[caveat: this year. and from me.]

The grand final was last night. What a night! Both Michiel and i were on the seat of the sofa, riveted to the screen, occasionally groaning in absolute desire and longing to taste some of the food that the judges were lucky enough to get their mitts on.. Rooting for the guy we wanted to win.. and finally, he did.

I have to say, i think the right guy won (Matt).

Michiel was saying last night that Matt, towards the end, consistently showed that he was listening to not only the judges but the chefs around him, learning and soaking up like a veritable sponge, and this really showed in his final dishes. The pressure test, I had to laugh when Greg was about to bark about “too many ingredients on the plate!” before he’d even tasted it, then stopped himself (said as much), shut up and tasted it first. The surprise was clear on his face (and the greed on his face when he practically broke the spoon that held the little creme brulee on the canape test made me laugh, although i have to say, i’d probably break a few myself. And those clams? They looked so gorgeously pretty.) And the final dishes were simply exquisite. Trio of wild rabbit as a starter, spider crab thermidor for his main, and Lavender mousse with honeycomb and blackberry sauce for a pudding. You can see pictures of his dishes on this page.

Andy, the comeback contestant, was, i think, the only serious challenge to Matt. At one stage he looked like he was going to win, but i think in the final few days Matt just leaped ahead such a massive stage, that it was difficult for Andy to top that. Its a shame, because in other years, Andy probably would’ve won. If he hasn’t been offered the kind of job that he wants, then he should be – although i know he’s currently running his own business cooking in people’s homes – there was even a review of his food in one of the papers somewhere, saying how wonderful it was. Having said all that.. i think Andy simply ran out of steam at the end. Matt’s food as compared to Andy’s, was just on a different level. Andy’s food probably tasted very good but it didn’t have that *zing* of “oh wow”, presentation wise (which is all we, at home, can judge on, at least till they develop taste-o-vision!) which Matt’s did, although he has done other dishes with that zing earlier in the series, so he’s certainly capable of it. As i said, i think he simply ran out of steam – his reaction on hearing the news, which so many on Digital Spy have taken as being sour grapes, was, i think, purely devastation – after he’d worked so hard and poured so much into this. I felt for him – there have been accusations of arrogance and coldness, but i think he’s purely an intensely private man, and you could see how much the whole thing meant to him after he’d cooked for the top chefs on Wednesday. The emotion on his face was clear to see – as it was on Matt’s.

Christopher, i think, has the makings of a good chef, but he would have done himself a much better chance of winning Masterchef if he’d delayed entering this competition for a couple of years, just to get the experience under his belt of cooking different recipes, mastering techniques that should surely be standard for any chef (although having said that, I’m still surprised that Matt doesn’t do red wine sauces).  I’m also not so sure that Christopher had the same hunger for the prize as Matt and Andy did. Masterchef is actually filmed in August, with the contenders under contractual obligation to say nothing about the competition until it is shown (Michelle, one of Andy’s QF competitors in the comeback week, for example, has talked about this on DigitalSpy). In the intervening six months, both Matt and Andy have worked in the food trade – Andy, as I’ve already said, set up his own business and Matt has tried very hard to sell his house so that he can buy his own restaurant. Christopher, on the other hand, went back to his job working in a jobcentreplus. I may be being a tad unfair here, but it doesn’t speak of the same dedication to changing his life that other Masterchef contenders at that stage have shown.

And what of previous Masterchef contenders? Well James, last year’s winner has been working in various restaurants for the last year, and is about to join another. Emily is reading at Oxford University. Hannah, from the year before, became a food writer. David, the knockout from the final four, the same year as Hannah, founded his own business, teaching people how to cook, healthy eating and so on. Ben, the cheese guy, is still running his cheese shop. And Steven, that year’s winner, like James, has been working in a restaurant, quietly, for the last two years. Thomasina Miers, the first year’s winner, and arguably the most successful so far, not only owns her own restaurant (two of them in fact, and some of the Masterchef heat contenders this year were sent to one of her restaurants in the restaurant test!), has written a couple of books and fronted a couple of television series.

Personally, i would very much like to taste both Matt and Andy’s food. I said as much to Michiel last night: if we ever win the lottery, we’re going to a) eat out a lot, b) join a gym (cos otherwise we won’t be able to move). And while the likes of Heston are always going to be high on the list of Places To Eat, I think Matt’s restaurant, if it ever gets going, will be on there too.