Tag Archives: MasterChef (US)

Masterchef:Seafood Attacks and Doughnuts Not For Dunking

Cooked Lobster Photo: Junior Libby (publicdomainpictures.net)
Cooked Lobster
Photo: Junior Libby (publicdomainpictures.net)

*It is week 4 of Masterchef (US). Sadly Little Gordon got sick and was forced to drop out. He is going to be fine but that means we now have 18 aspiring masterchefs aiming for the big prize.

*Walmart is still hanging around since a commercial ran during a commercial break.

*Courtney reminds us at the top of the show how good she is. She may be so blinded by the lights and not realize it is an oncoming train.

*Ahran really stepped up to the plate in this episode. And really let us know how much she dislikes Courtney. And she thinks the judges show favoritism towards Courtney.

*The Mystery Box challenge was fresh seafood. And by fresh I mean alive and with pincers. Amazing how dealing with live seafood throws some for a loop. Kira was positively frightened by what was in that bag. This is not like the giant crab in Attack of the Crab Monsters! But eventually all just get on with it to make a dish worthy of the Culinary Trio’s respect.

*The top three were Francis B, Ahran, and Christian. Francis has a spicy seafood broth with interesting blend of different spices that seem contradictory. But rather than “fusion confusion” it all worked harmoniously. That is the trick with fusion cuisine. It all has to work together perfectly. Christian did New Orleans proud with his Creole BBQ Shrimp with grits but in the end it was Ahran with her Asian seafood dish that won. For the youngest competitor there, she is really showing some really big skills.

*Off to the pantry! Ahran has to decide which sweet treat the others all have to cook: cupcakes, muffins, or doughnuts. All three can be tricky but she ultimately selects the donut. Oh and mentions she also wants to get rid of Courtney saying “I go to high school and deal with a lot of fake b*tches all the time.” The judges look shocked although Joe looks amused.

Glazed Doughnut Photo:Public Domain
Glazed Doughnut
Photo:Public Domain

*Gourmet Donuts
They have to make 12 amazing and delicious donuts and put them in a box for presentation. The key, Gordon notes, is getting that dough just right. Do it wrong and you start all over again. To Ahran’s delight, Courtney screws up her first try and has no yeast left. She goes around asking everyone for some yeast and eventually gets some from Francis. Worse though is Francis B who really is struggling. He screwed up his dough so the doughnuts look flat. They end up becoming ball shaped and you can see where it was heading. Time is called and Ahran gets to select one person to be saved. After walking around, she decides on Francis B, who was greatly relieved to not be facing the judges.

The Top
Leslie-Malibu sunshine. His donuts were perfectly glazed and the right texture. He did not inject his doughnuts with any filling. Gordon thought them delicious.
Francis-Go big or go home is the motto for this Scot. He created 12 doughnuts each with a different flavor profile. Gordon tried the one topped with pancetta. Pancetta! But amazingly it works and Gordon laughs at this revelation. Francis showed he has real talent and the guts to go for it

The Bottom
Courtney-One tick of a nervous cook is using the wrong ingredient. In this case she swapped salt for sugar. Gordon could not eat his bite because it was too salty. Graham was not impressed either. Ahran is really happy now hoping she is done. Oh and Gordon noted she was not in heels. Due to all the running around, she changed shoes. Wise choice.
Kira-Dense, filling absent (she said it was injected by Joe could not find it) and as Joe said, like a kaiser roll! Ouch!
Cutter-This poor guy has so much passion and yet never seems to get it right. Donuts sitting in those little cartons in vending machines probably taste better.

So we have Cutter, Courtney and Kira at the bottom. Cutter gets sent back to his station and the angel of death readies the scythe. Sadly for Ahran, it did not fall on Courtney but Kira. Kira had not really distinguished herself much so the judges probably felt she was done. Courtney had shown some really good cooking in the past and probably why they let her stay. Favoritism? Possibly. There is no written rule that says the worst performer is sent home. That is up to the judges to decide. They probably consider what the person has done up till then as a factor in their decision. Serving up salt bricks is usually a ticket home so she got off while Kira takes the long walk out of the kitchen since she has not done much to impress the judges thus far.

Leslie and Francis are the team captains next week. And next week is a wedding! It looks like the teams will have internal strife. Ahran and Leslie look like they are getting into it. Could it be the pressure test literally from hell?

