MasterChef (28Aug2013):Kids Take Over Kitchen, Vietnamese Soup, and Paula Deen

Photo: Wikipedia

*Number of times Walmart mentioned during show: 0

*A full two hour episode.

*Visitors In The Kitchen! Possibly to prepare us for Junior MasterChef, the sons of the judges pay a visit.
They also get to pick 15 items for the cheftestants to cook. Then they visit the contestants to see how they are doing. Jack, Gordon’s son, asks Jessie if she has a boyfriend (she does). The items they had to cook were a hodgepodge of ingredients only kids would put together like pork, a hazelnut chocolate spread, assorted fruits, peanut butter, cheese slices and ketchup.

witch hat*James, Jessie and Luca are called up but Krissi and Natasha (the bakers) are left behind. Krissi fumes at not being called up for her made from scratch pastry. Natasha did something weird. Instead of making fruit crepes, she made pancakes. While the judges make the decision as to who wins, Krissi makes a snide comment that they used premade pastry in the dishes. Krissi proving once again why she gets the pointed witch hat.

*The Best Dish Ever Challenge: James wins and has to select three dishes each of the judges says it is tops for them. For Joe it is a uni & caviar dish he had in Singapore. For Graham, it is a softshell crab sandwich his grandfather made for him. And finally Gordon has an amazing Vietnamese pork noodle dish he had in Vietnam. Each of those on the bottom will cook the one James selects. He chooses the Vietnamese soup knowing how difficult it will be. He hopes to take out Natasha or Luca.

*Luca presents the best recreation of it. Gordon raves over it as do the others. While weeks ago I doubted Luca’s ability to stay, his ability to produce this complex soup shows he is a very serious contender. Jessie too puts up a very good soup. Both Natasha and Krissi presents soups that are good though with some small issues (like Natasha’s broth being more sweet and thus needing more salt). Both Luca and Jessie are winners leaving Krissi and Natasha on the bottom.

*Head Fake The judges at first seem to be sending Natasha home when Krissi is sent upstairs. She starts crying and Gordon goes on about how difficult it was to make the decision. Meanwhile the cameras role as Natasha continues to cry for at least 30 seconds more before Gordon says it was so close that no one is going home. They are all safe. A MasterChef first where those on the bottom were saved because both dishes were so good (perhaps not has good as Luca or Jessie’s) they could not send them home. Or is it something else? Perhaps to preserve the two mean girls for a little longer?

Part Deux

*It is a bright, beautiful day as they visit a lovely ranch where horses seem to be enjoying themselves. And then Paula Deen drives up with a tractor of hay! Fox never mentioned her appearance on the show in any of its promos. There is also reporting that Fox wanted to edit out her appearance. Cowards. But they could not do it since her appearance is important for the continuity. They could have gone sneaky by shooting scenes with another celebrity and inserting them where Paula was. In the end, they did nothing and you know what, it was just fine.

*After hitching a ride with some hay, our cheftestants end up in a nice area with dining tables set out. Their task will be to each cook for one table but there is a major hitch. Luca gets to decide what proteins each of his competitors will cook, Southern stye. He keeps pork chops. He gives alligator to Jessie, chicken to James, catfish to Natasha, and prawns to Krissi. And off they go to cook their meals.

*James makes a strategic mistake that costs him later. The chicken breasts are pretty large and decides not cut or flatten them for easier cooking. So big pieces of chicken are going into the oven taking longer to cook…and well you guessed it they were not quite done and had to be reheated. Unfortunately one got by when Gordon was checking his table. Major technical foul and puts him into the pressure test later.

*Natasha bungles cooking the catfish. Her sides are fine but decides to grill the buttermilk batter coated fish which means they stick to the grill. Gordon advises she pan fry. However her fish ends up underdone in the end. This from a gal who has shown tremendous skill.

*Krissi’s makes shrimp and fried green tomatoes. Not much negatives about the dish but perhaps not quite elevated enough since…..

*Jessie gets rave reviews for the alligator, a tough meat to cook. And Luca gets raves as well for his delicious pork chops. So both Jessie and Luca get the win, the rest to the pressure test. Paula did not try Natasha’s fish since it was underdone.

*Hell’s Pressure Test. Of all the pressure tests, this was one of the most difficult. Both Luca and Jessie were shown dishes from each of judges restaurants. Each of them looked very difficult to replicate, especially Graham’s panna cota dessert. Jessie and Luca now have to decide who gets to cook what. They gave Natasha Gordon’s scallop appetizer, Krissi the Fillet Rossini from Del Posto, and Graham’s Greek yogurt panna cota with different honeys and flavors goes to James.

*Krissi and Natasha do reasonably well though have errors. Natasha ran out of time so not enough sauce but Gordon is pleased. Krissi though overcooks her fillet (she put it in the oven) and one of the pears still has skin on it. James gets the flavors right but fouled getting the panna cotta set (he put it in the refrigerator rather than a blast chiller. James is sent home leaving Krissi and Natasha to join the final four.

1. Luca (tied with Jessie). Luca has shown considerable growth and talent. While weeks ago I thought he was fading, he has shown some remarkable cooking skills. I think he might very well be in the top two unless he totally screws himself up.

1. Jessie  (tied with Luca). She is not just a pretty face. We saw that in the audition when Gordon challenged her to fillet a whole fish. While she took some stumbles on the way, she has shown finesse in most of her dishes. And earned the respect of the judges as well.

2. Natasha. I am worried about Natasha. She has shown some tremendous skills and the ability to do well under pressure(although her first team challenge for the wedding had its problems). But lately she seems to have problems. Forgetting garlic, thinking pancakes with fruit is MasterChef material, or cooking catfish totally the wrong way. I just wonder if the pressure of the competition is rattling her and causing some lapses in judgment. However I still think she has  the ability to take down Jessie or Luca (or possibly Krissi if it came to it).

3. Krissi. She has serious cooking chops but, as Gordon pointed out, the limitation is her. He did not say it but a boy from Scotland from a middle class family became a master chef with Michelin stars because he reached far beyond his comfort zone. Krissi is most comfortable with foods she knows but, as she pointed out, does not go to fancy restaurants. We saw how uncomfortable she was with Asian foods. And she was very hesitant to replicate the soup. However she also is being rattled by the pressure to produce stunning upscale restaurant quality food. Add to that her belligerent and nasty attitude she has, and that can often spell doom for a cook in a competition. There is no room to hide now. If Natasha screws up, she may very well end up in the top three, but she might very well trip herself up in a spectacular way.


Joe has some interesting to say at his blog on People about this episode.