Category Archives: TV reviews

Wayback Machine: Zorro (Disney-1957)

The cover to The Curse of Capistrano by Johnston McCulley, The All-Story Magazine, August, 9, 1919
Public Domain

Zorro was originally created by pulp writer Johnston McCulley in 1919 and was set during the era of Mexican rule of California (1821-1846).  Don Diego de la Vega, a nobleman living in Los Angeles, adopted the identity of the masked outlaw who helped those who were persecuted by tyrannical authorities and other villains. Movie adaptations usually set the time period under Spanish rule.

McCulley’s stories were not always consistent and sometimes contradictory (Zorro might die in one story and alive in the next). Zorro is a cunning foil for those he goes up against. Sometimes his targets are overconfident while others sometimes bumbling. And he delights in giving them their comeuppance. There have been many movies made telling the Zorro story starting in the silent era all the way up till recent times produced in the U.S., Mexico and Europe. There have been both live action and animated television series as well.

One of the more notable ones was Disney’s Zorro that ran from 1957-1959 on ABC. It ran for two seasons before a dispute between Disney and ABC over ownership rights cut the show short. It was kept alive for a series of 4 one hour movies using the same cast. The dispute was resolved but Disney felt it had run its course. In the Disney version, Don Diego de la Vega was portrayed by Guy Williams (later of Lost in Space) for the entire run of the series.

The Disney Zorro used arcs that would span several episodes. The first season was primary with Zorro battling wits with Captain/Commandante Monastario. The second season had several different arcs such as dealing the the attempts to seize California from Spain by a self-made tyrant, dealing with corruption in Monterey, or involving characters that spanned several episodes.

What made Zorro so interesting is that he was clever, a good fencer, employed clever strategy, and rarely did he kill his foes (it did occur but not often by his hand but by some other means). The Disney version also used comedy to lighten the mood, often to good use.

While originally filmed in black & white, the episodes have all been colorized. There are different places you can buy them though the original Disney versions can be expensive. Beware of pirated collections sold through some websites. They simply recorded it from the Disney Channel and is not very good resolution. The Family Channel did a remake called The New Zorro (or just Zorro in some cases)that ran from 1990-1993.  It is a worthy successor in its own right though I think the opening theme from Disney’s version is better.

The Kids Are Back In The Kitchen:Masterchef Junior Returns

MasterChef-Junior-LogoThe kids are back in the kitchen on Masterchef Junior for season four. Once again young kids will battle it out to win the coveted trophy and $100,000. And once again we get the vaudeville acts this show is known for from judges getting dunked and crazy special effects. It underlies though the seriousness of what is going on, which is a cooking competition for kids. It means kids are going to get chopped because their dish did not pass muster with the judges. In the past I have noted that the judges, despite saying these are kids, really look at them as chefs trapped in small bodies. And this sometimes means that line between treating them as kids and adults sometimes gets a little blurry.

In a recent episode the judges appeared in spacesuits. It was neat but more interesting was that an actual astronaut stopped by to show them what is eaten on the space station. Essentially it is dehydrated and needs water to become edible. Now I thought the challenge would be to craft a space station worthy meal that could be served to them with the astronaut to tell them whether it is space ready or not. The astronaut was sent home leaving the kids to cook with cheese (as in the moon is made of). Mind you there were some interesting dishes made but it missed a potential here and why the show often falls on its collective behind.

I look at this show as part comedy, part education, and part cooking. They got the comedy down well and the other two are a mixed bag.

Claudia Sandoval Wins Masterchef US Season 6

Claudia Sandoval, Winner Season 6 Masterchef US. Photo: Fox
Claudia Sandoval, Winner Season 6..
Photo: Fox

The champagne has been uncorked and the confetti has blown around. It was a very close finale in the end but, as it is said, there can only be one. And Claudia Sandoval won the trophy and a quarter of a million dollars. She beat out rocker Derrick Peltz having defeated Stephen in the semifinal. And that was tough was well with having to cook an appetizer (a cheese soufflé), an entrée (steak frites) and dessert (a panna cotta with fruit inside it) in just sixty minutes.

