Thursday, September 12, 2013

S4E25: Two Become One. The Finale.

It’s the biggest culinary event of the year, just narrowly edging out the Sutter Creek Chili Cook-off and Car Show. It’s the Season 4 MasterChef Finale. The producers of MasterChef went to every corner of the country looking for America’s greatest home cooks, like New York and Los Angeles and Chicago, which isn’t really a corner but you get the picture. Only big corners were searched apparently, meanwhile Sutter Creek was completely ignored.

Two Home Cooks remain. First is Natasha. She’s a 26-yr-old stay-at-home mom from San Diego or South Africa and maybe Croatia. She’s been overshadowed the whole competition, first in villainy by Krissi, then in beauty by Jessie, and now probably in cooking by Luca. Though, I do think she’s the best cook, I’m sticking to my early prediction that a guy is winning this thing.

And that guy is Luca. Last year, he was cannon fodder, losing his audition in emotional fashion. Now he’s back, with a character arc that’s destroying the competition. James’s parents are dead, but that’s nothing compared to the story of an Italian immigrant rising like a Phoenix from the MasterChef ashes to claim the prestigious title of America’s Best Home Cook. He’s lovable and wears his emotions on his apron. The only knock against him is that he refuses to interact with me on Twitter. #TeamNatasha

Soft piano plays as Natasha’s family is released from the MasterChef Dungeon. Everyone has beautiful hair.

“My wife is the most amazing person that I ever met in my life,” says Luca, beginning to choke up, as Natasha with her beautiful hair looks over at him with admiration. Luca’s wife Kate and his extended family emerge from the back clapping and singing that grating song that Europeans always sing during soccer games. One of his family members shares a striking resemblance to John Locke, so I’ll be on the lookout for some nefarious activity. But wait, there’s more family! From Italy, Luca’s sister and father are here. After Luca’s audition, he spoke with someone he called his father on the phone, and the man mysteriously had no accent. Will this be cleared up? Is John Locke involved somehow? Luca hugs his sister while his father repeatedly kisses his sideburns.

The families join the eliminated Home Cooks in the MasterChef Balcony, which hopefully wasn’t built by the MasterChef Lowest Bidders.

“We demand perfection,” demands Graham. “A perfectly composed three-course dinner. One amazing appetizer. One fabulous entrée. And the most incredible dessert.” Each dish will be judged on appearance, taste, and adjective.

Natasha and Luca race to the MasterChef Pantry to get everything they need for all three courses. Meanwhile, the eliminated Home Cooks give us their predictions. Jordan, dressed as Boo Berry this evening, likes Natasha because she has some bitch in her. Bri thinks Luca will win because of his journey and because she understands reality television story theory. Jessie likes Natasha because she’s so well rounded (re: bouncy). Krissi thinks Luca will win because he’s a better person, and if there’s anything thing Krissi knows, it’s good people. It’s just that most of them are in prison for stabbing others.

For an amazing appetizer, Natasha will be preparing pan-seared scallops with seaweed salad, couscous, and an heirloom cauliflower puree. Luca will also be going the pan-seared route, only with duck liver and toasted French brioche. “You have one hour to make up the most stunning appetizer you’ve ever made,” Gordon says. Oh shit! Now it has to be stunning instead of amazing, and they’re not allowed to go back into the pantry! MasterChef is chock full of exciting twists and turns.

Luca makes a baseball reference because he loves this country. He really does. Natasha chops purple cauliflower, which is used in every episode. Regular, boring white cauliflower doesn’t pop on the screen like the purple stuff.

The judges confer. They agree that Luca is courageous for attempting to sear duck liver. Joe is concerned that Natasha’s cauliflower may not work with seaweed. Meanwhile, Natasha is now chopping a new color of cauliflower. What is that? Goldenrod? I better see a rainbow of different cauliflowers during my next trip to Walmart.

Joe looks at Luca’s ingredients. “Sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet,” he says. “No, the chutney’s acidic,” says Luca. “I’m worried that this dish might be too…,” Joe looks Luca in the eyes. “…sweet.”

