As always, the contestants began their semi-final journey at BBQ HQ, where the pressure is mounting as they are all just one week away from the chance to win the £25,000 prize money and the esteemed title of BBQ champ 2014!
The HQ challenge was called 'Sunday Best' as contestants were given 2 hours and 15 minutes to create their ideal sunday lunch! As anyone who's cooked a sunday dinner before, even in the oven, with so many elements, it's incredibly difficult to get timing, texture and taste to a tee!
After a bad week last week, Emma knows that another poor performance could hinder her chances of making the final, but she's showing real fighting spirit this week! For her Sunday Best, she’s cooking tin-canned guinea fowl, where she will stick a can of water up the bottom of the bird to keep it nice and moist! She's serving her birds with pickled red cabbage and roasted vegetables.
Moving on to Duncan, as he puts an oriental spin on his Sunday Best, as an ode to his heavily pregnant wife at home! He chose to cook szechuan style pepper-crusted beef tenderloin with honey roasted carrots, broccoli and potatoes. In contrast, Nicola decided to go more traditional with her sunday lunch, cooking an irish favourite; honey-roasted ham with colcannon and vegetables.
Farmer, Simon, is cooking 'Baby Chicken'; a pair of poussin seasoned with paprika garlic butter and served with prosciutto wrapped asparagus and broccoli. And, last but not least, Tony's sunday best is shoulder of lamb with roast potatoes and rabbit dumplings, inspired by rabbit and lamb stew he once had in a restaurant! Adam seemed impressed by this choice of menu describing how “most people feel the pressure with one meat, and here you are working with two!”
The cooking is underway, and having previously served the judges raw chicken, Simon teased the cameras with his top tip for getting a sunday roast perfect... “don't undercook it, don't undercook it - simple!” Sadly, whilst saying this, the judges were looking on as his laid his poussin straight on the BBQ, which they feared would leave it overcooked and dry!
Nicola has struggled with timing and temperatures throughout the competition, so with such a large joint of ham, she has a lot on her plate! But halfway through the challenge, it appears that she's not the only one struggling to cook her meat, as all contestants appear to be struggling to get their meat to the point it should be cooked!
Nevertheless, the time ticks on and all contestants deliver great-looking plates of food to the judges for tasting, on time!
Mark said that Tony’s shoulder of lamb had “great spring colours" but the lamb needed more seasoning as it was a little lacking in flavour. Adam thought it would have been better as a stew as the rabbit dumplings just look like an after-thought. Moving on to Nicola's honey mustard ham - she served up huge portions, which Mark wasn't very pleased about, as he said that he was "hoping to have something with a bit more finesse" for the semi-final. The ham was also a little undercooked so adam advised Nicola that she should have cut the joint in half.
Both judges were wowed by the appearance of Simon's 'baby chicken' and said he cooked the bird perfectly... it turned out that although he put the birds on the BBQ early, he then took them off to rest the meat before cooking it properly with perfect levels of smoke! In contrast, the judge's weren't so impressed by Duncan's Szechuan pepper beef, despite it looking great with lots of colour. The garlic broccoli was full of flavour but unfortunately, the peppercorns on the beef were too brash.
Finally, the judges sampled Emma’s guinea fowl, and after a bad week last week, she was delighted that both judges loved her Sunday Best! Whilst serving her birds up, she was slightly worried about the pinkness of the meat, but thankfully it was just smoke rings and the birds were super-juicy! The only downside was her pickled cabbage which was a little sour!
The winner of the BBQ HQ challenge this week was Emma, who was over the moon that her dish was in fact, 'sunday best'!
Next it was time for the location challenge where Myleene asked contestants to dig out their chopsticks for a trip to the east with an east asian challenge at Camden street food market in London.
Split into teams; Team Dragon (Simon and Emma) and Team Tiger (Tony, Nicola and Duncan), the contestants had 2 hours to cook a selection of east asian street food to serve to camden street food stall holders, using authentic asian BBQs.
