This week, the MasterChef kitchen opens its doors to Latin Chef Aarón Sánchez, to which I eagerly ask: Can we keep him? Aarón is an excellent guest judge. He doles out constructive criticism, seems enthusiastic, and is also quite handsome. All major requirements for quality guest judging on a reality TV cooking competition.
THE MYSTERY BOX CHALLENGE
Joining our three judges for the Mystery Box Challenge is reigning MasterChef champ Claudia Sandoval. Claud looks like she’s doing well since we last saw her, although that may be due to the fact that although she’s back in the MasterChef kitchen, she does not have to cook for her life. Instead, she’s on the other side of things, and tonight, she curated a Mystery Box especially for our cheftestants. The box is full of Latin food staples. For some of our cooks, this is very much in their wheelhouse, for others, not so much. As an added bonus — and added stressor — both Claudia and Aarón make dishes using the same ingredients the cooks have been handed, simply to demonstrate the quality that is possible to reach in this challenge. By the looks of it, the quality is very, very high. Let’s take a look at which three contestants measure up:
Alejandro Toro, Miami, FL
Arepas Three Ways
Alejandro is Venezuelan and hails from Miami, so the guy is feeling the pressure to really shine in this particular Mystery Box Challenge, and shine he does. He opts for arepas, a Venezuelan classic, and packs them with seafood, black beans and cheese, and skirt steak with mango salsa. It’s like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, but all three choices are a perfect fit. Christina’s a fan of the pumpkin-seed arepa shell, and Aarón calls the dish a home run, which I think is the best Alejandro could hope for — but we’re here to cook, not play sports, so who really knows?
Tanorria Askew, Chattanooga, TN
Roasted Shrimp with Poblano Creamed Corn and Avocado Crema
Tanorria, a personal favorite from the Battle Rounds, is looking for more opportunities to prove her cooking skills to the judges. Mission accomplished, Tanorria! The judges can’t wait to dig into her beautifully plated shrimp dish. Gordon loves the presentation, but laments that leaving the shrimp shelled in this instance makes it a little awkward to eat. Luckily for Tanorria, everything on the plate tastes insanely delicious. Aarón agrees, and is impressed at how thoughtful the dish is — its flavors complement rather than compete with one another, and it always remembers to send a birthday card.
Andrea Galan, Miami, FL
Spot Prawn Al Ajillo with Grilled Cactus and Stuffed Poblano
Andrea is a big fan of Chef Aarón Sánchez (get in line, girl!), so she’s very excited when she gets called forward as one of the three best dishes of the night. The judges praise her cooking technique with her shrimp, but the big stand out of the dish is her chile relleno. Her egg-white batter is a hit with both Christina and Aarón, who can’t get enough of the stuffed poblano. However, they both find that the dish is lacking in overall flavor. Those shrimp needed one last touch of something, anything, to really bring this challenge home.
This Mystery Box Challenge win goes to Tanorria, who is granted immunity for the elimination challenge and then whisked away to the pantry for two more fun little prizes.
WANT MORE? Keep up with all the latest from last night’s television by subscribing to our newsletter. Head here for more details.
The elimination challenge is a bake-off, and Tanorria gets to choose what, exactly, her competitors will be forced to bake. Her options are pies, puddings, or puff pastries. Because it seems like people royally mess up puff pastries pretty easily, Tanorria selects pies. But wait — she has one more advantage: At the end of 75 minutes of baking time, Tanorria can give three of her fellow contestants immunity. When it comes time for her to hand out her three wooden spoons of safety, Tanorria is ruthless. She taunts, she refuses to give spoons to people who will obviously need it — to each her own, but she should remember the tables may be turned on her very soon. Eventually, she saves Diana, Diamond, and David. The girl really likes D-names. The rest of the cooks are left to fend for themselves, some with better results than others. The judges take a closer look at six pies:
Brandi Mudd, Irvington, KY
Apple and Cheddar Pie with Maple Bacon and Pecans
This challenge has Brandi Mudd written all over it. Back in Kentucky, Brandi spends a lot of her time making apple pie, sweet potato pie, pumpkin pie, all the pie. She’s also auditioning for a role in Waitress, apparently. The girl loves pie. And although her pie topped with maple bacon (who knew pie could get any better than it already is?) sounds great, when Gordon cuts into the dessert, it is a disaster. The entire thing is undercooked, raw granny smith apples and a mostly inedible crust abound. Gordon’s not really mad, just disappointed. If we’re being honest, I’d take a disappointed Gordon over a mad Gordon any day.
NEXT: Like *NSYNC once said (probably), pie, pie, pie!