Standing next to an unfortunately wigged Sasha Fox, Krissi knocks Natasha’s dish from the balcony. Natasha snipes back, “I’m in the Thunderdome, and you’re not.” And suddenly Sasha’s hair makes more sense.

As time runs down, the crowd goes wild. James cheers like a madman, John Locke wipes seat from his brow, Jonny B renders his horrible argyle sweater…

They bring their dishes to the MasterChef Restaurant where the judges can stuff their faces in private. Natasha’s scallops are tasted first. Joe loves it. Gordon raves about the cook on the scallops. Graham’s favorite part is the fluffy couscous. She’s off to a great start.

Luca’s duck liver with brioche, peaches, and pear chutney is next. Gordon thinks it needed another 90 seconds in the oven. Graham likes it but is worried that the richness may be an issue if Luca’s entrée is heavy. Joe says the dish rides the line between savory and sweet and is a triumph. “This is a masterpiece. Bravo.”

It appears that Natasha has the edge as they begin to prepare their entrées. She is making a five-spice monkfish with infused jasmine rice and a coconut curry sauce. Luca is working on beef short ribs with sun chokes and truffle puree. He’s using the pressure cooker, which means he won’t be able to monitor his dish as it’s cooking. It’s the Mystery Box of cooking appliances.

Natasha is slicing a mango using the mandolin without a guard as Jessie faints in the balcony. She wraps the monkfish in some crazy cow stomach lining. Graham asks if she’ll remove it after it cooks. “Nope,” she replies. “I’m leaving it on.” Jonny B looks down at the shreds of his argyle sweater laying in tatters at his feet with regret.

With ten minutes to go, Luca opens his pressure cooker and looks inside to find Gwyneth Paltrow’s head. Fortunately, it's perfectly cooked. Natasha’s plating is incredible. Lynn looks down from the balcony with envy, and a torrent of sweat pours onto the wood floor below.

Natasha’s monkfish is tasted first. Graham says it’s the best looking dish in the history of MasterChef, and the cook on the monkfish is perfect. However, there’s too much heat for him, and Gordon nods in agreement. Meanwhile, Joe thinks the balance is amazing. He’s been quite the contrarian so far tonight.

Luca presents his short ribs. The judges cut into the meat to find it’s tender and glistening. Luca sums it up in an interview, “Boom. On the money.” Gordon loves the short ribs, thinks the puree is a little clumsy, and though the dish is heavy and may give him a heart attack, he will die a happy man. “If I’m finishing my entrée at Luca’s restaurant and haven’t had dessert yet,” says Joe. “I’m already thinking about when I’m going to make my next reservation.” Graham has a heart attack.

Natasha’s lead has been wrestled away from her by Luca, and they prepare for dessert. Luca will be making a basil panna cotta with tomato jam, mascarpone honey cream, and granulated sugar. Natasha says she will be making a lime panna cotta and a coconut panna cotta, and her strange cadence while explaining this really did remind me of a robot. I knew it! #TeamSexyFormelyEvilRobotNatasha

Time begins, and they quickly start panning their cottas. The judges are worried that Natasha is taking too big of a risk by trying to make two panna cottas in one hour. #gobig(andbouncy)orgohome

“I’m putting ingredients that are usually for a salad into a dessert,” says Luca. But it can work if he can make the tomatoes sweet, and if he remembers to strain his panna cotta – which he forgets to do. He starts over in a rush. Now they’re both essentially making two panna cottas.

Or are they? Natasha is considering combining her two panna cottas into one coconut lime dessert. Hold the phone. Now she’s tossing out the lime. I don’t know what’s going on.

Regardless, Natasha presents only the coconut panna cotta, which would be fine if she hadn’t said she was making lime as well. Graham picks his up with his spoon and tests the bounciness. He approves. Gordon loves his dessert and eats the tiny remains off of Graham’s plate. “You’re bouncing my taste buds around like they’re inside a pinball machine,” he says. I'm not the only one with bouncing on the brain. #BouncyRobotNatasha. Graham loves it. Joe also loves it but wonders if it was too simple. “Was there something missing from the dish?” Like, I don’t know, a lime panna cotta?

