The heat was on and temperatures reached a fever pitch as Channel Two aired the
grand finale of the Master Chef competition on Saturday night. In a showdown
that pitted the three amateur finalists against each other, Smadar Vaknin (47),
Elkana Biton (29) and Ina Kravetzky (31) cooked their hearts out in their
attempt to be the last chef standing and garner the coveted title of Israel’s
first-ever Master Chef.
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And they were not alone. Besides the 100 guests
in the studio who were there to partake of the second challenge, the viewing
audience, as reported by the Keshet network, was an unprecedented 41 percent –
higher than any airing of A Star Is Born or Big Brother. And when the winner was
announced, a staggering 45% had tuned in to share in the glory.
to the contest itself.
The three finalists’ task was to cook a
three-course meal that consisted of a fish appetizer, a main dish using the
contents of a mystery bag of ingredients, and a plate of macaroons.
the intervening days between tapings of the competition, the contestants had a
chance to meet and confer with their favorite chefs. Biton chose Shalom
Kadosh, a renowned kosher chef based in Jerusalem. In the film footage shown
that evening, Kadosh asked Biton, who is Orthodox, what he would do if he were
given a non-kosher ingredient, such as seafood, with which to prepare a
Biton answered, “I would take off my apron, politely say, ‘Thank
you for the experience’ and leave the show.”
But there was no need for
anyone to walk out.
In their task, the three fared fairly well with the
farida fish dish, but Vaknin (aka Smadie Bomba) battled with her main dish and
had to start it over, as the wheat component simply would not cook properly.
Meanwhile, the tearful Kravetzky almost gave up on her seemingly impossible
macaroons. Not your run-of-the mill coconut cookie that is all-too prevalent on
Pessah, these were gobs of colorful gourmet confections that had to be prepared
precisely according to the recipe of renowned pastry chef Hans
Kravetzky struggled with the macaroons and fell way behind the
other two in the race against the clock. In fact, judge Eyal Shani, himself a
renowned chef, said he could never make macaroons because they are so difficult
In the end of that round, Kravetzky’s three-course meal was
capped by a beautiful plate of moist pink, yellow and green.macaroons; Biton
served up three tasty courses, including the intricate macaroons; and Vaknin,
undone by her underdone wheat side dish, was eliminated.
And then there
It was now down to one dish, the one that would determine who
would be named Master Chef.
In the final challenge, Kravetzky and Biton
had to please the palates of the 100 studio guests, as well as the three
formidable judges – Eyal Shani, Chaim Cohen and Michal Ansky.
US reality show Top Chef
, where the contestants would actually have to cook for
the 100 people, on Master Chef they were supplied with two kitchens and several
chefs, who prepared the two sparring dishes according to the recipes of the two
So what do you make as your prizewinning dish? What do you
offer a roomful of strangers in the hopes of becoming Israel’s first and only
For his final tour de force, Biton’s dish was a filet steak wrapped
in phllyo dough and mango leaves, enhanced with a saffron
puree. Kravetzky offered up roasted sirloin in a Jerusalem artichoke
sauce, with crisp cigars filled with dried fruit and nuts.
Now it was up
to the judges and the studio guests to decide on the winner. As Biton and
Kravetzky stood and awaited their fate, Biton was seen mouthing the prayer
But two of the judges (Shani and Ansky) and 80% of the
guests were on Kravetzky’s side, and the beautiful blonde immigrant from the
Ukraine was named Master Chef.
Like members of a family, tears abounded
and hugs and kisses were shared as Kravetzky, the judges – and Biton – shared in
the unbridled joy of her victory.
“I came as an olah from the Ukraine,”
Kravetzky sputtered through her tears. “We had very little money and hardly any
food. My mother cleaned houses to earn a living.
I’m so glad I can do
something special,” said the single mother who had worked as a model and a
One of the grand prizes for the winner was a suite of kitchen
appliances, which Kravetzky is sure to put to good use. In addition, a book will
soon be published containing the top recipes of the finalists. What’s more,
viewers will have a chance to cook with the finalists online.
So get your
aprons and spatulas ready – Master Chef
is still cooking up a storm