Tag Archives: MasterChef

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?

Masterchef US, Season 6 Episode 9:Cooking The Ramsay Way

[Due to work and other things, I could not get to this until today.]

MasterChef_Logo_&_Wordmark.svg*This episode was all about Gordon Ramsay.  A few episodes ago we had a steak challenge in which he was the only judge. This episode was all about his famous Beef Wellington and scallop dish. Both are highly technical dishes and demonstrate who really is a cook or a chef at this point.

*The Mystery Box challenge was replaced by the Beef Wellington challenge. They sat in pairs in the dining room to eat it (except Hetal, who could not eat it and had to rely on Christopher to tell her about it). Then they cooked the Wellingtons and the dining pairs became teams and selected one to be tasted. Hetal was the surprise since her Wellington was judged very good (Christopher wisely did not submit his-too big and not good on the inside Wellington). Also a surprise was Derrick ending up on the bottom with Kerry, Katrina, and Nick who had inferior specimens.

*It became a Dreaded Pressure Test by having them all imitate a Ramsay scallop dish which he demonstrated. Katrina got flustered and was clearly out of her element but survived. So did Derrick. Nick did a great job and Gordon was clearly pleased. Sadly Kerry had timing issues and was missing many major components (he got the scallops done but mostly everything else never got on the plate despite being done). So Kerry got the chop and said adios.

The Top

The Middle

The Bottom


The promos for next episode indicate an early favorite could go but trick editing often can lead you astray. Rice is on the menu (lots of it that spills on the floor from the promos). And Gordon gets cheeky with Tommy.

Masterchef US Season 6, Episode 8: Happy 100th Episode, Now Two Must Go!


Being the 100th episode of Masterchef, a party is called for. Catering is expensive so they wrap it into an episode of where the cheftestants cook the appetizer and entrée. The winners move on but two will be chopped in the end.

*Team Red(Olivia)
Both teams have to produce an appetizer with oysters and caviar, and an entrée with duck breast. Olivia goes for elegant and fussy which means complicated and time consuming. She wants smoked oysters but ignores Tommy’s warning about how to do that. Christopher does not do a test cook and winds up overcooking a lot of oysters which means not so many oysters to plate now. Their appetizer ends up being a salad and not well received by the judges. Derrick is agitating to get things better and Olivia starts losing it until Gordon gets her head straight. She takes command and the entrée is much better than the appetizer.

*Team Blue (Nick)
They come out of the gate strong but falter on the entrée course. Nick does not keep his eyes on what others are doing so Charlie lets the carrots burn in the oven, duck breasts sits around too long and gets cold, and underdone duck shows up. Not a great day for Nick in the end. His team loses to Team Red and must face the dreaded pressure test.

*One Must Be Saved Or All Must Go
Team Blue learns one will be saved but they have to decide who will leave or face them all leaving the show. Masterchef does this to purposefully manufacture tension. Ultimately Stephen is saved but leaves lots of lingering tensions that will no doubt bubble up later in the show.

Photo: Fox
Photo: Fox

*Dreaded Pressure Test
For your consideration: a simple three-tier birthday cake. Sounds easy if you do not have a clock ticking down to your possible doom. Claudia has the most outstanding cake while Nick and Sara have okay cakes but good enough to save them. That leaves Amanda, Charlie, and Shelly on the bottom.

*Charlie’s Fiasco
In perhaps the weirdest way to make a cake, Charlie decides to create a short stack birthday cake. Except of course that makes it look not only weird but darn impossible to properly put the frosting and toppings on. It is a messy stack, so messy that when it was being made Christina had to turn away. In all the cakes ever presented on the show, it was the worst. It even makes Tommy’s famous worst cinnamon rolls in history shine by comparison. No matter how good it tasted, the presentation was so awful that no surprise he was sent home.

