Tag Archives: Masterchef season 5

Masterchef:Surf &Turf and Bad Spring Rolls Sends Hopeful Home

Photo: FOX
Photo: FOX

*It is week 7 of Masterchef (US). 15 contestants remain after Tyler was sent home last week.

*There is an old wisdom to be cautious about volunteering information that will be turned against you. So when a Masterchef judge asks who you do not want to be paired up with, you ought to have the good sense to realize that is a trap. Leslie, who is old enough to know this maxim, of course offers up Ahran. Which he pronounces as Ihran. He seems to have a problem with pronouncing her name. It is a variant of Aaron so think of that name when saying Ahran. It is an uncommon name I grant you (not many boys or girls get this name) but not unpronounceable.

*Courtney really wears those high heels so much that Gordon warned her not to trip on the stairs up the balcony. She says it is like a second home to her. Really? Well do not get that comfortable. Some below want to knock you off that balcony and into a steaming pile of dog poo.

*The teams are paired up by Courtney who loves pulling the strings. Christian and Francis B are both arrogant about their abilities and Courtney hopes they will clash. Christian said some unpleasant things about why he did not want to pair with her. So Courtney would love to see him take the walk out of the kitchen. Victoria and Christine are paired up. Since neither have been in the top three, she probably hopes they will produce a mediocre dish. Jaimee and Elizabeth are contrasts but both will put their heads down and do a good job. Courtney sees neither as a threat right now. Then again pairing up Cutter with Dan was a good move. While both have shown strengths at times, she thinks they will clash and fail. She was right on the money there. Willie and Daniel are paired up. Neither are a threat to her at this point so it will be theirs to loose.

*Surf and Turf is on the menu tonight. The teams, unlike in the past, will not be doing a tag team relay cooking challenge. Instead both are working at the same time to create a harmonious dish to be served to the Culinary Trio. Note that word harmonious, for that really is the key. Merely throwing some fish and beef on the plate with salad is not going to cut it here. You have to give them an impressive dish that gets their attention.

*Watch that clock! You get five minutes in the pantry to select the proteins and other things you want. Most teams come to a consensus quickly (even Ahran/Leslie) but not Cutter and Dan. They each disagree on what to do and waste their time. So in the end they have a fish and meat protein and not much else to go on that plate. It would come back to haunt them later.

Surfs Up!
1. Victoria and Christine-Pork Belly & Monkfish. The best dish of the night according to the judges. It looked fantastic and restaurant quality.
2. Willie and Daniel-Seared ahi tuna with fried chicken with Asian influences. The judges liked it though Gordon did not like the crunch on the tuna. All in all, a good meal.
3. Ahran and Leslie-A pork belly and crab guacamole tostada. Despite Courtney hoping for a clash, they both worked well together and learned to respect one another. The dish looked delicious and got high marks from the judges. And they both hugged in the end. So the hatchet each had in the other’s back is gone. Leslie also knows how to properly say her name!

Low Tide
1. Christian and Francis B-Moroccan spiced rib eye with king crab topping. It looked like something served in a college cafeteria or cheap but pretentious diner. Gordon cannot believe they brought this up saying that individually each one could produce a stellar dish. Together they put this uninspired and bland meal together. A direct hit by Courtney. They are now on the short list for going home.
2. Cutter and Dan-Seared venison with seared tuna. What more can you say when you bring up a plate that has one cooked meat on one side, and fish on the other side and virtually nothing else? This might pass for minimalist picture in some art gallery but not here. Gordon could not believe that with that massive pantry at their disposal this is all they could bring up.Cutter says they could not agree but Gordon points out that each one of them could have filled their carts with all kinds of stuff and brought out to sort later. A total failure and Gordon calls it the worst dish so far. Joe is not amused either and I do not think he actually tasted it. After playing with it a bit, he fetches a trash bin and ask Cutter to do the honors. Yikes!
3. Francis L and Elise-rack of lamb with crab risotto, yogurt and caviar. What went wrong was exactly what Courtney hoped would happened. They overcomplicated their dish making it not that good. The lamb’s fat was not properly rendered off so the yogurt was on top of that. And the sauce Francis L made did not work for the dish. Visually unappealing as well (a dog’s dinner I think is what Gordon said).

