MasterChef Pakistan – Semi Final!

So, the very first season of MasterChef Pakistan is about to end. This was the Semi Final & with this we got our first three finalists. As much as I liked the theme of the challenge, I am unhappy about the results.

The challenge that the contestants got was to create their signature dishes, that they have imagined serving in their dream restaurants. They got the time span of 2 hours & by the end of it they had to make sure it was of restaurant quality, they had to do the costing & pricing keeping every component in mind & also they had to name the dish too. The winning dish of the challenge would not only have earned a spot in the finale but also was promised to be included in the menu of Movenpick Restaurant.

I believe it was more like an invention test but then again the contestants were free to do whatever they wanted to create a dish that they liked. I wish the challenge was a bit more dynamic where they had asked them to come up with something totally different that the judges themselves had not tried before, because then I am sure by doing that everyone would’ve been pushed harder to come out of their comfort zones in order to win a spot in the finale. The dishes that surfaced were good no doubt but I am not too sure about the decision. The dishes that the contestants presented & the comments that they got were:

Rayyan came up with ‘Sam Pla’ (Smoked, Steamed & Seared Fish). He chose Thai language to name his dish where Sam means 3 & Pla means fish, referring to his three ways cooked fish. The cost price that Rayyan put up was Rs. 312 & the selling price that he decided was Rs. 1092. Chef Mehboob liked the smoked fish along with the veggies but he felt that the tofu should’ve been seasoned because it had no flavour whatsoever. Chef Khurram liked the usage of lemongrass because he felt it gave a very nice flavour to the dish however, he felt that only the crust of the fish had that flavour & no taste was instilled inside the fish. He felt that just because Rayyan had kept the portion size a bit too considerable, the costing & the selling price got affected. According to him, this dish shouldn’t have costed more than Rs. 900. Chef Khurram also complained that there was too much going on that plate & the serving was too big for a single plate. Chef Zakir felt that all three fish fillets were overcooked. He liked the bean sprouts but he felt that just because rice & fish were dry, they should’ve been complimented with some sort of a sauce to balance it out.

Gulnaz presented ‘Kalli, Scherachapik & Suleimani Chai’. The cost that Gulnaz calculated was Rs. 330 & the selling price that she chose was Rs. 850. Chef Mehboob appreciated the fact that she chose the local dishes to present this time. He liked the traditional pasta that Gulnaz made & felt that the minced meat used in kalli had a very nice flavour; however he felt that scherachapik could’ve been better. Chef Khurram didn’t like the presentation & he felt that the tea was necessary to be served with this dish because it was too rich in flavour but he also commended that the flavours were instilled in every component of the dish. He felt that the bread in scherachapik was good & so was the filling but he felt that it lacked seasoning. He agreed with the selling price but felt that she should’ve cut down on the cost price a bit. Chef Zakir felt that kalli had such nice flavour that makes you want to eat it more. He also commended her for making pasta the traditional way & appreciated that effort a lot.

Amna came up with ‘Road House Steak Special’. The cost price of this dish was Rs. 300 & selling price was Rs. 799. Chef Mehboob liked the sauce a lot but he felt that the chicken was overcooked & was a bit dry. He also felt that sweet corns weren’t cooked properly therefore they weren’t tender. Chef Khurram felt that the dish on the whole was too creamy as every component of the dish like mash potato, mushroom filling, mushroom coating had cream. Chef Zakir liked the flavours of chicken steak but he felt that the core of chicken had no flavour at all.

Madiha presented ‘Special Smoked Chops w/ Creamy Dip’. The cost price was Rs. 352 & the selling price was Rs. 985. Chef Mehboob felt that the basket that she made should’ve been a bit thin. He liked the flavours of mutton chops a lot & also felt that the veggies had a very good flavour. Chef Khurram felt that she should’ve rearranged the plating but the taste was good & the chops were tender. He also felt that she miscalculated the prices & going by the serving this dish should’ve had a selling price of Rs. 800. Chef Zakir liked the level at which the mutton chops were cooked & he liked the colour as well.

Ammarah named her dish ‘Grilled Chicken & Prawns w/ Unique Mushroom Sauce’ which was later changed by Chef Zakir & renamed as ‘Casablanca Grilled Chicken’. Cost price was Rs. 400 & the selling price was Rs. 999. Chef Mehboob liked every single component of the dish, he felt that everything had a unique flavour from prawns to chicken to the mushroom sauce & the chicken was cooked to perfection. Chef Khurram loved the presentation but felt that the costing & selling price wasn’t right. Chef Zakir felt that the chicken was flawless & every component on that plate was perfect.

It was now time for the results. Everyone got well-deserved comments & I feel that the judges this time around didn’t change any of their comments; they stated the same thing in the final verdict that they discussed at the tasting table. It was pretty evident that Ammarah’s dish stood out the most & yes, she was declared as a winner of the semi-final round & also got a reward of having her dish featured in the Movenpick Restaurant’s menu. The second contestant that became a finalist was Gulnaz. Third & the last finalist was Madiha, leaving Rayyan & Amna behind & eliminated.

As much as I am happy for Ammarah & Madiha I am extremely sad at Rayyan’s elimination. I think it was a poor decision taken by the judges. All this while, in almost every single elimination round, we’ve seen the judges saving those contestants who may not have performed well in the current challenge but were saved because of their previous track record, so why that couldn’t happen for Rayyan? I mean Rayyan has been the only contestant who has showcased some amazing techniques but sadly he was eliminated because definitely the judges had a personal vendetta against him. Chef Zakir may have tried to justify his behaviour with Rayyan labeling it as ‘pyaar’ but sorry he fell short on that justification. As far as I know, the contestants were asked to create ONE dish but Gulnaz came up with 2 dishes & none of the judges raised an objection on it. Though the Riwaitee Pasta (Pasta being a riwayat of MasterPasta Pakistan) may have earned her a spot in the competition but then is creating local food & playing it safe is what the show’s all about? I wish Rayyan had a better sob story so then he might’ve earned himself a spot in the finale. I think Chef Zakir didn’t even have good things to say about him while bidding him a goodbye even where he felt the need of revising the name he gave to him.

I think the contestants may have gotten a good treatment behind the camera where they got to stay at Movenpick Hotel & worked under a professional environment, observation of a huge team & crew but that doesn’t mean the judges can literally sideline you or speak openly against you by calling you names. Even the ladies were shocked at Rayyan’s elimination because deep down they also knew that he deserved to be a finalist as he has been a very good contender. Really disappointed at the result of this round & brace yourselves as Gulnaz might be the winner, she has been awarded with advantages before where once she stuffed up every single component on her dish but was saved, so this time around I am sure the smoke of her local food will cloud the judgement of the judges once again. Share your thoughts on this.

Keep Supporting,
Zahra Mirza.

Zahra Mirza

Zahra Mirza got associated with in 2012. After moving to Australia, Pakistani content was a way of staying connected to the roots, language & Pakistani culture because it felt home. Eight years ago, review writing began as a hobby but has now turned into a passion.