Monday, December 14, 2015

MasterChef Asia Season 1 Episode 15: Recap and Thoughts on Episode 15 [FINALE]

Photo from MasterChef Asia FB Page
  • It's finally the MasterChef Asia Finale! In this episode, Marcus and Leong will go on a head-to-head cook-off by competing against each other in three rounds of intense MasterChef challenges that will showcase their abilities as the two of the top home cooks in Asia. The contestant with the most points out of a possible score of 100 will be crowned the first MasterChef Asia champion!
  • It's been very fun covering this show and I hope you continue to read some of the other articles we put out. I promise that I'll cover season 2 of MasterChef Asia as well next year. I can't wait!
  • This will be an intense cook-off. I thought that Marcus, Leong, and Ha all had the skills, techniques, and creativity to win MasterChef Asia. Sadly, Ha was eliminated early on. I don't have any complaints against Marcus or Leong winning the title because they are both very talented cooks. They both deserve the crown. 
  • It's Singapore versus Malaysia! I'm personally rooting for Leong because I think he's the better cook. Marcus, however, is so talented that he can beat Leong with how precise he executes each of his dishes. Marcus is very good with desserts, but I question how well he will do with cooking savory dishes in the finale. Leong, on the other hand, is an amazing savory cook. 
  • Here are the MasterChef challenges for tonight:
    • Mystery Box - 30 points - 60 minutes to cook 1 dish
    • 2-Course Meal - 30 points - 2 hours to cook a salad and main
    • Pressure Test - 40 points - 1 hour to replicate a very difficult dessert
  • The first challenge involves the iconic mystery box challenge, where the contestants were given a mystery box full of rhubarb, quail, dark chocolate, lavender, artichoke, cauliflower, tarragon, and blueberries. They also had a number of pantry staples to work with. 
  • Marcus immediately thought of doing dessert but after a while he couldn't find added inspiration to conceptualize a dessert dish. He looks visibly worried that he might have to go against Leong with a savory dish instead.
  • Leong wants to use all the ingredients in the mystery box. I'm not sure if he's being smart about it or if he's trying to do too much - it depends on how well he conceptualizes and executes his dish. It is a very risky decision because it might not work. 
  • Leong is trying to do a cauliflower and dark chocolate puree. Wow, I'm not sure if that is brilliant or disgusting. In my mind, those two ingredients don't work together very well. 
  • Marcus is doing a quail ballotine and he is in a bit of a disadvantage because Leong is the better savory cook. I hope he doesn't overcook that quail so that he has a shot at winning this. 
  • Leong seems to be taking his time with the cauliflower and chocolate puree because he couldn't quite get the  proper balance of flavors right. Initially, he said the chocolate was overpowering the puree so he added raw cauliflower to the mix. That might potentially lose him points if there are still cauliflower chunks in there. 
  • It was a good idea for Leong to switch to a white plate when plating up to really showcase the colors of the different ingredients in the dish . Too bad that Marcus didn't make the same switch because unfortunately his jus was the same color as the plate and it didn't look as good as Leong's plate. 
  • Leong's Pan Seared Quail dish looks gorgeous. Based on the comments from the judges, it was refined not only in terms of presentation but also with its flavors - all the 8 elements on the plate came together beautifully. The judges, surprisingly, loved the chocolate cauliflower puree. Truly a great way to start out the finale! 
  • Marcus also presented his Quail Ballotine pretty safe and the somewhat invisible jus didn't help. Susur and Bruno both had bones in their quail which will lose Marcus some points. The judges loved his cauliflower puree and pickled blueberries that was infused with a bit of lavender.
  •  After the first round, here's how the points tallied up: 
    • Leong - 25 points
    • Marcus - 22 points
  • The second challenge is for the finalists to prepare a 2 course meal - a salad and a main - for 8 people, including 5 guest judges. That's a pretty daunting task for the finale! Unfortunately, no dessert challenge for Marcus yet. 
  • Leong is preparing a short rib main with dishes infused with coffee while Marcus is going for a seafood-inspired dish with lots of mushrooms.
  • The sous vide of Marcus had some very delicious aromatics to it, sadly he just couldn't get the vacuum machine to work. He had to resort to poaching the lobsters instead. To add to his bad luck, he also cut his finger in the middle of the challenge. 
  • Typical Marcus, this time he was making a savory crumble because he couldn't find any bread crumbs. He wanted to use it as a sand for his seafood dish, a brilliant concept. 
  • Marcus and Leong had to plate up 16 dishes each. Considering that each plate has to be consistent, that's a pretty huge challenge that will take 15 to 20 minutes to get right. They need to plate each dish with perfection.
