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.

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