MasterChef: The Professionals 2012 semi-finalists - Aaron Ashmore

From chicken ballotine with bacon and tarragon to deconstructed "roast chicken", Aaron's dish-by-dish journey...

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MasterChef: The Professionals 2012 semi-finalists - Aaron Ashmore
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Aaron Ashmore
Age: 21 Job: Chef de partie                From: London




Semi-final: Chef's own dish


Rosemary-smoked squab pigeon with a pigeon liver parfait, a braised pigeon cabbage parcel, apricot puree, almonds, girolles and a rosemary and port jus

Michel: “I love the theatre of it, with that cloche full of smoke and then the reveal and we see what’s on the plate – and I like what I see…

“You judged the smoking of this dish bang on. You get the liver, get the heart, for me it’s a very accomplished dish. Truly delicious."

Monica:
“I think you’ve got the balance of flavours right. Everything on this plate has had a lot of thought behind it. I think you’ve achieved a great plate."

Gregg:
“I think the sweetness and slight sharpness of apricot against the pigeon is absolutely lovely but I wish there were more things on my plate."


Quarter-final: The critics


Main: “Roast chicken” - sous vide corn-fed chicken breast, chicken ballotine with asparagus, morels, brown onion purée and crumbed chicken skin

Tracey MacLeod: “Some care has gone into the presentation here. It’s very much a restaurant dish... I’m actually worried about eating that [undercooked ballotine]. I don’t think I’m going to risk it... You’ve got lots of nice things on the plate. He’s removed the skin from the chicken and ground it up so what looks like breadcrumbs is actually shards of chicken skin."

Charles Campion: “The ballotine is very pink chicken indeed, it really shouldn’t be like that... The ideas are all quite good. There’s just been the occasional dropped ball in the execution thereof.”

Jay Rayner: “The chicken breast is ok. And the chicken wafer's crunchy on the outside and does all the things I’d hoped. This brown onion purée – a little goes a very long way.”


Dessert: “Banoffee pie” – set custard, caramelised bananas, fresh bananas, chocolate, crumble, caramel sauce and milk snow

Jay Rayner: ”This is the curse of inverted commas, isn’t it? There’s nothing to like. There’s nothing there. It lacks substance. Each of the individual bits doesn’t really work. It’s just a bit sad. As am I.”

Charles Campion: “I fail to see how making a plateful of all the different bits you get in a banoffee pie is an improvement on the real thing... This custard doesn’t taste of anything at all. Overall, ill-conceived and not very good.”

Tracey MacLeod: “I don’t like it.”


Quarter-final: Invention test


Warm vegetable salad with crushed pistachios, onion purée, pickled mushrooms and a confit egg yolk

Michel: “Very pretty, very elegant, very precise. I think it’s delicious. I really do. I like it. Delicious vegetables and they’re all different – there’s some of them with a crunch, some of them pickled. The confit egg yolk is lovely and of course it’s still runny. I love the concept of the dish, I think it’s very clever.”

Gregg: “I appreciate the fact the vegetables are all cooked really well, I appreciate the dressing is made really well – but that’s not exciting. I can’t find fault with the way you’ve cooked it, it just doesn’t turn me on at all.”


Round 2: Chef's classic dish


Lobster, scallop, ginger and lemon mousse ravioli on pea purée, broad beans, pickled cucmber and tomato concassé with a tomato consommé

Michel: “It’s incredibly neat and it looks very classy. It’s the kind of starter dish that you would get in a high-end Italian restaurant... That is delicious. I love the flavour profiles – the highs and lows of taste and of texture. Very clever cooking. The pasta is cooked perfectly. The filling is moist, it’s sweet, it’s got a little bit of bite from the lobster. Gosh! Now that’s good, I like that.”

Gregg: "The lobster in there is perfectly cooked and it’s sweet and it’s got just the right amount of give. Your purée is beautifully smooth. It's an amazingly well-cooked, beautifully presented dish, absolutely.”


Round 2: Michel’s classic dish


Pochouse bourguignon: fresh water fish stew. Pan-fried pike and perch, fish broth, baby onion, mushrooms smoked lardons, croutons

Michel: “Visually, it’s not the best, it’s not pleasing to the eye. That broth looks terribly thick. The lardons, I think there are too many on the plate there. There should be just a few. There should be mushrooms... Fish is well cooked. The onions are nice as well, got a little bit of colour on them. The crouton is delicious, rubbed with a bit of garlic and it’s got oil on it, it’s yummy. But the broth itself is too thick and far too much seasoning – it’s overpowering.”


Round 1: Invention test


Chicken ballotine stuffed with tarragon and wrapped in bacon on a bed of garlic pomme purée with tarragon and creamed leeks

Monica: “I don’t like your presentation. No matter how many ways you turn that bowl it’s never going to look right, is it? The chicken is moist but it doesn’t look very appealing. The bacon has just come off the side there, it’s rubbery."

Gregg: “Your mashed potato is really buttery and smooth, I love the flavour of the tarragon but it’s as if the flavours have been put together by one chef and the presentation has been done by another one.”


Meet the rest of the semi-finalists and enjoy a load of tasty features at our MasterChef page