During a few very cold, but beautiful days this last autumn, I was in Gävle and Älvkarleby to compete in Masterchef Sweden.
I arrived in Älvkarleby with train together with some of the other contenders, most of them from the audition in Helsingborg.
If anyone ever tells you that its 200 meters from the train station to the hotel in Älvkarleby - don’t trust them. At least we got a nice and beautiful walk through the small village and some time to talk and figure out who’s who
A while later it was time to leave for the studio - an old building in the outskirts of Gävle where they used to store gas for households. Really cool buildings! But before we could enter the building we had to wait, wait and ... wait some more. At this time, after the audition in Gothenburg, I was used to all that waiting, but so eager to get started.
All that waiting game us the opportunity to meet all the contesters again. A nice reunion for some of us and some new faces as well. And then Frederik! What are the odds that we would meet here in Masterchef after have been classmates in primary school and then lost contact. Amazing! We had loads of fun during the wait and it fit me like a glove. Here, among all these food nerds, I feel right at home!
After a while we were supposed to rehearse, shoot some angles and do some “wow-sounds” entering the huge building. All those raw brick walls, the broad wooden floor tiles, the Masterchef logo in the backdrop… It really was a magnificent studio! Even if that “Wow!” was rehearsed and enhanced for dramatic effects on camera, it was an incredible feeling to see those big gates open in front of you and enter the competition room. This was the place we were going to cook in! We were going to compete here. It almost made you shiver…
There were cameras all over the place and the instructions from the camera crew were that you weren’t allowed to look straight into the cameras. Ever! But it was almost impossible not to! I couldn’t close my eyes, could I? They were everywhere.
Oddly enough I got used to that too and then they just seemed to disappear. You became friends with them and they just seemed to be there in the background. Not at all like when I was filmed during my audition i Gothenburg when I felt like the would crawl in under my skin. Literally.
We shot some scenes and then we had dinner - a horrible one - at the conference centre the buildings belonged to. You could argue that that was a little harsh to say so, but - no. It really was awful. To cook like that, when three of the most distinguished chefs in Swedish culinary history and 40 complete food nerds should dine there was a complete scandal we all thought.Anyway, we had a nice evening together when we came back to the hotel. Some wine and a lot of laughs!
The following day it was time to compete! Entering the studio we saw all stations set with cutting boards, bowls and a razor sharp Global chef’s knife in the board.We kind of figured what was going to happen… The gates opened again and a truck came in with a LOT of sacks filled with onions. It tipped it’s load onto the floor and it looked like an avalanche of onions. I’ve never seen that many onions in my life!
We got instructions to just keep chopping until someone said stop and patted us on the shoulder as a sign that we had passed the test. The first ten people selected to have passed this test would go straight to the final competition of this stage. Markus showed us quickly how he wanted us to do it and then he told us to begin.
Were you supposed to chop quickly, finely, beautifully? Not really sure - probably all of those things.
I know I’m good at chopping. Very good actually. The only worrying thing was if my eyes could take it. To chop with the eyes closed or filled with tears are OK if you just keep your fingers in the right place and have good knife skill, so I would probably do alright if it came to that. I felt calm.
Pretty soon you could hear “Ouch!” and “Damn!” all over the place. The blood flowed and people ran like shuttles to the nurses who were standing by with band aid. Nerves and sharp knifes are a dangerous combination.
I chopped away at good speed with fine, small pieces and when I discovered that I didn’t start to cry from the onions, even if I felt the sting from them during the fourth or fifth onion, I found my flow. It’s almost like meditating to chop onions sometimes. A nice feeling when you discover that the knife almost chops on it’s own. Those knifes were really sharp and were fantastic to work with, even if I usually prefer the smaller tools, like the GS-5.
The jury walked around and checked us and our onions and after a long, long time of chopping the started to select the first people to have passed the test. Louise, Adam, Isabelle… one after the other they put their knife down and raised their arms in the air. Not me.When all ten were selected, the rest of us could stop as well. I put down the knife and checked my chopped onions. They were nice! Not as nice as Åke’s that looked like they’d been chopped by a machine in the exact size of 3x3mm, but really nice! I was pleased with my work even if it felt heavy on my shoulders that I was not among the selected 10.
Straight on to the next challenge - separating eggs!
My Mom told me how to separate egg white from yolks when I was just a small kid and I’ve always found it to be very easy. But on the other hand I’ve never had to do it under this kind of pressure. Once again it was time to focus, take deep breaths and just stick my mind to what I was supposed to do. Forget the world around you, mind your own business. Trust your skills and the rest will follow. You’ll do great!
During these days I was in a ridiculously good mood - I really enjoy being with other people who arejust as foodnerdy as I am. Such a good mood that I several times caught myself humming on songs and dancing on the spot. This became a terrific way of relaxing and finding my own rhythm, the flow. So with music in my head and feet and a big smile on my face to scare the nervousness away, I started to crack the first egg. Worked well. Egg number two and three also went well, but then I started to look around me at the other contenders. Bad mistake! Beginning with egg number four, my hands shook so much I almost punched a hole in the yolk! That would have been a sorry ending to that challenge…
I rested my hands on the table for a second, took a deep breath and looked up, into the bright, powerful spotlights in the ceiling. It felt like the sun on my face. Bring out the music again! Think of how much you love this! Boom, I was back in business again and took proper care of that fourth egg.
Then Per shouted that all eggs were supposed to be separated as quickly as possible and that the first ten people to finish went on to the next round. Once again people around me started to shout, not from pain but because they had finished their eggs. Every time I heard “Done!” the pressure increased and I understood that this was going to be a close call. Two quickly handled eggs, hand in the air and I shouted “Done!” At the same time I heard Mats shout as well, and we gave each other a puzzled look, not knowing if we we’re number eight och twelve or somewhere in between.
Per came up to me, looked at the eggs from all angles, searched for errors but put the bowls down and said “Well done!” What a relief! We shook hands and I took my place among the others who went on to the next round.
I started to shake of the stress, looked around me and just enjoyed the scene, to be here and have fun. I know this. I’m at home here!
Images from TV4 Play