It’s the semi-final, and chefs were tasked with a secret recipe and a burlesque-themed showpiece.

  • Erica & Thibault, Kimpton Fitzroy Hotel
  • Sarah & Leyre, Pennyhill Park
  • Adam & Sam, Palé Hall Hotel
  • Nelson & Evaldas, South Place Hotel

There was certainly a nervous feeling in the air. Before they’d even been given the brief for the secret challenge, Erica was seen saying to partner Thibault (pictured below): “Your heart is beating fast, are you shi**ing yourself?”

The brief was unlike any other, with only one chef from each pair allowed to make the Soufflé Harlequin. The other had to sit out and advise.

The teams also had staggered start times, so that the judges could be served the soufflé fresh from the oven.

For South Place Hotel, Evaldas was to work, while Nelson supervised. Meanwhile, Erica put on her apron on behalf of Kimpton Fitzroy, Sam for Palé Hall and Sarah for Pennyhill Park.

Nelson was feeling confident, having made a harlequin soufflé before. “If you can’t make a soufflé at this level of the competition, it’s a bit embarrassing really,” he said, watching Sarah & Leyre struggle.

But the soufflés were unsuccessful on all parts: Erica’s were too dense and slightly overcooked, while Sam’s, Evaldas’ and Sarah’s were all undercooked.

On to the showstopper, and it was all to play for after the relative disaster of the secret challenge.

Chefs were tasked with creating a tower of tarts, which were to be brought to life with a “spectacular” performance, featuring a live plating of a further nine complementary patisserie elements.

Adam & Sam were first to present, offering the judges yuzu and raspberry ganache lipsticks to apply, before performing a beautiful live plating, which concluded with the filling of red stilettos with champagne and smashing of ice cream top hats – a standard Thursday evening, then. The judges were worried their tarts wouldn’t serve the required 40 people, and said the flavours didn’t excite them, despite the technical brief being completed as it should be.

Sarah & Leyre opted to switch their usual aprons for some with lacy additions and started their “multi-sensory” performance by handing the judges edible perfumes, filled with espresso martini. The judges were then asked to suck up edible vapour while Leyre made a nitrogen mousse. Despite these efforts, judges said they were left “hungry for more” by somewhat disappointing flavours.

For their performance, Nelson & Evaldas stuck on fake moustaches, spread foods on the table and lit sparklers with such subtle movements that it appeared part of their daily routine. The judges weren’t too impressed with the performance, stating that only the centrepiece reflected the burlesque theme. Cherish said she liked the flavour combinations, while Benoit declared the whole thing “messy”.

Last to present were Thibault & Erica, and Erica had pre-applied smoky eye makeup. She also whipped her hair out of its top-knot and added red lipstick and an eye mask, before throwing a chocolate rose on the floor while Thibault mixed a steamy concoction. “Wow. Wow. Wow. This is what I imagined the performance to be like,” said Cherish in response. Benoit agreed, describing himself as “shell-shocked”. The judges also praised their flavour profile, with Benoit saying it “made his day”.

After all of the excitement, judges had to make their decision on who would make it to the final. First place went to Thibault & Erica for their “tantalising performance”, second to Sarah & Leyre, and third to Nelson & Evaldas, meaning that Adam & Sam (below) were on their way home, and would not compete in the final.