Luca presents his salad panna cotta. “Theoretically, it shouldn’t work,” says Gordon. “But it does. It’s wacky. It’s delicious.” Graham thinks it’s Luca on a plate, the highest compliment one can receive on MasterChef, second only to “good effort.” Joe likes the dessert, but since his role on this episode is as contrarian, he has issues with the structure of the dish.

Natasha and Luca leave the judges to confer. How will they decide? “You gotta look at each dish, you gotta look at the progression of the three-course dinner,” Joe says. “And you gotta look at the journey.” There it is. The journey. Best story wins as long as no one flat out blew a dish. It makes sense, though. I can’t tell you how often I’m at a restaurant asking my server for the chef’s personal story. How else can I decide if something tastes good?

“For the first time, shall we make it a draw?” asks Gordon. They shan’t. They’ve made their decision, and come out to the MasterChef Kitchen to deliver the news.

“This is my dream,” says Luca, confirming another of my theories. “I just hope when I wake up, I’ll have the title in my hand.” When you wake up, Luca, you’ll be surrounded by potatoes and cheese with a broomstick in your hand, and we will all no longer exist.

“My heart deep inside is telling me, yes, I’m going to win this,” says Natasha who isn’t going to win this.

The judges switch places with them, because standing on the MasterChef Stage is an honor just barely below having your very own cookbook.

Gordon gives the final decision of the season. “This has truly been the toughest, the most difficult decision we have ever had to make in the history of this competition.” Graham leaves his glasses on. “But as you know, there can only be one winner. One of you is about to receive a quarter of a million dollars, the opportunity to publish your very own cookbook, and get their hands on this stunning trophy.” Graham holds the glittering crystal phallus in his hands. “And one of you will have the right to call yourself a true MasterChef. The winner of MasterChef…” Natasha stands proudly with her arms behind her. Luca shares a glance with his wife. “…Congratulations…” With pressed lips, Graham and Joe look at Gordon who looks up at the ceiling. “…Luca!”

Confetti flies as Luca rejoices. He hugs Natasha, her consolation prize.

“I came here from another country because America is the best place in the world. This is where dreams come true. And now, I am America’s MasterChef.” Luca cries with joy. His father, whom we still unfortunately haven’t heard speak #damnyouJohnLocke, wipes tears out from under his glasses. Kate, Luca’s super adorable wife, is also a blubbering mess. This is a real feel good moment, a predictable yet satisfying ending.

For her part, Natasha takes it like a champ. She reads the second place script with a stiff upper lip. “It’s not the end. This is just going to catapult me to the direction I want to be.”

Gordon sprays champagne onto Luca and his family, and they begin singing that soccer song again. But let’s not think about that. Let’s remember the good times we had along the way. Chest tattoos. Beth’s emotional breakdowns. James’s beard and jokes. The stem of Graham’s glasses. The walks through the forest. Bri making Krissi shut up. Lynn’s sweat. Paula Deen’s nightmare of a smile. Bime’s meringue pie. Jessie’s ethereal beauty. Cutie Patootie. Jonny smash. Jordan’s hoodies minus that one hoodie. Gordon Junior, Joes Junior and Junior, and Graham Junior Junior. Natasha’s transformation from evil robot to a lovely, real person #whomayactuallybearobot. Walmart steaks. Joe’s spit. Kindred spirits Bethy and Savannah (who?). The meat man. The sausage machine. Luca’s fish sauce risotto. And of course, nice guy Gordon Ramsay, who can work a commercial break like no one in the business.

Thanks for reading, everyone. I’m not sure what show I’ll be recapping next, but follow my twitter (@joellugar) to hear what I decide.

Cue the confetti. I’m off to Walmart.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

S4E24: Lives Will Be Changed

It’s down to the Top Three: Smoking Fiery Hot Natasha, Loveable Italian Luca, and Ravishing Goddess Jessie. Who will win the paltry $250,000, their very own cookbook, and the coveted title of MasterChef? Luca will, but it should be fun to watch.