My 2¢
This was a episode that showed the strengths and weaknesses of various cheftestants. Some are not squeamish with live seafood while a few were most definitely thrown a curve. You have to learn to cook with the real thing–lobsters,crabs,clams,mussels–if you are going to be a chef. Ahran’s anger to Courtney appears visceral, not just seeing her as a competitor. She really dislikes her intensely. Joe Bastianich said in his blog that Ahran really produced some delicious food but had a warning:

But like all unchecked egos before her on MasterChef, her intense anger and lack of maturity will be her downfall, I fear. She’s not my kid, so I’ll spare her the lecture on exhibiting a little decorum, but that level of unnecessary fury always proves to be the catalyst for a premature exit.

Courtney really took a nosedive this week. Quite surprising really considering how talented she is but we have seen this for. Many a good chef makes a stumble or two. The best learn from their mistakes, get right back up, and do better. Christine Ha floundered a bit in the middle of her season and then picked herself up to win the whole thing. Courtney needs to refocus and learn from it. Ahran needs to let the anger go but the promos for next week show her and Leslie getting into it pretty serious. Francis the Scot. What can you say about this guy! It takes serious cojones to do what he did. He did 12 separate flavored doughnuts! And a daring one with pancetta which Gordon liked. Missing from this week was Willie, which Ahran is right to point out is the strongest one their. But he made no appearance this week, except for the obligatory shots of him cooking. One commentator noted the camera always rolls back to Elizabeth because she has the greatest facial expressions. I replayed the episode and they were right. They always pan back for her facial expressions. They are indeed priceless. On to next week and a marriage on the beach.

Masterchef:Feeding An Army and Blueberry Blues

Official Seal of United States Army Photo:Public Domain
Official Seal of United States Army
Photo:Public Domain

*It is Masterchef(US) week 3. 20 cheftestants remain. 1 will be eliminated.

*By now we know how this works. They drive the cheftestants to some remote location, let them out, and tell them to walk ahead. Cameras are positioned so we get a nice wide view of them walking on desert terrain waiting for something to happen. Helicopters appear overhead and trucks are closing in. If this were 24 I might be worried. The trucks stop and the Culinary Trio hop out.

*Very quickly the teams are formed. Francis B is captain of Red selects Ahran, Cutter, Christine, Elizabeth, Kira, Tyler, and Victoria. Everyone else forms Team Blue (Christian, Courtney, Dan W, Daniel, Elise, Gordon, Jaimee, Jordan, Leslie, Stephani). Daniel ends up the captain more or less by acclamation of the other team members. Are they doomed as one team member opines to the camera?

*Note that when they disembark later the cheftestants have changed clothes. They are wearing team colored shirts, khakis and military style boots (they had helmets on in the truck since there were live explosions taking place as they drove through the area). If you recorded it, go back and see what they were wearing. Courtney was wearing high heels, which tells me they did not tell them were they were heading. Once again the magic Superman change (you know where Superman manages to change out of his street clothes without anyone noticing).

*Mission Impossible
If you remember the classic television series (not the Tom Cruise movies), the team was sent on impossible missions no one else wanted to do. And this task certainly is in this category. They are at the U.S. Army’s National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California where soldiers learn combat in real time exercises. The task, which the cheftestants cannot decline, is to cook a meal for 500 soldiers. You heard that right, 500. The most ever done on Masterchef. And they may not try it again considering how daunting such a task is. You have 2 hours to prep and 2 hours to serve. I think they ought to have inverted this episode and made this the pressure test!

*Team Red decides to do pork chops with apple-cranberry sauce with macaroni and cheese as the side. Sounds good except the pork chops are very thick and Francis never considers cutting them into smaller pieces. Smaller pieces=easier cooking and less chance of them being underdone. The Culinary Trio wonders how they will pull off mac and cheese without an oven (you do what most do, on the stove top). It does require some work. You have to not only boil up the macaroni but make a cheese sauce. Unless you are dolts who think dumping cold cream, butter, cheese and macaroni together will turn out well. That is what Team Red did. Apparently no one actually has made mac and cheese from scratch. Hence why they thought they could toss it all together. Thanks Kraft!

