Wednesday, 2 April 2014

MasterChef Ireland 2014 - National Dish Challenge

After finishing the Canapé Challenge, we were all mentally and physically exhausted and, at the time, had no sense of how well we had or had not performed in the task. We had arrived at Croke Park very early in the morning with no idea of what lay ahead. We soon discovered that we would be divided into two teams - presumably competing against each other - to prepare and cook the canapés. We assumed that there would be a winning and a losing team. Little did we know that one person would be selected from each team and given a free pass into the next round!

I can truly say that everyone on the blue team, of which I was part, cooked their hearts out and each person individually contributed something crucial to the success of the challenge and the fact that we had managed to produce so many high quality canapés.
The Final Ten with Nick & Dylan. Photo: (c) RTE.
That night I fell into bed completely spent from the exhaustion and excitement of the task, knowing that I would be back in the MasterChef Ireland kitchen early the following morning to hear Nick and Dylan deliver their judgements.

When Diana and I were asked to step forward we were immediately alarmed, thinking that we were about to be sent home and that our time in the MasterChef kitchen was over…

Charlie, Rich & Nessa
It took a moment or two for the judges’ words to sink in - on the basis of our performance during the team challenge cooking post-match canapés for the players and their families in Croke Park, Diana and I were given a day off, were through to the next round and did not have to cook off in front of the judges to secure our place in the final eight.


Both of us felt strongly that everyone on both teams had played their part and had worked their socks off to achieve success on behalf of their respective teams. We were delighted to be through to the next round, but realised that it so easily and justifiably could have been anyone else on either team!
The other contestants had to remain in the kitchen and cook a dish of their own choice that represented Ireland to them and one that showcased their skills and love of food.
Edel, Mark (aka "Justin") & Nessa
Until the episode aired, neither Diana nor I had seen how the other contestants had performed in the National Dish Challenge. When I watched it, I was so impressed by the dishes that were prepared. The amount of considered thought and passion that had gone in to developing the various plates of food was unbelievable. I believe that the individual personalities really shone through in the dishes that were cooked and presented.

The one thing that was true of everyone who got into the final 24 and subsequently the final 10 was an absolute love of food and cooking. We all wanted to be there and wanted to perform to the best of our abilities, but the reality was that we were all under huge pressure, having to cope with unfamiliar equipment in an increasingly surreal situation. Feasibly, anything could go wrong for any of us at any time.

Me & Rich
We all knew that we were only as good as the last dish we had prepared and this created added stress. There was so little to distinguish between the various contestants in terms of ability and passion for food, so even the tiniest mistake could mean that you were a goner and would be out of the kitchen AND the competition!
Diana and I had spent the day wandering around Dublin visiting various food shops and kitchen equipment supplies stores; we also had the chance to have a delicious lunch, but all the time we were waiting to hear how the Challenge back in the MasterChef kitchen was going. After what seemed like an eternity word filtered through that two cooks had been sent home. Rich and Sonya were out of the competition.
Hugh, Nessa, Nick & Diana
I really liked the dishes that both of them had chosen to cook and to me they sounded absolutely delicious, if very different from each other. Sonya’s ability and love of food was apparent in how she had performed in the previous rounds and tasks. She also fervently supported Irish produce and ingredients, which is something also very close to my heart.

I was devastated that Rich had been sent home as we had come through the heats together and I knew what an amazing cook he was, with such skills and abilities. He is such a talented cook and I would happily eat his food anytime. Above all else, I was going to miss his hysterically funny and quirky take on life and his ability to make us all laugh and relax with his funny one-liners. I love reading about his passion for food and cooking and will continue to be an avid follower of his food adventures which he expresses so well on his blog at 

This programme first aired on RTE1; 8.30pm, 2nd April 2014.