So this season is now in the record books. Did it match up to expectations? Yes and no. They did mix up things a lot so that the show does not appear stale with some of the challenges. At the same time, there was still a level of predictability. Some were easy to see going home because their dish was not up to par. This year they introduced the concept of mentoring in judging. Did the person show enough talent to go on or had they reached their peak ending their journey? And one cannot discount, despite what they say, is that some are kept around for ratings or controversy rather than their cooking.

I think the low point was Amanda’s exit. When she took out her sponges too soon for the cake challenge, they were falling apart. Gordon convinced her to put the cake together knowing full well that it was a goner. There was no way she would stay in at this point; it would have been better to cut her right there rather than what came next. It came down to her and Shelly. So they did a head fake and made Shelly think she was going home. Except she was not, instead she took off her apron to go up to the balcony. It was bad enough to make Amanda present a cake that was never going to win but to do this head fake was cruel and unnecessary.

Another thing you have to wonder: is it wise to raise the expectations that a vegetarian could win the title? There have been vegetarians on the show before who have done well but not one has made it into the finale. None of the judges are vegetarians although they all know how to make tasty vegetarian dishes (Gordon showed a vegetarian restaurant in France how to make it but its owner ran away from it to become a professional escort). Since vegetarians are given no special consideration, they have to cook meat dishes. For Hetal (and to an extent Amanda since she is Muslim) it meant certain foods are taboo. She cannot possibly taste a beef dish but as Gordon said could get someone else to taste for her. Sounds great in theory but lousy kitchen practice. Perhaps a vegetarian Masterchef might be in order to find those chefs.

One problem I noted this season was how Ramsay–centric the show has become. Some of the challenges were centered on him or his cooking. While Graham and Christina had their moments, it was mainly Gordon. Christina brought a new perspective to the show replacing Joe Bastianich. Joe had the famous stare and his scathing critiques of your food would send shivers. She is no slouch in telling you when there is a problem or if the food disappoints. She has a stare of her own and you do not want to get it either. And the challenges based on her cooking were some of the most difficult ones possibly ever in Masterchef. I would not want to face making that chocolate cake with all those elements. It sadly sent Nick home and he was one I hope to see in the top four or top two.

Masterchef did well ratings wise during the season. There was a little fall off at one point but that happens during the summer. It held its own during the time slot and is in no danger at this point of being shuttered. In fact they are already recruiting for season seven! So as we bid adieu to season six, we can say it was mostly good. They ought to drop the long drawn out declaration of who the winner is and stop the head fakes. I know they do it for entertainment but like with Amanda, it ends up being cruel to raise her hopes that she is saved and they dashed a moment later.

Congratulations to Claudia Sandoval on her win. It will be interesting to see in her cookbook what types of Mexican dishes she includes (and she has a lot to choose from).

Masterchef US Season 6: The Top Three

MasterChef_Logo_&_Wordmark.svgLast week saw the departure of Katrina but this recent episode ended Nick’s time on the show. It was sad to see him go but understandable why he was sent home. With four left the pressure to find the best is really on and the pressure is undeniably overwhelming. They had three boxes filled with the judge’s favorite ingredients. Christina’s box was put to the side. An ominous sign that the combined elimination and dreaded pressure test would be very painful indeed.

Nick chose Claudia as his partner leaving Derrick and Stephen together. While they had their problems (like Derrick putting pomegranate seeds in the appetizer) they got the win. What was frustrating to watch was two normally very good cooks produce such mediocre food. They tried for a crab broth but with an hour there was no way to get that done in time to do it justice. The resulting Italian crab cakes were okay but did not scream Masterchef worthy dish. Claudia made the dumbest mistake of all by telling Nick to put the salmon skin side down on the kale. All that crispness was destroyed by its watery bath on the kale. And Graham said it was a salmon prophylactic (Christiana looked appalled when she heard it). Hard to believe two normally fierce and dependable cooks ended up in this pressure test.