Emma cooked thinly sliced chinese style beef with a side of egg roll pancakes, while her team-mate Simon, cooked a variety of Japanese dishes, which was a completely new way for him to grill!
Over on Team Tiger, Tony, like Simon, attempted to master the Japanese grill, which is perfect for cooking skewers, but can be prone to burning things! Also on Team Tiger was Nicola, who knows she has to up her game, having never been in the top - she chose to BBQ duck with a five-spice rub for a taste of china. The final tiger, Duncan, chose to cook a Thai dish of beef satay skewers with coconut rice but having failed to deliver in the last challenge using asian flavours, the judges think he has a lot to prove here!
As cooking is underway, Judges were impressed by Tony's initiative to test the authentic japanese grill before using it for his actual menu. In doing so, he managed to get the coals to the exact temperature he needed, but then disaster struck as he ended up knocking all his skewers onto the camden street floor! But that wasn't the only drama lurking on Team Tiger...
The lack of space in Camden Market led to things getting a little heated between Nicola and Duncan who clashed over cooking space first, before a later fiery spell where Nicola accused Duncan of taking the dish she intended to serve her pak choi on! It just goes to show that at semi-final stage, it's every man for themselves, no matter which team you're on!
With all dishes cooked in the nick of time, would the BBQ Champ contestants dishes stand up to the scrutiny of experienced street food sellers?... Apparently so, as they all loved it! But what did he judges think?
Both Mark and Adam were disappointed by Duncan's burnt coconut rice and overcooked, badly flavoured beef. Meanwhile, Nicola's duck was also dry, despite smelling delicious, but her pak choi was described as "beautiful" by Mark. And finally on Team Tiger, Tony's chicken ended up slightly underdone, but they loved the fact he had tested the BBQ before using it, showing a good willingness to learn!
Things were a bit better over on Team Dragon, as Emma's beef was cooked perfectly and Adam loved the egg pancake side dish! Simon also excelled at this challenge, despite his initial fears over cooking something brand new, as his Japanese chicken looked just like true asian street food... Myleene described it as exactly “like mumma makes!”
So unsurprisingly, the winning team this week was Team Dragon (Emma and Simon) with the judges announcing how Simon completely blew them away with his dishes! He (literally) jumped for joy and got very emotional about it.
After watching all the contestants closely this week, Mark and Adam announced that Nicola and Duncan will be in this weeks grill-off, meaning that Simon, Emma and Tony have secured their place in the final and are one step closer to £25,000!
Back at BBQ HQ for the grill off, Nicola and Duncan had 45 minutes to create a dish using lamb, pork and veal chops, however the judges advised that each meat must have its own signature glaze and each should be cooked medium! Mark warned them not to overpower the meat with their glaze.
As the contestants began cooking, the judges started discussing their take on a 'glaze', with Mark confirming that it should be sweet, sugary and vinegary but most-importantly, it should be something that you cook with, not an accompaniment! This led them to worry as they looked over at Nicola, who was beginning to create a salsa verde!
The Judges also described how the contestants were given double chops, but nothing in the rules said that they couldn’t separate them to enable them to cook through better, but will the contestants take the risk?
As Nicola and Duncan began serving their chops to the judges, it became apparent that Nicola had not split her chops into two, but she has used proper glazes, much to the judges surprise! Upon trying her chops, the judges said that they were underdone, but her glazes were really tasty and well-matched to the meat.
On the other side of the fence, Duncan's meat was cooked much better because he had chopped them in half, but he didn’t have the punchiness of Nicolas flavours within his glazes.
Weighing up the pro's and con's, the Judges decided that it was Nicola's time to leave, meaning that Duncan is through to the final next week.
Despite saying she "felt robbed" due to the fact it wasn't made clear that she could split the chops into to, Nicola thanked the judges and other contestants for the best time of her life!