This is the final Mystery Box Challenge. Three boxes sit in front of the Home Cooks, one from each judge. Inside Joe’s is $250,000. He sautéed money in the first episode, so it will be interesting to see how the chefs prepare it. Graham reveals a cookbook with a picture of the three chefs on it. Their knees wobble at the sight of their own images. Inside Gordon’s box…is another box! And inside that box is a phallus. The winner shall sit upon it and be declared MasterChef.

Back at their stations, the Home Cooks open their actual Mystery Boxes. They each have different ingredients and are told to recreate the dish they presented at their auditions, only elevated. Natasha made empanadas with a skirt steak. Luca made broccoli rabe ravioli. Jessie made sea bass en croute. The winner of the challenge is promised a life-changing advantage, which can only mean that they get to execute their strongest competitor.

Time begins, and things get cooking.

Gordon visits Jessie. She feels her pastry was too thick last time, so she’s going thinner. Gordon warns her about potentially splitting her pastry.

Joe and Graham visit Natasha. She is the only chef remaining to receive three yeses at her audition. She says she doesn’t want to face Luca in the finale, because “he does have tricks up his sleeve.” Also, he kind of mounted her last episode, and she’s worried about being dominated again.

Gordon tells Luca that his sauce tastes weird. He has to start over. “Less than ten minutes to go, and I need a new sauce,” Luca tells us. “Every time I have to make Italian food, something goes always wrong – and I’m Italian!” Pull it together, Luca. This is MasterChef, not DisasterChef. Ugh. Sorry, guys. This is getting hard now that both James and Krissi are gone.

Stop. Hands in the air.

Natasha goes first. Back when she first auditioned, I didn’t like her. She was trying too hard. She was conceited. She was an evil robot. But as her personality has made a shift to the softer, I’ve come around. I honestly feel that the producers convinced her to present herself so horribly at the start, but as the contest went on, she became friends with the other Home Cooks and found it difficult to keep up the charade of villainy. She appears to be a pretty great cook, too.

Gordon says her dish looks gorgeous. He loves it. Graham loves the steak, but thinks the dough on her empanadas is a touch thick. Joe says, “Not only are you an excellent cook, but you bring a tenacity. You have the grit and the skill to maybe win the whole thing.” Pretty high praise. Girl can cook.

Luca is next. At his audition, Graham gave him a no because of his sauce and will be the first to judge his dish this time around. I bet he likes it. “Wow. There’s so much flavor. Way better,” he says. But wait. He still doesn’t like the sauce. Gordon asks Luca why he’s putting cheese in his sauce. It’s an epiphany moment for Luca as he declares war against cheese sauces. If Velveeta offered him a sponsorship right now, he would laugh in their faces. And then accept it, because that’s good money he’d be passing up.

Last is the radiant, effervescent Jessie. “Gorgeous. I’m so impressed,” says Joe. Her dish looks good, too. “Taste is beautiful,” says Gordon as the drums kick in. “You’re a force to be reckoned with.”

Third place goes to Luca. “Cheese sauce!” he curses.

First place goes to commercial break Jessie. She bounces up and down in excitement. Bouncing is Natasha’s area of expertise, so I’m a little disappointed she didn’t win. But I love Jessie, and it’s her first Mystery Box win, so I’m happy for her and want to run away with her forever and ever.

For the final Elimination Challenge, all three Home Cooks join the judges in the MasterChef Pantry. In front of the judges are three covered ingredients. Jessie’s life-changing advantage is that she gets to pick the ingredient she cooks with. They oversold that advantage a bit. Life-changing? I guess anything could be considered life changing. I’ve made life-changing trips to the bathroom. Whatever ingredient she chooses will be unavailable to Luca and Natasha. The second pick goes to Natasha. Meanwhile, Luca gets life-changingly boned.

Joe reveals Grana Padano, aka cheese. A dozen sauce recipes instantly fill Luca’s head.

