Masterchef: In Cutter’s Way

Photo: Remko Tanis (Flickr)
Photo: Remko Tanis (Flickr)

*It is week 7 of Masterchef (US). 14 are left after Francis B was sent home last week.

*It is another beautiful day in sunny southern California and our cheftestants are on a city bus. Just them, of course. Courtney opines about the challenge and Elizabeth ranks the top field (including herself) as Courtney, Christine, Jaimee and Willie. They arrive at Dinah’s, an iconic classic American diner in Los Angeles. Gordon and Joe are finishing up their breakfast as the cheftestants arrive.

*But hold on, no team selection this time and the judges pick the team captains: Willie and Christine. I think it is a great choice as both have shown great skills but have yet to lead. Teams are boys vs girls EXCEPT Gordon does not like that so much. Each team picks one person they can poach from the other. The girls pick Christian and the guys Victoria. Off to the kitchen to prep and cook for the crowd that is sure to come in. And since a lot of people eat here frequently, they know exactly what they want and how it is supposed to taste. Both teams (Willie is blue, Christine is red) will be cooking during the busiest shift of the day, which is generally breakfast and lunch. As it turns out they work most of the day since when it is over the sun is going down.

*According to their website, Dinah’s is open 6:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. daily. Christine comes across as a good leader, Willie a little less so because he seems disorganized later on when more orders start coming in. Both teams are looking good as they start cooking away. Nothing like being in good diner and hearing that bacon sizzling away!

*Each diner is given a red or blue Masterchef dollar. If they like their meal, they will deposit it in the appropriate jar. If not, no tip!

*Problems start emerging on Team Blue with Willie losing track of orders. Also Leslie looses focus. Unsure whether it was just stress or something else. Ultimately Willie removes him and puts Victoria in charge. Orders are backing up and customers waiting for Team Blue are getting impatient. Elise is having problems with making the Club sandwich. I love the sandwich but if you have never made it before, it could be a little daunting. Christine sends Elizabeth to help.

*One of the customers alerts Gordon her chicken is raw. Gordon is apologetic and heads back to the kitchen. I am surprised it got by Christine and shows both teams are in serious trouble. Meanwhile customers are starting to say adios and head out the door after waiting a very long time for nothing. And since they were Team Blue customers, that means potential tips are heading out the door for the team. When the shift is over, they can all take a breath but the tips will have to be counted up and revealed the next day. Hope they got some good sleep because the dreaded pressure test lies ahead.

Lifeboat Offered, Willie Declines
Integrity and character are words often chided by many today as outmoded values. Team Red wins and gets the safety of the balcony. Team Blue must now face the dreaded pressure test. Willie is offered two options. Option 1: He can select three from the group to be saved. Option 2: Select only himself and everyone else faces the challenge. Not surprisingly Courtney opines she would take the lifeboat when Willie decides to select three and stay in the pressure test. He says since he was team captain, he has to take responsibility. That in a nutshell is integrity over selfishness and why people with integrity and character count while mercenaries like Courtney people are cautious and wary of. Willie selects Francis L., Daniel, and Victoria.

Photo: FOX
Photo: FOX

The Cake of Doom: Red Velvet
Red velvet cake is delicious but unfortunately Willie, Leslie, Dan and Cutter must cook it. Both Willie and Leslie are confident they can pull it off. Cutter has eaten the cake and never made it. And Dan is just Dan moving along with due speed but his batter is thick. And Gordon reminds us early on that density is important to the cake.

Appearances though can be deceiving. Willie looks slow but that masks the fact he is getting things properly prepped. His calm manner is probably the reason he looks slow. Leslie by contrast abounds with energy and confidence. Both are not worried about producing a good cake. Leslie has been in pressure tests before and this is the second one for Willie. However Cutter and Dan by contrast look more stressed in getting their cakes ready.

In Cutter’s Way
They begin with Willie. Gordon says it looks a little askew but when he cuts into it, the layers are perfect. It is also delicious, a view shared by all the judges. Willie has done good. No need to worry about him going home. Leslie is up next and he has put ground up pistachios on top. Joe did not think he would like it that way but ended up enjoying the cake as do the other judges. And now cue the dramatic music….