The first challenge the contestants were given was to create the most decadent desserts on the BBQ - Yes desserts on the grill - not something the average barbecuer would attempt and very interesting to watch. Not only that but they also had to produce a drink to go alongside the desert.
So how did they do... Well all of the contestants struggled with this challenge and only a couple of them got the end result they wanted. Simon made grilled peaches and salted caramel with smoked strawberries and a smoked Salty Dog for his cocktail. The judges thought the smokey flavours that Simon had managed to bring through in the desert were fantastic, but Mark was not too keen on the Salty Dog drink.
Nicola went with rhubarb and custard s'mores with a pink and grassy cocktail, which sadly didn't go down too well as they were actually raw on the top and overdone on the bottom, but Adam thought her Bazil sugar was spectacular. On to Emma, who decided to make bacon candied brownies with a caramel bourbon milkshake. Again the judges were not too impressed with the desert which was more like a crumble than a brownie, but the bourbon milkshake went down a treat.
Duncan's banana, coconut and toffee pie was well-received by both judges saying that it not only looked fantastic but tasted great too. However Mark did think that it was missing some fresh banana not off the BBQ. His grilled pineapple mojito also made a big impression, in Adam's words it was "triumphant". Gary cooked a family favourite with marinated chargrilled pears, vanilla crepes and toffee sauce. For his drink he chose a pear bellini, and although the judges seemed to like both the desert and the drink, Mark thought the ginger was too overpowering and that the flavours were not as tied together as they could have been.
Last and sadly least was Tony with his rhubarb and custard eclairs and accompanying rhubarb and strawberry sparkling cocktail. Unfortunately the pastry on the eclairs was undercooked and the toffee he had planned to add was burnt to a crisp. Mark also thought that his drink was too tart and although ambitious as always he had not succeeded this time.
Overall the winner of the first challenge was Simon, winning his first title of the season so far.
Next we saw the contestants prepare, trim and season large cuts of meat ready for the low and slow 5 hour smoking challenge in London. Each of them used their own dry rub to accentuate the flavours in the meat and help keep the moisture in whilst smoking for a long time. The judges picked up on Emma taking off a lot of fat from her cut of meat, pointing out that this could cause it to dry out whilst smoking.
Adam headed to ‘Red’s True BBQ’ in Leeds to show us what slow smoked meat should look like. He met with co-owner James Douglas who explained that they slow cook their meat for either 40 minutes for a chicken wing to 17 hours for one of their briskets. Adam was speechless when he tasted some brisket and but then went on to explain that smoking is where you “take the toughest muscle and make it as tender as filet mignon”.
At the location challenge in London the contestants were split into two teams and used specially made smokers to BBQ for over 100 hungry London commuters. On Team Low was Duncan, Emma and Gary, whilst on Team Slow we had Simon, Tony and Nicola. Team Low get their meat in quickly, whereas team Slow lived up to their name and took their time getting their meat into the smoker.
Team Slow also had issues getting their smoke to blow clear which means that the smoker is at optimum temperature for cooking. After two hours both the teams started to take their individual cuts out of the smokers and wrap them in foil to stop them drying out, but Gary decided not to wrap his lamb despite Emma the “queen of the pit” advising against it.
The last half an hour of the challenge was brutal, battling with the heat and smoke along with rushing to get everything plated for the taste testers. After the judges had their fill they decided that Team Slow were the winners mainly based on Simon’s lamb dish and the fact that all three of Team Low’s dishes were disappointing on flavour.
Back at BBQ Champ HQ the Adam and Mark announced that Emma and Gary would be in the grill-off this week. Neither of the contestants were happy to be there but especially Emma as she had already been in a grill-off in week one. The grill-off challenge consisted of barbecuing three varieties of steak cuts cooked to different individual preferences and a steak sauce to accompany them. The grills on their barbecues had been taken away so that they had to cook the steaks right on the coals or “dirty style” as Adam put it. The bavette steak needed to be cooked to medium rare, the fillet steak to a medium and the bone-in ribeye as well-done.