“Every chef in the world would kneel before this beef,” says Graham as he dramatically reveals Kobe beef.

Gordon reveals Alaskan king crab.

Jessie notes that Luca isn’t strong with crab, so she’ll be taking one of the first two ingredients hoping Natasha takes the other. She drops to her knees and chooses the Kobe beef. “And you’ve never worked with it before?” Gordon asks. Mouth full of beef, she shakes her head.

Gordon asks Luca which ingredient he’s afraid of. “I think that making up something awesome with the cheese is not easy,” says Luca. Smash cut to a super excited Luca in an interview. “I would looove to cook with Grana Padano!!” Clever Luca.

Natasha makes her decision. “I’ve got to make it to that finale, so I want to work with…” commercial break “the challenging Alaskan king crab.” On the floor, mouth still full of beef, Jessie gets boned.

They begin to cook.

Gordon’s worried about Jessie. Joe’s worried about Natasha. Graham’s worried about Luca. I’m worried for everyone.

Natasha is making a cold soba noodle salad. Gordon warns, “If you’re going to put a cold, marinating soba noodle salad on a plate to get into the finale, Natasha, it has to be a fucking brilliant cold soba noodle salad.” Natasha smiles. Girl can cook.

Luca is making a stuffed veal cutlet filled with Grana Padano and sage, serving it with frico. Joe says, “Why don’t you explain to Graham what frico is (because he’s a moron).” Graham obviously knows what frico is, but I don’t because I am a moron. Luca? “Frico is the most difficult dish of our region. Our region is very, very poor…cheese, potatoes, and onions.” Joe continues, “You bake them together, almost like a tart, and then you let it cool and you cut it.” Got it. Totally clear. Cheesy potato onion crackers.

Jessie is searing her beef and has plans to make a ponzu butter, only there’s a problem. She has no butter. She asks Natasha for some and gets denied. Luca throws Jessie a stick, because he doesn’t give a frico. “I’m a good guy,” he says. “Fuggedaboutit.”

Stop. Hands in the air.

Luca presents his pancetta wrapped veal cutlet with Grana Padano and frico to Joe. He thinks everything tastes good, though perhaps the dish is too rich. Luca was hoping the frico would add enough poverty, but apparently it didn’t. Gordon says he would have nailed it if the cheese in the veal wasn’t so thick. Graham takes a bite and looks to the ceiling. Flavor-wise, he loves it. He just thinks it looks a little shitty.

Next are Natasha and her cold king crab yakisoba salad. “Bold move,” says Gordon. “It’s…” The music crescendos as the tension builds. “It’s phenomenal.” It’s predictable. So obvious that Natasha was going to nail it. Joe doesn’t love the raw peppers, but everything else is good. Graham loves that she used the Serrano pepper, and thinks it’s one of her best dishes. Sexy Formerly Evil Robot Natasha is going to the finals.

Jessie brings the beef. “You pick the (ingredient) that you’ve never cooked before,” Joe says. “Are you insane?” She might be. She’s crazy hot, I know that much. He gives it a taste, and he likes it. Graham tastes it, and also likes it. Luca is starting to get worried. Gordon also likes it, but the noodles are too greasy. She made a papaya salad but decided to leave it off the plate. Gordon asks to taste it and loves it more than the noodles. The other judges agree. It might be a fatal error in judgment.

After a quick huddle, the judges are ready to decide. Natasha had the best dish and receives her place in the finale.

“Which leaves Luca and Jessie, two very talented Home Cooks…” Graham removes his glasses, pressing a stem to pursed lips. “…The person joining Natasha in the MasterChef finale…” Graham presses the stem harder against his lips. “…is…” Jessie closes her eyes. Joe looks at Gordon. Luca prays. “…Luca.”

Luca moves on, which isn't a huge surprise since he will be winning this whole thing. He’s living the American dream of one day having your very own cookbook.

Beautiful Jessie chokes back tears as Joe offers her a job in any of his restaurants. She hugs the judges before removing her apron and leaving the MasterChef Kitchen.