When all the other teams but the Low Tide ones are sent up to the balcony, Gordon does the head fake and calls Christian and Francis B out and then tells them they are not saved and in the dreaded pressure test. Saved is Elise and Francis L. And boy are they glad not to be in this dreaded pressure test.

Vegetable spring rolls with dipping sauce. Photo: Public Domain (Wikipedia)
Vegetable spring rolls with dipping sauce.
Photo: Public Domain (Wikipedia)

Spring Comes In Roll
I love spring rolls. So does Gordon who points out the light but yet crunchy dough and delicious fillings. Done well it is great treat. Done poorly and you have sticks with weeds in them. And Christian, Francis B, Cutter and Dan all have to make four of them with a dipping sauce (and not from a can!). Dan has the advantage being born in China. And off they go to make the best spring rolls in Masterchef history. Not hard to make but mess up the dough or filling and it is all over. Key is also making sure your oil is hot enough. Too cold and it does not cook right as Francis found out. He did something no one would do: put them in a frying pan to get them some color. If he used just a hot nonstick pan maybe. But he added oil which meant it makes them greasy.

And so the Angel of Death has his scythe ready to go. Christian presents okay spring rolls and that pass muster. They could have been wrapped more evenly and used more herbs. Francis has too much filling in his spring rolls and they are greasy. Dan was just okay but Gordon expected more and was disappointed. Cutter had one spring roll burst in the fryer but managed to get by. His rolls though had an elasticity to them they ought not to have (not crispy enough). The filling needed more flavor and acid. Not a great presentation.

Christian gets the pass, soon to be followed by Dan leaving both Cutter and Francis B to face their fate. Will it be just one or two going home tonight? The scythe falls and Francis B is sent home. This is unfortunate. Francis had shown some real talent and really looked like a strong contender. Something happened though. Perhaps he lost confidence in his abilities or got shaken up by the team challenge. Courtney gets a direct hit here. She wanted Christian out but seeing Francis B go was good as well in her mind.

My 2¢
Over the years of watching food competitions, I often wonder how it is seemingly good cooks end up not making it like Francis B. He has shown considerable talent and wowed the judges early on. Joe thought he was one to watch. So it was sad to see Francis B fall this way. So what happened? Perhaps he had a confidence issue. The wedding challenge saw him flub it up when he became captain when Leslie was replaced. Joe put him the pressure test because of his poor leadership when they (1)did not serve up the original potato side and had to come up with a plan b quickly; (2) they were two plates of fish that did not have whole fish because two fish fillets disappeared. Perhaps this challenge unnerved him as well working with Christian. Both are good cooks but together something went amiss.

There was no obvious sign of discomfort between the two but neither did they want to work together. Perhaps they could not agree on a dish that would have been better. Or they were simply arrogant to believe they could get away with such a boring dish and slide by. I suspect it is something between arrogance and not wanting to upstage. Sort of a balance of power agreement that backfired. Courtney did not get Christian out but she got Francis B, who was a threat. No surprise about Cutter and Dan. Despite having their moments, neither is really that good as to knock your socks off. Dan is an admitted food snob and I suspect thinks little of Cutter. Cutter thought Dan’s ideas were not well thought out. And because they were debating too much, they left the pantry with very little. Gordon was disappointed with Dan not showing some real cooking skills with the spring rolls. He expected Dan to really make them shine as an example of his culinary skills. They fact he made a mediocre batch is a bellwether as to his real skills. The sauce was the only thing that saved him from being in the bottom two. Had he been there, he might very well have gone home.

Next week it looks like a restaurant challenge and breakfast is on the menu. It does not look pretty. And it looks like the pressure test will be a cake.

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Masterchef: Meatloaf For All

Meatloaf with Sauce Photo: public domain
Meatloaf with Sauce
Photo: public domain

Season 5 is now underway and the top twenty-two are ready to go. And two will be dropped at the end of this episode. One will fall after the Mystery Box and the other in the elimination round.

*No mention of Walmart at all during this episode. In fact there was no Walmart commercial either. I wonder if they ended their sponsorship of the show or they are low balling the shilling this year due to complaints.

