Unfortunately, tonight’s episode title refers to his dishes, not his masterful insults, which is a shame. A clipshow of Gordon Ramsay harshly skewering various past contestants would have been more interesting than what was actually shown. Instead, the top 12 chefs left have to replicate one of Gordon’s signature dishes, one that he’s served in his famed eateries more than 300,000 times. Up comes the dome and we see that it’s a perfectly cooked beef Wellington. Into the dining room the home cooks file and sit in groups of two, ready to taste and deconstruct the signature dish.
The dining room looks like a Crayola box exploded. Well, it’s mostly Tommy’s shirt. As is tradition, Derrick has foregone sleeves this evening. He dives into the dish, calling himself a surgeon as he picks apart the layers of what he decries as “the most perfect bite in the culinary world.” Easy, Derrick. Gordon’s not listening. You don’t have to suck up so hard. Hetal reminds us yet again that she’s a vegetarian and I’m starting to get sick of hearing that she doesn’t understand how to cook meat. She instead cuts the meat apart and talks about feeling every fiber of the cow’s muscle. Sigh. We’re also treated to B-roll of Katrina, dining opposite Derrick, letting out a hearty guffaw. Perhaps Derrick told her a rock & roll joke, because, y’know, he plays the drums and stuff.
After the meal, it’s directly to the kitchen, where they’re told to cook at the station beside the person they just ate with. Since this is such a specific instruction, you just know there’s a related twist around the bend. But for now, everyone’s underway with Challenge Wellington. Hetal’s cooking this meal by touch, which is fine, except she’s forgotten the fat in the pan for the steak. Oops. Stephen and Gordon have an intense-off, where they both shout weird things at each other, culminating in Stephen half-yelling that if he had met Gordon 35 years ago, they’d be good friends by now. Gordon agrees and they high five with conviction. And now I’m having visions of what 13-year-old Gordon was like. I wonder if he was a bully or the bullied?
Most of the dozen are struggling when it comes to wrapping the filet in the puff pastry, but Katrina’s having extraordinary issues, to the point the judges have noticed holes in her dough from 20 paces. She doesn’t know what happened, she complains to us in her confessional. Gordon has meanwhile rushed over, uttering “Oh dear,” over and over. He sounds like my grandmother when she’s worried she won’t get a seat at bingo night. “It’s not going to be pretty. It’s a mess,” she apologizes to Gordon, while he’s standing there, going, “Damn, damn, damn,” like he’s a scratched record stuck on repeat. I’ve asked this before, but why does Katrina always get such a pass from him? He’d be all over most other cooks who have this much trouble, yet Katrina is exempt from a stern lecture? This time, his handholding ends with his reminding her to focus on her sides and sauce.
Nick’s simmering his sauce while Christina Tosi…flirts(?) with him. I’m not sure what else to call her dubbing him a “beefcake.” He’s cooking beside Kerry, who I don’t recall having seen before, except for the beginning of this episode where he tells us he has a daughter and wants a food truck so bad. Hi, Kerry. You’ve gone from no airtime to a ton. I think we all know what that means…
Time’s nearly up, and the judges instruct the chefs to leave the Wellingtons whole and the sauce on the side, so the telling first slice can be more of a reveal. Here comes the twist regarding the pairings: each twosome is now a team and each team will send up only one Wellington for judgment. Winners are safe from elimination; four losers go on to recreate another of Gordon’s dishes that’s even harder to execute. Loser of that contest says goodbye. “Your entire fate rests on sending forth the right dish,” the cooks are told. Since they haven’t been sliced yet, it’s all a crapshoot as to the cook and it comes down to each pair discussing and/or arguing about who pulled it together better. Well played, MasterChef.
Olivia and Shelly huddle together. Olivia wants hers to go; Shelly wants to talk technique. Oof. Katrina and Derrick quickly decide to send Derrick’s, which looks strong, and I feel like Katrina skirted the chopping block yet again. Stephen gives zero f—s as he points out “my near-perfect puff pastry is better than that” before pointing at Sara’s. Bluntness aside, he’s right. Christopher is concerned with the cook on Hetal’s filet, as is Hetal. Tommy doesn’t put up a struggle against Claudia, whose dish will be used.
NEXT: Katrina whines more. That’s new… [pagebreak]
First up is Sara and Stephen. They chose Stephen’s because it looked better, says Sara. Time to cut. Drumroll, please. Gordon slices into a perfectly medium rare Wellington. He uses the word “beautiful” twice before Stephen crouches down to get in his line of sight as Gordon takes his first bite. He screams, “Look in my eyes!” adding “Is that f—ing good?! IS IT?” Gordon laughs and Sara tries to calm down Stephen, to no avail. Gordon declares it “brilliant” then high fives Stephen again. Sara also gets a high five…for…getting out of Stephen’s way…? Graham steps forward to taste the dish and offer his two cents, but Gordon already called it brilliant so let’s move on.
