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MasterChef recap: Getting A-Head in the Competition

‘MasterChef’ has its first vegetarian challenge, and obvious standouts fall under the pressure.

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Greg Gayne/Fox


TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:
Reality TV

Our beloved Top 8 chefs face one hell of a bipolar competition this week on MasterChef, and I’m glad I get to cover for your wonderful regular recapper Sean to see how things unfold. It’s as if the Top 8 team challenge and the resulting pressure test were made with my substitution in mind you guys, I’m serious.

The episode begins with four giant, ominous crates in the MasterChef kitchen, two say vegetable and two say meat. When our home cooks make their way to the front, we immediately hear shocks and awes, in fact it’s one too many. (Sidenote: Are these recorded later and added in for special effect? Sometimes it really feels that way.) Christina Tosi tells the home cooks that they have to split into teams and make 50 dishes using the fresh ingredients from the two crates. Tommy and Hetal are made team captains after their stunning dishes from last week, and Tommy is instantly pumped to be the team captain for once so that the “alpha male” personalities don’t shun him to the side as he’s felt they’ve done time and time again. To be fair, Tommy’s had a few missteps during team competitions (guy couldn’t cook potatoes properly in Vegas), but he seems ready to take charge and finally be seen as a leader. Unfortunately it doesn’t work out once the pressure is actually on.

Tommy picks first and chooses Stephen who could not be more upset to be on Tommy’s team as he believes the two are polar opposites. They’re both ridiculously dramatic, so they’ve got one thing on common at least. Hetal picks No-Sleeve Derrick first, who immediately insults Hetal in his talking head for “not having the voice of a leader” and for being a vegetarian. Nice. Way to get into the right attitude, bud. Tommy picks Katrina and Nick and Hetal gets Olivia and Claudia. When the competitors open the vegetable crates, Stephen immediately melts into pure joy and states, “If I die of irritation from working with Tommy, put me in this box and put me in the ground with all these beautiful vegetables.” And Derrick probably eats his words seeing that there is no meat in the meat crate. Hetal instantly dies of happiness but as we know from MasterChef episodes and seasons past, having an obvious advantage in a challenge could end in a home cook’s demise, especially if over-confidence gets in the way. As a vegetarian myself, this challenge spoke to me on a cellular level. But it was obvious from the moment she picked out her menu that Hetal was going to be in trouble.

The home cooks will feed only vegetarian food critics and patrons in this challenge and Gordon educates the home cooks and the audience on the burgeoning vegetarian diet across the world. But is it just me or does he look a little surprised himself stating these facts? Hetal instantly knows what kind of flavor palate and dish she’s going for: It’s Indian flavors or bust. Her vision and “idea of what vegetarian food should be” sounds pretty damn incredible, her Blue Team is set to make a Chickpea and Cauliflower Curry with Coconut Rice and Tomato Gravy. But Claudia instantly picks up on what will inevitably be the team’s biggest problem: Hetal is the only person on the team who knows the spice and flavor profile and she will have to explain how to make the dish every step of the way. That makes delegating for her and cooking for the others quite difficult.

Tommy on the other hand is not being as assertive as he promised himself he would be, he immediately gets talked over by Nick and Katrina. The Red Team decides on Butternut Squash with Lentils and Mushroom and somehow they plan to incorporate goat cheese into the mix. Tommy’s quiet ideas are being nixed and he’s seeing that his “alpha dog” teammates are trying to take over as they’ve done during their temporary reigns as Team Captain.

As the home cooks begin their actual vegetable prep, Gordon, Christina, and Graham (kind of) put in their two cents about having a vegetarian challenge. Christina says that not using the “crutch” of dairy or meat is a true testament of a great chef. Does everyone really think that cooking Vegetarian and Vegan (which is what they’re describing with this no dairy idea) is really that insanely difficult? Guys, I do it every night. It’s not always MasterChef ready, but it gets the job done. Gordon immediately sees what will become Tommy’s problem: His lack of voice and clashing with the other stronger personalities.

And quickly we see both teams start crashing and burning. Katrina is micro-managing Tommy instead of Tommy taking charge and being confident in his voice and his cooking. The Blue Team on the other hand, is immediately annoyed that they have no idea how to cook any of the food Hetal wants to make. We hear Derrick tell Hetal that “this is a mess,” while Olivia complains that she needs better direction. All Christina can do at the front is let out an “Oh my God” every few minutes. When Gordon comes over to their station and still sees raw potatoes and cauliflower, he instantly kicks Hetal’s butt into high gear, and Hetal dedicates a few minutes to really explain the details of the menu and how things need to be cooked, thank goodness.

NEXT: Meat nightmares right this way.