*Amanda’s Downfall
Amanda has shown real talent on this show and probably will run her own restaurant one day. She started out great making a cake she knows very well but she took the sponges out of the oven too soon. They literally fell apart on the plate and it was plain it was raw. The judges were aghast and she began losing it. At this point it is pretty obvious she is going home. There is no way the judges can overlook this technical violation. Gordon gets her to dress up the cake and make it presentable. To that I say what the heck? At this point there is no point in dragging this out any further. I would have said I am so sorry and ask for the apron. No need to make this any more painful. That is not what Gordon did though. He made her present the raw cake underneath the frosting. Then when it came down to decide between her and Shelly’s undercooked and muted flavor dish, they did something worse.

*The Head Fake
Often on this show they will mislead a person to think they are safe when they are not or vice versa. So Gordon calls Shelly to take off her apron. She and Amanda hug with Amanda believing she is safe. And then Gordon drops the bomb telling Shelly to head upstairs leaving poor Amanda there to be sent home. This was cruel and unnecessary. It really makes me mad at Gordon and the producers for what they did. They head fake someone who clearly was on the road to go home to believe, just for a moment, that she was safe. Shame on them! And Gordon is the rear end of a donkey as far I am concerned. I have been concerned both on Masterchef Junior and this show that a certain level of meanness has crept into this show. And this demonstrates it. Get stuffed, Gordon.

Masterchef US Season 6, Episode 7: Upscale breakfasts and TV dinners


Our gallant cheftestants faced a Mystery Box that required them to make an upscale breakfast but for the elimination round have to cook a posh TV dinner. Poor execution of a dish and clueless on a concept sends not one but two home in the end.

*Breakfast Masterchef style means upscale and fit to have been served on Titanic. Graham Elliot joins the cheftestants in masterfully cooking three breakfast dishes in 30 minutes for the judges. Meanwhile the others have to whip up something pretty good to get the judges to notice. Derrick, Nick, and Katrina have the three best but Derrick beats them all and gets exemption from cooking in the elimination challenge.

*TV dinners. They are still popular despite how far we have come culinary wise. Why? Ease. You get home and do not have time or the energy to cook a full three -course meal. A tv dinner fits the bill. You can either put it in the oven or microwave. And today there are lots of choices that include ones that are low calorie and low fat. So Derrick gets to choose which of the Masterchefs favorite TV dinners they will cook: Christina’s Salisbury Steak, Graham’s Meatloaf, or Gordon’s Turkey. Derrick opts for Christina’s.

*And for the extra point Derrick gets to choose someone to sit out for 15 minutes. He chooses Christopher. Surprising since he put a target on Shelly’s back last time. But if he was hoping Christopher would crash and burn, he was wrong. He instead excelled and wowed the judges. His arrow would have been better spent on someone else. If anything making him sit out made him better.

*The Gong of Doom
Veronica’s problem is never getting the presentation or serving size right. She tells Christina she intends to present it as a TV dinner. Christina reminds her that they want something above that but Veronica seems clueless or oblivious. She cooks like that clichéd Army chef that cooks tons of food and slops it on the plate as the soldiers go by. No surprise the gong of doom is ringing loudly when Christina walks away.

*Hetal’s Challenge
Hetal had to cook with beef, a taboo food in her native India. Gordon did point out she could ask someone else to taste it. Sure, ask one of your fellow competitors to tell you if your food is good or bad. But you got to know that some would opt to deceive rather than help. If she wants to move forward in this competition, you have to handle the curves they throw at you since they do not make exemptions for vegetarians or foods banned by religion.

*Jesse tries to impress Gordon with his venison dish and fails. Gordon, who knows a thing or two about cooking venison, was displeased with it being overcooked. Jesse came off not well trying to say it was not that dry. Later when the three bottom people are called, Gordon says (without saying his name) that he ought to come up. He starts the turns back forcing Gordon to call out his name.

*Hetal and Veronica in the bottom with Jesse. Hetal got so flustered in dealing with beef that her dish suffered horribly. It could not be more disappointing for her. She could have done okay with the beef and spectacular with the sides. Instead it really was a mess but luckily both Jesse and Veronica were worse. Veronica brought up massive portions to the judges sitting in large serving dishes. It did not look good and Gordon was angry. He reminded her that they had repeatedly told her to watch those portions and presentation. When he tilts the dish with vegetables, a whole lot of water comes out. He declines to taste any of her dishes.

