Sonia O’Sullivan in tears, struggling to hold back sobs, isn’t a sight Celebrity MasterChef viewers would have expected to be on the menu, but one of Ireland’s greatest athletes was the shock elimination in last night’s second heat of the cooking show – and she took it hard.
O'Sullivan was expected to be a frontrunner in the show – she has cooked with national treasure Neven Maguire for God's sake, but it wasn't to be. Her first mistake was to say to camera, with what could now be described misplaced confidence, that she often says after eating a dish in a restaurant: "I could make that myself."
Her attempt in the palate test at recreating judge Robin Gill’s signature dish of scallops, with wasabi yoghurt, pickled cucumber, dill oil, wakame crisps and nori powder, proved that sometimes, it’s just not that simple, and she was told to hang up her apron.
O'Sullivan's effort with the scallop dish wasn't the weakest. That distinction was easily claimed by actor Simon Delaney, who struggled with just about every element of the dish, and only came into his own when wielding the flaming blow torch used to sear the shellfish with almost unseemly enthusiasm.
Having served up lamb that was practically still bleating in the “childhood memories” test, Delaney’s goose might have been well and truly cooked, and his “what’s wakame ... and nori?” comment when faced with the scallops gave just the tiniest hint that he might be in trouble.
“I am not going to lie, it’s very tasty, but it's not my dish,” was Gill’s verdict on tasting Delaney’s effort, made with cucumber instead of courgette, cream instead of yoghurt, and mint instead of dill.
Model and singer Nadia Forde, not a cook, by her own admission – "I only started cooking when I realised I was doing this" – served up a burger that judge Daniel Clifford said he'd gladly pay for, in the childhood memories test. The UK chef also gave her yoghurt sauce element of the palate test the thumbs up.
But the admiration wasn’t mutual. “Does he always look like he’s in a bad mood,” she muttered as he cajoled her into eating her burger meat raw to see that it needed seasoning.
Singer-songwriter Mundy gave the two Michelin star chef his first taste of bacon and cabbage, in the childhood memories test, and his elaborate en-croute version, made with no less than three types of cabbage, was a good induction to an Irish classic for the Englishman.
“Mundy’s gone straight in like a bull,” Gill said when, to the judges’ surprise, he appeared not to need the recipe in order to recreate the scallop dish. It turned out he just hadn’t spotted it on his bench.
One to watch, Mundy’s diet of food TV stood him in good stead when he admitted he knew the dill needed blanching before being turned into a flavoured oil – because he’d seen it on TV.
Meanwhile, the real star of episode two, singer Samantha Mumba was emerging as a favourite to take the title. Plucking an oxtail from the larder ingredients (who has oxtail just sitting there, in their larder?) for the childhood memories test – as well as the entire spice rack – Mumba stood out as the adventurous one.
“You absolutely smashed it,” Robin Gill said, fighting off Daniel Clifford for the last few forkfuls of her dish. “She looks like she’s been working in a professional kitchen for a year or more,” Gill said, admiring her nonchalance when faced with the scallops. “She’s employable,” Clifford agreed.
If you can find a bookie quoting odds on this one, raid the housekeeping money and have a punt on Mumba – she’s got celebrity chef written all over her.