Tag Archives: MasterChef (US)

Titanic Tidbits and Musings

Summer is drawing to a close and schools are opening up. Sleepy eyed kids are getting on the local buses again to make the journey to school. It has been a quiet summer Titanic wise. Not a whole lot of news though some important news did occur.

United_States_Bankruptcy_Court_SealPremier Exhibitions Declares Bankruptcy To Reorganize
The big news before the summer began was Premier declaring bankruptcy under Chapter 11 and seeking to reorganize. Typically this means the company has enough resources to stay afloat and needs the courts to reduce its liabilities. For creditors it means they usually get something but not everything. It means the court has to take a hard look at how the company operates which means an intensive look at the financial records and other aspects of the company.

While things have not gone well for a while with Premier, it was thought the Dinoking merger and bringing aboard its ceo to manage would bring things in line. What apparently occurred is that the debts owed by Premier were far greater than the cash infusion the merger could solve. So to stave off likely lawsuits from creditors, they headed to bankruptcy court. Now one of the big arguments is over the French Collection. These artifacts were brought up with a joint expedition with IFREMER and are separate from the other artifacts covered under the U.S. Federal Court salvage award. That salvage award limits how the artifacts can be sold, specifically as one collection making it very difficult to find buyers due to the high cost. However Premier believed it had clear title to the French artifacts and wanted to sell some of them to pay off debts. And sought permission from the court to do this. It was denied, in part, because bankruptcy law requires an adversary action to remove any possible claims to items that will be sold or auctioned off to pay debts.

So Premier is suing the French government in federal court. Premier has submitted documents that appear to support their position. Meanwhile we wait on France to decide whether it will contest a possible sale or file a brief saying they will not fight it.

So Much For Palmer’s Titanic II
Well it appears to be over. After all the fanfare and some preliminary work, the Clive Palmer’s dream to recreate Titanic has come to an end. No one can blame him for wanting to bring it about. It is a great dream. Despite all the positive news spun out by his public relations team, financing the construction proved harder than realized. It was to be constructed in China but the date for the work start came and went, new dates were set, but the shipyard remained quiet. Then came news that once it was launched it would stop in Dubai. That raised speculation that investors from that area were keen on tying in their own Titanic themed areas with this new ship. And I speculated that perhaps money to build could come from there (or even be built there). But Palmer’s relations with the Chinese took a real nosedive with his criticisms of a Chinese company and the lack of Chinese investors in the project meant it would go nowhere. So without much fanfare and no publicity, construction of Clive Palmer’s Titanic II has ended.

Chinese Titanic II
Palmer’s version fizzled but China is building their Titanic II that will docked at a theme park. It will be full size and look exactly like the original. It will also be a hotel and tourist attraction. Visitors will be able to stay aboard, sample high-end late Edwardian age cuisine, and even visit the Titanic Sinking Simulator. That has caused a lot of controversy. Perhaps what will stun visitors from the West is that likely the message about Titanic will be strongly anti-capitalist and demonstrate why the Chinese way is more superior. Just do not mention their awful human rights record or persecution of those who practice religion of any kind.

The current season is interesting but has its usual combination of the excellent, the not-so-good, and those just filling a slot until they are dropped. Poor Nathan is the butt of so many jokes. The bow tied tuxedo salesman (and he always wears a suit even when outside at the farm) may be good at cooking dishes alone but has severe problems working in a team. Some of the good have made their mistakes and departed but perhaps none worse than Andrea. She showed really excellent skills but when she failed to bring her sausage dish down to the front table at the right time, it was bad. Worse was how Gordon and company handled it. At this point they knew she was out of the contest. Instead they go through the mockery of tasting the dishes of which the two useful facts were announced: that she (Andrea) had the best dish while Diamond served up raw sausage. In a normal competition, Diamond would go home. But that is reality and not the often strange world of Masterchef that live in an alternate universe.

They knew Andrea was out the moment she put her plate down three seconds too late. Gordon seemed to argue with Christina and Chef Lee about her having the best dish but Christina reminded rules are rules. Do not be fooled, that was all for show as none of it was for real. It was to make it look like there was some dispute when none existed. Diamond, a weak contender, went into the next round and would be sent home in the next episode. In a real contest, Andrea would have been sent home immediately for missing the time requirement. No need to bother with tasting the dishes and move on to the next round. It just shows the strange world that Masterchef inhabits.

