How Dorchester's young chef fared in the Masterchef semi-final

Charlie Jeffreys on Masterchef: the professionals <i>(Image: BBC)</i>
Charlie Jeffreys on Masterchef: the professionals (Image: BBC)

DORCHESTER'S Charlie Jeffreys' Masterchef: The Professionals journey continued in a heated semi-final.

Four contestants lined up to take part in the BBC TV show in two tough challenges to determine which three chefs would make the finals week, and who will be heading home.

The first challenge saw the semi-finalists cook for 20 special guests at a pop-up kitchen.

Chefs had three hours using temporary workstations with limited equipment to make pop-up dishes for the guests, who were among the UK's most successful pop-up chefs and food entrepreneurs.

Charlie, 24 but 23 years-old at the time of filming, began his career as a chef working as a pot washer at the Talbury Cottage in Lower Bockhampton, near Dorchester.

In the show opted to create a dish dedicated to his home county basing his meal on an ingredient found commonly in Dorset - crab.

The chef planned to make a crab sukka (sukka is a pancake made with garam flour.), a chickpea pancake with a crab filling inside, crab ketchup and a red pepper sauce.

This would be served inside a crab shell and finished with shavings of fresh apple.

When asked why he chose crab Charlie remarked: "Because of Dorset and my home. Crab is everywhere, when I fish I take out crab. When I go to a restaurant there is crab so I thought to go for it."

Despite it being only his third time prepping the seafood, the chef, who was struggling with nerves, managed to cook six whole two-kilo crabs needed for his dish.

However, he struggled with the creation of his pancakes which continued to stick to the plancha grill.

Following some handy advice from chef Marcus Wareing to reduce the grill's temperature, Charlie persevered and comfortably managed to dish out on time with his final product earning widespread compliments.

Dorset Echo: Charlie's crab creation
Dorset Echo: Charlie's crab creation

Charlie's crab creation (Image: BBC)

"The Sukka pancake, I like it." Judge Marcus began, "I think that it works so much better than if it was made with a crepe pancake. "

Fellow judge Anna Haugh agreed, she said: "The sweetness of the crab and the spiciness of the red pepper sauce alone are really lovely."

Reflecting on his dish Charlie said: "It was challenging for the sukka, that was really hard to get over that bump in the road. But I think I am happy with what I put out."

Heading back to familiar territory the chefs returned to the MasterChef kitchen for their second and final challenge of the tie.

Tasked with creating a 'Desert Island dish' Charlie and his fellow competitors would have an hour and 45 minutes to create a dish they would take with them if they were on a desert island.

Charlie's plate, dedicated to his two brothers, would consist of roasted pigeon on the crown, stuffed turnip with a buckwheat, turnip and cocoa nib puree.

It would be accompanied by a pigeon pie made of confit pigeon leg which would be topped with ragu wrapped in a puff pastry.

The dish would be dressed with a chocolate and pigeon sauce. As well as a gravy dipping sauce made from offal and pigeon.

Previewing his creation Charlie said: "If I get the dish out what I practiced, it will be a mindblowing dish."

"I need to do this dish proud otherwise I will be devastated."

He'd given himself a lot to do but the chef maintained his cool to plate up on time, however, he had concerns that his pigeon, though elegant on the plate, was slightly overcooked.

And this was confirmed by the judges, who loved the dressing but found that the meat had spent just too long on the heat.

Dorset Echo: Charlie's final dish
Dorset Echo: Charlie's final dish

Charlie's final dish (Image: BBC)

Marcus Wearing said: "Your pigeon is just a tad over. Your pie is a little bit on the dry side. But your dipping sauce is sensational, it's absolutely delicious, and it's full of flavour.

Gregg Wallace added: "I love the pesto you have made because that is proper bitterness. I really like that. The offal sauce I love, I get proper meatiness. It's almost like a glass of claret with a piece of meat, that's great."

Anna Haugh continued the rave reviews of the sauce: "The bitterness of the turnip mixed with the chcolate sauce I think I would just eat that all day long!

"I also really like your use of cocoa nibs on the plate, it has like an aroma which is very very pleasing. But absolutely my pigeon was overcooked. Obviously, you just dropped the ball with your timing on that which is  a bit of a shame."

Looking back Charlie was hoping the judges might erase the memories of the overcooked meat: "They enjoyed the idea of the dish and where I was coming from with it. With the bitterness and the sweetness of the chocolate they thought it worked really well. I just hope they will forget about the pigeon!"

After a long deliberation between the judges, the chefs returned to deliver the final verdict and the news that Charlie wanted to hear that he would be one of the three chefs progressing to finals week.

"I feel incredibly lucky I am here." An emotional Charlie said. "My aim at the start was to get to the finals. I have done that. I am very happy I have achieved that but now I want more. I want to get to the final three."

  • Finals week will see six chefs battle it out for a place in the official final. The programme will air on BBC One at 8 pm on Tuesday, December 6.