MasterChef: The Professionals 2012 finalists - Oli Boon

From almond and brioche pain perdu with pears to sous vide fillet of beef with cep, Oli's dish-by-dish MasterChef journey...

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MasterChef: The Professionals 2012 finalists - Oli Boon
Written By
Paul Jones
Oli Boon
Age: 22     Job: Head chef       From: London

Final: Chef’s three courses


Starter: Butter-poached lobster, cannelloni stuffed with smoked chicken mousse, crispy chicken skin, sugar-snap peas, pea shoots, a pea purée and a lobster bisque sauce

Michel: "Love the presentation, Oli. It's incredibly colourful, especially on that lovely black plate. It's extremely appetising and very pleasing to the eye...

"Gosh, there are some great skills here. That pasta's beautifully rolled out, beautifully cooked, the cannelloni is lovely and light and that hint of smokiness is really a pleasure. Your sauce is full of intensity, full of flavour. And, of course, these lovely peas, in different shapes and forms. It's a very well-balanced dish. My only little issue is with the lobster – I find it ever so slightly underdone.”

Gregg: “The sea-sweetness of lobster and the garden-sweetness of pea with the fish-depth of your bisque in between is wonderful, wonderful.”


Main: Roast duck breast with a confit duck leg wrapped in potato string, orange-glazed endive, carrot purée, pickled carrots, braised cabbage and a duck, madeira and white wine sauce

Michel: “The duck is perfectly cooked. It’s got a lovely brown, rendered down crispy skin and it’s beautifully moist and tender. Very good. The little pastille is crispy on the outside and got a lovely flavour of the potato and then – bang – that wonderful sweet and well-seasoned  and well-cooked confit duck. The sauce is just liquid nectar – really very, very good. Exceptionally good cooking there. Gosh, it’s a delicious plate of food.”

Gregg: “You’ve got moist, beautifully cooked, seasoned duck and everywhere throughout that plate is sympathetic mellow little hints of sweetness – everywhere. This is classic-technique-Oli, at his best. Without a single mistake. A dish of absolute perfection that’s got us both drooling.”


Dessert: Calvados and fennel seed parfait with balls of caramelised apple, blackberries and a maple tuile

Michel: “It came out only just frozen, so this is obviously not how you wanted it... That calvados parfait is absolutely heavenly. It’s light, it’s creamy, it’s silky and it’s got the great punch of that apple brandy without being overpowering. And then the crunch of the odd fennel seed, which adds a little aniseed aftertaste. It’s really very good – such a shame it’s not the finished dish.”

Gregg: “I love that calvados parfait – that is warmth spreading over all of your palette – really, really nice and warming. Those apples have got caramel on them – they’re like little toffee apples,  you get a little bit of a crunch of sugar. But it’s when you crunch on a fennel seed that’s been coated in sugar, the sweet aniseed, I can’t remember having that flavour combination before and I’m in love with it.”


Final: Chef's Fat Duck inventions


Lamb cooked in a water bath, served with summer veg, spicy tomato fluid gel

“The gel looks a little grainy…  The lamb is really well cooked, you’ve done a good job there. The fluid gel actually didn’t feel as grainy as it looked but I found the tabasco a bit strong, a bit peppery.”

“I particularly liked your presentation. It looked very simple. I just would have liked more tomato fluid jelly. There’s a nice acidity there but I want more of it on the plate.” 


Fruit salad of strawberries macerated with mint sugar, compressed melon and a strawberry sorbet with an almond crumb

“I’m loving the strawberries, the strawberries taste really good. I love the way you’ve used the fructose and then the freshness of the mint in there. The sorbet – intense colour, lovely flavour. It’s a very good dish.”


Final: The master chefs


Starter: Trio of salmon – poached salmon rillettes, topped with a cured salmon parfait and served with cubes of marinated salmon, beetroot purée drops, pumpernickel melba toast, pickled beetroot and daikon

Tom Kerridge: “Your dish, I thought, was rock solid. Flavours that everyone knows, and executed very well – maybe just a little safe.”

Chris Miller, former Michelin inspector: “A very good, colourful presentation, a very summery dish. A couple of errors that can be improved – a little bit more seasoning, maybe, and possibly to encourage some of the flavours to come out in a more definite way.”


