The top 11 hopefuls file into the kitchen, led by Tommy and his necklace from Star Trek/Zoolander/The Capitol of Panem. His statement piece represents voodoo and his Louisiana roots, he explains, adding he’d really like to win this mystery box challenge since he has yet to win one. Derrick and his ever-exposed arms remind us he’s the only one left who has snagged a boxed victory and he’s looking to repeat here. With that, the chefs lift their lids and several metric tons of rice spill out, everywhere. Man, think of the poor production interns who were tasked with cleaning this needless mess up. “That’s right! Rice, rice, baby!” says
your dad Graham Elliot.
No one is more excited than Hetal because she’s a vegetarian Indian who practically lives off rice. You’re probably aware of this if you’ve ever heard her speak, since I think she’s legally obligated to repeat this fact every 60 seconds. Well, Hetal, here’s your domain. You better own this challenge. This dish must look and taste extra amazing because the winner’s recipe will be featured in Family Circle. Everyone freaks out and I’m scratching my head until I realize I’m thinking of Family Circus, the comic strip. Though Family Circle also draws a laugh from me when Christina Tosi claims the magazine has 17 million readers, a stat that I find highly suspect. There simply aren’t enough doctor’s offices littered with the issues to justify those numbers.
The rice battle commences and everyone trots out their backstory bullet points again via their plates. That means Claudia’s making something Latin, Hetal’s going traditional gujarati, Shelly’s got coconut and island flavor going and Tommy’s sticking to Southern. We get it, Fox. You’re like the United Nations of culinary diversity. The only surprise is Christopher’s offering: pineapple fried rice. It reminds him of his mother who left him when he was 11 and of whom he has few memories. One of the good ones is of her making him this meal, he tells Christina. Christina makes noises and words like she cares, though after she eviscerated him last week, her empathy feels super fake. Derrick’s going back to his roots, too, by making…a sushi roll. Wait, what? “I grew up with a ton of leftover Chinese food and sticky rice.” Mmkay. With minutes left, Gordon again reminds us that Family Circle is still a magazine in existence and it’s 500 million readers are eagerly awaiting one of these dishes.
With that, time is up and the judges walk around, looking at what they want to taste. Derrick thinks his dish belongs in “any high-end magazine” (Sooo…not the one the judges keep mentioning?), which means he’s visibly crushed when they call forth Hetal and her khichdi with peas, cauliflower, and tomatoes. It’s Indian comfort food, like a rice porridge, and it looks very colorful and bright. Gordon tastes and declares, “It’s you; classy, delicious, and tastes expensive, though, it’s about the heart and flavor.” An odd combination of praise, Gordon. Though Christina out-weirds Gordon when she exclaims, “I feel close to you and your family through this dish.” It’s a plate of food, Christina. Take it easy.
Next up is Tommy, who is as shocked as you are at this news. “Tommy’s struggled,” says Claudia, “so to hear him called was thrilling.” Graham begins by motioning to Tommy’s whole body and says, “We don’t know much about you aside from glitter and show.” Careful, Graham. Judgments based on appearances are for shallow people and/or TV recappers. No one says anything about your bold glasses, your penchant for colorful bow ties, or your tattoos. “We’ve seen Tommy. Now we’re going to see rustic Thomas,” Graham concludes. Ugh. Just taste the food, guy. Tommy’s jambalaya—which looks really goodcomes courtesy of his aunt Lorraine, “who made everything in her black iron skillet, which never cooled down.” Graham loves his bite, as does Gordon who tries to be too deep with his feedback and inadvertently makes a joke about sleeping with Tommy.
Last up is Claudia, which means Derrick and his uncovered arms are pisssssed. Claudia made arroz con leche molotes, atop a custard and orange marmalade. It’s so great, Christina’s speechless and Graham speaks Spanish before dancing with a giggling Claudia around the table. So who wins? Who gets the coveted spot in the “household” magazine that reaches 1 billion people?! Tommy, who again is as shocked as you are. (Psst. Hetal. What happened?) Tommy’s over the moon, brings up Family Circle again—who MUST be paying per mention at this point—and says this is the beginning of his dream to create a Creole cookbook.
Off to the pantry Tommy and the judges go, where Graham starts a seriously convoluted diatribe that somehow equates Tommy’s marriage to peanut butter and jelly. Or to “exotic” pineapple and ham. Or “sophisticated” basil and tomato. The gist here is Tommy will pick a duo of flavors for his fellow contestants to use in the elimination challenge. (If I could say it in one sentence, how come the judges couldn’t?) Tommy chooses and frolics back into the kitchen with the pizzazz of a Vegas showgirl and ascends the steps to the balcony of safety with a great flourish. “I’m feeling the power and control,” Tommy grins. “It’s like being some evil queen on a throne.” Good for you, but let’s not let your first major win go to your head, homie.