*Dessert was the Mystery Box challenge, a change from previous seasons. They were given chocolate, bananas, strawberries,various extracts, ground coffee and of course use of the MasterChef pantry.

*In past seasons they sometimes call down what everyone assumes is the top two only to learn they are the two worst. This time they call down four: Astrid and Cutter, Courtney and Willie. Then after the obligatory commercial break, Gordon announces Astrid and Cutter are the two worst.

*A Lesson In How To Fail
Cutter presents his Capuchino pudding & biscotti. It looked weird. Making it worse he put the Masterchef logo on the pudding! Gordon is not happy looking at this dish. He is appalled at Cutter putting the logo there. Joe tells him that his biscotti are not even close. Astrid originally was cooking lemon bars but now lemon tarts. They look rather anemic sitting on the plate and worse, raw inside. Gordon was not impressed and sees little potential in her. So it is no surprise that Astrid turns in her apron and heads home. She accepts her fate and realizes she ought to have done more baking. If you want to be a chef, you need to be able to cook everything in your kitchen so you know whether your cooks are getting it right or not.

*A Lesson In Winning
Both Willie and Courtney show great presentation skills and remarkable use of the ingredients on their plates. Courtney made a Honey Cake with mixed berry coules. Gordon calls it balanced and Graham calls it a restaurant dish. Willie has a Gingerbread Cake (in small bites) with mascarpone and berry compote. Joe says it shows finesse and Gordon says it was a party in his mouth! Both look like they could win but only one can so Courtney is chosen who heads back to the pantry to decide on what the others will soon be cooking.

*Ground Meat
She is shown three samples of ground meat: Italian meatballs, meatloaf, and the burger. When they showed these three I thought she would choose meatloaf. Meatballs are tricky but not impossible. Burgers are too easy but meatloaf requires more finesse to get the flavors right. And I was right, she choose meatloaf. She also got exemption from cooking and one more major bonus: she could save half from cooking. So she methodically went through the people chosen for safety. Personally I would have kept my mouth shut about why each person was saved until the confessional. So compared it to chess and using them as pawns in her game. On person not fooled was Elizabeth who probably is just as cunning as Courtney but more discreet in her way of showing it.

*Let The Games Begin!
So the remaining cheftestants now assemble their meatloafs. Dan is proud to say he is a food snob. He is planning an Asian themed meatloaf. Willie,who is the cook in his family, says he has got this. Stephani goes off in a strange direction using couscous and blue cheese. Joe is aghast and cannot believe what he is hearing. You can see the angel of death preparing to lower that scythe soon. Frances B starts off planning cheese inside his meatloaf and Gordon makes him reconsider it. The clock runs down and the judging begins.

The top
*Francis B uses meatloaf with Spanish ingredients and it is a hit. Joe likes it and Gordon calls it bold. Graham says it is the kind of meatloaf he would want his mom to make. Ultimately he gets the win because of his boldness.
*Willie presents a beef and pork meatloaf with creamy mashed potatoes and brussels sprouts. It gets rave reviews and Gordon loves it.

The bottom
*Dan presents an Asian style meatloaf Gordon calls disgusting and worst meatloaf he ever had!
*Whitney presents a meatloaf with odd flavors like lemongrass and mango. It also is dry, overcooked, and worse than a tv dinner!
*Stephani’s strange meatloaf with couscous and blue cheese sauce is so bad Gordon spits it out. He tells her it spells H-O-M-E!

*Exit, Stage Right
Dan, Whitney, and Stephani are on the bottom. Dan is saved and Gordon asks Courtney who she thinks they have selected to go home. She says Whitney, for lacking passion. And she was right. Whitney exits and Francis gets the win that makes him a team leader in the next challenge.

My 2¢
At this point it is way too early to see who will make it but Willie, Courtney, and Francis are the strongest right now because they came out top in the first challenges. Courtney gave a kind of evil laugh as she enjoyed talking about how she is playing the other cheftestants like chess pawns and pulling strings. She has the smarts and not unlike Natasha of season 4 in her brashness. As time goes on and we get to know some of the other cheftestants, more opinions will form. I personally hope Willie goes far. This guy has passion and clearly loves to cook. I suspect he will take up any challenge they throw at him and do well. Next week it looks like they visit a military base and cook for a lot of soldiers.