*Team Blue decides to go with BBQ Chicken and potato salad. Leslie says it would be easier to cook beef, but he is shot down. In the confessional he points out it is difficult to cook on a grill, easily dries out, or undercooked. Leslie was later asked by Gordon about the chicken choice and tells his objection. Sadly it proved true. Stephani was cooking the chicken and Leslie warned they were underdone. She was not amused! They are done, she proclaims and off they go to portable oven to be kept warm. Except when Gordon checks them they are underdone! He gets mad and Stephani looks, well, puzzled. If she could not tell the chicken was not done, how will she fare in a pressure test?

*Team Red has really botched it since the mac and cheese turned out horribly, so they go to Plan B: coleslaw. Except they have to it by hand taking loads of time to prepare. The meat is underdone making it more obvious how Francis B screwed up. Gordon does not think much of his leadership and finally someone realizes you can-gasp-butterfly the pork so it will cook faster. Team Blue is already serving and getting votes. Red plates are going out empty. Cue the dramatic music. It looks bad for Team Red. Is this an impossible mission? They managed to get out pork though and soon soldiers who get portions from both teams can compare. Some underdone proteins are found but many like the pork over chicken. One soldier said it was nothing special about the chicken.

*Team Red wins by 329 votes, leaving 171 for Blue. A stunning turnaround as it looked pretty gloomy for them. And now it is time for…

Dreaded Pressure Test
*This is the first pressure test this season. We have seen what pressure tests can do. They are never easy and rarely forgiving on mistakes. What you cook determines whether you stay or go home.

*Daniel gets to choose three to get on the lifeboat. He saves Christian, Gordon, and Dan but declines to save himself. Leslie is angry he was not saved and does not like Daniel much anyway. Daniel makes a snide comment about Leslie’s age in the confessional.

*Blueberry Pie. Love it. Never cooked it but love it. The trick, says Gordon, is getting that crust right. They prognosticate on the cheftestants. Joe thinks Jaimee will shine, Gordon thinks Elise will disintegrate, and Graham thinks Stephani will overcomplicate. All three are correct.

Jaimee: Her pie is called awesome by Graham, impressive by Joe, and delicious by Gordon
Courtney: Gordon says it is delicious and wonders if there is anything she cannot do (trust me, we will find out!)
Leslie: Graham loved it and said the spices used brought together both the best of apple and blueberry pies.

Elise: The baker once again flubs. It is too sweet and shockingly raw underneath! Way too much flour and tastes like sand says Gordon. Graham says it is her ticket home unless someone else is worse.
Stephani: Her pecan crust is a total fail. The pastry is undercooked but Stephani claims to Joe that it is better than Elise.
Daniel: He was the last to put his pie in the oven. The lattice looks weird and the pastry has cracked. But the filling is actually okay, which Gordon calls a fluke. It saves him from going home.
Jordan: It was okay though the crust was sloppy.

In the end it came down to Elise and Stephani. Personally I would have sent both home but it probably came to a coin toss. Stephani ends up handing in her apron and leaving. No loss here. She poorly managed the chicken in the team challenge and here did exactly what Graham thought she would do and over complicate a dish making it a disaster.

My 2¢
I doubt they will repeat this particular challenge with so many people again. They really ran the danger, like in Hell’s Kitchen, of neither team winning. Both teams had serious problems right from the beginning, both in planning and execution. Next week someone is going home and they hint it is a early favorite. But as always the promos are often deceptive and who you think is going home does not. Though it looks like aerial dancer Courtney runs into a major problem in forgetting a key ingredient. Could she be the one sent home? Or someone more unexpected like Willie?

Masterchef Cookbooks

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.

MasterChef(US) Returns

The Culinary Trio Welcomes The Top 30 Photo: Fox
The Culinary Trio Welcomes The Top 30
Photo: Fox

You know summer is about here when Masterchef (US), returns to Fox. Now it is time for America’s best amateur chefs to step up to the plate and impress three important people: Joe Bastianich, Graham Elliot, and Gordon Ramsay. This is season 5 so we all know the drill by now. First they have individuals cook a meal for the judges to taste. Those that pass get an apron for the next level, the others leave. Then they assemble those that passed and make them do a challenge. It might be a cooking challenge or it might be a test of your basic culinary skills. Then they cut more leaving usually around 20 to compete in the Masterchef competition. Last year we saw Luca, who had been rejected a year before, pass muster and go all the way to the end and be crowned winner.