*Without fanfare, Veronica was sent him. No kind words and no sympathy from the judges. Just turn in your apron and leave. The top 15 applaud but quickly turns to a hush when another person will be sent home. No surprise it was Jesse leaving Hetal safe for the next round.

*The good news is that Olivia and Nick won. I am impressed with both but Olivia most of all. I was not sure she really had the motivation or cooking skills. She has both and showed it tonight. She and Nick will be team captains next week.

1. Always follow what the judges want in terms of presentation and serving.
2. They know that some people do not like certain foods (they find this out during the intake process) so they will throw challenges that contain proteins or foods you do not like or prohibited.
3. Be brave and take chances but remember to follow those rules about cooking it right. And remember to taste it. Overcooked food is about as welcome as cow chips on a plate.

Next week: Masterchef celebrates its 100th episode with an outdoor party. And catering it will be the cheftestants. The Dreaded Pressure Test will be a birthday cake but when the two candles are blown out, it will be a double elimination.

Masterchef US:Season 6, Episode 6: Vegas or Bust

18 cheftestants remain after Justin went home for using canned corn last week. Tonight they cooked a meal for those work in Vegas with the losers proving who can cook the best steak. It had better be good because Gordon Ramsay is the only one judging them!

*Sadly Dan has left the show likely for personal reasons so there are now 17 competing.

*Roadtrip! Off to Vegas and all that glitz and glam.

*Team challenge: Cooking for 101 entertainers. But Stephen, who had the best dish last week, gets to pick his team or the protein. He opts for making the dream team and deceives Shelly into thinking he is not that much interested in lobster(which he is). Shelly opts for chicken while Stephen selects everyone she wanted. So Stephen gets not only the team he wanted but lobster as well.

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

*Team Red (Stephen)
The team is well organized as Stephen tells them what he needs done. And he is no distant leader either constantly checking on the progress of those around him. Tommy is the one who causes the most problems. First, he plates the smashed potatoes badly. Second, he is overcooking the potatoes in the skillet. He is under the delusion that people want burnt potatoes on their plates. Really Tommy? Sorry, do not buy it when he says that is how he learned it. Perhaps he confused smashed with another type of potato dish sometimes served with breakfast. I doubt it as he is too smart for that. After Gordon threatens to toss Tommy out, Stephen relegates him to pot washing. Team Red gets their plates while the other team is ponderously slow.

Team Blue (Shelly)
As they say, it was all balls up! First off she decides to a chicken roulade. Now that requires you pound the chicken, put a filling in it, wrap it up, and cook it. That is a lot of prep work for a dish that will be served for 101 people in an hour. Derrick tries to point out this is unfeasible but shot down. Others on the team echo that sentiment as well. Things go from bad to worse as was predicted when they cannot get one dish out to the waiting people while Team Red is doing it. There was a mutiny by consent as Derrick took control, got everyone fired up, and getting dishes out. It was remarkable to watch and shows why he is someone that may go far in this show. The result was that the team got dishes out and even better got within three points of the win. Very good considering the long odds against it. Team Blue loses and must face the dreaded pressure test.

Dreaded Pressure Test
*What is worse is not just one pressure test but two!

*Shelly was given immunity from taking the pressure test but could save three. Why? This is totally inexplicable to save her. Her team was a failure and at the least she ought to have been in the trenches or forced to save herself (as they have done in the past). This shows again how they try to manipulate tension for ratings (not uncommon by the way). They (the producers )know that the survivors will really dislike Shelly leading to some interesting confrontations down the road.

*Shelley thinks she was thrown under the bus when her team criticizes her leadership. It is like this gal never had anyone critique her before. She decides to send all the strong ones (the most vocal about her lack of leadership)into the elimination challenge while saving ones who were the weakest (like Hetal). Shelly is hoping that Derrick will be sent home.