It was no ordinary one either and no place to hide. Having to replicate one of the Christina’s most complicated six part chocolate cake normally takes months to master correctly. They had one hour. Even Gordon appeared shocked at the challenge. Neither of them completely mastered it though Claudia managed to make it lighter in texture than Christina’s (which she liked). But she failed on the presentation. Nick got the presentation right but something was terribly amiss inside. This is where chemistry comes into play. Back in high school I often wondered how chemistry would be of any concern to me after I graduated. It does, just not in ways expected. Baking is one place where understanding how things work together (or not) makes all the difference between a good cake and a poorly done one. Ratios and ingredients have to be balanced precisely. If you mess up those ratios, it screws up the chemical reaction resulting in something different.

And Nick made that mistake. Instead of asking Claudia for some ingredients, he changed the recipe slightly. Remember these judges know exactly how the cake is supposed to taste. Christina said something was off and Gordon got Nick to admit he had altered the recipe for the missing ingredients. And this resulted in a sweeter cake. Since chocolate is the main ingredient (in different forms), you have to balance it right so the sweetness does not overwhelm. So in the end while Claudia’s cake was not that good visually, it was good on the inside. Claudia moves on while Nick leaves. I expect though he will set up his gastro pub and that is a place I want to go. He will probably consult with Gordon for tips and advice. He may be off the show but he is not done in the cooking world.

Three are left: Claudia, Derrick and Stephen. I still think Derrick is the weakest of the three. I think this could come to Claudia and Stephen. At any rate the finale is this week and the winner will soon be revealed.

Masterchef US, Season 6: Final Four Revealed and Katrina Goes Home

MasterChef_Logo_&_Wordmark.svgKatrina, who has shown some good cooking skills but seemed to have a lot of self doubt about her abilities, finally went home. Judging from the comments on other Internet sites, many are not unhappy. I had my doubts that Katrina would get into the final four. While she certainly has the cooking skills, she lacks confidence in her abilities and is easily distracted by overthinking her cooking. Now they all faced a stern mystery box challenge of cooking with one ingredient and a limited pantry box. Nothing tests the creativity of a chef like this challenge. And they all rose to the challenge. Claudia won with her unique idea of a Tomato Napoleon and got the win.

Claudia was automatically put into the top four and filled a basket with twenty of her favorite things to cook with. To fill it out, three former Masterchef winners stopped by with baskets of their own. Christina naturally had Asian ingredients, Luca an Italian one, and Courtney (who still irks me and comes across as too mercenary) dessert ingredients. With Claudia selecting who gets baskets, she could really throw someone a huge disadvantage. Nick got what he did not want-the Mexican basket (Claudia’s). Derrick got the difficult dessert basket and Stephen the Asian. And Katrina got perhaps the easiest of all, the Italian basket. It ought to have been a slam dunk for her but instead sent her home.

Photo: Fox
Photo: Fox

Both her and Derrick ended up in the bottom. He did an underwhelming pot a crème that was too dense and the mascarpone not mixed in it. Not one of the judges thought it was Masterchef worthy but not bad either(except too dense). Katrina did a veal scaloppine but while her pasta was excellent, the veal was still mooing. Gordon was visibly disappointed as were the other judges. This is not someone usually careless but obviously the challenge got to her. She lost focus and allowed the still mooing veal on the plate. Had she left the veal off the plate, Derrick would have likely gone home. Derrick though did do just enough in their minds to go forward. It is a general rule of thumb on shows like this that if you serve raw meat that is supposed to be cooked, you go home unless someone did worse. Derrick’s dish was underwhelming but just enough (barely) from sending him home.

So the Final Four are Claudia, Derrick, Nick and Stephen. The semifinals are next and two will be chopped for the final two to meet for the head-to-head showdown in the grand finale. I still think Nick and Stephen could be the top two but if Stephen royally screws up, I expect Claudia to get the nod. Derrick is good but I think he might have reached his limit.