  • The high-caliber guest judges are:
    • Chef Justin Quek - Sky on 57
    • Chef Bjorn Shen - Artichoke Restaurant Singapore
    • Chef David Pynt - Burnt Ends
    • Chef May Chow - Little Bow
    • Chef June Rorimpaney - MasterChef Indonesia Judge
  • The judges loved the salad that Marcus put up, the general sentiment is that it's a small dish that's huge with flavor, pleasant acidity, and great texture.
  • Justin Quek really didn't like Leong's dish and the other judges echoed that sentiment because of the lack of coffee flavor. The salad was over bitter and the elements were a bit undercooked. This might cost Leong his lead. 
  •  The Poached Lobster dish that Marcus put up was visually underwhelming. It was one-dimensional in color and it needed some greens. The lobsters were cooked perfectly and the bisque was rich in flavor and umami. The sand didn't have that much flavor, which went against Marcus. 
  • All the judges loved Leong's dish, the short ribs were cooked perfectly and the addition of leeks, onions, and five spice really gave a unique flavor combination that made it the best dish of the round.  
  •  After the second round, here's how the points tallied up: 
    • Leong - 25 points + 23 points = 48 points
    • Marcus - 22 points + 21 points = 43 points
  • Not to hit on the judges, but it seemed that Leong made the best and worst dish in this challenge. I think 7 points should have been the highest he can get (if each judge were to score each dish individually, with a salad having an average score of 5 and the main scoring a 9, he would have just gotten 20-21 points). I'm not sure how Audra could give Leong a score of 8 given how disappointing the salad was. 
  • The next round is a dessert round worth 40 points! The contestants had to replicate Chef Gaggand Anand's challenging dessert from Gaggan's in Bangkok, Asia's best restaurant and ranked 10th in the world
  • The dish they had to replicate is Chef Gagand's Mango Snowball, which combines science, art, and food together. Marcus and Leong only had 8 attempts.
  • The Mango Snowball looks stunning. I can't wait to see how well the contestants can replicate the dessert. Marcus is the dessert king so he has the advantage. He can definitely bounce back to potentially win this if Leong screws up. 
  • Leong strained his mango puree into a bowl that had white chocolate in it, and that might screw up his dessert in the end. 
  • The contestants had 15 minutes to plate up their final Mango Snowball. It was funny looking at Marcus and Leong struggling to fill up the balloon and tying it before submerging it in liquid nitrogen. They both can't tie the balloon properly. 
  • The plate that Marcus put up was perfect. He really plated up an almost perfect Mango Snowball replicate to the judges. They said the texture and flavor was absolutely spot on so he might have gotten a perfect score for this challenge.
  • Leong's Mango Snowball had beautiful texture inside but had some cracks outside. Chef Gaggand mentioned that the cracked snowball won't be served in his restaurant. 
  • The final point tally after the pressure test is: 
    • Leong - 25 points + 23 points + 34 points = 82 points
    • Marcus - 22 points + 21 points +36 = 79 points
  • It's fitting, Leong won both the Savory dishes while Marcus won the dessert challenge. I thought Leong should have gotten 32 points in the final round because you really can't score his dish 9 points similar to Marcus since there were huge cracks outside his Mango Snowball. Maybe the flavors were a lot better to bridge the gap, we won't know. 
  • Leong was crowned the first MasterChef Asia champion! He deserves it as he really is one of the best cooks in the competition putting up some amazing dishes. I wanted him to win it all and I'm so happy that he did. 
  • The first season of MasterChef Asia was not perfect, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was very disappointed at first but it ended beautifully. Congratulations Leong! 

Here's a list of what each MasterChef Asia team cooked today. 
  • Singapore
    • Woo Wai Leong
      • Mystery Box: Pan Seared Quail with Chocolate Cauliflower Puree, Artichoke, Pickled Blueberries and Rhubarb
      • 2 Course Meal Test:
        • Salad - Roasted Carrot and Beet Salad
        • Main - Asian Short Ribs, Charred Leeks and Brown Butter Onion Puree
      • Pressure Test: Mango Snowball
  • Malaysia
    • Marcus Low
      • Mystery Box: Quail Ballotine with Cauliflower Puree and Pickled Blueberries and Rhubarb
      • 2 Course Meal Test:
        • Salad - Smoked Mushroom Aragula Salad with Balsamic Jelly and Shitake Crumble
        • Main - Poached Lobster on Crumble with Crustacean Bisque
      • Pressure TestMango Snowball
MasterChef Asia Recap and Thoughts for the week's episode will be released every Saturday at 7:00pm PHT. 

Do you think Leong deserves the crown of MasterChef Asia? Let us know in the comments section!

It would be great to hear your thoughts would you like to see improve in the show for MasterChef Asia season 2.  

Further reading you might like:

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Chef Jay

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