Photo: Fox
Photo: Fox

*New York Strip Steak is what they are cooking for just one judge: Gordon. And at his own steak house in Sin City. All four get busy cooking their steaks and they are presented to Gordon without knowing who cooked what. Both Claudia and Derrick cooked the best medium rare steaks and head up to the balcony to Shelly’s dismay. Meanwhile Ailsa and Christopher face cooking filet mignon rare (which does not mean raw!). A beautiful piece of meat that must be treated with the respect it deserves. Ailsa though ends up losing the challenge and heads home.

*A couple of things about this episode. First, we saw the difference between firm and weak leadership styles. Second, choosing the right dish to prepare under the time constraints makes all the difference. Third, when a team member is doing sub-par work you do not keep them there. Fourth, when things are really going bad it is okay for another team member to step up and take charge. Derrick saved them from an even worse defeat for doing this. Fifth, leaders have to accept criticism.

*Tommy was a disappointment here. He whined about how they (Stephen and Gordon)got in his face about his presentation and cooking. He will not last long on this show if he continues in this manner. Hetal will have a problem (perhaps several down the road)not because she is vegetarian but because it may require handling meat from cows. Eating any part of the cow is verboten in India and with faithful Hindus. Amanda has a different problem as that Muslims do not eat pork. And pork usually shows up on the show. It might be an option to choose from (which means she can avoid it). My guess is it will be an option rather than a requirement to avoid being criticized for being insensitive to Muslims.

MasterChef US Season 6, Episode 4:Knott’s Berry Farm and Cinnamon Buns

20 cheftestants remain and face their first team challenge at Knott’s Berry Farm. The losers face the dreaded pressure test where cinnamon buns determine their fate.

*Knott’s Berry Farm is a nice place for the team challenge. It is considered one of the earliest theme parks in the country as it started in the 1950’s before House of Mouse was built. Much has changed along with the rides and attractions. In addition to the famous chicken restaurant, T.G.I. Fridays and Cinnabon are there as well. But today Masterchef is holding food court serving up hamburgers with onion rings and coleslaw, and fish and chips.

*People sort themselves on their own into teams but the judges decide who are the team captains. Team Blue is Darah and Team Red Kerry. Darah works in a theme park and Kerry is a human relations department manager. Fire up the grill and get the fryer going.

*This is not a real difficult task but requires organization to pull off right. And both teams have problems. Team Red wants to do three sauces but Gordon nixes that. Later though Kerry screws up by not having onion rings (he got too busy) so they have to race to get them done.

Photo: Fox
Photo: Fox

*Team Blue is disorganized because Darah is not a good leader. Katrina is doing the batter for both onion rings and fish. Tommy is concerned she is moving too slow but she is the only one doing both. Two problems emerge. One is that fish are not being cooked and later because the batter is too thick they are coming out raw.  Gordon threatens to shut down Team Blue if they have another major problem.

*The ten second rule meant if you did not have the food ready for them, they got an empty basket. Both teams had problems but Team Blue came up short in the end. Even though comments were suggesting many liked their food better, too few were able to cast their vote for them. They got empty blue paper lined baskets and the paper ended up blowing around Knott’s Berry Farm for the rest of the day.

*Everyone reassembles the next day for the Dreaded Elimination Challenge. Team Blue stands there and the inevitable question to Darah is what went wrong. She did not answer that question and instead talked up individual team accomplishments. Oops. Talk about clueless about the concept here. The judges want to know what YOU did wrong.

*Well Tommy sure does not like Katrina much. He said the problem was lack of communication and through some dog poo at Katrina. I hardly think she was the problem on this team (she was one of the harder workers there). Derrick was never asked but in the confessional did not think much of Darah.

*Darah has the option to save up to five people and her choices mostly puzzle the judges. She does not save either Katrina or Derrick who did a lot of the work. Hetal declines the save saying she belonged there and offers her spot to Derrick (who did not belong there). Darah did not save herself leaving Katrina, Olivia, Hetal, and Tommy to join her in the Dreaded Pressure Test.