Katrina, as a consolation, was invited to spend time in Ramsay’s restaurants in France so she can start to get some training, She did show a lot of creativity and Gordon thinks she has a future in the business. While Hetal will make a great baker (and I would go to her bakery for a great pie!), Katrina with the right mentoring could well become a very good chef with her own restaurant.

Masterchef Season 6, Episodes 15 & 16: Tommy and Hetal Get Chopped

MasterChef_Logo_&_Wordmark.svgTwo recent episodes of Masterchef occurred while out on vacation. In A Storm’s A Brewing was the infamous tag team challenge where team members must cook a masterful dish but not at the same time. It was also the episode that sent Tommy home. Restaurant Takeover puts the aspiring chefs to run a real kitchen with real pressure to get the dishes out to waiting customers. And it was the episode that ended Hetal’s dream of becoming Masterchef’s first ever vegetarian winner So now the top five are Claudia, Derrick, Katrina, Nick and Stephen. Hard to believe we are getting down to the end but there it is.

It was surprising that both Tommy and Hetal went home. Both showed real talent. Tommy was at his best usually when he went back to his Creole roots. And some of the dishes he produced in that mode really blew the judges away. Sure he had a major problem with those weird cinnamon buns but all is forgiven if you can show that you can produce restaurant quality dishes. His mistake was not listening to advice about how not to do certain things. We saw it when he did potatoes really wrong at an outdoor event that really astonished Gordon. But in the tag team match his dislike for Katrina and his refusal to listen to sensible advice about not over flouring the chicken put him and Katrina in the bottom. Clearly they believe Katrina is more talented of the two. I am not entirely convinced of that but one had to go so it was Tommy.

I am not surprised Hetal was eventually sent home but I figured it would come a little later. She is a talented cook and shown real flair in the dessert dishes. And she excels in dishes that show her Indian roots. Being a vegetarian though on Masterchef is a tough road. Masterchef makes no allowances and puts up meat challenges. It would be especially hard for those who consider the cow sacred to have to prepare a meal out of it. What tripped her up was something seen before: stress. The triple pasta pressure test got the best of her. No one really had top marks on this hideous challenge. It was really a test of character to see how you would measure up. I doubt seriously they expected any of them to put up three perfect pasta dishes.

I think it is all a toss up right now as to who makes top four. Derrick showed some real stress this last time so he might be the next to fall. Nick and Stephen are favored for the top four and possible top two. Three previous winners are stopping by next time adding some pressure to the next challenge.

Masterchef Season 6, Episode 14: At Least They Did Not Use A Horse Head

MasterChef_Logo_&_Wordmark.svgNo need for a full recap in this episode. Our brave cheftestants were divided into two teams–Team Hetal and Team Tommy–to cook a vegetarian dinner for fifty member of the vegetarian culinary community. It ought to have been a slam dunk for Hetal but it was not. Tommy had problems trying to be a leader since most of his team tried to work around him but in the end all worked together to win the round. That left Hetal, Derrick, Olivia and Claudia to face the dreaded pressure test.

What does a cow, sheep, pig, and halibut all have in common? Answer: heads. The show sunk to a new level of surreal and disgust in one episode that most will want to forget. Poor Hetal. At least she was spared (or was it contrived that way?) the cows head. The sheep’s head is no picnic either. And being vegetarian she had to concoct a dish she could not taste to make sure it was seasoned properly. Oh boy. Olivia got the cows head, Derrick the halibut, and Claudia was pleased to get the pigs head. Coming from a culture that cooks and serves the whole pig, she is going to do it proud. And she does with a dish that got praised and saving her from elimination.

That left Hetal, Derrick and Olivia to face the dreaded fall of the scythe. Hetal’s dish was not that good. Gordon did not call it dreadful but it was not that far off. Derrick had fusion confusion, which is to say he threw disparate elements together hoping it would impress. Olivia, next to Claudia, easily the best looking dish. And it was cooked well for the most part but Gordon found the sauce hid the flavor of the meat. If you cannot taste the meat, how do you know what it is? Could it be that famous meat-in-the-can that is beloved in Hawaii?

