WHO’S THE MAS­TER?

Be­hind-the-scenes melt­downs on Celebrity MasterChef Ire­land

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - CONTENTS -

W alk­ing through the rub­ble-strewn carpark of the old John Player fac­tory on Dublin’s South Cir­cu­lar Road hardly whets your ap­petite — yet this is the new home of RTÉ’s Celebrity MasterChef set. The di­lap­i­dated stone walls en­case smashed win­dows, and the over­grown cob­ble streets bear more of a re­sem­blance to a post-apoc­a­lyp­tic movie set than Ire­land’s pre­mier cook­ery show. The magic of tele­vi­sion only be­comes ap­par­ent as I walk through a set of dusty doors onto a bright stu­dio floor and come face to face with the iconic sil­ver MasterChef logo.

It is week three on the two-month shoot and the six re­main­ing con­tes­tants are hud­dled at their yel­low and steel­work sta­tions, busy re-cre­at­ing their own ver­sions of a child­hood dessert. The air is thick with the smell of melt­ing but­ter, vanilla, stew­ing fruit and per­spi­ra­tion. And if any­one thinks th­ese celebri­ties aren’t se­ri­ous about win­ning, think again; the ten­sion in the air is pal­pa­ble.

Judge Nick Mu­nier is do­ing the rounds, check­ing on the con­tes­tants’ progress, not­ing slip-ups and gen­er­ally adding a sec­ond pair of hands. ‘They are all so com­pet­i­tive,’ he tells me. ‘That’s the first thing I was sur­prised about be­cause you think they are all com­ing in here just to get a bit of pro­file but, no, they are re­ally in it to win it.’ In the cor­ner of a couch I spot Dy­lan McGrath, wrapped up in a grey cardi­gan, his head cupped in his hands over a pip­ing-hot cup of tea. ‘He is like a bear with a thorn in his paw to­day,’ Nick says with a wry grin. ‘He has a ter­ri­ble cold but won’t go home. He is de­ter­mined that the show won’t suf­fer but, still, he is a bit prickly.’

Dy­lan mops a trickle of sweat from his brow, takes a deep breath of the per­fumed air and gath­ers him­self be­fore as­sess­ing the progress of each cook. His pres­ence casts an omi­nous shadow, caus­ing each worker to pick up the pace in a bid to avoid a scold­ing.

Of the eight celebri­ties who ini­tially donned the sig­na­ture white and or­ange MasterChef aprons, two have al­ready been elim­i­nated. Comic Gary Cooke went in Week One af­ter a sham­bolic dis­play in the open­ing cook- off, while last week­end it was the turn of for­mer Mr Ire­land and National Lot­tery pre­sen­ter Kamal Ibrahim to be kicked out.

To­day I am watch­ing a dessert chal­lenge, an hour-long task dur­ing which the six hope­fuls must re-cre­ate a sweet that re­minds them most of their child­hood. In front of me, writer and broad­caster Maia Dun­phy is melt­ing some choco­late, while ath­lete David Gil­lick is wrestling with a mixer. The air conditioning is fail­ing mis­er­ably to hide the ris­ing heat as sweat patches be­gin to ap­pear on the fraz­zled cooks’ cloth­ing. Ex-model Yvonne Keat­ing is hunched low in front of her Per­spex oven, ner­vously peer­ing in­side at a small cake that she hopes is bak­ing prop­erly. De­spite the in­hos­pitable con­di­tions, preen­ing news­caster

Aen­gus Mac Gri­anna is the pic­ture of calm as he lines moulds and brings the sil­ver pud­dings to the blast chiller. In stark con­trast, RTÉ Sports pre­sen­ter Tracy Pig­gott is strug­gling with an over- ripe pear while con­sumer af­fairs jour­nal­ist Conor Pope is turn­ing the set blue as he gets into trou­ble with a tricky sponge mix. They may claim to be best friends off cam­era, but for th­ese six con­tes­tants the com­pe­ti­tion is furious.

‘To­day was by far the most in­tense day so far and I don’t know where it came from,’ Yvonne tells me dur­ing a break in film­ing. ‘I didn’t find it while I was cook­ing but when the line-up came and I stared look­ing around, it sort of over­whelmed me. I al­ways feel like I am let­ting my­self down when I don’t per­form — as well as the loads of peo­ple who have helped me along the way, in­clud­ing Dy­lan and Nick and the team here. Even my kids, who are at home root­ing for me. I just feel like, when I get home and they are ask­ing about it, that if I haven’t done re­ally well, then I am let­ting them down.’

Yvonne says her worst day was her first task and it has taken a few chal­lenges to fi­nally find her feet. ‘I had a bad day the first day be­cause I was re­ally suf­fer­ing from my nerves and it went dread­fully for me, and I went blank,’ she says. ‘But yes­ter­day was the first day that I felt re­ally con­fi­dent. I re­ally hope I can pull it off to­day. I am mak­ing a sticky tof­fee pud­ding be­cause as a kid I loved it. Then I found out there were dates in it and I wouldn’t touch it again. But I grew up and fell in love with it again. So I de­cided to feed it to my chil­dren — only I purée the dates.’ With that, Yvonne sprints back to her bench to check the timer on the oven. ‘You have 20 min­utes left,’ bel­lows Nick, caus­ing a vis­i­ble rip­ple of ac­tiv­ity through the kitchen.