Cinnamon roll buns fresh from the oven. Photo:Eric Petruno
Cinnamon roll buns fresh from the oven.
Photo:Eric Petruno

*Cinnamon Roll. Ah, the lure of the cinnamon roll.  Fragrant and gooey deliciousness when done right. They are a joy to eat. But like all pastries you have to pay attention to the rules about rolling out the dough and shaping it right. You also have to get the spice mixture right and a topping that goes with rather than fights the pastry. And since this is from scratch, you have no where to hide. The cinnamon roll is unforgiving. Fortunately most of them measure up but the competition was keen.

*Hetal was the real surprise here. She produced a batch that was delicious, evoked memories of India for Gordon (he did a series of shows where he travels through India to learn their food), and got an additional accolade. Gordon thinks she has a future in baking. I think if she plays her cards right she will go far not only on the show but much further.

*Katrina was upset by being in the pressure test. Making it worse was Tommy. Tommy said some rude comments during the preparation time. But Katrina had the last laugh. Tommy really dislikes her and likely we will see more of it.

*Both Katrina and Olivia passed muster with the judges with some minor criticisms here and there. They were not in danger of going home.

*Tommy. Where to begin with this guy? Well he reminds one of that guy a few years back that decided that madness came before genius and produced artistic dishes that totally fell flat with the judges. Tommy decided to do the same and produced the most hideous looking cinnamon buns ever on national television. They may have tasted okay, as Gordon noted, but you would not want to ever see those buns in the light of day. I think they would make a splendid Haunted House scary meal dish.

*Alas poor Darah. She really messed it up big time. The anise overpowered the buns and worse, they were raw. There was nothing good to say about these buns and so she got the chop in the end leaving Tommy to muse as he walked back that Katrina was still in the game.

*This episode showed us a lot of things. Leading a kitchen brigade requires communication and the ability to watch how things are going. You have to be organized otherwise customers ending up waiting too long for food or miscues end up with dishes not done right.

Next week: Crabs. How will they deal with live crabs? Never show fear and watch out for the pincers. They are not giant mutant crabs! 🙂

Masterchef US-Season 6,Episode 3:First Mystery Box and Apples Send 2 Home

Photo: Fox
Photo: Fox

22 aspiring masterchefs enter, only 20 remain at the end. They faced their first Mystery Box challenge and the elimination round was all about the apple.

*I like it when Masterchef shakes things up. The first Mystery Box challenge had ingredients in their own pantry. Now they just had to make a meal that met the high standards of Masterchef.

*The top three were Katrina (pork schnitizel), Dan (savory eclairs), and Hetal (coconut curry soup). Dan took top honors and went back to the pantry.

*So many deserts but fortunately they are just for show to demonstrate the wide range of Chef Tosi. She wants a humble apple pie but Dan thankfully does not have to cook it. He gets a bag of apples though to pick those he can save. In this show, the old wisdom about an apple a day keeping the doctor away has been rewritten. Now an apple will save you from making an apple pie from scratch.

*Making an apple pie is not as easy as it looks. You have to get the pastry just right, a filling that is sweet but not overly so, and make sure it is properly cooked. No one wants an underdone pie. Or one that falls apart when you cut into it.

*Olivia seemed unclear about whether she needed a crust. Gordon had to remind her that Tosi wanted an apple pie. And the gong of doom could be heard as she noted the addition of goat cheese in the apple pie.

*A pie might be ugly but Veronica proved it can also be delicious. She went against that chef maxim that good dishes must also look immaculate and won.

*The top ones were (in my view) Christopher,Sara, and Veronica. Christopher won.

*Olivia’s pie was overpowered by goat cheese landing her in the bottom. Mateo’s crust was too thin and it fell apart. Breanna created apple soup. This being a double elimination, Breanna and Mateo got chopped. Olivia was saved literally by a slim apple wedge.

*So far things are moving at a fast clip since the premiere. No sense of who the standouts are or if there are any villains. The next episode might start revealing who has the cooking chops and those just passing through the kitchen on the way to ordering pizza for dinner.