Final: Joint invention test


Main: Rib of beef with celeriac cannelloni stuffed with braised beef and duxelle with roasted leeks, wild mushrooms, celeriac purée and a beef jus



Final: Two course vegetarian invention test


Main: White truffle, mashed potato and egg yolk raviolo on a bed of leeks with pickled mushrooms and a mushroom velouté

Michel: “[The egg yolk is] perfect and runny as it should be. Lovely… That lovely mushroom velouté with the egg yolk running into it – that is heavenly. And the potato and mushroom work very well. A hint of truffle oil, not too much – very well judged. The Pasta is cooked perfectly. You get the odd pickled mushroom in there – a little ‘bing!’ of vinegar – yeah, that’s top class.”

Gregg: “I really didn’t expect that to be as delicious as it is. Mushroom so deep it’s almost sweet, with the beautiful truffle oil and that rich egg yolk. That’s banging on the door of divine, that is, honestly.”


Dessert: Chocolate fondant with a pineapple and mint salad and a chocolate crumb

Michel: “The fondant is lovely and runny in the middle, how it should be. The pineapple has ben roasted beautifully and it’s sweet enough to go in perfect harmony with the chocolate.

Gregg: “Wahey!...

“I’ve got tropical sunshine one side, I’ve got an English winter on the other. Love the pineapple, love your fondant but I don’t like the juice of the pineapple running into the sponge.”


Semi-final: Chef's two courses


Main: Sous vide fillet of beef, cep, grelot onion, deep-fried shallot, wood sorrel salad, cep purée and a madeira and cep reduction

Michel: "I like your presentation. I like your cep purée – the little drags. It’s a well-dressed plate. The beef is cooked rare, which is really nice. It’s soft, it’s tender but it could have been caramelized a little bit more to give it intense flavour. Cep purée – really delicious, smooth and sweet. The sauce is very intense, full of flavour again of cep. I wasn’t too sure about this little salad of sorrel leaves with the beef but I think in this instance it does work. It works because the sorrel leaves are quite sour and citrusy and work well with the sweetness of the wild mushroom, the cep purée. There’s some great cooking here, Oli.”

Gregg: "I like that a great deal. I like the strength of the crunch you get when you bite down on that onion ring. I also love the sauce. I love the ceps, I love the salda with it – it is a light but still big-tasting beef dish."


Dessert: Palet d’or with crispy feuilletine base, topped with white chocolate cream with kirsch-poached cherries and a dark chocolate paint

Michel: “This looks very understated. This looks minimalist and I like it. I’ve eaten lots of palet d’or and I’ve made lots of palet d’or and the exterior of this palet d’or is perfect. It’s rich, it’s smooth, it’s intense with the dark bitter chocolate. The centre is a little too runny. You meant this to be runny but not as wet as this. It tastes so good though, it really does – it tastes wonderful."

Gregg: "I look down at that and all I can hear is ‘Gregg. Eat me’... That is the pudding of a king. The juice coming out of that cherry – the wine and the kirsch and the spices – it’s like really enhanced cherry juice. It’s really refreshing against loads of really rich, sticky chocolate but it’s not too sweet, it’s just luxury. Honestly, from the first mouthful you had me.”


Semi-final: Marcus Wareing's signature dish


Roast lobster, smoked egg yolk and broccolli four ways with Hollandaise sauce and a lobster reduction

Marcus: "As far as the presentation, it looks fantastic. It looks clean, fresh, light, the cutting of the lobster is exactly the same way as I did it in my dish. I really like the fact that you put the sauce on the side. Sometimes putting these sauces on can really damage a dish when it has to travel through the kitchen. Really nice touch, something I do myself a lot. Great.

"The execution of what you’ve done is good. My one criticism is that the texture of the lobster is not as tender as it should be – you’ve slightly overcooked it and it’s made it a little bit chewier than it should be. But I’m being very critical here. Like your dish a lot."


Semi-final: Chef's own dish


Spinach and liver-stuffed saddle of rabbit, pan-fried rabbit rack and kidneys served with truffle gnocchi, black truffle purée, pea purée and a rabbit sauce

Michel: “That’s a very nice presentation, Oli. It’s not business class, that’s first class...

"Almost, but not quite, for me. Your ballotine - slightly underdone. That liver is borderline. So near to perfection.”

Monica: “The truffle you have there is just the right amount, it’s not overpowering. The vegetables are cooked properly and it’s perfectly seasoned.”

Gregg: “And that sauce tastes almost like a licquorice stick. It’s really lovely. Job well done, son.”


