Now that we’ve gotten all that pesky apron business out of the way, it’s time to cook, people. The MasterChef kitchen is fully stocked, looking gorgeous, and ready to be invaded by 20 home cooks attempting to claim culinary glory — well, as much culinary glory as one can claim on televised competition.
Our home cooks arrive and they are excited to get things started. They’re even more excited when they learn that this week’s guest judge is Wolfgang Puck. No one faints or anything, which is disappointing. Nevertheless, they do seem genuinely terrified that they’ll be cooking for such a legend.
THE MYSTERY BOX CHALLENGE
Puck announces that the chefs will be competing in the season’s first Mystery Box Challenge. It gets referred to as “America’s most iconic food challenge,” which is a bit of a stretch. Yes, lifting up a box to reveal the ingredient of the day is fun, but iconic? Slow down there, MasterChef. Regardless, our home chefs do lift those boxes up and discover that they’ll be working with… potatoes. Finally, that lumpy little guy gets to be the star of the plate. Get yours, potato!
This is no ordinary Mystery Box Challenge, you guys. To spice things up, Gordon announces that at the end of the challenge, the chef with the worst dish will be eliminated on the spot. Gordon’s not messing around, and neither should the contestants. Unfortunately for three chefs, their potato dishes completely miss the mark. Let’s see who’s on the chopping block today:
Nathan Barnhouse, Slippery Rock, PA
Twice Baked Potato with caramelized onion, bacon, and potato puree
Young Nathan here is called up due to lack of imagination, and also the thing just looks plain ol’ ugly. It’s so unappealing, in fact, that Wolfgang Puck remarks that the dish looks like “someone ate it already once.” In my dreams, Gordon Ramsay mouths “way harsh, Tai.” Alas, Nathan’s potato dish doesn’t taste any better than it looks. Gordon is, frankly, embarrassed that he’s called Wolfgang Puck in to taste something like this. Nathan’s youth and immaturity shows in this dish.
Cassie Peterson, Clear Lake, IA
New York Strip Steak with fried potato salad
Cassie’s dish also has an optics issue. Everything on her plate is brown, and more than that, the food is pedestrian. If she wants to compete against the rest of the chefs here, Cassie needs to be much more creative in the dishes she puts forth. Christina asks Cassie how she’d feel if this were her last dish, and after the despondent cook admits that she’d be heartbroken, Christina simply says, “It might be.” THAT IS COLD. But seriously, Wolfgang Puck won’t even eat the food because he finds it so offensive. All in all, not a great first challenge for Cassie.
Bill Travers, Pauma Valley, CA
Potato Pancakes with bacon
Oh, Bill. Bill, the oldest contestant in the MasterChef kitchen, seems overwhelmed. Yes, he wants the potato to be the star of his dish, but he kind of forgets to add any type of panache to the dish. All he offers our three judges is pancakes and bacon. Once again, the judges reiterate the importance of creativity in cooking. Wolfgang notes that the bacon is good — but bacon’s always good — and knows Bill can do better than this dish. Gordon gives the effort a D–. He’s not grading on a curve.
Gordon, Christina, and Wolfgang seem pretty irritated with their bottom three. All of them lacked creativity, and whoever survives elimination will really have to step it up in future rounds. Any of the three could easily go home, but in the end, the judges were most appalled by Cassie and her fried potato salad. With that, our first chef of the season bids adieu to the MasterChef kitchen.
NEXT: A Gordon Ramsay-inspired elimination challenge