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Masterchef US Returns(Season 6, Episodes 1 & 2)

Photo: Fox
Photo: Fox

A new season of those wacky cheftestants has started up again. A new judge has joined the panel. And the two hour opening took a page from Food Network’s Chopped.

*New judge Christina Tosi is a breath of fresh air. She’s snappy and able to judge the food very well.

*In the past they had aspiring aprons do all kinds of tasks or prepare a meal for them to judge. This year they made the aspiring aprons compete in pairs or in groups of three or four. The losers were chopped.

*A redemption round was added so that those chopped might be selected by one of the judges in a final challenge for the remaining two aprons.

*Like in the past they showed disagreements between the judges at this early stage. Hopefully they will show this more often.

*The criteria they used in determining who stayed and who got chopped was whether the person showed enough creativity and passion that could be developed. Which meant someone who perhaps had a slightly better dish than the other could be chopped.

*I like how the final challenge used Tosi’s must haves in her pantry.

*I thought it was a little weird to have all the people stand outside waiting to learn the fates. Likewise the staging when people came out was too obvious.

*The fashionista guy loves being the center of attention. Interesting to see how it turns out. Looks like from the promos he will be wearing some interesting outfits to the cooking theatre.

*Hey and there was no mention of Walmart at all during the show.

Next week the cheftestants face their first mystery box challenge, severe heartburn sure to follow, and to add more pressure a double elimination.

MasterChef Junior Season 3 Wrap Up


Masterchef Junior season three has come to an end with Nathan taking the prize over Andrew. It was a well matched finale as both exhibited tremendous skills that excited the judges. It was likely Andrew not trusting his pressure cooker that made the difference. He opened it up too soon resulting in his meat being slightly underdone. As Gordon said aptly watching it happen, he did not trust the pressure cooker. So with this season now at an end, how did this season stack up with seasons one and two?

Well we had the same batch of adorable kids in the kitchen. None of them were nasty, mean, or rude refreshing since on the normal Masterchef you get some interesting personalities. The challenges were more or less like the full show with some kid twists thrown in. The problem this season is that it came too soon on the heels of the last one. We had just gotten over season two when the new season started up. Jarring and it made this season a little hard to get into. And it was on Tuesday night meaning it went up against NCIS, the dominant show in the 8pm time slot. So while the show got decent numbers it did not hurt the king in any way.

The show though is becoming predictable. You see the same fresh batch of wide-eyed kids wanting to cook for the judges. And some of the same types of challenges as well. We know that when they have the kids line up to do a challenge that will result in the judges being pied, dunked, or having liquid dumped on them that all the judges will get splattered. Relying on gimmicks like having a banana lowered by an extraterrestrial hurts as well. Masterchef Junior needs to think about what they are trying to do: are they having kids compete with kids or having kids cooking as adults to impress the judges. My concern is that wobbly line between them being kids and being treated as adults has been crossed once too often. We have to remember they are kids many of whom have not yet finished eighth grade!

Some suggestions for the shows producers:

1. Do Not Show Seasons So Close To Each Other
There is a reason a series will have a break, to allow the new season some distance. This is especially important for reality shows because if you show seasons back-to-back people may be less inclined to watch so quickly. Also you run the risk of running the clock out-literally. People like reality shows but if you compact the seasons they may get tired, bored, or exasperated. Not a good thing. Having season three start so soon after season two was a mistake. I am sure the programmers had a strategy but the middle part of the season saw a drop off of viewers. It came back at the end but the viewers seem to be between 4.8-5.5 million.

2. Move To Another Night
Tuesday night is not a good fit for Masterchef (either version) unless summer and reruns are all that is on. CBS dominates the 8pm hour with NCIS. ABC usually comes in second. In third place is Fox with Masterchef. Not bad but you are not going to be taking away significant viewers from CBS. Fox only dominates that hour when the other networks are running re-runs. NBC has not been doing well in that hour (usually fourth)but do not expect that to last. They are seething that a bunch of precocious kids are beating them.

