A parfait storm swirled through TV3's Celebrity MasterChef kitchen this week, sweeping away with it a perpetually flustered and time-challenged Evelyn Cusack.
“It was the best of times and it was the worst of times ... I’ve gone from highs to lows,” the RTÉ weather presenter said, swinging from Dickens to meteorology after the judges delivered a verdict that was as predictable as rain on St Patrick’s Day.
Not quite so foreseeable was the segue of the cooking show into an episode of The Apprentice, with not one but two of the contestants landing job offers. "You're hired," top pastry chef Claire Clark might as well have said as she whipped her business card out and handed it to Samantha Mumba on production of her "restaurant worthy" dessert.
"You are so employable," judge Daniel Clifford enthused, and not for the first time this series, as GAA star Oisín McConville passed off his runny ice-cream as "soft scoop" and limped through to the next round. Is the chef shortage really that bad?
Dessert week brought with it a daunting masterclass from Clark, and a dollop of high drama: “I’m going to pick them up now, hang on. Dunno whose they were ...”, are words that must never be uttered in a TV cooking show kitchen, especially when prefaced by a resounding clatter.
Claiming only to have opened a freezer door – "and about nine mousses, a couple of parfaits, and a potted plant fell out" – actor Simon Delaney needed all his birthday boy goodwill to get over that faux pas. But happily Samantha Mumba's work was salvageable and he could get back to calling her "Mumbalicious", whether she liked it or not.
Clark’s challenging task of recreating her dish – sticky toffee pudding à la mode, with vanilla parfait and date sponge, glazed chocolate mousse filled with salt treacle, amaretto and chocolate shards – was a triumph for “in it to win it” charity worker Colm O’Gorman, as well as Mumba.
“If I had another card, I’d give to to you,” Clark said as the recruitment drive ramped up again. “I’d like to give you a hug,” Clifford told a startled O’Gorman, while Mumba’s pudding almost brought the UK chef to tears. “It’s quite moving actually Claire isn’t it,” he gushed. Dessert is clearly an emotional thing.
Emotions in check
Singer Mundy kept his emotions in check until the following day’s challenge, which involved cooking a dessert with fruit. “It’s my take on breakfast for dessert,” he said, explaining why there was a packet of bacon on his bench. “Flavours of marmalade and toast, and you’re back in your granny’s kitchen, with a mug of tea.” Burnt toast powder and frosted orange peel were also involved. “I love burnt toast,” said Clark, just a bit too enthusiastically.
Colm O'Gorman was showing off again, with his pears cooked three ways, blackberry sorbet, chocolate soil and Swiss meringue. "It punches you in the face," said co-judge Robin Gill, in what might have been a compliment.
Simon Delaney’s advice to himself to “take a chill pill” filtered through to his pannacotta, which wobbled languorously on request. And even Oisín McConville’s chocolate coulant – a fondant by any other name – co-operated and oozed appropriately.
Samantha Mumba whipped up another triumph with her poached pear with bourbon mascarpone and chilli chocolate shards, which Clark described as "looking like it should be in a glossy magazine", and Niamh Kavanagh had Gill and Clifford cooing over her pleasingly rustic poached plum bread and butter pudding.
That just left nice Evelyn Cusack, whose departure was sealed the moment her tart tatin was greeted with the short and not so sweet words: “It’s pleasant”, from Daniel Clifford. Desserts are never just “pleasant”, not in the MasterChef kitchen.