Thanks to the BBC for scheduling this at the same time as Strictly this year, makes things really easy, kisses.
The Intro : AJ is introduced by saying “I’m very competitive, if you don’t win, what’s the point?” which…I’m sure Claudia and Mollie will be very pleased to hear.
The Invention Test : Faced down with a pallet of trout, pork, cauliflower, beetroot, raspberries and white chocolate, and asked to create a dish from scratch, AJ spends about 90% of his time perfecting a butternut and sweet potato puree and then realises at the last minute that it probably should go on something, because we’re not in the avant garde restaurant round just yet, a puree is not a full meal, so he hacks indifferently at a trout and flash-fries it and roasts three (3) small cauliflower florets as accompaniment. Mercifully it all comes out ok, although his efforts are somewhat overshadowed by Stella Parton singing a song about shagging a pig thief and producing perfect down home mountain cuisine.
The Professional Kitchen : Look, the Professional Kitchen round is boring, what can I say? AJ is asked to cook steak and chips with bearnaise sauce. Despite that sounding like one of the more simple assignments, AJ is immediately overwhelmed by the amount of meat flying at his face, and spends most of the service wailing buried under a mound of chips. The clue was there from the off that he might struggle, given that his most salient initial worry was about “crucifying” the steaks, which would certainly have been an interesting way of serving them yes.
The Signature Round : Despite existing in the same heat as Clara Amfo, who in the first round managed to serve a bowl consisting 90% of raspberries and chocolate buttons and…brown sticky lumps, AJ decides to go for broke, and covers his entire bench with ingredients, utensils, and the supporting cast of the movie Gandhi with the end goal of producing Masterchef standards, scallops and black pudding in a pea puree (and a garnish of seven (7) peas) and basil encrusted lamb rack with fondant potato, carrots, parsnip puree and a raspberry and red wine jus. Other than the scallops being underdone, it’s all fine, but again, he’s in the same heat as Clara Amfo, who serves up a plate of red water with raw celery and overdone prawns bobbing in it, and some peaches that have been blowtorched to death and buried under an entire carton of sour cream that’s barely even been stirred, so maybe he should have kept his best tricks back for a rainier day.
The Wall Round : This is the fourth heat now, and I’m still not sure what the point of this round is. AJ formed a team with Lisa Maxwell (that one from The Bill that’s not La Roux’s mum) and they were tasked as a pair with creating two separate poached pears with honeycomb, creme anglais, and a chocolate drizzle that looked alike and were…both good? Basically it’s like if Tom Daley did synchro diving with a partition up and also with a middle-aged actress screeching bad innuendo about pears at him. In the finale analysis, AJ’s pear isn’t cored and his honeycomb is a disaster, but he produces a lovely thick creamy custard right at the climax, so the judges forgive him. (Also AJ gets hilariously flustered and defensive because nobody can believe he’s never eaten a pear before bless him).
The Mass Catering Challenge : Still with her from The Bill, AJ is tasked with doing mass catering for a whole legion of sexy vets. After an initial frantic period where both AJ and Lisa seem to think that they need to prepare each course one after the other like they’re doing a massive dinner party with three hours between courses, he gets peeled off to do dessert, a process that seems chiefly to involve throwing dates in the bin over and over and over and over again. Fortunately for AJ said dessert comes off a creditable second best of the three dishes, ahead of their fish main that Lisa wantonly overcooks. Sadly the point of the whole round is undermined slightly by the clear winner being a bunch of vegetables and pasta lobbed in a dish and baked whilst Lisa throws cheese at it and incants “SEXY SEXY SEXY CHEESE” over. Doesn’t give you much faith in the process.
The Celebrity Guest Stars Round Finally a round that AJ nails, as he impresses previous finalist Andi Peters (oooh look who turned up when there’s a twink on!), previous winner Alexis Conran (I think he’s a…magician?), and previous *mutters into napkin* Richard Coles with perfectly cooked sea-bass and a very strong chocolate orange pudding. His rice isn’t cooked and his “pepper sauce” just tastes of sugar, but elsewhere Lisa Maxwell can’t be arsed to clean her carrots, Stella Parton goes bonkers and just covers everything in bourbon and sets it on fire and Jay Blades…well I’ve not mentioned Jay Blades thus far, but rest assured he was never getting through. And so AJ SAILS ONWARDS TO THE SEMIS, OFFICIALLY THE MOST SUCCESFUL STRICTLY PRO ON CELEBRITY MASTERCHEF EVAH. (Craig Revel Horwood still made a final though so…still work to do)
Ye Olde Mass Catering Challenge : Now in the final 8, AJ finds himself on a team with a variety of people who have survived Gemma Collins, either on this show (reality tv veteran Zoe Lyons and Paralympian and owner of about 5 different accents trying to come out of her mouth at once Stef Reid) or on Celebrity Big Brother (Diet Barrowman). They’re tasked with making lots of…like…OLD food, for a Victorian “living museum”. By which I mean everyone who works there dressed in stupid costumes, not that the museum claims souls every night in its quest to consume the Universe. AJ’s role on the team is to do poached pears and custard, because of course it is, apparently someone has to poach some variety of fruit every episode or the show gets pulled off the air and replaced with episodes of CURSED ABANDONED GHOST SHIP DRAMA Wanderlust, sailing through the schedules looking for a space to reduce the ratings to zero mwahahaha. Whilst his poached pear tastes nice enough, he’s a little slow getting it together, and nobody’s really interested in eating it. Perhaps they’re all as sick of poached anything as I am at this point. Either way, he finishes a fair second in the dessert round to Him From Union J, whose tarte tatin is close to being the dish of the day.
My Favourite Ingredient Round : Another elimination round here, as the stars are all given their favourite food ever ever ever and told to get on with it and make a dish out of it. AJ’s favourite food is not Haribos, as you might expect, but MEAT! Specifically, steak. With chips, carrot & swede puree, carrots, asparagus wrapped in parma ham and a brandy sauce. The steak and chips go down gangbusters, the rest of everything lobbed on the plate with it less so, but fortunately for him, Him From Union J manages to fuck up every single element of his dish (LOL SWEET REVENGE) and goes home, and Lisa Maxwell runs out of steam also, leaving AJ to bobble through happily in the middle of the pack.
PIES Round : Clearly still feeling a little wounded from the loss of Bake Off, the show tasks the contestants with creating their own pie. YEAH TAKE THAT PRUE LEITH! YOU MAY TAKE ALL (/about half) OF OUR RATINGS, BUT YOU’LL NEVER TAKE OUR PIEDOM! When asked to profer up his pie, AJ goes for the fruity option, and tries to put together a hybrid apple pie/crumble, which is a bit of a cheat, but less so than Stef The Paralympian, who just serves up a lemon tart. IS THAT ALLOWED? Turns out yes, as she goes through, and AJ goes home because not only did he serve up a sloppy pumble right in front of the judges, the apples inside weren’t cooked at all. 4th with Claudia, 5th with Mollie and now 6th place with a whole lot of custard. Which by my count means Lauren’s due to leave us the week after Blackpool, get down the bookies now.