I would have sent Hetal home. She failed in the team challenge and in the pressure test she produced a sub-standard dish. So she is saved because they like her, America likes her, and they want a vegetarian to continue on. Derrick and Olivia face the chop. Derrick is the hard driven rocker guy. He is determined and hard to put down. He showed cracks and produced a dish that in other circumstances he would not. Olivia’s only sin on the dish was that her sauce hid the beef flavor but that is enough. They have already decided it is her time to go. On her way out she proclaims Katrina the next masterchef. But it ought to have been Hetal walking out that door. If you cannot taste the food being cooked, you have a serious obstacle in getting into the top tier let alone the top two.

At least the show did not have its version of the infamous Godfather horse scene*. But it sort of came close considering how nauseous Hetal got.

*This scene like the movie is rated R.

Cord-Cutter Journals: Cable Bill Shock

Public Domain
Public Domain

My monthly cable bill arrived with a notice tucked inside it that said Rate Adjustment Notice. My local cable company–one of the few that is run by a municipality–is raising their rates. It is the first time in four years and the letter opens by reminding us they are an integral part of our city. Meanwhile as satellite dishes pop up all over the city and Internet streaming brings more content then before, the rates will be going up seven percent come September. Thus if you get what is called the Expanded Basic (channels 2-99 with cable news and sports) the cost will go up to $66.89.

As is usual when you get these notices, they point out their rates are not out of line but that due to rising costs they have to make an adjustment. Here is how to read such notices: High price cable channels like ESPN get high fees per subscriber so we have to pass those costs to you. You are subsidizing channels that make little profit from advertising (think MSNBC)but rake in those per subscriber fees to keep them afloat. As more evidence that people are moving away from cable company offerings, getting this kind of jolt in the mail will probably convince many to reduce their cable subscription and get most of their news and entertainment online.

I did that a long time ago when I reduced my cable subscription to limited basic (local broadcast channels). I have an indoor antenna that allows me to see all the local channels in hd (and a lot of those sub channels not in the cable subscription). Alas my apartment will not allow a antenna on the roof (and satellite while cheaper than cable has contracts you have to sign)so limited basic is a back up when things go haywire. Fortunately the rate increase does not hit the limited subscription. Why? Simple since just about all the local channels do not charge a retransmit fee for cable use. In order to be seen on cable, broadcast channels have to periodically consent to it. And they usually grant it because it works out well for them. Sadly though some channel owners are starting to demand fees from cable companies to retransmit. One channel in my area did just that and was dropped for a few years. They dropped the fee and now are back on.

The squeeze to force high rates on cable only channels and then to demand fees for carrying broadcast channels means consumers are being hit both ways. They are being forced to subsidize cable channels they do not watch. And to watch local broadcast channels with national programming means fees as well. So cable bills start going up to reflect this reality. And will get worse as more people cut back on cable. Cable is getting desperate in trying to stop this bleeding by offering their own Internet streaming options. The cable bundle death watch has begun.

DSL Reports reported on its blog the following: “Cord cutting is accelerating with the pay TV industry losing 566,000 subscribers last quarter alone. With DirecTV alone losing 133,000 subscribers last quarter, MoffettNathanson notes it was the worst second quarter net loss in history for the nation’s legacy TV industry. The 566,000 subscriber loss comes on the heels of a 321,000 subscriber net loss the quarter before.” And it is predicted to get much worse as the number of pay-tv households is shrinking. Consumers no longer see the value in cable television they once did. Some have called the concept of bundled cable television a great swindle because cable subscribers are forced to subsidize a whole lot of channels they do not watch or do not want to watch. It is great for the cable channel owners because they have a guaranteed revenue stream from cable subscribers. Not any more. Which is why Netflix and Amazon (along with others) are getting more customers. When ESPN, one of the priciest channels on cable per subscriber, starts feeling people no longer watching you know they are getting worried in the corporate suites. They can try to compete for viewers the old fashioned way by earning them but cable tv is not used to that. Broadcast tv has to do that which is why its numbers are higher than cable channels. If Lifetime, Food or SyFy actually have to compete on the open market for viewers, will they be able to do so? We may find that out in a few years.