My love has left me heartbroken once again, only this time my heart breaks not for myself but for her. She looks like an angel, she cooks like an angel, and now she flies off to hopefully brighten a kitchen somewhere that’s not on a yacht. Goodbye, my love!  

S4E23: Clobberin', Quittin', and Awkward Sittin'

“Final Four. I have a 25% chance to win a quarter of a million dollars,” begins Natasha, turning her nose up at the illustrious title of MasterChef and her very own cookbook. But Krissi understands where the real value is. She says, “And then getting this cookbook, like, aside from my kid, that’s been my biggest motivation.” What would that cookbook be called? A Bully in the Kitchen, Cooking with Your Fists, Just a Dash of Hatred...

Two Mystery Boxes. Two stations. Two teams of two. Too true! Each team will have to prepare a three-course meal, completely ruining the beautiful streak of twos Gordon had going. The losing team will have to face off in the Dreaded Pressure Test. Graham announces the first pick of teams goes to the Home Cook with the most Mystery Box wins. Luca realizes that it’s himself and tries to celebrate, but the stress of the moment only allows him to muster a dead-eyed, half-smiling, below-the-waist fist pump.

Donning the blue apron, Luca knows he isn’t picking Krissi. “Jessie and Natasha are both very strong competitors, but me and Natasha in the past didn’t get along very much.” It’s a difficult decision, to be sure. They’re both pretty hot, Jessie in a #BeautifulAngelFromHeaven kind of way, and Natasha in a #SexyFormerlyEvilRobot way. The tiebreak goes to who Luca thinks will be a more competitive teammate, Natasha.

“I’m stuck with The Thing,” says Jessie. Oh, so that explains Krissi’s horrible personality. A massive dose of gamma rays. Shoulda known. And that isn’t cleavage, just a crack in her rock-like skin. Please let that be a crack in her rock-like skin.

Colorado lamb, Maine lobster, Catskills rainbow trout, Montana parsnips, Oregon beets… 50 states, 50 ingredients. Welcome to MasterCartographer.

The teams begin cooking/disagreeing. Luca&Natasha are making a seafood medley salad (a collection of some of the greatest seafood hits from the past 30 years), rack of lamb, and a strawberry tart. Jessie&Krissi are making a cold lobster salad, rack of lamb, and an apple tart.

Dessert disasters are forming at both stations. Natasha’s crust crumbles, so she wisely decides to make a crumble. Krissi’s dough is too buttery, so she decides to make crepes, which she doesn’t know how to make. “Jessie, I’m not comfortable making crepes,” she says. To which Jessie replies, “Babe, you abandoned me on the lobster, so you gotta pick something you can cook.” Krissi stands there, more slack jawed than usual, incredulous at Jessie’s gall. “What the fuck did you just say to me, bitch?” Krissi bravely says in a private interview. “I literally am going to take this hot pan and smash it in her face.” Uh oh. It’s clobberin’ time!

Nope. It’s quittin’ time. Krissi abandons Jessie on the rest of the dishes, as well, leaving the love of my life to finish cooking everything on her own.

“Beets?” asks Luca. “Beets beets beets?” responds Natasha. “Beets beets,” says Luca. This team is really coming together, having already created their own language.

Krissi says something about her kid motivating her again and returns with a mixer. Fortunately, she doesn’t bash Jessie in her beautiful face with it.

“Beets! Beets!” says Luca. “Beets?” asks Natasha. Luca clarifies, “Beets! Beets!” “Beets,” agrees Natasha.

Time ends, and Luca&Natasha bring their dishes to the front.

Their seafood medley salad has turned into a seafood trio, basically it’s a piece of trout, a lobster tail, and a fried oyster slapped onto a plate. Joe calls it “unusually weird,” but he likes it, particularly Luca’s torch job on the trout.

Gordon tastes their lamb. It’s delicious, along with the puree. The beets are soggy, slightly overcooked. Beets beets? Beets beets beets. Haha. I wish you guys could speak Beetish, because I just killed it with that joke.