3. Stop The Slapstick
Okay we get it, you want to make fun of yourselves. Do it once in a while but not every season. It gets old and predictable. How many times will we see the judges get dunked, pied, or have syrup dumped on them? You know this is heading to a very funny skit on Saturday Night Live.

4. Make the Challenges More Kid Friendly
I think the problem in a nutshell is that they see the kids are young adults in chef’s aprons. Wrong. They are still kids so do not blur that line as Gordon seems to do. Treat them as kids always and craft challenges more kid friendly. It may please the judges to see the kids prepare sushi boats but really how many times are kids doing that at home? Focus on learning essentials, testing them on it, and seeing who really understands what cooking can be.

Farewell, Joe
This season ends with the departure of Joe Bastianich. He is moving on to other things and another show (a restaurant show if I heard correctly). He may be tough and at times scolding (when you serve up a dogs dinner he is not happy about that!)but shows a lot of soul at the same time. I remember what he said to Christine Ha when she perfectly recreated Graham Elliot’s masterful dish. He said that like him, she visualizes what she eats (in his case drinks when it is wine). It was a wonderful moment and astonishing what she pulled off considering her limitation. Farewell Joe, you will be missed. Hopefully your mother will still stop by the kitchen as a guest judge.

TV By The Numbers
The numbers for Tuesday are quite telling. Only in the world of television can a show with less total viewers win a slot if it gets the highest share of the target audience. NBC’s The Voice had 14 million viewers (less than NCIS at 17 million)but had a 11 point share of the 18-49 target audience. So they get first place. CBS came in second since NCIS got 8 points in the target audience. Coming in third is ABC’s Fresh Off The Boat with a 6 point share and 5.75 million viewers. Masterchef Junior dropped to fourth place with a 5 point share and 4.83 million viewers. It lost viewers (last week 5.5 million) but at least came ahead of CW’s TV’s Hottest Commercials with 1 point share and 1.25 million viewers. When Masterchef (regular and junior)is up against tough competition like this, it almost always comes behind the big three. It does show that by the time the finale aired, the target audience was looking elsewhere.

Till the next season of Masterchef Junior: arrivederci!

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Masterchef Junior, Season 3, Episode 7: Raspberry Dessert

MasterChef-Junior-LogoThe final four–Andrew, Nathan, Jimmy, and Jenna–enter the kitchen stadium to do culinary battle for a place in the finale. Two will enter and move on; two will depart. Tonight there is no mystery box as Gordon presents what they will cook: crème brulee. A wonderful dish but tricky to pull off. Jenna tells us she goes to a French restaurant on her birthday and has one for dessert. Nathan has never made one before nor been to a fancy restaurant. Fortunately Gordon demonstrates how to caramelize one. It looks so easy when he does it but then he has had many years of experience (and some Michelin stars as he likes to remind us). Andrew is not much of a desert guy but likes being able to use a blow torch.

In a deviation from regular Masterchef, the kids do not have to make it from scratch. They each have 20 unfinished brulees at their station. They only have to add the sugar and caramelize it properly. And they have ten minutes to properly prepare as many as they can. So it will be both quantity and quality that will decide who wins. Jenna’s mouth opens wide in surprise in learning the time limitation. And they are off to make the perfect finishing touch to the crème brulee.

The judges look at the results to determine who got the most done correctly. Nathan finished 13 but only 1 was correct. Ouch. You have to watch that blowtorch! Jenna completed 15 but total perfect was 4. Graham said she was too timid in using the flame which is why most of them were pretty pale. Jimmy delivered 8 perfect ones. Andrew used two blowtorches and did all 20 but only 4 were done right. So usually at this point Jimmy would head back to the pantry and make a decision. But once again the comedy jester decides to use a gimmick again. Instead of revealing the fruit that will be part of the next upscale desert they will prepare, a whole lot of raspberries are dumped on them. You can just hear that circus music playing and a barker crying:

“Ladies and gentleman! Inside this tent are kids that will cook the most amazing dishes. They will astound and delight you by cooking dishes only found in the highest class places that princes, kings, and captains of industry attend. For only a mere 50¢ you will see dishes rarely seen out of those places. But we have tricks for these kids to pass through! Step inside now to see what will fall out of the sky or the cupboard or even the oven as they attempt the most difficult of dishes!”

