The MasterChef Top 16 have much to be thankful for: They all survived a baking challenge and have made it one step closer to kitchen glory, they are treated to a second week with charming guest judge Aarón Sánchez, and they get to witness not one, but two up-close-and-personal cooking demonstrations by Gordon Ramsay. Honestly, I could watch Gordon cook all day long. The only downside to seeing a master at work is then when we cut to the home cooks manhandling precious, precious lobster, I’d like to toss my TV out the window. They’re still learning, I guess!
THE SKILLS TEST
Our cheftestants’ first challenge of the night is a speedy skills test: They’ll each have 20 minutes to butcher a lobster, making sure to extract every piece of meat possible and laying it out on a slab for all the world — but mainly the judges — to see how handy they are at cracking shells and removing full, meaty lobster tails. Are you drooling yet? The home cooks gasp as Gordon pulls complete claws and pushes out little rolls of meat from the legs, and it’s hard not to join in.
After watching Gordon work some magic over that lobster slab, the contestants are up. A lot is riding on this skills test: Not only does each cook have the potential to embarrass him or herself in front of our esteemed panel, but if the judges deem their lobster less than perfect, they’ll be forced to cook in an elimination pressure test. If Gordon and Co. are happy with the amount of lobster meat they see, the cook will be sent to the Balcony of Safety for the night. So extract that lobster meat like you’ve never extracted lobster meat before, cooks!
Turns out, some of our cooks were taking better mental notes during Gordon’s demo than others. Brandi, who doesn’t see much fresh seafood in Kentucky, has never cooked with live lobster before, but you can hardly tell from the end result of her skills test, Brandi is safe for the night. Joining her is Diamond, who had #fail written all over her before the test started: Diamond is a vegetarian and the idea of killing a live lobster was nauseating. The gal rose above it though and produced a well-butchered lobster. Gordon was impressed.
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The most impressive lobster, however belongs to Alejandro. When Gordon, Christina, and Aarón come by Alejandro’s station, Gordon calls the cook out for a random piece of meat sitting on the corner of the slab. Gordon looks like he’s going to toss the guy out of the kitchen for serving up some mystery meat, but instead, lauds Alejandro for taking the challenge one step further than even Gordon did. The man found meat where no meat seemed to exist. And that ladies and gents, is what a real American hero looks like. It’s also what the winner of the skills test looks like, and Alejandro wins an advantage in next week’s team challenge.
NEXT: Gordon Ramsay, spinner of (pasta) gold
All told, 11 cooks pass the skills test and receive immunity from elimination in return. The other five, Eric, Andrea, Lisa-Ann, Diana, and Nathan, are left twiddling their thumbs in front of their slabs, staring down at the carnage they inflicted upon their lobster. It is all very, very dramatic.
THE PRESSURE TEST
Carrying on with the lobster theme, the five remaining cooks will have to recreate one of Gordon Ramsay’s signature dishes: Lobster Tortellini in a Seafood Broth. If you weren’t drooling before, you must be now. Gordon walks the cooks through the dish — fresh pasta and all — and once again, it is glorious. I don’t know whether I’d like to eat that hand made pasta or be wrapped up in it and gently rocked to sleep, it is that delicate and beautiful. Can I choose both? Great.
Considering how difficult the dish they are tasked with cooking is, the cooks do fairly well. Firefighter Eric, looking for a chance to show off his full potential, offers up a plate with tortellinis that are way too small (he used the wrong cutter), but flavor that is spot-on. Gordon is pleased with Eric’s proportion of mascarpone and Aarón is a fan of the broth. He should be safe this evening.
Not so safe, however, is Diana. We haven’t seen much of her yet this season, and she’s eager to really wow the judges. Unfortunately, she wows them with just how terrible her tortellinis are. The pasta has tears in it, which led to the lobster filling being overcooked and watery. Gordon informs her that in his kitchen quality reigns over quantity — he would’ve rather had two perfect tortellinis, than five underwhelming ones.
The judges are surprised to find Andrea in the bottom five, and Andrea is surprised, too. She needs to redeem herself for her disastrous skills test, and she does — her pasta is perfectly cooked and her lobster filling is delicious. Gordon thinks her stock needs a little more flavor, but overall, he’s glad to see Andrea cooking at the level they’ve come to expect from her. Speaking of expectations, little Nathan completely exceeds his own. Nathan knows his dish looks nothing like Gordon’s and he’s a little bit scared as he’s called up to present. Thankfully, his dish tastes better than it looks. Aaron can’t get enough of the broth, and that alone saves him from the rest of his mistakes. That must be some pretty powerful broth.
Unfortunately for Lisa-Ann, she has neither the look or the taste of Gordon’s lobster tortellini. To be honest, after nearly taking off Gordon’s eyebrows as she flambéed, she would’ve had to have cooked a near-perfect dish to get anywhere. Four out of her five tortellinis were ripped open, and although her filling was okay, the broth was incredibly salty. Also salty: Gordon Ramsay. He isn’t convinced Lisa-Ann is taking the competition seriously. But after an impassioned speech, he’s convinced.
Sadly, it’s not enough to save dear Lisa-Ann, and when it comes down to her and Diana, Lisa-Ann is the one asked to remove her apron and leave the kitchen. Lesson learned: You come at any of Gordon Ramsay’s hair, you’re going home.