Quarter-final: The critics


Main: Confit salmon, curry mussel stew with steamed courgette

A mousse stuffing for the courgette flower was not served

Charles Campion: “His dish lives or dies on how well the salmon’s performed… I think it’s quite an accomplished dish. Well cooked salmon, nice creamy broth, crunchy vegetables. What’s not to like?”

William Sitwell: “I do like the curry in the sauce – there’s a kind of heat there which sort of comes up slowly and taps you on the shoulder.”

Jay Rayner: “The courgette flower is still the very lonely Nobby no-mates at the edge of the party. I’m not sure what it’s doing there except to make you feel that you’ve had your greens. It’s completely redundant.”


Dessert: Buttermilk and fig leaf panna cotta with fig juice, pistachio crumb and honeycomb

William Sitwell: “I really like the look of this. It’s original, it’s fresh, it’s a nice combination of colours. I’ve never seen anything like it before, which is always great, and also there’s quite a lot of it, which, if we like it, is a bonus… The honeycomb tastes fantastically sweet and honeyish and the fig is perfect – and the crumbs of pistachio. You just want to keep on digging in there and keep on eating for ever. It’s a real triumph, I love it.”

Charles Campion: “This is like a really super-duper cream custard with crispy rubbly bits to go with it – it works really well. Absolutely delicious. “

Jay Rayner: “This is lovely. The panna cotta is perfectly set – I mean absolutely perfectly set – and then you can just mix in whichever bit from the top you want.”


Quarter-final: Invention test


Roast crown of guinea fowl, confit wings, a celeriac purée, girolles, lardons, spinach and artichokes with a chanterelle sauce

Michel: “Thankfully, you’ve put a lot of sauce in it because any food that’s put in a bowl should have lots of sauce, so I like that. What I don’t particularly like is this swipe [of purée] around the edge. It looks like a mistake. Perfectly roasted guineafowl suprême – lovely and moist, beautifully seasoned. Brown crispy skin – bang on. Your confit wings – a crispy, rich, rich flavour... not easy to do in an hour. The sauce is divine. This is a very straightforward classic dish. If any of those elements were wrong it would be a disaster. I can safely say none of them are wrong. Other than that smear.”

Gregg: “That’s the sort of dish I order, that’s the sort of dish I polish off – nice glass of red wine, happy boy, very good.”


Round 2: Chef’s classic dish


Sole Véronique – sole stuffed with fish mousse, topped with sautéed grapes, potato crisps and slices of truffle with a leek purée and vert jus buerre blanc

Michel: “Very modern, colourful and looks good… There’s some good cooking here. I think your sole is lovely, it’s well seasoned and the truffle works very well with the purée which is sweet. I’m still not sold on the truffle/grape combination but my biggest issue is the buerre blanc. It’s far, far too sharp. Otherwise, it’s a very good dish.”

Gregg: “Love it – lovely looking plate… Almost chef, almost. There’s some heavenly, delightful flavours in there – that lovely fish and truffle, and the fish mousse inside is mouth-wateringly meltingly good, and then you put that beurre blanc on there and it’s just so sharp. You’ve taken me from really mellow and really nice and just smacked me round the face with it.”


Round 2: Michel’s classic dish


Oef fois Careme – globe artichoke filled with smoked salmon and mayonnaise, topped with a poached egg and truffle, served with blinis

Michel: “I like the presentation, it also looks very round which means you’ve turned the artichoke properly… Lovely – I have to stop myself because I would very easily eat all of that. Seasoning bang on – little bit of lemon juice, the right amount of pepper in there. The mayonnaise is just holding that salmon together. The blinis are light, airy. It’s a very well balanced dish. That’s the first time you’ve ever made blinis? That’s very good, Oli.”


Round 1: Invention test


Almond and brioche pain perdu with dressed pear, pear purée, caramelised rosemary, an almond praline tuille and red wine syrup

Monica: “It’s a great plate, Oli. Your flavours are well balanced, your pain perdu is ever so moist, ever so soft but full of flavour, and I love the crunch coming through the almonds.”

Gregg: “I don’t just wanna eat that, Oli, I want to bath in it. That is lovely, that is fantastic. It is so mellow and so yummy, it’s quite rich, it’s deep, it’s not too sweet and there are little candied bits of rosemary which are just… you get a bit of sugar and then you get a bit of rosemary hint. This is really clever cooking.”


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


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