also tasted good. Chef Zakir explained the necessity of cooking on a lower flame so that the fat is rendered properly. Since Khurram didn’t render the fat, the chewiness of the meat made it a bit hard to eat the meat.
Ammara came up with Duck breast with Orange and cherry sauceon a semolina base. Presentation wise, the dish was beautiful. The judges commented that the duck was cooked nicely, but the skin wasn’t cooked through thus adding a chewiness to the meat. Chef Mehboob found the sauce concentrated. Overall the judges thought Ammara did not perform as well as she has been doing in the previous weeks. Chef Zakir liked the taste of the dish.
Zain made duck breast with mashed potatoes, pea puree, and orange sauce. Chef Mehboob felt the peas weren’t cooked properly for the pea puree, therefore the puree wasn’t as smooth as it should have been. The duck was over cooked, while the mashed potatoes failed to make an impression. The orange sauce was too tart. The presentation was the only thing that gained some favorable comments from the judges.
Almost all the dishes seemed replicated from each other, the reason being that everyone made Duck steaks with a tart sauce. Only Gulnaz tried to make duck legs. In my view none of the contestants were able to do justice to duck. All the recipes tried were well within the comfort zone of the participants.
At the end of the episode, Rayyan, Khurram, Madiha and Ammara were declared safe by the judges. Amna, Gulnaz and Zain remained in the bottom three. Gulnaz was also sent to stand with the safe contestants. Amna and Zain more or less, had faced equal criticism on their dishes. Zain had more mistakes pointed, thus he was eliminated.
The elimination was emotional as Zain has been a friendly contestant, and one of the strongest participants. His presentation has always been appreciated. Zain became emotional on the elimination, but the greatest shock came when Chef Zakir got overwhelmed. The already emotional audience became teary eyed as Chef Zakir’s voice began to break as he reminisced his culinary journey. Chef Mehboob offered Zain his services as a restaurant consultant. With Zain gone, only 6 contestants were left.
Day 1 was a savory challenge. Day 2 of week 12 brought a sweet challenge In the Master Chef kitchen. This challenge was also termed as the quarter final. The challenge was a baking challenge, and as simple as it sounded in the beginning, it became tougher by the minute. The judges wanted a 3 layer cake, each layer a different flavor and texture and all layers complimenting each other. Not only was that, but the Knorr pantry, which usually is open throughout the challenge, open for a limited time. The contestants were given 4 hours to prepare a stunning 3 layered cake. The pantry was open 15 minutes in the first hour, 10 minutes in the second hour, 5 minutes in the third hour and only 2 minutes in the fourth hour.
Chef Khurram asked Gulnaz if she wanted to compete. Finally Gulnaz used her immunity pin, which sent her straight into the semifinal round. She enjoyed the challenge sitting up in the gallery looking at her fellow contestants. Khurram was slightly perplexed as he thought he was weak in baking. Amna knew some basic cakes, but the judges had already warned the participants not to present a simple cake. The cake had to be complex, visually appealing and tasty.
I was eager to see the results of the competition and baking is something very close to my heart. It was fun to watch everyone preparing what they thought was the best cake. Amna was reluctant to open her cake tin as she feared the cake would collapse. As the time ended, one layer of Madiha’s cake did not set properly and it was sliding off.
Rayyan made a berry bomb. His layers included a sponge, strawberry & cream layer, puff pastry, blueberry mousse and a layer of raspberry & mascarpone cheese. Chef Mehboob found the idea and presentation of the cake intriguing, but said at least two flavors tasted same. This was because Rayyan used the same cream as the base for both the flavors.
Amna made a triple layered mousse cake. Her layers had an Orange Chocolate Fudge Brownie, white Chocolate Mousse with raspberry and Cherry Mouse. The top layer was sliding off as she presented her cake to the judges. The chefs found the brownie slightly under cooked and the cherry mousse a very thin consistency. The cherry mousse was starting to diffuse into the white chocolate mousse. The judges liked the white chocolate mousse.
Ammara presented an intact cake decorated with fruits and chocolate accents. Her layers were vanilla sponge separating 3 mousse layers. She made a Chocolate mousse, Strawberry mousse and Mango Mousse. All the layers were same size, looking beautiful. Chef Mehboob complimented the use of bitter chocolate in the chocolate mousse. Ammara nailed the challenge, even though the judges found it a bit over decorated.
Khurram made a Mango Mousse layered cake. It was the first time Khurram baked a cake. The layers of his cake were hard and dense, most probably due to incorrect amount of baking powder. Also all his layers were essentially sponge cake, differentiated only by the essence he used in the three layers. His cake was overwhelmingly yellow, as he flavored one of the sponges orange, one mango and left one plain vanilla; all shades of yellow. He covered the cake with mango mousse, which again was yellow. Chef Zakir like the mango mousse and appreciated the taste of the mousse.
Madiha brought her Mango mousse cheesecake. This was the second entry that had collapsed. Her layers included a coffee flavored sponge, blueberry cheesecake and mango mousse. She covered the outer sides of the cake with strawberries and kiwis. The judges found the coffee sponge a tad bit too hard. The cake, visually, had only two distinct colors. Chef Khurram questioned the use of kiwis on the outer layer as it hid the actual color of the mousse.
At the end, after giving the reviews, the judges announced the elimination of Khurram. Being a very hearty person, everyone was sad to see him go. He has had his dishes appreciated quite a few times, but the cake got better of him.
All five cakes had some variation of mousse in them, and a basic sponge. Only Amna tried brownies. There was so much use of mousse that the challenge did not seem like a baking challenge. Chef Mehboob clearly stated that he would like the contestants using fondant or marzipan but none of them even attempted that. The contestant could have challenged themselves a bit more and baked 3 different kinds of cake and then decorated them. It was disconcerting to see everyone tried the mousse and no one dared to venture beyond that. With only a couple of episodes left before the grand finale, it is high time the contestants actually challenged themselves beyond their comfort zones.
This post first appeared at HIP