Ash Mair wins Masterchef: The Professionals 2011

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Ash-Mair.jpgAussie man of few words Ash Mair is totally stoked to take the title of professional Masterchef 2011.

He saw off competition from Steve Barringer and Claire Hutchings in the final cook off, which aired last night.

Michel Roux Jr and Gregg Wallace played their roles to perfection once again: lots of raised eyebrows, knowing smiles and concerned expressionsa all around.

As you'd expect, all three chefs worked their socks off and pulled out all the stops to produce "great plates of food".

And I'm sure what the frantic and hardworking finalists really needed was, as the man himself put it, "a bald bloke coming up and shouting COME ON" as the valuable last few minutes on the clock slipped away.

He spent a lot of time surveying the room looking serious while muttering the word "tense" repeatedly. That's to make sure that we, the viewer, fully appreciate how, you know... "tense" it all is. Because the overtly dramatic soundtrack doesn't quite cut it.

Gregg-Ash-Michel.jpgAsh's three courses began with roasted monkfish tail served on a bed of beluga lentils and a smooth and chunky Basque piperade with diced chorizo and courgette twirls.

He followed it with roast rump of lamb served on fondant potatoes, braised lamb neck and potato croquette on baby vegetables, artichokes sauteed with serrano ham, a roast garlic and anchovy puree and a red wine jus.

Ash-Mair-Masterchef-final-menu.jpgHis dessert was a torrija - a Spanish take on pain perdu (bread and butter pudding, dontcha know) made using brioche served with vanilla parfait dusted with almonds and caramel, poached apricots and an almond custard.

Or to simplify things, he did as every Masterchef finalist does. He put himself on a plate.

Claire on a plate is apparently a starter of poached oysters with toasted buckwheat and bellota ham, cucumber slices, pickled cucumber balls, pickled velvet mushrooms and aioli.

Claire-Hutchings-Masterchef-final-menu.jpgHer main was birchwood smoked anjou pigeon served with pickled beetroot, beetroot puree, beetroot crisps, rosemary oil and a barollo wine and pigeon sauce. Michel was very impressed with her execution of this dish, but was he wowed? Well actually he was (added drama, obvs).

For dessert Claire served a chocolate and coffee marquise topped with a cocoa nib tuile, amaretti crumb and silver leaf, served with griottine cherries, a cherry gel and a chocolate sauce. 

While Steve considers himself to be more of a confit salmon with crispy skin and smoked salmon scotch eggs served with pickled beetroot, beetroot julienne, beetroot puree and horseradish cream - a dish that Michel described as awesome and Gregg said was without fault.

Steve-Barringer-Masterchef-final-menu.jpgHe followed it with slow roasted duck breast, pan fried duck liver and a deep fried ballotine of duck leg accompanied by potatoes, braised chicory and a carrot, orange and vanilla puree with a port and duck sauce.

Overall it was a well-received dish, but pudding fan Gregg said the vanilla took him into the world of dessert. Are you sure it was the vanilla, Gregg?

And Steve's dessert was a deconstructed peach melba: vanilla parfait, flaked almond and caramel brittle, poached peaches, peach jelly, raspberry mousse and vanilla custard.

All three chefs were praised for their outstanding skills and Michel and Gregg definitely had a tough decision to make but Ash was a very worthy winner, as predicted by readers of Satellite Dishes.

Anyone thinking of applying for the next series of Masterchef: the Professionals, beware - the bar has been set exceptionally high by these three rising stars!

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Exceptionally gripping TV. The three contestants personalities made it so. It will be hard to find the same again with new faces. I would love a 'follow-up' programme telling in more detail of how finalists over the years have fared. After all University challenge and Mastermind have room for 'runners-up' and Masterchef could join the club.

This is a TV presentation which enervates and emboldens the general public at a critical time when economic and commercial reality is at an all time low. Remember, it isn't just would-be chefs who benefit! Many others will find an uplift in the demonstrable determination, application and commitment shown by many contestants and the finalists to perfection. These three qualities need to be promoted today and tomorrow, more than ever in recent generations.

Great series and show, congratulations to all three finalists. What is the recipe for those marvellous salmon Scotch Eggs


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