Three courses stand between our home cooks and kitchen glory
Credit: Greg Gayne/Fox
S7 E18
Show MoreAbout MasterChef
  • TV Show

Summer cooking, had me a blast. Summer cooking happened so fast. Does Gordon Ramsay sing this song as he packs up the MasterChef kitchen each year? Discuss in the comments. Regardless, just as our summer comes to a close, so must season 7 of MasterChef. We’ve been through so much together! From the chaotic extravaganza of handing out 20 white aprons, to having our home cooks harvest veggies on a farm, to weathering the grief that followed watching cooking phenom Terry get the boot, and everything in between. Weddings! Sweet Sixteens! Secret 1920s theme parties in creepy old hotels! There were fights. There was fainting. There were tears. So, so many tears. It has been a ride.

The journey’s still not over for Shaun, Brandi, and David, our three finalists who are sent to their respective homes for a week to reconnect with their roots and work on their finale menus. As Gordon and Christina visit each of the cooks, it’s clear that they each have figured out what fuels their desire to win: Brandi wants to show her students that you can achieve your goals no matter where you’re from. David is doing this all for his adorable daughter (how cute is it when Liliana runs into Christina’s arms when the judges show up at the door?). Shaun just wants to make his late father proud. Ugh. Can’t everybody win?

Just kidding! There’s no room for participation trophies in the kitchen, people.

The final three return to the MasterChef kitchen — now complete with a live audience! — for their final challenge. They have to make one perfect three-course meal for the judges. Oh, and Gordon and Christina aren’t messing around with the taste buds they’re bringing in to assist them in selecting a winner: They welcome Wolfgang Puck and Daniel Boulud to the kitchen. These are some real heavy hitters, and the contestants know there is no room for error. Will Brandi be able to elevate her down home Southern cooking aesthetic enough for the judges? Will Shaun be able to rein in his sometimes out there ideas and focus on great flavors? Will David’s temper make a reappearance? Only time will tell. It’s all very exciting, you guys.

And now, to tonight’s menu:


Brandi Mudd, Irvington, KY

Braised Pork Belly With Apricot BBQ Sauce and Squash-Parsnip Puree

Brandi’s focus for the finale is to show the judges that Southern cooking can be just as refined as, say, anything coming out of Las Vegas. All of her dishes are Brandi on a plate, elevated. She’s grown a lot during her time on the show, especially in regards to plating, and she’s going to show that off. Her biggest obstacle with this dish is cooking the pork belly perfectly in just 60 minutes. Guess what? She nails it. The judges are wowed by her protein. They love the balance of flavors and Christina can’t stop talking about that apricot BBQ sauce. The only real criticism comes from Gordon, who finds her puree unnecessary and confusing. He also tells her that he wants to steal her idea to combine pork belly with rhubarb for his own restaurants, so I’m guessing he’ll get over the puree thing.

NEXT: Egg-cellent

David Williams, Las Vegas, NV

Beet Cured Salmon With Soft Boiled Egg, Filo Dough, Salmon Roe, and Caviar

David knows that his entire dish — a bird’s nest on a plate — comes down to how well he cooks his soft-boiled egg. When the judges cut into it, the thing better ooze across the rest of the dish. That’s a lot of pressure to put on an egg. Thankfully, the drama was all for naught and all four of the judges are pleased to find runny yolks inside their eggs. Wolfgang is a big fan of the concept, but Chef Daniel finds it lacking in seasoning. The big argument amongst the four judges though is what to think about that filo. Gordon thinks it’s overwhelming and acts as an obstruction to the rest of the dish, Wolfgang is all in. It is the greatest question of our time: To filo, or not to filo?

Shaun O’Neale, Las Vegas, NV

Halibut Cheek With Vadouvan Carrot Puree, Pickled Mushrooms, and Uni Foam

Shaun wants to impress the judges with his high end techniques and fancy ingredients. The dude is putting foam on the plate, so you know he’s not playing around. Unfortunately, he leaves his mark on the judges for all the wrong reasons. Although the dish is a visual stunner (that brushstroke of sauce reels me right in), it is completely unfocused. He tries to do too much and ends up doing not much of anything. Well, except for insulting Daniel Boulud and all of French cooking. Shaun claims there are no rules in American cooking, unlike the rigidity you find in French cuisine, but Daniel corrects him and tells him French cooking is about respect for ingredients. Both Gordon and Daniel agree that by pickling a perfectly good morel mushroom, Shaun showed a lack of respect for that ingredient. More than just a lack of respect, it was also a big misstep flavor-wise for a guy with a previously impeccable record.


