Do all Sweet 16 parties include a healthy portion of raw chicken?

By Maggie Fremont
July 28, 2016 at 01:57 AM EDT
Greg Gayne/Fox
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Typically Gordon Ramsay’s charming wrath is what a contestant must fear the most on MasterChef, but not tonight, folks. Tonight, our 12 remaining home cooks face something far scarier than any Ramsay tirade, something that haunts your dreams and leaves you up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat: teenagers. And not just any teenagers. These are hungry teenagers.

The hungry teenagers have arrived at the MasterChef restaurant to celebrate their 16th birthdays. Lest you begin to have visions of My Super Sweet 16: Cooking Edition, these kids actually seem pretty nice. As the judges inform us, most of these kids would not have had any kind of birthday party if their schools had not nominated them to participate in the show. So, I guess I’ll give them a pass. However, I remain firm on my opinion that most teenagers are to be feared. They speak in emoji and understand what a Zayn Malik is! I’m on to you, teens!

THE TEAM CHALLENGE

If you haven’t guessed yet, the contestants will be facing off in a team challenge in which they will be cooking a meal for the birthday boys and girls, and generally vying for teenage love and affection. Since Katie and Eric were the winners of the offal elimination challenge last week, they will be our home cooks’ fearless leaders. Neither of them pick Terry first, so they both deserve to lose, but I’m told “that’s not how this show works.” So I guess I’ll see you next season for a new competition show called Pick Terry First or Get Eliminated Immediately. Word is it’s pretty decent. Also pretty decent? This season’s Top 12. As Katie and Eric make their team selections — Eric brings Shaun, Tanorria, Terry, Alejandro, and Dan on to his Red Team, while Blue Team leader Katie has Brandi, Andrea, David, Diamond, and, begrudgingly, Nathan — it’s nice to see that both teams have some heavy hitters. No matter which team loses, there will be some favorites up for elimination during the Pressure Test.

Red Team

Pan-Seared Chicken With Candied Bacon, Sweet Potato Mash, and Balsamic Glaze

Right from the start, Eric proves he’s a solid team leader. He listens to his teammates when they tell him that teenagers love bacon. It’s true! I think? Is there an age demographic that doesn’t like bacon? The kids love the candied bacon portion of the Red Team’s meal. They’re a little underwhelmed by pretty much everything else on the plate. Perhaps, Eric and Co should’ve been more alarmed when Christina and returning guest judge Edward Lee swung by during prep and were puzzled as to why the team would focus so much on the veggies rather than the protein. Perhaps if they had paid attention to their chicken, they would’ve noticed that some of the pieces being plated were still raw before Gordon called them out on it. It’s an amateur mistake. Although the Red Team works well together, is good team work enough to save them from a Pressure Test?

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Blue Team

Grilled Shrimp With Coconut Rice, Sugar Snap Peas, and Chili-Lime Sauce

Blue Team leader Katie quickly realizes she has one major problem facing her for this team challenge: Nathan. Nathan is, well, a complete disaster. He’s frantic, speaks up at the wrong time, requires explicit instruction, almost gets into a physical fight with Andrea, and he definitely, most certainly cannot chop a tomato. He also firmly believes that a person could never serve a teenager chicken nuggets and pizza, which is 100 percent incorrect — and this is coming from a person who, as previously mentioned, knows very little about teenagers. Everybody loves pizza, Nathan. It is one of the greatest truths of our time. What the Blue Team does have going for it, however, is a great dish. Sure, it took some prodding from Gordon for the team to focus on one flavor profile, and yes, due to some very slow plating some dishes go out incomplete, but overall, the kids are into the spicy shrimp.

After much celebration and teenagers talking about seasoning, the big win goes to Katie and the Blue Team. The kids are unimpressed with the Red Team’s bland chicken, and a whopping 80 percent of the party-goers vote for the Blue Team and their shrimp.

THE PRESSURE TEST

The Blue Team, including Hurricane Nathan, head to the Balcony of Safety while the Red Team is informed that their Pressure Test will be following the theme of the night: They’re baking, frosting, and decorating a three layer cake. This challenge has Tosi written all over it.