“Don’t be upset at me if it’s not good,” Natasha whispers to Luca about the dessert. Graham examines it with a curious “hmm, interesting.” It has a gloopy quality to it.

It’s time for Jessie&Krissi to bring their offerings up. Joe looks at their lobster salad. “It looks like a sundial,” he says, about to tell them what time it is. He tastes it, and…it isn’t clobberin’ time. He thinks it tastes great.

Gordon tries the lamb. “Who seared the lamb?” he asks, knowing that Jessie seared the lamb. Something went wrong with the sear, although I’m not sure exactly what that is. Krissi tries to throw Jessie under the bus for miscooking the lamb, but Gordon has none of it, asking Krissi if she quit. She did. After some arguing and Jessie rattling off a long list of everything she had to do while Krissi quit, including beets, Gordon retries the lamb. This time, he likes it.

Graham tries their apple tart sans tart. “Good effort,” he says, ending the season and immediately awarding Krissi the title of MasterChef.

The winning team is obviously Luca&Natasha, who celebrate like it was far from obvious to them. They scream and hug. Then Natasha turns during the hug, so that Luca is now riding her from behind while he holds on to her chest. It was just an excellent teammate decision from Luca on multiple levels.

Jessie goes upstairs to commiserate with Luca and Natasha. She calls Krissi a cow and they all share a laugh at her inability to make crepes. Krissi hears their mutterings and bolts up the stairs. It’s clobberin’ time!

No clobberin’ commences. Just some awkward sitting around. It’s awkward sittin’ time!

It’s time for the Dreaded Pressure Test. Jessie looks stunning per usual. Krissi looks awful and mean and sad and friendless and she blocked me on Twitter, so I hope she loses.

They have to make chocolate mousse. “Pure edible decadence,” Graham says. “Amazing.” I laugh so hard. James is gone, so the comedy crown goes back to Graham.

Up in the balcony, Luca and Natasha are dressed for a funeral. Soon, there will be one, but not just yet as Joe adds another element to the challenge. Chocolate molten lava cake. Gordon reveals the third chocolate dessert they’ll have to make. “It is the most fearsome dessert in the whole fucking world.” A chocolate wombat, err—soufflé.

Cook cook cook. Krissi is a baker, so she has the advantage going into this. However, Jessie is mind-blowingly gorgeous, so…actually that doesn’t really factor in.

Krissi falls behind with the soufflés. Running out of time, she pops them into the oven and then squats in front of it, bouncing and puffing out her cheeks. Amazing.

Time ends. It’s judgerin’ time!

Soufflé goes first. Gordon tastes Jessie’s with no comment. He does the same with Krissi’s. After whispering to the judges, he gives the win to Jessie.

Graham tastes the chocolate mousses. The chocolate meese. Whisper whisper. The win goes to Krissi.

It comes down to the lava cake, and they both look terrible. Joe tastes them both and then leaves with the judges to confer.

They come back out, and Joe addresses Jessie and Krissi. “Obviously, both molten cakes had problems…” Krissi closes her eyes and nods. “…It came down to the most minute of details…” Gordon looks at Joe, then at the cooks. “…Based on those two chocolate molten lava cakes, the Home Cook joining the Top Three…” Graham presses the stem of his glasses against pursed lips. “…and entering the semi-final of MasterChef…” Gordon smells his fingertips. “…is…” Commercial break. “…Jessie.”

Boom. Clobbered.

“Krissi, this is very emotional and difficult for me,” says Joe who always had a soft spot in his hard heart for her.

Tears roll down Krissi’s rocky cheeks. “Come here, you,” Gordon beckons. “Don’t punch me,” he says before giving her a hug.

It was quite a rollercoaster for Krissi. She began as the most sympathetic character, actually making me tear up at her audition, but things quickly changed. Horribly racist tweets were revealed and then insincerely apologized for. She was belligerent to her fellow competitors, often threatening them with violence. But every good reality show needs a villain, and she was one of the best.