Maia is mak­ing a semifreddo vi­en­netta, her take on the clas­sic Wall’s Vi­en­netta. ‘I made three bas­kets but two didn’t work and the third broke,’ she tells Nick, shak­ing her head. ‘I in­fused them with cas­sis but that seems to have made it heav­ier.’ The TV pre­sen­ter and writer says she is tak­ing ev­ery day as it comes. ‘The pre­sen­ta­tion is half the bat­tle,’ she ad­mits, wip­ing down a plate. ‘And when you walk up to the pass, if it looks amaz­ing, then [the judges’] eyes light up. Even if it tastes c**p, you are streets ahead. But by the same to­ken if the pre­sen­ta­tion is poor and it tastes great, they are still dis­ap­pointed. Dy­lan and Nick have been great. As long as they know that you are try­ing your best and you are not just here to get a bit of pro­file, they are on your side.’

Rac­ing le­gend Tracy is not feel­ing the same love for Dy­lan and Nick as Maia is, as she strug­gles with her cus­tom-made pud­ding. The daugh­ter of jockey Lester Pig­gott, Tracy says there weren’t too many desserts in her child- hood due to his tough train­ing regime. ‘My fa­ther was al­ways di­et­ing so we never re­ally had sweet things,’ she ad­mits. ‘I’m do­ing a Roque­fort and honey ice-cream, caramelised pears and a Parme­san short­bread bis­cuit with an ap­ple glaze. I was get­ting quite emo­tional when Dy­lan and Nick ar­rived over want­ing to taste the com­po­nents. I al­most started crying.’ If Tracy feels at a dis­ad­van­tage hav­ing a fa­ther as a ded­i­cated sports­man, ath­lete David Gil­lick is prac­ti­cally ham­strung. As a pro­fes­sional run­ner, he ad­mits his re­la­tion­ship with food is some­what dif­fer­ent from the rest of the cast’s. ‘My view of food is that it is fuel, plain and sim­ple,’ he says, ‘so this was a bit of an ed­u­ca­tion for me. Be­cause of what I do, we train six days a week and my only re­la­tion­ship with food is about get­ting as much fuel into the engine as is needed. I look for nu­tri­tious food that can help my body per­form bet­ter. So to be sit­ting here repli­cat­ing a dessert is as far from my com­fort zone as I could have imag­ined. To­day I’m mak­ing stuffed pear and ri­cotta cheese­cake with a straw­berry coulis and pis­ta­chio...’ Then Nick an­nounces there are only five min­utes left and David van­ishes like Speedy Gon­za­lez.

One man who looks like he can­not be fazed is Aen­gus; the news­reader whose on­screen gaffes went vi­ral ear­lier this year is calmly lay­ing out his plate. His dessert is a take on his favourite ice lolly, the Wib­bly Wob­bly Won­der, and con­sists of a rhubarb panna cotta. ‘If I was lucky enough to make it into the fi­nal three, I would be con­tent just to have made it that far,’ he says. ‘But yes, of course, if that were the case, I would def­i­nitely pull out all the stops to give it one fi­nal push. I mean, who wouldn’t want to win it? We have just fin­ished the third week and the change in ten­sion is pal­pa­ble. It is ris­ing all the time. At first it was grad­ual but sud­denly we have jumped up a huge notch and you can re­ally feel the dif­fer­ence.’

Jour­nal­ist Conor Pope is def­i­nitely feel­ing the heat. For the last 10 min­utes the only thing com­ing from his work bench has been a string of ob­scen­i­ties. ‘I was sup­posed to be serv­ing you an An­gel De­light but I ended up serv­ing you a dog’s din­ner,’ he laments. ‘The desserts are def­i­nitely the worst. If a savoury dish goes wrong, you can kind of tart it up a bit. But if a dessert goes pear-shaped five min­utes be­fore the time is up, you can do noth­ing.’

As time is called, all six fi­nal­ists bring their dishes to the pass to present to Nick and Dy­lan. They are joined by three-Miche­lin-star pas­try chef Claire Clark, who is guest judge on the day. To keep the re­sults se­cret, we are led out of the judg­ing cham­ber... But with three con­tes­tants close to tears and an­other on the verge of a choco­late melt­down, you know tonight’s show is go­ing to be com­pul­sive view­ing.

Celebrity MasterChef Ire­land is on tonight at 9.30pm on RTÉ One

Sticky-palms time Left to right: Con­tes­tants Tracy Pig­gott, Yvonne Keat­ing and Maia Dun­phy. Inset, top to bot­tom: Conor Pope; Nick Mu­nier and Dy­lan McGrath, and Yvonne mak­ing her tof­fee

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.