NEXT: In a shocking twist, cake is making people sad

Eric Howard, Queens, NY

Lemon Sponge Cake With Raspberry Cream Cheese Frosting and White Chocolate Ganache

Eric wants to make his cake an homage to the FDNY, using its iconic red and orange hues… and he fails. Almost immediately, Christina can see that the firefighter’s frosting is a misstep. The consistency is wrong and when Edward Lee cuts into it to check for the frosting-to-cake ratio, he notes that the frosting is very thin and uneven. He’s a fan of the citrus flavor in the cake, but the judges were looking for a showstopper and this isn’t it. Edward Lee gives one of the most biting criticisms this season, when he tells Eric that his cake makes him feel depressed. That’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard.

Shaun O’Neale, Las Vegas, NV

Raspberry Sponge Cake With Blueberry-Lemon Frosting and White Chocolate Ganache

During the contestants’ 90 minute bake time, Gordon has to come over and calm Shaun down. He’s frantic and frustrated, and Gordon is worried that if the guy doesn’t stop to take a breath, things will unravel. It almost looks like Shaun has bombed the Pressure Test when he begins to frost his cake way too early — the cake hasn’t cooled down, so the frosting immediately melts down the sides. The judges can barely stand to watch as Shaun begins wiping down his cake with a paper towel. Remembering Gordon’s advice, Shaun takes a breath, let’s the cake cool, and ends up delivering a beautifully decorated three-layer raspberry cake. It’s so pretty, and according to Gordon, it tastes just as good as it looks.

Terry Mueller, Long Island, NY

Vanilla Sponge Cake With Raspberry Purée, Lemon Curd and White Chocolate Frosting

Terry’s wife wouldn’t let him make their wedding cake, so he’s using this challenge to make up for a missed opportunity. After seeing Terry’s gorgeous cake, his wife must be pretty mad at herself… or not. I mean she did marry a complete catch. Okay, Terry’s wife wins, always. Terry is definitely in the running to win this challenge, if Christina has anything to do with it, which she does, since she’s a judge. She loves it. She notes that the frosting is a little uneven once she cuts into the cake, but overall, it’s another home run for big T.

Tanorria Askew, Chattanooga, TN

Lemon-Lavender Sponge Cake With Blueberry, Lavender Garnish, and Blueberry Frosting

Tanorria must’ve been horrified when Edward Lee pointed out that the cake she repeatedly described as elegant and classy looked like it had mouse droppings all over it. Those “mouse droppings” were actually fresh lavender, but the dude was right and the cake didn’t need them. Edward liked the addition of fresh blueberries, but overall it was way too sweet and once he cut into it, he could see two different colors of frosting. He calls them “serious errors” but could it be that they were just looking for people to put into the bottom three? Two colors of frosting doesn’t seem like the most terrible thing that can befall a three-layer cake, ya know? Let’s have some perspective here, guys.

Alejandro Toro, Miami, FL

Vanilla Sponge Cake With Lime, Passion Fruit, Chocolate, and Buttercream Frosting

Alejandro is aware that baking is completely outside of his comfort zone, but he remains positive that he can rise above the low expectations. Unfortunately, he does not. Christina thinks that it looks unfinished and the use of chocolate in addition to all of his other flavors is confusing and unnecessary. The biggest issue, however, is that she can tell he didn’t allow the cake to fully cool off before frosting, and once she cuts into the cake, she sees that the layers of frosting have melted into the cake. Tosi takes her cake very seriously, so she takes personal offense to this egregious error, I’M GUESSING.

Dan Paustian, Charlotte, NC

Chocolate Sponge Cake With Buttercream Frosting and Oreo Cookies

Frat Boy Dan thinks that he needs to add a little extra pizzazz to his cake and does so by decorating the top with an anchor made of pretzels and a chain made of peanut-butter cups. He tells Gordon his cake is nautical themed and Gordon is in no way enthused. He wants Dan to take the competition seriously. Dan didn’t even need the theatrics because he made a delicious and complex cake — he added some espresso and almond flavors to the chocolate — all on its own. Gordon is impressed with the flavors, but also threatens Dan’s life over the anchor situation; you win some, you lose some.

After what looks to be some very serious cake debate, the judges declare Shaun the winner, and with him, also send Terry and Dan to safety. That leaves Tanorria, Alejandro, and Eric up for elimination. Each had some pros and cons built into their cakes, but in the end the judges could not get over Alejandro‘s frosting problem, and send the guy home. Will the guy ever be able to have a piece of cake again without tasting the bitterness of defeat? I hope so, cake is delicious! 

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