The word on new MasterChef judge Marcus Wareing is that he's stern. Very stern. "He's probably the most feared and respected chef in the country," said one contestant in last night's first heat, who went on to prove his point by shaking like a leaf through all three rounds. MasterChef: the Professionals (BBC2) is back for a seventh series and, as usual, it means business.
Forget the gentle encouragement and cheeky innuendo of The Great British Bake-Off, in this cooking competition everyone talks with the same cliché-laden ambition of a footballer in a post-match interview. "This is a big journey. Are you ready?" demanded Marcus of Justin, a hotel chef in Suffolk. "Is he strapped in?" added co-host and "seasoned diner" Gregg Wallace. "Oh yeah," replied a revved-up Marcus, "are you?" No doubt they could have gone on like that for a while, if the editors hadn't intervened with a close-up of chicken thighs flash-frying in a pan.
Darren, a head chef working in the Lake District, is the stand-out so far, and not because of his shaking hands – though Gregg and second judge Monica Galetti went on and on about them (nice one, guys, I'm sure that really helped). Darren impressed with an "absolutely delicious" dish of roasted quail, fondant potato and carrot jus.
Contrast this with Brian from Aberdeen, who fearlessly embraced national culinary stereotypes by chucking his quail straight in the deep fat fryer. He then scooped all his food over to one side of the plate and passed it off as an artistic statement. "I'd have thought in Scotland, they'd say, 'Where's the rest of my dish?'" was Marcus's response.
Credit where credit's due: this is one of the few long-running competition shows to stick rigidly to its original mission. So while The Apprentice no longer offers an actual apprenticeship, and The X Factor has almost nothing to do with music, MasterChef: the Professionals is all about the food. It certainly isn't about humour or personality, anyway, both of which were in very short supply on last night's show.
The approach to competition is as no-nonsense as the stainless-steel fittings of the studio kitchen, so no wonder the contestants are shaking. Even jolly Gregg saved his warmest congratulations for himself: "It's not easy to get your knife and fork in when there's three of us, but I managed." Well done, Gregg, mate. They don't call you a "seasoned diner" for nothing.Reuse content