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.

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

Masterchef US: Season 6, Episode 11: The Beef and The Tart


Ten cheftestants walk across a wide plain and meet the judges coming towards them in a truck driven by Christina. They have to cook for 101 cowboys and steak is for lunch. Hetal and Katrina pick each the others team and face off in a Western showdown. But Hetal’s team underwhelms sending them to the dreaded pressure test where they have to make a fruit tart.

This episode raises the question whether a vegetarian can lead a team to victory when the primary protein is meat. Not just any meat but cow is taboo for Hindus. How can one properly know if the dish is done right if you cannot taste it? You have to rely on what other people are telling you and that puts you at a disadvantage. For instance choosing which cut of beef to cook. Amazingly Hetal’s team (Olivia, Stephen, Shelly and Christopher)goes for the hangar steak leaving the strip for Katrina’s team(Claudia, Derrick, Tommy and Nick).

Both teams made the mistake of trying initially being fancy. These are cowboys (a generic term that also includes women these days). Cowboys are not sitting down to a fancy feast! They want a good meal and not something too upscale or fancy. Hetal’s team falls behind while Katrina’s cranks out the food. In the end the cowboys brand a wall red or blue as to which dish they liked. While Katrina’s team celebrates the win, Hetal’s team has to clean up both kitchens and face the dreaded pressure test.

Bake Me A Fruit Tart
Ah the fruit tart. A wonderful thing to behold unless you are cooking it in a timed competition with no room for error. Olivia gets a pass getting selected by the other team for the save putting Christopher, Hetal, Shelly, and Stephen into thunderdoom.*

The Scream (Edward Munch, 1893) Public Domain
The Scream (Edward Munch, 1893)
Public Domain

The Stephen Zone
I always thought Stephen was wound up kind of tight and this pressure test proved it. Reminded me of the famous scene in Network(1976)where Albert Finney’s character loses it. When he takes out his tart and sees the pastry is not quite right, he screams and ends up crying in the nearby pantry area. And during the test, when Gordon talks to him it is clear the pressure has really gotten to him. Straight jacket standing by!

Tart Imperfection
No one aced this pressure test but no one did so bad as to be tagged as the one being sent home. Hetal and Shelly were deemed the best two and saved. Which brings us to another…

Head Fake
Christopher and Stephen are in the bottom. Both had faults with their tarts: too much cream, a crust that could have been better, saggy presentation etc. Usually the judges are good about deciding who goes home. It looks for a moment that both will go home then Gordon calls a conference with the other judges resulting in a no decision. A no decision? They are both tied and they cannot make up their minds. Pardon me for not believing that for one minute. They have made decisions when there was only a slight technical issue. Obviously they did not want to send either home today so the top ten remains the top ten for another week. But that means next time it will be a double elimination.

  • Bits & Pieces
    Liked Shelly’s comments about Hetal’s team. She gives Nick away to the other team, does not eat meat, and gets Olivia who probably eats salads. So what kind of plan do we have?
  • Hetal’s comments as to who she sent to the other team was illuminating.
  • Derrick had a meltdown of his own while they were serving and Katrina had to give him a time out. Katrina knew how to handle her team while Hetal seemed unfocused.
  • Is it me or did Christina seem not so happy about driving the truck so the guys could stand up there looking quite pleased with themselves?

*Thunderdoom seems more appropriate then Thunderdome, an ampitheater of death in a Mad Max movie.

Masterchef US Season 6, Episode 10: And Then There Were Ten

MasterChef_Logo_&_Wordmark.svg*The Mystery Box Challenge returns full of rice! As soon as our brave chefestants raise the box, a mountain of rice is revealed with a lot spilling on the floor. Getting them properly set up took a bit of stage magic (they are covered, turned over, a covering is pulled out, and you are ready to go) and of course we never see that they had to come in and clean it all up before they started cooking.

*Playing to your strengths is the best option here. Christopher’s pineapple boat looked cool. Derrick was displeased when his name was not called. Instead it was Hetal for her Indian dish and once again proved vegetarians know how to cook. Claudia did a take on a Mexican dish that was quite tasty and well received. Tommy topped them all with his jambalaya that his aunt made in a cast iron pan. It got rave reviews and earned him the win. There was a cheeky moment when Gordon said he wanted to wake up with Tommy, which brought laughter, until he corrected himself that he wanted to wake up in the morning after such a wonderful meal. Good save Gordon!

