We are told it’s a ‘Chef after hours’ game. For me, this cries dodgy – I don’t know why I that’s my instant thought, but surely, after hours of sweating it out in the kitchen, a Chef gets kind of crazy after hours?
But no, actually it’s about getting back in the kitchen and cooking all over again! And cooking your last dish on earth – your favourite food – the food you want to share and eat as you prepare to leave this world. OK, I wasn’t expecting that!
Instantly, I think of dessert. If it’s the last meal then as a dessert fiend I will have to produce all my favourite desserts and some for my family and present them on a platter. Ten minutes in the pantry is a heap of time – more than enough to find loads of delicious dessert ingredients – butter, cream and chocolate – you can’t go wrong!
The judges want our story on a plate so I figure a ridiculously crazy, decadent assortment of desserts should encapsulate that! There is a lot to get done but I started positively and feel under control with getting everything under way. I figure as some things cook or chill I can work on other components.
Ella is alongside me and she works methodically and with a strong focus. With many an exchange of smiles we set to our tasks, sharing our bench and preparing our meals. I notice she is creating some amazing story with scallops – yum. If we could start with her food and end with mine it would be a pretty sensational meal!
Simon calls past and I explain I am making an almond tart, a tiramisu, some creme brulee and a chocolate ice cream. There’s a load of food to cook and I’m cooking it for all my family – those in my life and for those who have already passed on. I figure they are watching me from heaven and they are in my heart too. So, I don’t want to go home on this challenge.
Then the most insane thing happens. I am not even sure what has transpired. There is water everywhere. I have poured boiling water into my dish to poach the creme brulee and it is all over the stove. How on earth did I do that? It dawns on me the pan must be spring form and unsealed. It is pandemonium as towels appear on the stove to mop up the water and there looming over it all is Josh, shaking his head, querying what on earth is happening and looking in disbelief at the shambles created by such a small mistake.
No time to be bugged by mistakes though so I buoy myself along with a reassurance to myself that I am actually under control. If you tell yourself, then it must be so!! Josh takes a long look back at me and is clearly not so assured of my ability to be sorted but I figure there is no time to react – just solve it and move on! Ella gives me a break and a smile as Josh tells her to avoid my chaos. Gotta love good friends in the kitchen!
Then bizarrely there is more confusion. This time it is Ella looking shocked and fully entrenched in a crazy scenario. Her pressure cooker is whistling furiously and there is fish stock erupting everywhere. A second shambles and we just keep on working. Laughingly we are mopping up stock and spilt water whilst continuing to create and cook. We both know it is essential to keep it together and move on – perhaps our bench is jinxed! No time to worry. Smile and get to work.
Then it is time to plate up and the kitchen becomes a frenzy of activity as contestants all focus on finalizing their meals. I get everything on to the platter and am relieved to have achieved all I set out to do. Stepping away from the bench I check on Ella and am happy to see her under control – we did it – thank goodness.
By the time I present my dish to the judges I am gutted to see my tiramisu has collapsed completely and overtaken the whole plate. When Josh asks how I feel about the presentation I decide to run with the ‘rustic is good’ line. I figure it is better than admitting defeat.
When the judges taste and discuss the food I acknowledge to myself that I did definitely take on too much and compromise on the quality and presentation. Thrilled they loved the chocolate flavour of the ice cream though – that was there for my husband – an all time favourite. And the tiramisu – well you have to use what you have on hand and kahlua is a yummy alternative – isn’t it Josh!
At elimination time we are rather relived to hear the standard we set was high. When the first 6 contestants are called forward though I have to remember to breath. I feel happy for them, especially some like Paul and Sushill who haven’t been at the top before. But I do worry where I am going to end up. Then suddenly Ella and I are called along with Corrina and Kelly and we are through. There is no ceremony about it but we are safe. Ella and I sink into the sofa together and acknowledge that in spite our insane journey of misadventure in this challenge, we have made it through. We are safe.