Masterchef US Season 6, Episode 13: Fire In The Kitchen

A dish covered with an alcoholic spirit and set alight before serving.
(Oxford English Dictionary)

*The Mystery Box contained just alcohol and matches! All the cheftestants had to do was prepare a meal that was flambéed for the judges to eat. They demonstrated the technique but sadly no one go to taste them!

*Safety experts recommend you never pour directly from the bottle when you are igniting the alcohol. Otherwise the flames might follow the alcohol back to its source and that will lead to serious injury or worse.

*The top three were Tommy, Hetal, and Stephen. All three produced Masterchef worthy dishes making it a tough call but Stephen got the win. Back in the pantry he decides between three Southern favorites the judges like. He goes with Graham’s Waffles and Fried Chicken. Excellent! Now that is a tough one. Easy if you have a professional kitchen to assist but if you are doing it yourself, that means a lot of work. You have chicken to fry and waffles to make. And both plus whatever sides have to be on the plate and done for the judges to taste. No room for error here.

*Stephen not only gets a place in the top eight, but also can decide who has only thirty minutes to do the dish. That could be a death gong and he chooses Derrick. So Derrick has to wait until only thirty minutes are left to start cooking. Yikes. And Stephen conducts his own version of psy-ops as he starts badgering him as he cooks.

*Christina points out using non-stick spray is a mistake to use on waffle irons. The reason is that it does not help your waffles cook faster or better or even easier to remove. Better to apply vegetable oil with a baster brush or paper towel. Also if you use such sprays on nonstick surfaces like most waffle irons, it leaves a residue that makes it harder to for the coating to work properly. It wears them our faster as well.

Tommy's duck fat fried chicken with pecan-quinoa-corn waffles.  Photo: Fox
Tommy’s duck fat fried chicken with pecan-quinoa-corn waffles.
Photo: Fox

*Both Tommy and Hetal excelled with their dishes and won elimination round becoming team captains in the next episode. Sadly two unexpected people ended up on the bottom. While there were some boring dishes, Claudia and Shelly ended up on the bottom. Claudia was a surprise since she has shown steady and consistent good skills for the most part. Her dish was panned as looking as it came out of a diner. And her chicken was underdone. Shelly was bad too with bland waffles and dry chicken. Shelly got the chop and bade farewell to the kitchen. I hope she continues her dream because she has the ability to be really good.

Quips, Quotes, and Comments
*Christina: Hey most people know you use alcoholic spirits for a flambé.
*Fashion Tommy showed skills in both Mystery Box and Elimination. Unless he does a major stumble, I predict he is in the top four.
*Hetal also once again showed she might be in the top four. Her chicken and waffles with an Indian twist showed her creativity.
*Stephen really is quite the character. And Derrick showed how tough he is as well.
*It sometimes happens that the pressure just crushes you and I suspect that is what happened to Claudia. It got to her and her dish sucked. Lucky for her Shelly did worse. She will have to step up her game if she wants to stay longer in the competition.

Next week: Team competition will demonstrate Tommy’s leadership skills and the elimination challenge has animal heads on the menu.

Masterchef US, Season 6, Episode 12: Family Dinner and Gnocchi Doom


Now that we are down to the top ten, the real battle commences. Up till now they could hide behind the weaker candidates. That is no longer possible. Now they all must put their best efforts forth or face elimination.

