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MasterChef: The Professionals 2012 finalists - James Burton

From posh fish and chips to saddle of venison rolled in dandelion root and mushroom powder, James's dish-by-dish MasterChef journey...

Published: Wednesday, 14th November 2012 at 8:09 pm
James Burton
Age: 32Job: Private chefFrom: Northumberland


Semi-final: Chef's two courses

Saddle of venison rolled in dandelion root and mushroom powder with pearl barley, jelly ear mushrooms, cabbage leaves and stalks, a Soubis white onion sauce and a red wine, crab apple and rowan jelly sauce

Michel: “The presentation to me looks like it’s been thrown on the plate. You looked a bit rushed in the last five minutes, I don’t know if that’s got something to do with it, but it doesn’t look as neat and tidy as I was expecting…

“Very well cooked and seasoned venison loin. The sauce is good – really sweet – and it’s got a lovely fragrance from the rowan berries and crab apples, which is nice. The Soubis, or classic sweet white onion purée, is delicious and it works pefectly with the venison. The barley’s lovely, delicious – I love barley! – that’s been cooked really well. It’s a god dish – but I don’t find it refined enough."

Gregg: “I do enjoy the flavour of the slight bitterness, of pepperiness, round the outside of the venison and the really lovely sweet sauce – I do like that. Pearl barley, venison, wild mushrooms – it’s got all the big comforting flavours there. Elegant flavours? I don’t know. It’s country tweeds rather than pin-striped suits.”

Rose geranium custard with fresh and compressed strawberries, strawberry jelly, wood sorrel, a hazlenut biscuit crumb and a strawberry and sparkling wine sauce

Michel: “I like the presentation of the lovely strawberries and berries poking their heads out of this crumble. It is very pleasing, visually.

“I love the fact that the cream has only just set. I was a bit worried that the rose geranium was going to be overpowering and take away from the delicate flavour of the strawberry but it hasn’t – you’ve judged it just right. The strawberry jelly is delicious – it’s sharp and refreshing yet sweet. The compressed strawberries have got almost a fizz, Champagne-like, to them. The wood sorrel adds a bit of zing, which is really nice. The only let down for me is that crumb on the top – it’s not crispy enough, not crunchy. It needs to add a texture.“

Gregg: “It looks to me like it’s got hidden treasures. It’s definitely got me really intrigued… Your food is unique to me and some of the flavourings you put with it are quite special. Sweet strawberry, you’ve got cream in there, you’ve got an almost floral finish and then you’ve also got toasty nuts. That flavour, everyone’s gonna love it – that is comforting, soft, lovely.”

Semi-final: Daniel Clifford’s signature dish

Rosemary smoked rump of lamb, courgette and basil purée, piquillo pepper purée, confit tomato and a courgette and yoghurt dressing

Daniel: “The presentation, I think you’ve absolutely nailed that. The courgette purée, you’ve kept the colour on that, the courgette ribbons, they look phenomenal. I’m missing the yoghurt… You’ve caramelised the lamb beautifully. You’ve got it beautifully crisp on the outside but also the taste of the lamb – it’s beautiful. It just oozes that beautiful summer lamb, spring… it’s everything. It’s everything that I would want the dish to be. I think it does miss the yoghurt but you should be very proud if yourself – you’ve come into a two-star kitchen and you’ve nailed that. It’s exactly how I’d expect my chefs to cook it. You’ve done a brilliant job.”

Semi-final: Chef's own dish

Crab salad seasoned with sorrel juice and scattered with wild flowers and herbs, served with crab claw gujons, tartar sauce and brown farls and butter

Gregg: “I’m really excited – it looks fantastic."

Michel: “The star of the show – the real star – is that crab salad. The seasoning is bang on and all those lovely foraged leaves are adding more acidity, bitterness floral notes. Probably one of the best crab salads I’ve tasted. It really is."

Monica: “We make a lot of crab salads in the restaurant – I’d happily have that there any day.”

Quarter-final: The critics

Main: Hanger steak with garden greens, Pontac Catsup (two-year-aged elderberry pickle) and potato; wild garlic and bone marrow croquettes

Tracey MacLeod: "It’s a lovely, delicate looking thing and the star of it – this lovely, ruby-red, gorgeous looking beef…

"The croquettes are as light as air, and there's a wonderful little bite of wild garlic coming through, and a shiver of bone marrow in there too – they’re absolutely glorious."

Charles Campion: "I think this is magnificent. This is a beautiful piece of meat, it’s been barely cooked; as you chew it, it releases flavour after flavour – it’s just fantastic – and croquettes, of which I could eat a dozen."

William Sitwell: "I’m seriously impressed. It looked beautiful, it tasted great yet there’s a real originality behind it as well."

Dessert: "Rhubarb and custard" English set custard and sous vide rhubarb with red wine; elderflower blossom meringues, rhubarb and pine needle syrup and sorbet of poaching liquor

Tracey MacLeod: "This looks absolutely beautiful, and it tastes as good as it looks... It’s a triumph of a dish let down by one ingredient, and the guy is clearly very gifted."

Charles Campion: "The rhubarb, having been cooked sous vide, retains its texture so retains all the acid you get in rhubarb – it's actually painfully sharp."

William Sitwell: "The custard, I think, is wonderful. I love the crunchy crumble on top. The rhubarb sorbet is incredible. The flowers work. There’s a problem – the rhubarb hasn’t been cooked. Unfortunately, that tilts the scales in the favour of failure."

Quarter-final: Invention test

Roasted breast of pheasant, pheasant leg with mustard with baby turnips, beetroot and potatoes, vegetable stalks and leaves and red wine gravy

Michel: "James’s plate of food was full of flavour, full of extras, which I really love. His pheasant was slightly overcooked but everything else on that plate was heavenly."

Gregg: "Again, he made a terrific sauce and just didn't put enough on the plate. But he can cook – I like his food."

Round 2: Chef's classic dish

Saddle of rabbit with kidney and a haunch-and-liver faggot; duchess potatoes, a mustard and tarragon velouté and ground elder

Gregg: "His rabbit was sensational, absolutely sensational, and the flavour that he got into those faggots with the offal – I’m still licking my lips at the thought of it."

Michel: "I’ve rarely tasted wild rabbit that good. I think James can cook."

Round 2: Michel's classic dish

Epigrame de sole – fillet of sole stuffed with lobster with baby carrots and a lobster sauce

Michel: "[The presentation] is not got the finesse and elegance that I’m expecting.

"Your sole is crispy, crunchy, soft in the middle, just the right amount of tarragon. The highlight is your sauce – it’s got that lovely taste of lobster, and not overpowering in tomato. It’s exactly what I’m looking for."

Round 1: Invention test

"Fish and chips" – pan-fried gurnard and squid, with sautéed potatoes, apple julienne and a chilli-basil dressing

Monica: "This is the kind of plate I’ve been waiting to see: presentation perfect, the fish is cooked perfectly, so is that squid. The right amount of acidity, the right amount of chilli. I love this plate – thank you."


Gregg: "No criticism whatsoever... What I really like as a punter, as a diner, is no flavour dominates. You get little hints of stuff… You clever old stick!"


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