Saturday night flavor

Amidst a flurry of hugs and tears, Channel Two’s ‘Master Chef’ crowns its winner ... and tucks into a spectacular ratings success.

November 28, 2010 22:37
4 minute read.
Ina Kravetzky, winner of 'Master Chef'

Ina Kravetzky Master Chef 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

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.

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.

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But back 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.

In 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 dish.

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 Bertele.

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 to prepare.

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 were two.

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.

Unlike the 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 finalists.

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 Master Chef?

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 “Shema Israel.”

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 bartender.

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

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