Now down to just 5 students, round three saw the ever increasingly difficult task of eliminating one more chef before the final. So, it was time for the ingredients recognition test to get their creative juices flowing in this innocent warm up challenge. Armed with blank card and pen and a selection of 12 mystery ingredients, they were poised and competitive. No sooner had the ingredients been revealed including samphire, pheasant, fennel seeds and physalis to name a few, the 15 minute countdown began.
Whilst their attempts were marked, the contestants were presented with the second component of the challenge which was enough to cast them into deftly silence once again- you could have heard a pin bone drop. And this round was all about the fish, more specifically mackerel. After a clear and insightful whistle-stop tour of the master technique from Barbora, students had 10 quick, fishy minutes to produce 2 clean mackerel fillets before a 15 minute countdown to produce an original and tasty dish from the bench of inspiration. Whole and ready to be gutted, filleted, cooked and presented in an appetising way, they attacked their unlucky fish with determination and confidence.. Armed with potatoes, horseradish, apple, radish, cucumber and some fresh vibrant herbs, our hungry stomachs had potential to be satisfied.
Silence and whispers reverberated the walls as our new guest judge Angela Mount, gazed at the concentrating chefs and peered with anticipation over their busy shoulders. With a 5 minute time call, a sudden spur of panic yielded clumsy fingers, sent pans to the floor, and warranted the requirement of the extractor fan as the determination and commitment for that all important crispy skin was attempted. First to the table, Shanice offered us a beautiful and tempting plate of pan-fried mackerel on boiled potatoes with a creamy horseradish and crème friache sauce. Sitting comfortingly next to a delicately and thoughtfully put together salad of shaved apple and radish, she set the bar high. With ribbons of cucumber, cubed beetroot, matchsticks of apple and some fiery sauces, the standards once again made the judges proud.
Whilst there was some flawless filleting from Anna amongst some more beginner attempts, Rosie’s perfectly cooked fish combined with here recognition score was enough to award her highly commended for this week. Judges were impressed by the care and attention in Laura’s filleting and the crispy skin on Leong’s mackerel was enough to go back for seconds. However, someone had to go and this week it certainly wasn’t easy. But, taking into consideration all the components of the challenge, we reluctantly said goodbye to Laura.