MasterChef: The Professionals 2012 semi-finalists - Alec Maxfield
From chicken ballotine filled with tarragon and chicken mousse to pan-fried turbot with beef dripping potatoes, Alec's dish-by-dish journey...
Job: Head chef
Semi-final: Chef's own dish
Roast rack of venison with a gin and tonic jelly, spinach, marinated beets, caramelised pineapple and a port, lentil and orange jus
Michel: “A lot going on on that plate. A lot of skills and a lot of work… I can understand venison with pinapple – perfect, not a problem – but personally I think that gin and tonic jelly spoils this dish. The sauce looks beautiful but is far too sweet.”
Gregg: “Vegetables beautifully cooked, pineapple fruitiness I like. Excellent cooking of your venison. What I absolutely love is the thin gin and tonic jelly on top of those sweet, earthy beetroots - it’s got a real bitterness to it."
Monica: “So many ingredients, you’re gonna kill the dish. You need to know when to stop.”
Quarter-final: The critics
Main: “Fish and chips” - pan-fried turbot fillet served with beef dripping potatoes and pea purée; scallop with a cabernet sauvignon reduction; tartar velouté
Tracey MacLeod: “I think this is definitely the best composed dish of the day. It’s been put together by someone who’s got an eye. It looks really nice. The little cabernet sauvignon jus that comes with the scallop, it’s really delicious. Every element of this is really nicely done. It’s a good dish.”
Jay Rayner: “All the various bits have been done very nicely. The fish has been cooked very well, the scallop’s great, I rather like the confit potatoes. This tartar velouté, well, it’s a slightly more acidic buerre blanc by any other name. Put it all together and it’s a very balanced plate of food with some serious technique.”
Dessert: Liquid chocolate cake with variations of apricot – purée, gel, raw apricot, poached apricot and a sorbet
Jay Rayner: “Let’s put all the guff about liquid chocolate cakes aside – it’s a really, really, really good chocolate fondant. The variations on apricot are really a bit silly and what I would really have liked is a really big scoop of a brilliantly zingy apricot sorbet. But the main thing, Alec’s liquid chcocalte cake – a chocolate fondant by any other name – is a bit of a triumph.”
Tracey MacLeod: “Technically, all the little bits of apricot he’s done really well and the poached apricot was really sweet. You can see why Alec has reached this stage in the competition from what he’s fed us.”
Quarter-final: Invention test
Pan-fried fillet of pollock with celeriac and lemon purée, crushed new potatoes, a fricassée of clams, girolles and baby turnips, and a lemon and clam velouté
Michel: “Presentation-wise I think it looks really pretty… The pollock is beautifully cooked, well-seasoned, crispy skin – bang on. The sauce has got bags and bags of flavour, the clams are lovely – the potato I really dislike. It’s got skins in there, there’s a texture which is not right, and it’s got too much flavour in there, too many herbs – I really dislike it.”
Gregg: “Chef is not a fan of crushed new potatoes and neither am I. Apart from that, I love that. The saltiness of the sea, a little bit of citrus and then a hint of truffle through sweet celeriac – that is delicious. You’ve taken a pollock, which hasn’t got very much flavour, and you have just built flavour around it, which I think is beautiful.”
Round 2: Chef’s classic dish
“Paella” - chicken and squid, paprika-flavoured fondant poatatoes, wilted spinach and balsamic dressing, with a chorizo and saffron risotto
An anchovy, olive and squid ink purée was not served
Michel: “Visually, I’m not keen on it. I don't think it’s doing the great, classic paella dish a favour. For me it’s confused... It’s bitty. It’s little morsels which are very well cooked and well done but it doesn’t work completely as a dish. And I’ll tell you one thing that is missing is that [anchovy, olive and squid ink purée].
Gregg: “That squid is so well cooked, it’s lovely. Those potatoes are buttery and soft. I love picking up the chicken with a little bit of balsamic vinegar. I like the rice as well, with saffron running through it. I like it but I feel like I’m at a buffet, taking little bits off the plate."
Round 2: Michel’s classic dish
Pochouse bourguignon – fresh water fish stew. Pan-fried pike and perch, fish broth, baby onions, mushrooms, smoked lardons, croutons
Michel: "First thing: it’s on a plate, it should be a bowl, therefore there’s just a token amount of the broth – it should be swimming in it. The fish is well cooked, it’s got a lovely colour, the croutons as well are delicious, the bacon is lovely. Everything is cut to the millimetre, it shows a lot of precision. The broth is delicious: you can taste the fish; little hint of smoked bacon in there – all the flavours are there. Why, oh why, did you not put it in a bowl? Annoying – very, very annoying.”
Round 1: Invention test
Chicken ballotine filled with tarragon and chicken mousse, with a fondant potato, caramelised onion purée, char-grilled leeks and a lemon cream
Monica: “ Your presentation is almost there. I like the fact that you have three pieces of the ballotine and you’ve followed it through wth the purée.
“That’s a great plate. I love the crispiness coming from the chicken and the herbs going through that. I like the char-grilled leeks. The fondant is perfectly cooked. Everything has come together very well on this plate, I like it."
Gregg: “I’d be very happy if it came up to me, very happy. Well, it has come up to me, and I am very happy!"