Masterchef:Of Romance & Truffles

Truffles with nuts and chocolate dusting in detail. Photo: David Leggett (Flickr via Wikipedia)
Truffles with nuts and chocolate dusting in detail.
Photo: David Leggett (Flickr via Wikipedia)

*It is week 9  of Masterchef (US). 12 remain after Elise was sent home last week.

This weeks challenge was to cook a romantic meal for couples in the MasterChef dining room. Each couple was celebrating an anniversary. One couple had been married 65 years! Another got engaged.

Yet this episode seemed off to me. Perhaps it is one of those feelings you get after watching a reality show over many seasons. Perhaps it was a little déjà vu. I could not put my finger on it right away. Both Elizabeth and Ahran are team captains. Elizabeth (Blue Team) picks Francis, Jaimee, Victoria, Courtney, and Daniel. And Ahran (Red Team) picked Big Willie, Christine, Christian, Leslie, and The Cutter Zone. There task was to prepare a romantic dinner for the couples in the dining room. But wait, there is more! Gordon Ramsay’s wife Tana has arrived so he and his very lovely wife will also be dining. Elizabeth says she was recently married and misses her husband. Ahran says she really cannot get into the event since she has never been on a date. Oh boy. You can just see lots of creepy proposals coming her way over the Internet.

Team Elizabeth decided to do a filet mignon for the entrée and and Team Ahran lobster risotto. Unfortunately the filet mignon’s came out rare. They tried heating them up in the oven but it did not work. Gordon and Tana’s filet was rare. Somewhere a cow was mooing. Ahran’s lobster risotto had problems as well. The lobster itself was fine but the risotto lacked a deep lobster flavor. The deserts were mixed as well. Ahran’s tiramisu did not come out as planned so they had to improvise by stacking it like lasagna. It looked rushed and was missing raspberry flavor. Elizabeth’s cake had too many strawberries and Tana said they were eating around the center which was not a good sign.

Each table had to decide on one winner, no split votes. Do you go for the rare filet mignon with an overdone strawberry cake or a lobster risotto (with no lobster flavor in it except the lobster on top) with a clumsy looking tiramisu whose raspberry flavor is elusive? Well the diners went for Team Elizabeth leaving Team Ahran to face the dreaded pressure test. Something rings wrong about this. I cannot place my finger on it exactly but it is too pat. They showed other tables facing the problem of which was really better. And it was not even close with 75% of the vote going to Team Elizabeth. Whatever happened it sent Team Ahran to the pressure test. All of them, no exceptions.



Pressure Test From Hell
There are pressure tests and then there are the Pressure Tests From Hell. Most pressure tests are something you would cook at home or something you might find in restaurants. Then there are pressure tests that are designed to make people fail. There is no other explanation for them because what you have to cook would not be done by home cooks. You would never see it on America’s Test Kitchen or even an old episode of Julia Child. If you go to any major city in the US and ask 1,000 people if they make chocolate truffles at home, you would be lucky to find one. And they have to make nine delicious and visually appealing specimens all done to the judges satisfaction.

In nearly all the pressure tests, you could see the judges able to do this themselves. Not this one. I doubt Gordon, Graham, or Joe have ever made chocolate truffles before and could do it to the exacting standards of of Jacque Torres or La Maison du Chocolat. That is why this pressure test told me they wanted them to fail. Not all of them but enough of them so they could make a double elimination. After all we are down to final twelve. And around this time they usually knock off a pair. But in the end a strange thing did happen. The Cutter Zone actually produced good truffles. Whether it was a fluke or simply getting it done right we will never know. The judges were happy and amazed. Less so with Ahran’s and Christian’s but they passed muster. Big Willie made some weird looking ones that prompted Gordon to borrow his glasses to make sure they were not funny ones that changed how one sees the world. Christine’s looked okay but tasted bitter. Which brings us to…

Leslie. His truffles looked like some small mythological creature had stomped on them or as Gordon speculated put under his armpits. They looked horrible. They tasted better than they looked but you get one guess as to which two were on the bottom. I thought they would send both home. But if you are going to save someone, which do you choose? Do you save a gal who has shown considerable strengths and leadership in the kitchen? Or do you choose a guy who does cook well but does not get along with anyone else and is infuriating at the same time? Who do you see in the top four? I wish they would think that way because they sent Christine home.

I think they wanted to do a double elimination but the wrong two ended up in the bottom.

So the rankings at this point are:
The Top
Elizabeth-She has shown considerable skill and tenacity.
Courtney-Those glossy shoes belie a person who can cook real well but will mow down anyone in her way to the top.
Christian-Talented and arrogant.

The Middle
Big Willie-He ought to be in the top section but while he is a good cook, right now he is more comfortable with home and rustic cooking than fine dining. He could break out but for now he is in the middle.
Jaimee-Very good and could move into a top position if one of those guys screws up.
Victoria-A consistent good cook who works well with others.
Daniel-Determined and earnest in his cooking.
Ahran-Her youth and inexperience are made up for with determination and taking risks.

The Bottom
Leslie-He can produce good dishes, no doubt of that. But head to head against Courtney, Elizabeth or Christian he will likely loose. He was a poor team leader and on the kitchen challenge had to be pulled off his station because he got rattled and started producing poor egg dishes.
The Cutter Zone-Though he did good in the pressure test, overall he has yet to either be in top three for a mystery box challenge or win an elimination. At this stage of the game, the field is narrow and he has to prove himself.

Down to eleven now so the competition is going to get even tougher. And it looks like a double mystery box next week.

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