Shaun O’Neale, Las Vegas, NV

Spice-Rubbed Venison With Cipollini Onions, Smoked Plums, Black Truffle, and Fiddlehead Ferns

For his second course, Shaun presents the judges with a forest on a plate. Even the plate looks like a tree stump. It’s all very conceptual and the judges love it. Shaun took their critiques from the last round to heart and reworked some of this dish to make it more cohesive. His retooling worked. The venison is cooked perfectly, the ferns add an unexpected pop of color, and Gordon remarks that he finds something new in every bite. He’s impressed. Christina calls the dish “dream-like” and commends Shaun for his ability to take criticism; he’s a great student and that’s important. To say Shaun’s redeemed himself is an understatement.

Brandi Mudd, Irvington, KY

Seared Duck Breast With Andouille-Greens, Blackberry Demi-Glace, and Ramp Hush Puppies

By putting hush puppies on a MasterChef finale plate, Brandi is really pushing her “show them me on a plate” agenda. This course splits the judges. Gordon and Daniel are head-over-heels for the duck. Gordon thinks it is the best plated dish Brandi has served in this competition — and Christina almost does a spit take. She isn’t a fan of the presentation at all (was it really that bad?) and finds it lacking in color and imagination. Gordon thinks Christina needs to get her eyes checked. It is delightful. No matter how they think about the presentation, the flavors are great. Gordon thinks it might be a bit too heavy, but Daniel can’t get enough. It’s a toss up.

NEXT: Bring on the sweet treats

David Williams, Las Vegas, NV

Cabbage Wrapped Guinea Hen With Foie Gras, Morel Mushrooms, and Yellow Wine Cream Sauce

If this were MasterSauce (I’d totally watch that), David would be the winner. All four of the judges want to drink his wine cream sauce. Alas, this isn’t MasterSauce (seriously, someone start working on this), and the remainder of David’s dish isn’t as big of a hit. He gets lost in showing off his technical skills and takes on way more than he can actually accomplish in 60 minutes. Gordon winds up with a plate of rare guinea hen, and he isn’t pleased. Everything around the hen is tasty — although Wolfgang wants more foie gras on the plate — but David misses the mark with his protein. When the star of the dish isn’t shining, that’s a problem.


Brandi Mudd, Irvington, KY

Cornmeal Madeleine With Bourbon Caramel Sauce, White Chocolate Mousse, and Glazed Peaches

If Brandi’s plating skills were up for discussion in the last round, she’s getting the last word with her beautiful plate of madeleines. Even before the tasting begins, the judges are impressed. But, as the judges dig in, Brandi runs into the same problem David just did: Everything surrounding her madeleines is delicious, but the judges — Gordon especially — aren’t completely sold on the idea of using cornmeal in this dessert. It makes the typically light and fluffy madeleine heavy and weighed down. Brandi attributes the choice, once again, to her wanting to make the dish her own, but this may have been a step too far. Christina, Daniel, and Wolfgang all seem to get over it by the end, but not Gordon. Watch out for that guy.

David Williams, Las Vegas, NV

Stuffed Cherries With White Chocolate Glaze, Cherry Compote, and Cookie Crumble

This is another dish that once the judges get a look at, they can’t take their eyes off of it. It’s different, it’s beautiful, it’s very Vegas. David, again, wanted to show off some of his technical skills, and this time he really wows the judges. Well, most of them. Wolfgang loves how all of the ingredients come together to make a perfect bite. Christina finds it “thought-evoking,” which, sure? Gordon is a fan of everything but the actual cherries. There’s too much going on here, and he thinks David is afraid that simplicity leads to inadequacy. Still, there’s no getting around that visually, the dish is pretty cool.

Shaun O’Neale, Las Vegas, NV

Salted Caramel Tart With Dark Chocolate Ganache and Raspberry Coulis

Shaun saves his simplest dish for last. But remember, simple does not always mean easy. As Christina examines the tart in front of her, she warns Shaun that if she cuts into this thing and it’s a mess, he won’t be winning the title. In other words, it’s a $250,000 slice of caramel tart. Oh Christina, always with the dramatics. The slice comes out clean and beautiful, and it tastes just as good. Gordon thinks the raspberry coulis detracts from the dish overall, since it dampens the crust, but the tart itself, he calls “f—ing delicious.” This is the best compliment a person can get from Gordon Ramsay, and we all know it.

Honestly, this is going to be a tough decision for our esteemed judges. No one ran away with all three courses, so it comes down to whose meal they would want to eat again. Whoever that meal belongs to gets that sweet, sweet MasterChef money and some big ol’ bragging rights. According to the judges, that home cook is… Shaun.

The Vegas DJ turned high end chef takes the win and with it, declares he might just leave the DJ life behind for good. Whoa dude, at least wait until all the confetti falls before you make such a big life decision. On second thought, you do you, Shaun. Also, you do more of those caramel tarts, because that looked real good.

Episode Recaps

  • TV Show
  • 10