MasterChef recap: Vets, Jets and Home Cooks
Lesson of the day: Gordon Ramsay isn't here to spoon-feed you
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a… no, no, it’s just a plane. A plane flown by none other than chef extraordinaire, Gordon Ramsay… maybe? The editing here is highly questionable. C’mon, MasterChef! Let’s stick to what you’re good at: food and bleeping out Gordon Ramsay tirades. Thankfully, we get both in the latest installment.
Our Top 15 home cooks arrive at Camarillo Air Museum for their next team challenge. They’ll be cooking lunch for 101 Veterans from all branches of the U.S. military. The winning team will be selected solely by the Vets’ votes, not by our judging panel of Gordon, Christina Tosi, and, the always charming, Aarón Sánchez. It’s a lot of pressure for our cheftestants — not only do they want to survive another week in the competition, but they want to show their gratitude to these service men and women with a nice meal. So, like, not serving them raw meat would probably be a good start. Don’t worry, we’ll get to it.
THE TEAM CHALLENGE
Since Alejandro dominated in the lobster skills test last week, he’s automatically a team captain. He’s also given one other advantage: After the remaining contestants split themselves into two teams of seven, Alejandro can pick which of those two teams he’d like to lead. It’s really an even mix as far as top talent goes, but Alejandro opts for the Blue Team: Shaun, Brandi, Andrea, Diamond, Nathan, D’Andre, and Dan. Which leaves David, Terry, Katie, Diana, Tanorria, Manny, and Eric for the Red Team. The Red Team selects David as their captain, and both teams are tasked with making a hanger steak dish complete with one sauce and two sides. Did MasterChef choose hanger steak as the protein for some airplane humor that didn’t quite, um, land? One can only hope.
The Red Team
Hanger Steak With Mushroom Bourbon Sauce, Mac ‘N’ Cheese, and Zucchini
Out of the gate, the Red Team seems pretty together — how could they not, with Terry on their team? Why they didn’t select the proven team challenge winner as their captain is the greatest mystery of our time. Regardless, David is doing well. They opt for a simple salt and pepper seasoning on the meat to let Terry’s sauce really shine. As Christina surveys the Vets, people seem to be enjoying their dish — that is until she happens upon one Veteran who received his dish without any sauce… and three who were saddled with a plate full of raw meat. It’s not great. Manny, who had been slicing the meat, gets a delightfully bleeped out mouthful from Gordon. The team tries to recover in the end, but things aren’t looking good.
The Blue Team
Hanger Steak With Chimichurri Sauce, Mashed Potatoes, and Brussels Sprouts
The Blue Team has the exact opposite problem of their opponents: They are a bit of a mess as the challenge begins. Gordon swings by to taste their potatoes and finds a bland mess, he has D’Andre come over to taste for himself. Instead of taking the spoon from Gordon, D’Andre leans in to taste from it while it’s still in Gordon’s hand. Gordon is appalled. I get it, D’Andre, we’ve all wanted to be spoon-fed by Gordon Ramsay at one time or another, but there’s a time and place for everything. Currently those are: “every night” and “in my dreams” respectively. The team also runs into an issue with Shaun’s honey citrus marinade, which, as he was warned would happen, burns once placed on the grill. Lesson of the day: Sugar and hot grills do not mix. They manage to recover and win high praise from many of the Vets, especially for their chimichurri sauce.
After a surprisingly emotional voting sequence, in which each veteran walks forward to select red or blue as their favorite meal of the day, a plane overhead reveals that the Blue Team took this one, and they took it in a landslide. Christina reveals that the Blue Team earned 77 out of 101 votes. So, Alejandro and co. live to cook another day, while David and his teammates will face a pressure test back in the MasterChef kitchen.
THE PRESSURE TEST
On the Pressure Test menu tonight is some good ol’ American comfort food: fried chicken. Each cook will have to break down a chicken into two breasts, two thighs, two drumsticks, and two wings, and then fry up those babies to make a perfect box of crunchy, delicious, fried chicken. There is one final twist: Not all seven members of the losing team will be facing elimination. The team has three minutes to select one member to save; if they can’t come to a decision, all seven will be sent home. It’s a random, seemingly useless twist, and I love it.
NEXT: Oh captain, my captain
As the team heads into the wine cellar to decide, most people want to save Eric. He has a good attitude and worked the ovens well during the challenge. Their team captain, David, takes issue with that — he believes that since he stepped up to be captain, he should get any advantage the team gets. When his teammates disagree, the guy gets angry. Personally, I’m a believer that if you’re the captain of a sinking ship, you remain with it until the very end, but apparently David has never seen Titanic. He loses the battle in the end, and Eric is sent up to the Balcony of Safety with the Blue Team.
Here’s how the remaining six contestants fare with their chickens:
David Williams, Las Vegas, NV
David pours all of his remaining anger into his fried chicken, by which, of course, I mean that the guy brought the heat. His chicken was coated in cayenne pepper, paprika, Cajun spices, and chili powder. Gordon appreciates the spicy chicken, but is quick to remind David that he’ll need to learn to let things go in order to cook to his potential. That’s advice for this competition, and for life in general, David.
Terry Mueller, Long Island, NY
Why is this dude even up for elimination? Everyone knows his fried chicken is going to be delicious. Christina finds the chicken cooked to juicy perfection and the breading to be spot-on. She reminds all the other cooks that Terry is a big threat in this competition. TELL US SOMETHING WE DON’T KNOW, TOSI.
Katie Dixon, Hattiesburg, MS
Katie knows she’s in the bottom three before she even heads up for a critique from Chef Aarón. She’s a health nut, which is supposedly why she didn’t want to coat her chicken in the typical breading. It is most certainly not traditional fried chicken. Aarón says the chicken itself is fine, but overall it is very, very underwhelming and could send her home.
Manny Washington, Orlando, FL
Manny, too, knows he has an uphill battle to fight. He overcooked his chicken pieces, and they are very obviously burnt on the outside. Christina can barely choke a bite down. She describes it as having a forest fire aftertaste, which no matter how little you know about cooking, you know she means it’s terrible.
Tanorria Askew, Chattanooga, TN
This is a challenge Tanorria was born to do. She’s been cooking fried chicken most of her life, so if she screws this one up, she’ll have some explaining to do back in Tennessee. Not surprisingly, Chef Aarón loves Tanorria’s double-breaded buttermilk fried chicken. The seasoning is great, and it tastes just as he was expecting: delicious.
Diana Bilow, Plainfield, IL
Diana takes a risk and decides to double-coat her chicken in a cornmeal breading. As Gordon points out, it looks disgusting. When he taps it with a utensil, the piece of chicken sounds as if he is hitting a rock, or, as he puts it, some sort of prehistoric dinosaur fossil. Has he been bingeing Jurassic Park movies as of late? If so, it only adds to his allure. He takes a bite but spits it out immediately. Again, not the type of critique one is generally hoping for when faced with elimination.
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It’s clear that Terry, Tanorria, and David have the best fried chicken of the evening, and they’re sent to safety. That leaves Manny, Diana, and Katie in the bottom three. The judges repeatedly make it clear that all three of these dishes were terrible. Even when they send Katie to the Balcony of Safety, they remind her that she did an awful job. It’s pretty harsh, but also warranted, so, play on, playas.
It’s a close race for worst fried chicken between Manny and Diana. Perhaps it was the fact that Manny also made a fatal mistake in the team challenge, but whatever the reason, it’s Manny and his burnt chicken that get sent home. The guy makes as classy an exit I’ve ever seen in this kitchen, which makes me want him to stay all the more.