Top 18 Compete
Original Air Date: Jun 12, 2012
JD – Sr. Staff Writer
After three long audition episodes, it’s finally time for the battle over the MasterChef title to begin. This is when we all start placing our bets, right? Who’s going to cry first? Who’s going to cut themselves first? Who is going to form pacts with whom? It’s all gonna happen eventually, so it’s just a matter of time.
In fact, only one challenge after the real competition started, alliances were already forming. One of my favorites so far pulled out some impressive cookery, and another cook that we didn’t meet in auditions has caught my attention. It’s too soon to tell, but she may be promising. Oh, and I think one of our cooks is a bit smitten with Ramsey. Probably won’t last long.
Mystery Box Challenge:
If you’ve watched the last two seasons, you know how this works. Each cook has a box in front of them, and when they lift it up, there are a variety of ingredients. Each cook can use as much or as little of the ingredients they want to make a dish. Under the first Mystery Box of the season, the cooks were presented with duck breast, kale, rhubarb, sweet potatoes, bananas, dark rum, Chinese five spice, and maple syrup, among other items.
The judges agreed that the banana is the ingredient in the box that they’re most worried about, and thankfully most cooks seemed to get that. Christine and her helper have to start learning each other’s quirks, and Michael started a pan seared duck breast. He was relieved that at least he didn’t have to worry about an elimination this time.
Becky, a cook we haven’t met yet, said she had a killer duck dish in her head, but wanted to save it for another challenge, so she starts a rhubarb tart. She seems to know what she’s doing and have a good grip on her opponents. In fact, the judges sat back and admired her multitasking and confidence for a bit. I like her already; apparently the judges did too.
Felix had her duck in a cold pan, concerning the judges, but then a fire broke out at another cook’s station. Gordon took initiative to grab the flaming pan out of the oven and stomp it out, which caused Helene, the cook who started the fire, to swoon at how OH-MY-GOD-DREEEAAAMY he was. Her girly giggling about the fire afterwards did not endear her to Gordon, however.
When the time finally did run out, the judges came to a consensus and picked three “stand out” dishes to taste. The problem was, however, that these dishes stood out for being bad. Remember how Michael was relieved that there wasn’t an elimination coming? He should have knocked on wood, because the rules got changed!
Who was in the bottom three?
Ryan, who made a balsamic, rum-glazed, seared duck breast with caramelized bananas – So, yeah, most chefs knew not to touch the bananas, but not this guy! Joe said the duck was dry, and asked if the bananas were a joke. Graham said it looked like Ryan plated it, then stepped on it. Gordon said Ryan had gone bananas to have put bananas in the dish.
Samantha, who made seared duck breast over a sweet potato-rhubarb puree – Graham pointed out that the duck was raw, and Joe said the dish was bad on so many levels that he couldn’t explain it.
Scott, who made a duck and sweet potato profiterole – Um….whaaaaaat? How does that even make sense? Gordon called it embarrassing, and Joe called it delusional.
Who went home?
In spite of the way that Ryan tried to throw Samantha under the bus with his last minute begging to the judges, he still got to move on, and she was not so lucky. Sweet potato and rhubarb, though? Yeah, I’m fine not seeing any more food from her.
(Another) Elimination Challenge:
Of all the cooks, Felix made a seared duck that the judges liked the best of all the dishes. For winning the Mystery Box challenge, she got the advantage going into the elimination challenge. The theme was to make a dish that makes the judges nervous to cook. Joe’s dish was risotto, Graham’s was clam chowder, and Gordon’s was beef Wellington. Felix decided the cooks should take on the risotto, and the judges then exempted her from having to cook it at all. Nice reward, huh?
The rest of the cooks all had varying degrees of confidence. Monti had only made risotto once before, and said it didn’t turn out well then. Another cook named Tali started gravitating to all the molecular gastronomy stuff, which seems like a cheat to me. You’re supposed to work up the starches in risotto with time, not chemicals! But I realize I have a mental block on those things. I just don’t trust them.
Dave Mack (AKA Not The Adorable David I Like Already) grabbed some morel mushrooms to use, and Felix just got to hang out above the kitchen and watch. She was pretty sure Dave Mack and Tali had never made risotto before. The David I do like (David Martinez, by the way) seemed pretty cool under pressure, making a poblano risotto.
According to the judges, Monti’s had too much garnish, which tasted better than the risotto; Frank’s risotto was “not playin’ around”; and David’s was one of the best things tasted. Christine’s dish was “subpar”, but Scott redeemed himself from being in the bottom last challenge.
The judges said that Frank had a stand-out dish, but that the true winner of the challenge was David. Both of them get to be team leaders next week.
Who was in the bottom three?
Dave Mack, who made morel and portabello mushroom risotto – David forgot to wash the morels, and wound up with mushrooms that tasted like a “dirt sponge”, according to Graham.
Helene, who made saffron risotto topped with scallops – She made a little “basket” for her scallops out of burdock root. The rice was undercooked, the scallops were raw, and Gordon and Joe both tore her apart for her silly root basket.
Tali, who made a pistachio, cherry, cranberry and gooseberry risotto – I’m not trying to be lazy here, but just look at that list of ingredients! He also had a hazelnut-walnut powder thing that looked like it was meant more for snorting than eating. Joe called the dish inappropriate and disgusting.
Who went home?
The judges deliberated, and we got a glimpse at the first bit of smack talking the cooks are going to get into. David assured Monti that she wasn’t the worst there, pointing out that Helene was the worst. He and Dave Mack also agreed that Tali and Ryan needed to go. Does anyone else get the impression that cute David might be a little bit of a diva? In the best possible way, of course. Like a fabulous old queen. Don’t hold it against David and Dave Mack, though, because Tali and Ryan were plotting the Daves’ demises as well.
Trash talking aside, the judges had to make a decision, and their choice was to send Dave Mack packing. Looks like Tali and Ryan got half their wish.
It’s hard to say just from watching if I agree with this. I agree that Helene’s dish was not the worst, but is it really better to throw stuff together that shouldn’t be together like Tali, or fail at something that clearly should have worked. Mushroom risotto is amazing most of the time. Then again, that’s a logic-based question, and when I think about putting a spoonful of sandy rice in my mouth, my emotional reaction tells me the judges made the right choice.
So what did you guys think? Did the right person go home? What do you think about our budding rivalries? And are you looking forward to seeing more of Becky like I am? Give me your two cents!