NEXT: Bring your A-game if you’re going to question Gordon’s taste buds. [pagebreak]
It’s revealed Tommy selected peanut butter and jelly, which Christopher thinks is limiting for the savory cooks, such as himself. It’s also revealed Tommy can save two people from this elimination; one before cooking and one post. Tommy’s like a super villain, glowing at this additional surge of power. He picks Claudia, who gives a speech saying she’s not there for a free ride and chooses to instead cook. Tommy throws her some serious “evil queen on a throne” shade and with that, everyone is underway.
Remember Sara? She gets her third or fourth sentence of the season in here, letting us know she’s confident because she’s a good baker. Katrina says she’s going the savory route, because everyone else will do sweet and Shelly just looks panicked. Why? “I forgot to get the peanut butter and jelly,” she sighs to the judges. Not allowed back into the pantry to rectify her grave error, she races back to her friend Nick to borrow some of his. Nick shoos her away, telling us she might as well leave her apron on the cutting board now. Damn, Shelly. In an elimination challenge centered around peanut butter and jelly, how are those not the first two things you grab??
Hetal shows mercy and gives her some crunchy peanut butter, while Olivia bestows some jelly upon Shelly. The judges are doing their station visits while everyone’s toiling. All go fairly normal except for when Gordon drops by Sara’s station and thinks that putting peanut butter inside of a pastry tart is not a winning combination. Sara’s made this before so she knows what she’s doing, her words and body language tell us.
Time’s up and Christopher literally prays that Tommy will save him, as he’s not confident in his tart. Tommy’s second selection? Nick, who is puzzled by this. Tommy doesn’t think Nick’s dish looks up to par tonight (cue eyebrow furrowing from Nick) and also because Tommy wants Nick to help him knock out some of the others. Regardless, Nick’s not going to look a gift horse in the mouth, even if it is wearing a weird necklace. “This isn’t MasterPride; it’s MasterChef,” he says. True.
Claudia’s up first with an ancho and peanut crusted pork chop. It’s beautiful, exceptionally plated and tastes amazing, per Gordon. “How do I say this, because you’re a lady, but your balls are getting bigger,” he exclaims. If you’re looking for suggestions, Gordon, you can simply say, “You’re coming into your own, Claudia” and leave any mention of testicles out of the sentence. Christopher and his tart come up and blow Christina away. “You and I have had our moments, but I’m proud to commend you,” she says. Overreaching? Sure, but her intentions are nice, I suppose.
Shelly and her scavenged dish approach next. She’s done a beef and strawberry PB&J spring roll, which looks as weird and as gross as it sounds. “We eat with our eyes,” Gordon begins, “and this looks like a stuffed condom.” Ruh roh. “Ground beef and strawberries do not go together. Ever. This is way off the mark,” he continues, spitting his bite out. “This is the first time you’ve stepped backwards. I’m sorry.” Gordon walks away and Shelly is crushed, though how could she bring up a plate looking like that and think it would be well received?
Hetal’s cookies two-ways kill it, as does Katrina’s chicken satay and spring rolls (which do not resemble prophylactics). Last up is Sara, meaning we don’t get to see Derrick and Stephen, which is disappointing. Anyway, Sara bounds up, super happy. “I’ve made this 1,000 times. This is guaranteed,” she says. Oh no, girl. Those are such typical famous last words. She’s got a peanut butter tart with strawberries and some other stuff but that doesn’t matter because Gordon cannot taste a lick of peanut butter. Oh no, girl. Dumbstruck smile awkwardly fixed upon her face, Sara thinks this is the perfect time and place to argue with Gordon Ramsay about what Gordon Ramsay tastes and what he does not. OH NO, GIRL.
Upon her insistence that peanut butter has most definitely been used, Gordon swiftly replies, “Impossible. The color is off and you can argue all you want, but I only taste strawberry.” Here’s where Sara really blows it: She laughs in Gordon’s face. Gordon sharply announces “clearly, you don’t care,” turns heel and walks away. Devil’s advocate—maybe her laughter was one of those awkward defense mechanisms; a horrible, instinctive reaction to pressure so overwhelming that a giggle just escapes. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Sara’s simply that deluded as to laugh in the face of the man who controls her fate. Either way, Graham can also not taste peanut butter.
Hetal wins and Katrina comes in second, meaning they will be captains in next week’s team challenge. So the departing chef will either be Shelly and Sara. The duo comes forth, Shelly visibly deflated; Sara oddly bubbly. Gordon says tonight comes down to who the judges feel is most teachable; who “will continue to grow.” and with that line, you instantly know the outcome. Sara’s gone and Shelly’s safe. Although can you really teach someone who brings you strawberries and beef inside of a spring roll? I would’ve dismissed both of them. On her way out, Gordon asks Sara who she’d pick to win the whole shebang (Derrick) and with that, we have our top 10.
Would you have sent both the ladies home? Who do you think will make it to the top five? Did you also cringe when you saw Gordon Ramsay wearing a cowboy hat during the preview for next week?