As always the contestants only had 45 minutes to complete their dishes, and both of them seemed quite confident up until Emma forgot she had left one of her steaks on the coals for too long. They had to get the timing just right with this grill-off as along with getting the finish perfect, they also had to allow enough time for the essential resting process. Mark recommended that for optimum results, steak resting time should be for about half the time it had been cooked for but really as long as possible.
When it came to judging, Gary’s chimichurri sauce was criticised for having too much vinegar whereas Emma’s last-minute blue cheese sauce was received well by both judges. Overall both the contestants struggled to get the temperatures quite right, but Emma was crowned the winner for superior flavour as she managed to get a good outer char on her beef.
After Kuldip left the competition last week the remaining seven contestants had to step up their game to impress the judges and be crowned king of the kebab in their first challenge at BBQ HQ. The requirements were to BBQ a giant kebab along with a sauce, a side and a bread, all in just 90 minutes. Adam Richman’s advice to the contestants was that “every single element has to be cooked perfectly and to temperature, or trust me, in this kebab challenge you will get skewered”.
Each contestant tried something different adding their own influences into their BBQ kebab dishes, but the struggle for the contestants was the time limit, meaning some of them didn’t get time to plate everything they had cooked.
Emma’s geek style pork kebab with tzatziki and pitta bread was first to be taste tested and it went down well with both Adam and Mark, earning her a thumbs up on flavour. Second to be judged was Solomon and his cod fish kebab with prawn cocktail and fried dumplings. The judges thought that his bread was a bit dense and Adam gave him some advice on not trying too much with flavour until he has had time to experiment. Next, was Tony’s jerk chicken and fruit kebab with mango salad and flatbread, and the judges loved it, saying it was perfectly cooked and really quite clever using cold and hot ingredients! Could Tony be the King of Kebabs?
While the contestants were busy barbecuing their dishes the judges were worried that Gary was trying to get too many different elements into one dish. When tasting the food, Adam said Gary had “shook the ocean up” with his 'Fruit De Mer' kebab with Waldorf salad and flatbread. His selection of seafood included tuna, scallops, halibut, mussels and more, and for the judges it was just too much, despite the bread apparently being “truly flawless”. The next dish to be put to the test was Duncan’s lobster & pork belly kebab with a fruit salsa and flatbread. Adam called Duncan’s kebab the “magic wand” and both the judges agreed he had taken on their previous advice about fire control techniques and executed them perfectly. It looks like Tony might have just been taken over by Duncan in the rankings.
Simon’s lamb kebab with mango salad and flatbread “hit the sweet spot” for Adam and both judges believed his lamb was cooked well with a buttery consistency, saying that the mango alongside it was a pleasant surprise. Despite this, Mark was left unimpressed by his flatbread, which was undercooked. Last and sadly least, was Nicola’s trio of fish kebab with tomato salad. Unfortunately Nicola had run out of time at the last minute and was unable to plate her bread, which the judges were not happy about at all. Naturally Nicola was a little frustrated, leading us to see tears for the second week running on BBQ Champ.
Ending on a high, Duncan was crowned King of the Kebab in the first challenge of this episode, which was well-deserved!
(The winning dish - Duncan’s lobster and pork belly kebab)
For the next challenge, the contestants took a trip to the seaside for the location challenge. Working together on Team Spade were Duncan, Tony and Gary, whilst Team Bucket consisted of Nicola, Emma, Solomon and Simon. The contestants then had to prepare a seafood platter in the teams along with side dishes to serve to the general public on the beach.
On Team Spade, Tony barbecued mackerel, Duncan barbecued shrimp and Gary tried his hand at the seabass. Meanwhile on Team Bucket Solomon took on the seabass, Emma barbecued prawns, Nicola grilled the squid and Simon cooked mackerel.