Joe asks Leslie why people do not like him. Of course we know the answer: it is the way he comes off when he talks to most people. He says he does not know, which is probably true. Then Cutter interjected with a comment that ended with saying Leslie was a “one trick pony.” Joe looked askance at that and reminded Cutter it is the judges who determine who wins. And then he added Leslie had a delicious cake. Up next is Dan and right away there is a problem. Joe finds it hard to cut through and appears over baked. Joe says it is a boiled wool cake. Yikes! Cutter is smiling but the smile is wiped off when Joe remarks that while Dan’s tasted homemade, that Cutters looks like it was made by a child.

Gordon looks at Cutter’s cake and says it decoration on top (a uncompleted version of American flag) looks different. And then he notes the stuff on the cake side looks like a hairy back! This prompt laughter from Ahran and the others above. The cake is moist but has a lot of frosting. And it is too sweet. Leslie smiles and Graham comes over to taste it. Cutter then starts disagreeing with Gordon’s criticism implying Gordon’s palate is different. Graham tries to get him to distinguish between professional criticism and the personal. Cutter kept trying to interrupt and Graham had to tell him to let him speak. Graham concludes by saying (to Cutter asking about the sweetness) “now you what over sweet is.”

Joe walks over and asks why he is so defensive. Cutter says he does not understand why they consider his cake too sweet. Joe asks if he lives in a delusion and if he will get defensive every time they criticize him. Cutter gets more upset and says he is not a baker and might go home tonight. The tension is palpable to everyone. Joe says he implied Gordon had a poor palate. Cutter retorts back not to put words in his mouth! Gordon cannot believe it, and Graham is shaking his head in disbelief. The verbal sparring continues. Joe says Cutter has to respect the judges which prompts this rant from Cutter:

“I do. I’m doing my best and all I do gets hammered.” More worrisome looks and then Joe says that all he does is interrupt and says “you sound ignorant.” I hear the sound of distant cannon now and getting closer unless Cutter shuts up. Finally Joe asks who he would send home. He says Leslie, which prompts Leslie to laugh. Cutter responds to that by saying it is all a big circle to him. Leslie continues to laugh saying back “you’re still here?”

No surprise that both Willie and Leslie are safe. But should one or both go from the bottom two? The angel of death prepares the scythe. Dan is sent home since his cake was more like a biscuit said Gordon. Cutter is spared again but I fear now has been marked in a way no other has before on Masterchef.

My 2¢
The restaurant challenge is a great pressure test on its own. We see how these home cooks work in a professional working kitchen. Christine was the better leader of the two but both teams were close in score at the end. Both teams had problems with a particular station. Team Willie had problems with the egg station and Team Christine with club sandwich. Leslie had a point later that Daniel was not doing much but that appears later. Like everyone else he is working at his station but at some point ends up working as a vice-expeditor next to Willie. Daniel was barking out stuff and not Willie, which was Leslie’s point. He was not doing cooking at that point but acting like he was in charge. I think that tells us a lot about Daniel. He seems to like pushing himself as someone who can be in charge but always does it from a secondary position. He organized the mutiny against Leslie but put Francis B. and not himself in charge. In this episode, he tries to assert authority by standing next to Willie and barking out orders. I think Leslie caught onto his act early on and that may be the reason for deep mistrust between the two.

However this episode will be remembered for Cutter’s meltdown. And it was epic because he reminds you of those stubborn and arrogant chefs Ramsay would encounter on Kitchen Nightmares. You know the ones I am talking about. They would say their food was good and Ramsay would find it wanting in a serious way. That is what Joe openly wondered about when he said Cutter must live in a delusion. And he clearly believes that no matter what he does, no matter how much he puts into it, he gets hammered by them. He clearly has had enough. Joe realized you cannot talk sensibly to a person in such a state. So he asks the trick question of who he would send home. He says Leslie, who no one believes is on the chopping block. Leslie naturally laughs at this and I do not blame him. When someone is this far gone either you ignore or laugh about it. And what Cutter said about Leslie living in a big circle comes from someone in a very different place than our own. Paging Rod Serling–The Twilight Zone has arrived on Masterchef.

Well Cutter has certainly got a big target painted on his back now. I wonder if the judges will try to find a convenient manner in which to dispatch Cutter from the show as quickly as possible. Cutter, Dr Phil is calling!

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