This is 2014 and things have changed. The powers that be decided to cut right to the chase so we do not see the first round and go directly to the final 30 awaiting the challenge to get the coveted white apron. And that is not all that has changed. Chef Graham Elliot has lost a lot of weight and looks great. He did it because of his family (he has a few little ones running underfoot these days). Good for him! Now it is time for some serious cooking and learning who the cheftestants are. The go to their assigned spots and strangely find a mirror under the cutting board. While one looks approvingly of himself, they are told put themselves on the plate. Time for the signature dish.

But there is a catch, of course, for the angel of death will walk by and taste their food. Those found wanting will go home. They did this last year but this time they stop the clock and tell Gavin to leave for his under seasoned food. Then the clock stops again and a gal who had a broken sauce also exits the kitchen. The clock runs down and the cheftestants are nervous. So after tasting the food as they passed by each station, the Culinary Trio pronounces judgment. Those called are given the coveted aprons. One of them is Courtney, who cooked an Italian style dish that Gordon liked. In her confessional, she tells us working many jobs led her to work in a gentleman’s club and is billed as an “aerial dancer” in the official bio. She has a lot of spunk and confidence. Hopefully she will be around a while on the show.

Fake Out
After handing out the aprons, there is a small group standing waiting to be told farewell. They look saddened by the prospect but fortunately it was a head fake. The competition is still on! Now they must cook using the exact same ingredients with the protein being chicken. We are off to the races again as they all frantically have to cook a meal that will judge whether they stay or go. Once again there is a catch for one of the Culinary Trio will be picked to cook alongside them. Astrid wants Gordon and so he suits up (so to speak) and joins them in the competition. He makes a minted Asian style dumplings dish that looks not only good but likely has terrific flavors as well. The nine are called up in threes to present their dishes.

First up we have “Little” Gordon whose dish is fine though not extraordinary. Leslie (the oldest of the competitors since he is 50 years old and stay at home dad), presents a stuffed chicken. Except it is a very large portion that Gordon chides him about. It passes muster and on we go to Corey. He made fried chicken with a potato souffle. Souffle! This kid is nuts to try that and the camera shows a rather poor looking specimen, Gordon tries to get it out but has to bang it hard on the plate breaking it in the process. The chicken tastes bad. No hard decision here so Corey heads out of the kitchen.

Astrid, Amy, and Michael are next. Astrid already has a knock against her for being unsanitary at her work station. For some reason she has a problem putting discards into the garbage bin nearby. So her floor area is covered, and I mean covered, with food scraps. She seems to think this is totally okay. In a real kitchen, they would toss her out for being filthy. Aside from attracting rodents, it can cause slips and falls. Yeah, just what a restaurant manager needs is a lawsuit from a server or cook staff slips and is hurt because some idiot decided to drop food scraps in the floor rather than the bin. Joe takes her to task and for a moment looks like she was going home. But she stays for the moment and then says that cleaning up is what staff is for. Astrid, learn from this quickly or Joe will send you home for real the next time.

Astrid’s seared chicken breast and hash are good. So she appears safe. Amy’s shrimp and chicken tacos look okay but the chicken is dry. Major ding for that. Finally Michael’s roast chicken is too salty so no brainer here either as to which two go home. Astrid takes her apron up to the balcony. The last three are Frances, Chandace, and Elise. Frances makes a spinach pasta with, Chandace a potato rosti, and Elise chicken pot pie. Chandace’s potato dish has raw potato in it. So she heads home while Frances and Elise get aprons. Gordon was not sure of Elise’s chicken pot pie at first. It did not look that great. And lets face it, a lot of people screw it up with mushy vegetables and dry chicken. Gordon liked it! So with a bit of head fake again making her think she was leaving, those on the balcony come down to join her as the final 22 is now complete.

Next week it is the competition for real with mystery box challenge and a double elimination. The previews show Leslie and Elizabeth getting heated during cooking. Leslie got into banter with Christian on the balcony during his cooking. And when they showed Leslie getting the apron, the camera panned up to show Christian and Victoria looking none too pleased. One of the early contestants last season (who did not make into the final cut) said that many of the cheftestants do mingle before the competition which would explain why there is already some animosity before the show gets going. Interesting to see how this develops over the season.

It is being shown on Monday night at 8pm as a lead into the latest 24 episode. Despite great promos, the ratings have not as good as hoped for that show. So they are hoping Masterchef will be a good lead in. Last year it competed with American Baking Competition on CBS. That show got mixed reactions and its ratings were mediocre. While not officially cancelled, it is not scheduled to be shown against MasterChef.

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