Most of the contestants struggled to give the judges exactly what they wanted from their seafood dishes. The major disappointment being Solomon, who struggled to fillet his fish, so decided to turn his seabass into a form of a BBQ fish cake, which simply became soggy and doughy. But it wasn't just a battle against the BBQ to deliver top-tasting seafood, as experienced by Emma, who got hit in the face with her BBQs lid thanks to the 'sea breeze'!
After the mad rush to present their dishes to the waiting public, the winning team was announced as Team Spade and the overall champion of this seaside location challenge was Gary, with his Crispy seabass and Quinoa salad.
Nicola and Solomon faced the grill-off this week, and they were set the challenge to cook a free range chicken along with a side of their choice, but sadly neither of them did particularly well in the 60 minutes they had. Despite coming up with a recipe to please the judges, Nicola left things a little too late again and ended up serving partially raw chicken. In the other corner, Solomon played it safe with his tried and tested sauce and dumplings, but actually managed to overcook the chicken. In the end the judges had to go for the contestant that they believed really fought hard for their place, which was the lovely Nicola.
Starting the show off was the individual barbecuing challenge called ‘personality on a plate’, with 1 hour and 45 minutes the contestants had to create a fantastic dish cooked on the BBQ that gives the judges and us an idea of exactly who they are.
Here’s what each contestant decided to BBQ:
Solomon: Brixton Jerk Chicken
Nicola: Beef Side Fiorentina with new potatoes with cambozola cheese and portabello mushrooms
Tony: Sea Bass in a Himalayan salt crust
Kuldip: Ribs with sauteed mushrooms and chilli sauce
Simon: Southern Fried Chicken with chunky bacon guacamole and pit beans mixed with cider
Duncan: Roast pork tenderloin with yorkshire puddings, BBQ gravy, spicy apple sauce, asparagus and hasselback potatoes.
Emma: Coup de bouffe - rib on the bone with stuffed mushrooms and asparagus
Gary: Marinated Moroccan Lamb with couscous, grilled veg, coleslaw and onion and saffron flat bread
Tony was crowned champion of this challenge, a well deserved title for his perfectly cooked Sea Bass on salt!
The show then moved on to the first location challenge called ‘Best of British’ which took place on Stansted Park Farm on the Hampshire/West Sussex border, where the contestants were tasked with cooking a BBQ banquet for the estate workers and their families. The contestants were split into two teams; Team Smoke which consisted of Gary, Solomon, Emma and Tony and Team Fire with Nicola, Duncan, Kuldip and Simon. Each member of the team was responsible for barbecuing a large cut of either pork, beef, lamb or chicken, putting their own stamp on it as a last attempt to win the judges approval and stay out of the grill off. Although both teams did well, the challenge really showed the inexperience of some of the contestants. It seems that the most difficult hurdle to overcome with barbecuing isn’t just getting the flavours right, but making sure the meat is cooked!
Team Smoke were named the champions of this location challenge, with Solomon crowned King of the BBQ for his own individual lamb dish that was packed full of flavour and fun.
Back at BBQ HQ the judges revealed who would be in this weeks Grill Off: Emma and Kuldip were chosen to duel and were presented with the challenge of barbecuing a main, side and a barbecue sauce in only 45 minutes, using Loch Duart salmon as the main ingredient. Both contestants were put to the test and although neither of them performed perfectly, Emma’s Salmon with lemon, maple corn and BBQ sauce went down well. However, Kuldip’s Salmon two ways, crispy salmon skin and chilli sauce, did not impress the judges, especially when Adam Richman had to dig out a stray wood chip from his barbecue sauce! Also both of the judges seemed confused over Kuldip’s decision to present raw salmon as part of his dish, as Adam puts it “this is BBQ Champ, even our logo has fire it”!
Both of the contestants did their best in the grill off, and it was a close call but the first person to leave BBQ Champ was Kuldip Singh Sahota.