Thousands of people, from all walks of life, various professions and ages. All share a love of food and cooking. They all got together, sharing one common goal: To be the next Master Chef.
The first few episodes this season were used to whittle down the contestants from 100 down to 18. Then it was serious business from there.
Judges Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot, and Joe Bastianich, all renowned chefs in their own right, faced the contestants and told them that they would face the most difficult challenges in Master Chef’s 3-year history.
Last night, the 18 contestants made their way to their individual cooking stations to start the show. At their stations, they found their first Mystery Box. They were only allowed to cook what they found in the box. For the first Mystery Box Challenge of the season, the chefs found, duck breast, kale, rhubarb, dark rum, sweet potato, five-spice powder, bananas, and maple syrup.
As in past seasons, while the contestants are cooking, the three judges walk around the stations, talking to them, finding out their plans and taking small tastes of their progress. At the end of the 60 minutes, they called up the three chefs who they thought had the best dishes, based on presentation. Ryan, Samantha, and Scott’s dishes were chosen.
But last night’s show had a little twist. Once the three chefs were standing in front of the judges, they were informed that their dishes did, in fact stand out. But not as the best dishes, as the worst dishes. Talk about a sinking feeling. Then they were informed that the chef whose dish that was judged to taste the worst would immediately turn in their apron and be sent home.
Ryan cooked his duck with banana puree. Gordon thought he was crazy for mixing duck with fruit and asked him if it was a joke.
Samantha gave them severely undercooked duck with sweet potatoes and rhubarb puree, while Scott brought up duck profiterole and mashed sweet potatoes. Gordon told him it was embarrassing while Joe asked him if he thought that just slipping a piece of duck in between the profiterole was ok.
Ultimately, the judges talked it over and decided to eliminate Samantha. While the other two could have done better on presentation and imagination, at least they cooked their food.
At the same time, the judges also found a winner of the Mystery Box Challenge: Felix, who then brought up her dish, a Chinese spiced duck breast with eggplant. They deemed that it tasted every bit as good as it looked and Joe declared it restaurant quality.
As in seasons past, the winner of the Mystery Box Challenge has a huge advantage in the elimination test. They have a great deal of control over it. This season follows that format. Felix went into the MasterChef Pantry with Gordon, Joe, and Graham as they discussed with her what their most intimidating dishes are. For Joe, it is risotto. For Graham, it is New England Clam Chowder. And for Gordon, it is no surprise that it is Beef Wellington.
Felix must pick one of these for the contestants to all cook some variation of for the elimination challenge. She chooses risotto. As she goes back to her station and Gordon announces to all what she’s chosen, he also announces that for winning the Mystery Box Challenge, Felix receives the added bonus of not having to participate in the elimination challenge.
The judges call each contestant up individually. They will then choose the bottom three. Of those, they will choose which chef to turn in their apron and send home.
First up is Monti. She brings down risotto with pancetta, sun-dried tomatoes, and white asparagus. It doesn’t look like risotto and Gordon likes the garnish more than he likes the main dish.
Frank’s risotto has clam, artichoke, blood orange, and pancetta. Joe loves it.
David Martinez made Risotto with gooseberry, roasted poblano and scallops. Chef Ramsay tells him he nailed it. Graham says it’s one of the best things he’s tasted in a long time.
Helene made saffron risotto with scallops wrapped in burdock root like little baskets. Joe tells her the scallops are undercooked, and throws one in the trash. He advises the chefs to take this seriously and not to waste their (the judges’) time.
Christine has an amazing pallet, but her risotto with scallops, mushrooms, and onions is “subpar”.
Joe “welcomed back” Scott to the competition with his risotto with fennel and onions.
Tali presented risotto with pistachios, cherries, cranberries, and gooseberries. Joe called it disgusting. Gordon called it a disaster.
Finally, David Mack was last up. The judges were stunned to discover that in his haste to prepare his risotto with Portobello mushrooms, he didn’t properly wash the mushrooms, leaving a gritty sand behind. Joe spit it out after taking a bite.
Before naming the bottom three chefs (not a difficult decision at this point), the judges first named David Martinez and Frank as the two best dishes and announced that they will be the team captains in next week’s challenge.
The three bottom chefs were: Tali, Helene, and David Mack. Of the three, they decided that David Mack had the worst transgression and needed to turn in his apron and go home.