With the heaps of praise, Stephen says “fire is flaming within me,” which is usually a feeling to consult a doctor about. He says it feels good, and the other contestants look nervous to follow such an opening act. Hetal and Christopher come up and bring Hetal’s Wellington(!). This is amazing to Gordon, especially after Christopher “wagers mine is the most amazing here.” Well, hotshot, why isn’t it here? He forgot to get his sauce in the cup so it was better to send a complete dish, he thought. After all the hype, Gordon wants to taste his creation and sends him to fetch it. He comes back with a Wellington that is “bigger than you are,” Gordon laughs. “It’s enormous. It looks like a cushion from the lounge. What have you done?!” Off to a bad start, Christopher. His head sinks, while Gordon starts poking a pastry pillow the size of Rhode Island, searching for the meat somewhere inside. Slicing, we learn the pastry is raw and the steak is overcooked. Within seconds, the dish is in the trash, and we’re cutting into Hetal’s. It’s freaking PERFECT. She’s so relieved, you can see the concern fall off her. Gordon says it’s the best veggie beef Wellington he’s ever eaten. “Thank Hetal,” Christina advises Christopher. “She just carried you to safety.”
Next up are Derrick and Katrina with his dish. It’s not the size of a mattress, so he’s doing well, he quips. Save the zingers for the judges, guy. Graham thinks the steak is slightly overdone and there’s space between the pastry and the meat. Derrick missed the mustard, literally and proverbially. This is a rare strikeout for Derrick, who is much stronger than this showing. Nick and Kerry arrive with Nick’s Wellington, which is a letdown for Gordon because the duxelle and pastry were too thick and he also forgot the dijon. Christina Tosi didn’t care for Olivia and Shelly’s offering, but Tommy did well to put his faith in Claudia. Despite never making this before, she’s got a grand slam on the plate.
Stephen, Hetal, Claudia and their respective partners are all safe, and Olivia and Shelly squeak by with a passing C-. Which means Derrick, Katrina, Nick, and Kerry are going into the second challenge. Based on some telling editing up top, heavily featuring Kerry, it’s kinda clear where this is headed, but let’s keep going.
Now Gordon puts on his apron and tells them this is a simple pan-seared scallop dish, with basic elements, but it’s the techniques that are hard. He then shows them how to make a scallop, pancetta, pea puree, and truffle dish. I’ll let Stephen describe what it’s like watching Gordon man a station: “It’s like watching poetry in motion. It’s beauty. It’s majestic. It’s nature. He’s mastered space and time.” Stephen has a future job as a color guy for Iron Chef. The finished result looks gorgeous and only took Gordon 15 minutes. The four chefs now have 30 minutes to replicate it. To kick up the difficulty, they’re only getting three of each ingredient, meaning zero margin for error.
Cue Katrina’s insecurities. “How am I going to do this? I’ve only made scallops once in my life.” she moans. Once is better than never, which is where Nick and Kerry are starting from. Christina makes a point of asking Kerry if he thinks he’s going home, and he says probably, but he’s going to fight anyway. Derrick’s oozing confidence, while Katrina’s nearly leaking tears. She whimpers to Gordon about cracking the tiny quail eggs without breaking the yolk. Of course Gordon gives her an extra set of instructions on how to accomplish this task. Moments later, Katrina breaks a yolk. “I’m screwed. I’m like Humpty Dumpty. I can’t put these pieces back together,” she says. Though if we’re going with equatable story book characters, Katrina is most definitely Eeyore.
There’s a sprint to the finish, literally, and not all the plates are pretty nor complete. Derrick’s up first with a messy dish that needs more peas, but it’s mostly there. Taste-wise, it’s on point, though a bit gritty as the scallops weren’t washed long enough. Overall, a good effort. Katrina forgot a few things on her plate, like the one egg with the broken yolk and the truffles. “What did make it to the plate isn’t that good,” Graham frowns. Poorly seasoned scallops and overcooked eggs could mean the end of the competition for Katrina.
However, she did better than Kerry, who is missing more than he has. There’s one dollop of pea puree, some pancetta, and a few decently seared scallops, but everything else is back at his station. He tells Christina he ran out of time, to which she asks if he should be sent home. Kerry artfully dodges the question by focusing on his strengths: the cook on what is plated. She doesn’t let him off that easily and asks again. He wants to stay. Last is Nick, who “has risen under the pressure,” says Gordon. “This is your best dish yet.” Nick wins, Derrick comes in a mediocre number two, and “based on these plates, and these plates alone,” Gordon tells us Kerry is going home. Yawn. The biggest surprise of this whole episode? During his goodbye montage, complete with a hazy filter, we see that Kerry was a captain in a group challenge earlier in the season. HE WAS? Is it just me, or did you not remember that, too?
Of the remaining cooks, who do you think is the strongest? Who do you think is the dark horse? Do you think Gordon has a soft spot for Katrina?