Each season has its family episode where members of the contestants family appear. They did the head fake in this episode making it appear that it was Gordon’s family. The cheftestants had to cook without knowing whom they were cooking for. They were divided into two teams: Derrick (Blue) and Claudia(Red). The challenge was straight forward: cook a family style meal. Team Blue was Christopher, Nick, Olivia,and Tommy. Team Red was Hetal, Katrina, Shelly and Stephen. Both planned ambitious meals but had to make corrections. Team Blue was going to serve two cheese dishes (salad and pasta) along with lamb and pie. It was pointed out this was a lot of cheese dishes so Olivia dumped the mozzarella and made a different dish. Team Red was going to cook whole chickens but that can take a while. Stephen (loudly) suggested that they split the chickens. Claudia agrees but get it into the oven soon!

The diners do not know who cooked what, just that they have two teams to judge from. The usual banter between the judges and family members commence but that is just filler until the plates arrive and they must taste the food. After they have tasted and family members are introduced (Derrick made an unfortunate expletive deleted word at seeing his mom), each diner revealed their choices when they opened their dinner wallet. It was a close vote and tied until the last card was revealed declaring red team the winner and safe from elimination. Leaving of course Team Blue to face the dreaded pressure test.

Nick, once more pulling from childhood memories of his mother and grandmother's cooking, creates a nearly perfect gnocchi dish. Photo: Fox
Nick, once more pulling from childhood memories of his mother and grandmother’s cooking, creates a nearly perfect gnocchi dish.
Photo: Fox

Gnocchi of Doom
Lovely things gnocchi. But they take finesse to make properly. Before that can get done, the judges decide to save one person–Derrick. He did a good job of leading his team but unfortunately the dessert station was the let down. Christopher has his moments but when he stumbles it is never a pretty sight. They have just twenty minutes to produce perfect gnocchi. No room for mistakes on this dish. You either do it right or not at all. Nick said he did this dish a lot growing up and it showed. He produced a very good batch that was praised. Olivia has only made the dish once before but it too got high marks compared to Nick’s. Tommy had a disaster and had to redo his dish. It looked bad but tasted okay. And Christopher. Well he flubbed this one. It was underseasoned and was just not that great. Christopher got some nastiness from Christina when he rolled his eyes during judging. You could tell this was it for him. And after the obligatory head fake where Tommy was told to say goodbye to Christopher, Tommy gets the save. Christopher got the chop. The guy has talent but needs some mentoring to get himself in better shape.

The surprise so far is Olivia. I admit early on I did not give her much of a chance. She struck me as pouty and cold. Yet she has shown some serious cooking skills and a decent leader in the kitchen once she had confidence in her abilities. Tonight showed how far she has come. Even if she leaves the kitchen without a title, I think she ought to pursue professional cooking. Perhaps one of the masterchefs will hire her (a number have gone to work for them to hone their skills).

The top nine continue on and next week it looks like flaming dishes are on the menu. Medics and a squad of firefighters are standing by.

Closing Thoughts
It goes without saying that when cooking, whether amateur or professional, you taste the food! It seems simple but many forget this simple task. Doing so avoids mistakes. My mother (may she rest in peace) once cooked a ambitious meal for us. It was a lovely looking pork chop dinner but when she was measuring out the pepper she put in way too much (a tablespoon instead of a teaspoon). She did not catch her mistake and well, you guessed it, the dinner went over like having hot peppers on a hot July day. Even our family dog, who normally would love the opportunity to eat a pork chop, would not eat it (he dropped out of his mouth!). The lesson she learned from that point on was to taste and watch her measuring. Now I tell you that funny family anecdote to make a point. It is easy to get comfortable and forget some basic techniques. Always taste your food to make sure it is exactly what you want it to be. And keep the sugar and salt bowls away from each other! Confusing the two can also produce a result you will be very ashamed you did not catch before serving the dish. Also bear in mind that criticism that is meant to help ought to be taken as it is given. Christopher never got the point into his head and the result was he was chopped.

Everyday Fancy: 65 Easy, Elegant Recipes for Meals, Snacks, Sweets, and Drinks from the Winner of MasterChef Season 5 on FOX