Petr Kratochvil(publicdomainpictures.net)
Petr Kratochvil(publicdomainpictures.net)

The judges laugh, Jimmy cleans his glasses, Andrew is not thrilled with having raspberries dumped on him and Jenna has raspberries in her hair. And you have a whole lot of wasted fruit on the floor that are going to have to tossed out that could have gone to a food bank or homeless shelter. Four dishes will have this fruit as its main ingredient and Jimmy gets to decide who makes what. He has to choose from a Raspberry Napoleon, Raspberry Trifle, Raspberry Mousse, and the most difficult of all–Raspberry Tarte. Yikes! Jimmy hands the tarte to Nathan. A smart move. The mousse goes to Andrew and another smart decision. Jenna gets the napoleon because Jimmy thinks it is the easiest and can defeat her in the finale.

As time winds down, Jenna is way behind time wise. Her plating has not even been done at the 2 minute mark. She is racing about to get everything on her plate while the others do finishing touches. Sadly Jenna’s dish looks like a mess. Jimmy’s trifle looks a little uneven and taste wise it is rustic but too acidic and not enough sweetness. But overall okay. Andrew has a lot of raspberry on his apron. And he had to redo his mousse when the first one failed (too sweet). He may be a mess but the dish turns out perfectly. And Gordon is quite pleased with the result though it could have used more time to set. Overall, a good dessert.

Ah Jenna. The dish looks like it was plated in a hurry but actually tastes pretty good says Gordon. Joe refused to say anything about his tasting of the dish. They are all disappointed that she did not plate it well though tastes good. Nathan had the hardest of all, the tarte. Graham liked the visual and loved its flavor. Nathan really pulled it off on this dessert. Jimmy gave him the hardest dish of all and he aced it. This kid really has earned a place in the finale against Andrew. Which means sadly Jimmy and Jenna end up going home. It will be quite a battle royal in the final because Andrew and Nathan are well matched.

It was sad to see Jimmy and Jenna go. Both are very talented young chefs with a bright future in professional cooking if they go that route. They came very far beating out a lot of people to get into the top four. And now it is between Andrew and Nathan. While I like Andrew, I think Nathan has the edge needed to win.

By The Numbers
One of the reasons I wait a few days to do the write-up is for the final adjusted ratings. The fast ratings sometimes can be off. Masterchef saw a spike this week that pushed it up quite a bit but still came in third place for the 8pm hour. The final numbers are NCIS (CBS)at 2.6 rating in the 18-49 age group and 18 million viewers. ABC’s Fresh Off The Boat came in second with 1.9/6 million viewers. Masterchef came in a respectable third place with 1.8 and just under 5.5 million viewers. Th uptick is not surprising as it usually happens at the primiere and the two end shows of the season.

Food Network’s Kids Baking Championship
Thanks to Sling TV, I got a chance to take a look at this show that started this year on Food and Duff Goldman (Ace of Cakes) and Valerie Bertinelli (actress and cookbook author) are the hosts with kids aged 10-13. It is actually a very pleasant show to watch. They start out with eight kids (the season for this is just a few episodes) and as the title indicates everything they do is baking. I really loved the Desert Imposter episode where the kids had to come up with deserts that looked like regular main courses but were deserts. Duff Goldman and Valerie Bertinelli make a good team for this show and I hope they bring it back. Like Masterchef, it lacks the high drama and sometimes bracing personalities as the kids are delightful to watch. Goldman is particularly good at giving the kids helpful suggestions as they cook. Goldman really enjoys what he is doing and while they will put some twists into the challenges (like telling them after they have started one batch of sweet baked goods they must now do a batch of savory as well)it lacks the gimmicks of Masterchef Junior. And it has its tough moments too when it sends kids home at then end.

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