Tighten up those aprons and sharpen those knives, people: Season 7 of MasterChef is upon us! Let’s welcome back our esteemed judges, Gordon Ramsay, Gordon Ramsay’s glorious head of hair (it’s always judging us), and the dessert queen herself, Christina Tosi. Noticeably missing is Chef Graham Elliot who parted ways with the MasterChef kitchen to pursue other opportunities. In his stead, this season we’ll be treated to a revolving door of celebrity guest chefs, including the man, the myth, the legend: Wolfgang Puck. A party that includes both Gordon Ramsay and Wolfgang Puck? I’m so there. Well, in this case, I have to be there because it’s my job to recap this show, but still — that’s a great guest list.
For the premiere, however, it’s just Gordon and Christina who hold the hopes and dreams of 40 home cooks in their hands. Per usual, this season’s crop of MasterChef hopefuls hail from all across the country and from all walks of life. There’s a nurse! A teacher! A pageant queen! A firefighter! A frat dude! Several individuals who work in “marketing”! And various other people who like to yell their occupations into a camera. All 40 of them have arrived looking to win one of Gordon’s magic white aprons, a spot in the MasterChef kitchen, and a shot at the grand prize: $250,000, their own cookbook, and bragging rights, duh.
But first, 40 must become 20. To whittle down the playing field, the Top 40 will face one another in head-to-head battles over their signature dishes. This week, 10 cooks will make it through to the next round. Now, let’s hand out some aprons!
THE BATTLE OF THE STEAKS
Season 7’s first match-up is between Kentucky native and teacher Brandi, who comes to us from a town that literally has only two stoplights, and California mixologist Samson. They try to paint Samson, who grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family and remained kosher until he was 20, as someone trying to prove his new way of life to his less-than-understanding family, but, like, no sob story on the planet can save a person saddled with the “mixologist” label. We’re all rooting for Brandi in this fight.
The two chefs’ different styles are clear in the plates they offer the judges. Brandi’s steak dish is full of down home southern flavors. She uses a cast iron skillet to perfectly sear her meat, and covers it in a Kentucky bourbon cream sauce. It’s not the most beautifully plated dish, but it tastes great. Christina loves the simplicity of it all. Samson, on the other hand, nails the presentation, but Gordon is missing the chocolate flavors from his port and pomegranate reduction that’s covering his pan-seared steak, and Christina wishes his parsnip purée were a bit silkier. Both contestants nailed the protein in their dishes, but the first apron of the season is handed to Brandi.
THE BATTLE OF THE CUPCAKES
With Christina Tosi as a judge, there’s no getting around some dessert challenges. This comes as welcome news to Miami-based college student Andrea and all-American gal Taylor; they’re both baking fiends. But tonight, only one girl rocking a sweet tooth can grab a spot in the MasterChef kitchen. Andrea and Taylor have 45 minutes to make the best cupcakes of their lives. No pressure, ladies!
Andrea, though one of our youngest competitors, seems immediately comfortable in the kitchen. She makes a guava cupcake with cream cheese icing to showcase the Cuban influence in her cooking. Both Gordon and Christina want more of the guava punch to the cake, but they have to admit, the tiny cake is cooked perfectly. Taylor, sadly, buckles under the pressure. She decides to whisk her egg whites separately and fold them into her yellow cupcake batter, but it’s a risk that fails her. The cupcakes fall and although her raspberry-lemon buttercream tastes great, the ratio of icing to cake is completely off. Come on, Taylor: YOU HAD ONE JOB. The apron easily goes to Andrea.
NEXT: Sure, they can fight fires, but can they cook?