Heavenly halibut, perfectly poached pear and classy Camembert helped sweep BBC presenter Angellica Bell to victory in the final of Celebrity Masterchef 2017 (BBC One). The 41 year-old secured bragging rights over husband Michael Underwood, a 2012 Celebrity Masterchef finalist, with a three course meal praised as stunning and joyous by judges Gregg Wallace and John Torode. As he more or less admitted on camera, he will be green at the grills with envy.
Left gagging on the fumes of Bell’s pan-fried halibut were runners-up Ulrika Jonsson and Dev Griffin whose cooking elicited approving gasps from Wallace and Torode even as their offerings fell conspicuously short of the champion’s mind-blowing excellence.
With its emphasis on sturdy accomplishment rather than eye-rolling melodrama, Masterchef is reality TV for grown-ups. So it was perhaps no surprise that the three-way face off somewhat lacked for tension. A front-runner throughout the six week series, Bell arrived at the final a clear favourite. Not even Torode’s admission that he found her halibut with prawns and crushed new potatoes a tad busy could halt her jog to the podium.
The contestants visibly enjoyed every pan-searing moment and their enthusiasm provided infectious. Even without the traditional reality tears and tantrums their stint toiling in the kitchen of Michelin-starred clever clogs chef Jason Atherton, in particular, made for solid watching. The eager but inexperienced Griffin, host of the BBC’s weekend breakfast show, gamely wrestled with a seaweed custard (“honestly I don’t know what am I doing any more”). Veteran broadcaster Jonnson did her best with wrangling turbot with lemon meringue – “sounds a bit weird” admitted the matey Atherton. And best girl in class Bell scored full points with a dessert featuring gold leaf and olive oil ice-cream. Short of poisoning the judges, it was hard to see how her inevitable procession victory could thereafter be derailed.
Still, rather like Dev on langoustine duty, the segment at Atherton’s swanky premises arguably went on too long when the real clincher would be hopefuls rustling up dishes of their own choosing back at studio. Here, Dev went out on a limb with a cod’s tongue main and a dessert that juxtaposed lemon jam, lemon meringue and lemon sherbet (“I hope you like lemon”). In keeping with her belief in “cooking from the heart” Jonsson drew on her Swedish heritage with a smorgasbord of hearty delights including roast rack of lamb, fennel pollen and pear and walnut tart.
Good but not mind blowing seemed to be the assessment in both cases. That was in contrast to Bell, whose cinnamon poached pear, especially, had Torode and Wallace quoting the Donald Trump Book of Hyperbole (“one of the best deserts I have tasted”, “perfect in every way”).
A more cynical show would have had the pair pretend to be unimpressed by Bell only to dramatically reverse course and award her the iconic winner’s gong (that’s what Simon Cowell would have done). But Masterchef can’t help playing it straight and so, with minimal fanfare, the eager and likeable Bell was crowned winner. And thus ended another reliably entertaining Celebrity Masterchef – a humble yet authentic TV dish that continues to tickle viewers’s tastebuds.