Exemplary cooking, three top chefs – and a glittering trophy, were just some of the highlights when the 2022 MasterChef: The Professionals finalists came to Lichfield for a special evening with Sauce Supper Club.
Now, I’ve always thought of myself as a dab hand in the kitchen. But when it comes to haute cuisine, I’m mostly found at the dining table, enjoying a feast rather than cooking it. So getting my hands on the coveted MasterChef trophy has never been likely.
That was, until one chilly Sunday evening in Lichfield. Granted, the trophy wasn’t mine. Rather, it was the result of the exquisite culinary endeavours of Midlands chef and current MasterChef: The Professionals champion Nikita Pathakji.
But Nikita was generous enough to let us hold the trophy which she spent weeks battling against 31 other top chefs for. It topped off a wonderful evening with fine dining specialists Sauce Supper Club which saw Nikita reunited with fellow MasterChef finalists Sagar Massey and Charlie Jefferys to present a spectacular menu of show-inspired highlights.
Now, creating a menu which showcases the styles of three very different chefs while still offering a cohesive culinary experience is no mean feat. Nikita’s classically-trained take on Asian flavours, Sagar’s passion for traditional Indian cuisine and Charlie’s refined French style may not be natural bedfellows – but the evening managed to combine the three to wonderful effect, with each chef taking on two of the six dishes which made up the tasting menu.
First up, it was Sagar’s turn, and an Indian street food-inspired starter which encapsulated the chef to a tee. Raj kachori – an impressive crispy fried shell-filled with potato chaat flavoured with tamarind, mint and green chilli, and tempered by a cooling sweetened yoghurt, was elevated comfort food which left you wanting more. Bursting with bold flavours which danced on the tongue, it was a dish which hit the high notes and set the standard for things to come.
From humble street food, it was onto the most luxurious of ingredients for Nikita’s lobster tortellini, which was served in a rich laksa sauce with herb salad and crispy vermicelli. The sweet lobster married perfectly with the fragrant laksa, bringing Nikita’s love for Asian flavours to a classical dish. The crispy vermicelli added a lovely textural contrast, with fresh herbs pulling the dish together.
Charlie’s fish dish amplified the classical elements of the menu as halibut, seared to perfection, was adorned with roasted salsify, succulent razor clams and samphire to create a dish worthy of a MasterChef final.
Throughout the evening, the chefs took turns to pop out of the kitchen to chat to guests and spill the beans on their MasterChef experience. Derby native Nikita spoke of her ambition to open her own restaurant – and perhaps Lichfield, just a short jaunt from her hometown, could be the perfect place for her to realise that dream?
Speaking of Nikita, it was her next dish which was the one which had really caught my eye on the menu. And it didn’t disappoint. The tenderest pork cheeks were given the Sichuan-style treatment, rendering them unctuous and richly flavoured, with wilted choi sum and pickled potato adding freshness and zing, and, shoestring potatoes a beautiful crunch. On the side, a delicately steamed pork and cabbage bao bun was a delicious morsel which complemented the dish perfectly.
With not one, but two sweet courses on offer, we were in dessert heaven as the evening reached its climax. Sagar’s Yorkshire rhubarb, sweet yoghurt and white chocolate pot made heroes of its simple ingredients, balancing sweet, tart and richness to delightful effect. Digging through the sweet yoghurt to reveal the tender rhubarb underneath and ensuring each spoonful scooped up a little of each layer, it was a deceptively intricate dessert.
Last, but most certainly not least, was Charlie’s finale. All About Lemon was a celebration of citrus, with the star of the show being a delicate lemon tart with frangipane, adorned with the most delicate shards of citrus meringue and garnished with pearls of zesty finger limes and lemon balm. Now, a good lemon tart is a personal favourite, and Charlie’s tart, with its supremely fine pastry and rich, lemon filling, was up there with the best of them.
Sauce Supper Club’s ongoing partnership with the MasterChef finalists is a highlight in the Lichfield culinary calendar, giving local diners the opportunity to experience the kind of dishes which wowed judges including Marcus Wareing and Gregg Wallace throughout the competition. For any MasterChef fan – and any foodie in general – it’s a must-go evening and the hottest ticket in town.
For more details of Sauce Supper Club’s upcoming events visit www.saucesupperclub.co.uk