*Tommy has to decide which of the three food pairings to have his fellow cheftestants suffer through. The choices are peanut butter and jelly (Christina), ham and pineapple (Graham), and basil and tomato (Gordon). Tommy selects peanut butter and jelly, gets an automatic seat in the top ten, and gets to save two people. He can save one at the beginning and one at the end. He chooses Claudia but she declines because she wants to prove herself. Later she would tell Graham that if she failed it would haunt her. Fortunately that was not the case for her.

*So what do you do with peanut butter and jelly? Well you have to be smart about it. Dessert or savory dish? Some choose dessert and others a savory dish. The two winners show how you can do it in different ways. Hetal choose cookies while Katrina made a peanut satay and spring rolls with ponzu. Claudia did an encrusted pork chop that also was a great dish. Christopher made a tart that he thought was going to be panned. Christina though showed how good it was and complimented him. It was a real boost to his morale.


*Shelly Forgets Something Important
Several seasons back Dave Martinez won the Mystery Box Challenge and chose rice as the dish for the elimination. Then he did something amazingly stupid: he forgot the rice. He had to go begging from the other contestants. Though he got rice, the dish was panned especially by Joe. Shelly did not choose the ingredients but she knew the essentials were peanut butter and jelly. Oops. Big oops. So there she stands at her station with none of the core ingredients. Amazingly she manages to get them from others and proceeds to make spring rolls that visually are unappetizing and taste much worse.

*Sara, The Not So Good Baker
Sara, who is considered one of the top bakers on the show, botched it with her Peanut Butter and Jelly Tart with peanut butter pastry cream. The problem was that the peanut butter was folded into the pastry cream muting whatever flavor it might have added to the dish. To say Gordon was disappointed was an understatement. He pointed out it was the first dish he tasted that night in which did not taste peanut butter. She disagreed saying that to her it tasted like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Gordon roles his eyes at this and says there is no peanut butter in there. She says there is and Gordon dissects the dish and shows that hardly any peanut butter can be seen. It is possible she choose a very neutral peanut butter (one that is low in sugar and salt) that resulted in a diminished flavor profile. My guess is that she measured in too tiny an amount. The result was underwhelming. Graham is a bit less pointed but noted the tart shell was thick and undercooked that when you got the entire bite you did not get the peanut butter and jelly explosion in the mouth. Sara still defends by saying it was not bad. I think this is a case of both arrogance and complacency. She could not tell the defects because she believes her dishes are perfect.

*Shelly and Sara face the chop but the judges think Shelly has more to learn. Sara gets the chop and heads home.

The Standings

1. The Top
Katrina-She really excelled in this episode and showed some real cooking chops with her peanut satay and spring rolls dish. So she moves up from the bottom right to the top.
Hetal-Once again she showed her abilities both in the Mystery Box and Elimination challenges. She is really a serious contender for the top four and top two right now.
Tommy-He really brought it with his jambalaya. He may be known for fashion designs, but may have a second career with a restaurant. And his jambalaya recipe gets him national attention in the September issue of Family Circle.
Claudia-Anyone who can pull off a pork chop the way she did deserves being in the top tier.

2. The Middle
Christopher moves up from the wildcard position. He really made an impression with his tart.
Olivia & Stephen-We assume since that since their dishes were not shown in the elimination challenge they were acceptable though not exceptional enough to warrant their inclusion in the broadcast.
Derrick-He did nothing exceptional either in this episode.

3. The Bottom
Shelly took a major tumble this week. She really needs to step it up fast or end up out the door sooner rather than later.

4. Wildcard
This week the wildcard position goes to Nick. He choose the save so we will never know how his elimination dish would have fared. However if Tommy thought it looked bad, he was lucky to get the save.

Next week: Cattle call. Literally. Our brave cheftestants will be feeding a hungry group of cattle herders (otherwise known as cowboys). Lots of field work there and challenges galore. Will Hetal be able to lead a team to victory when the main ingredient on the menu will be meat? Will Stephen finally loose his mind needing a quiet space to relax?