Celebrity MasterChef: Samantha Mumba rumbled amid smoke, swearing and singed celeriac

After producing a ‘mammy dinner’, the former favourite for the title is sent packing

Don’t look so surprised ...  Samantha Mumba has been shown the door of the  Celebrity MasterChef kitchen

Don’t look so surprised ... Samantha Mumba has been shown the door of the Celebrity MasterChef kitchen


Smoke, swearing and singed celeriac – it was a stressful day in the TV3 Celebrity MasterChef kitchen when judge Daniel Clifford dusted off his molecular gastronomy set and let “his children” as he called the five remaining contestants, play with his favourite toy.

Not everyone survived the experiment, and this week it was the turn of singer Samantha Mumba to retreat to the safety of the sidelines. “Who’da thunk it?” muttered Simon “dish of the day” Delaney as the former favourite for the title got her marching orders.

Citric acid, agar agar, dry ice and origami – not your everyday ingredients, but all required to recreate Clifford’s fiendishly complicated dish of celeriac baked on open coals with hazelnut hollandaise. It didn’t go well, to put it kindly, for the famous five, who failed to turn in a single finished plate at the end of the two-hour challenge.

“My head is absolutely, totally and utterly fried,” former GAA star Oisín McConville sighed, before retreating to a corner of the kitchen to perform a set of stress-alleviating press-ups, which is obviously what All-Stars do when the going gets tough.

Control freak

Even more worrying, or entertaining, depending on what side of the kitchen you were on, was the spectacle of control freak Colm O’Gorman dissolving into a puddle of anxiety. “I am having a complete meltdown,” he babbled. But there was to be no immunity from mortification for the Amnesty boss.

“Where’s your second plate?” barked co-judge Robin Gill, sending O’Gorman back to present the rest of his handiwork, a platter on which rested a naked disc of celeriac, and a couple of bashful hazelnuts.

“This sh*t really upsets me because I feel like I’ve let you down,” said a despondent Clifford, when what he really meant was quite the opposite. “What a disaster” agreed Gill as they surveyed the unfinished plates and unhinged cooks, before agreeing to pretend it never happened.

“It’s a new day,” Gill said, welcoming the warriors back to the kitchen the next morning to face a new foe, or foes. “Yay” Simon Delaney might have said, banishing memories of what he dubbed celeriacgate and psyching himself up to become the darling of the Critics’ Table.

Critics at the ready: Katy McGuinness, Máirtín Mac Con Iomaire, David Gillick, Gillian Nelis and Sandy Wyer
Critics at the ready: Katy McGuinness, Máirtín Mac Con Iomaire, David Gillick, Gillian Nelis and Sandy Wyer

Could anything be more terrifying than cooking for a posse of food critics? Yes, being late with the goods for a table of food critics that have just described themselves as “starving” and ravenous”.

A hangry food critic does not a happy MasterChef kitchen make, but they had several drumming fingers on the table moments ahead of them.

‘No slack’

“I’m not cutting them any slack in terms of delivering restaurant quality food here,” warned food writer and restaurant reviewer Katy McGuinness, her assessment of Samantha Mumba’s beef dish as sounding “like a Mammy dinner” sealing the singer’s fate.

Niamh Kavanagh’s lamb dish also fell foul of the critics. Size matters, it seems, especially to former winner of the competition, David Gillick, who sized up his petite rack and observed, “ I got a bit of a raw deal ... yours is quite a doorstop”.

Gillick also passed verdict on Oisín McConville’s duck with pickled beetroot and cherry juice – juice not jus, the Armagh man insisted – revealing that he had cooked with McConville on TV “and the fella could barely boil an egg”.

Restaurateur Sandy Wyer’s misgivings about Colm O’Gorman’s ambitious dish of venison fillet with pomegranate and date labneh, blackberries and a peanut crumble, proved to be well placed and the dish was universally panned.

“I don’t know where you got the recipe from,” Gill queried, somewhat incredulously. That would be the great Ottolenghi, as any keen student of the Middle Eastern maestro would know. “That book is going in the bin when I get home,” O’Gorman retorted.

That just left Simon Delaney due for a grilling, or in this case a gentle massaging with praise, for his “refined and elegant” smoked haddock and leek risotto with garlic sourdough crumb and poached egg.

In awe

Heeding Clifford’s advice to curb his generosity and “use a smaller spoon, not a JCB” to apply the risotto to his plate, and to treat his haddock “like you would your woman”, the actor and TV presenter turned in a dish that had restaurant critic Gillian Nelis in barely disguised awe. “I’ve been in restaurants where I’ve been served fish that wasn’t cooked this well.”

Simon Delaney presents his dish of the day
Simon Delaney presents his dish of the day

“We’re finishing on a crescendo here,” agreed food historian Máirtín Mac Con Iomaire. Gill pronounced it “the dish of the day, and quite possibly the tournament so far”, the trauma of the two days perhaps momentarily leading him to believe he’d landed on the set of It’s A Knockout.

“I’ve never poached a haddock before, never made a crumb from garlic bread before,” said Delaney, who last week shared the revelation that he’d “never eaten a pear before”.

It’s a game of firsts, it seems. But we’re on to you, Delaney. You’ve shown your hand and played your (recipe) cards now, and a new favourite for the Celebrity MasterChef title has emerged from the pack.