Farewell, Krissi. If you’ve learned anything from this competition, let’s hope it was to never block me on Twitter. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

S4E22: Bounce With Me

I have very little time to write this, so I must recap like the wind. This will be my own Dreaded Pressure Test. Here we go.

We’re on a ranch for this episode. The Home Cooks will be cooking a lunch party for a mystery host. Who could it be? (I know who it will be.) Driving in on a tractor is now-disgraced butter maven, Paula Deen.

“I’m Italian. What do I know about Southern food?” asks Luca, who can’t really pronounce Southern food let alone cook it. “Hey guys!! How y’all doin’??” yells Paula.

Each cook will be responsible for cooking for a table of ten guests. “What I wanted to do was throw a thank you luncheon for some of these dedicated volunteers,” says Paula. However, she’s worried about who will actually be serving the food now that Eddie is gone.

They’ll be cooking Kentucky chicken, Alabama pork chops, Georgia shrimp, Mississippi catfish, and gator tail from who-the-fuck-knows-where. Luca gets to pick the protein that each Home Cook will have to work with. Luca picks the pork chops for himself. He thinks that Natasha and Jessie are his biggest competition because they’re the hottest and make him nervous and sweaty. Natasha gets catfish, which he should have given to Krissi since she’s screwed it up so badly before. Jessie gets alligator, Krissi gets shrimp, and James gets chicken. “I’ve got a couple of bad ass recipes in my head,” ass man James says.

Paula’s smile is the thing of nightmares. Those white teeth. Those pink lips. Those heavily mascara-laden eyes. That expression of pure pain behind those eyes. I suspect that she’s actually held together by nothing but glue and spit. There are a lot of horses around…

Paula gets to pick the top two dishes, and those cooks get to avoid the Dreaded Pressure Test. Time begins, and the cooks get cooking. The judges reiterate that the top two get to move on, because we are deaf and stupid.

Krissi is in her comfort zone, which is no surprise. Though she’s never prepared alligator, Jessie is also comfortable.

James’s breasts are huge. Apparently, he didn’t notice after spending so much time near Natasha. Gordon is worried that he won’t have enough time to cook them properly.

Natasha’s fish is sticking to the grill, so she moves it to a pan. James’s chicken is still undercooked. Luca’s pork chops are perfect. “How you say, on the money?” That’s how you say.

They begin to serve, and Natasha bounces to her table with her plates. Despite being short on time, I rewind and watch again. Jessie turns on the Southern charm. Luca turns on the Italian charm. Krissi turns on the Philly charm. Natasha turns on the bouncy charm. I don’t catch what charm James turns on, because I get stuck in a bouncy k-hole.

The Home Cooks are getting rave reviews until Gordon spots a pink breast on James’s table. He dives in and grabs the breast, handing it off to James to work on. Natasha’s catfish is also under. They’re definitely going on to the Dreaded Pressure Test, and it’s between the other three to see who joins them.

Paula announces the top two. It’s Luca and Jessie, putting Krissi in her 63rd consecutive Pressure Test.

“I have to cook my way into the Top 4 tomorrow,” says James. “Based on what I’m up against I’m not too worried.” Uh oh. Now I’m worried.

Back in the MasterChef Kitchen, the judges bring Jessie and Luca back with them into the MasterChef Pantry. Oh man, does Jessie look good. After she broke my heart with that boyfriend comment last episode, I said I was done for good, but I’m feeling some weakness. Be strong. Don’t look at her flowing blonde hair, captivating blue eyes, soft pink lips…

Where am I? What happened? Shit. Another k-hole.

The ever-radiant Jessie, at whom I can never be mad again, along with Luca will choose between three dishes. They get to pick which chef cooks what dish. The dishes are: the most amazing seared scallops salad, the world-renowned filet rossini, and an incredible rich decadent Greek yogurt panna cotta.

Natasha gets the scallops, Krissi gets the filet, and James has the panna cotta. Come on, James. You can do it. Yogurt is kind of a sauce. Isn’t it? It isn’t? Ugh. See ya, James.

They run to the MasterChef Pantry. Bouncy, bouncy, bouncy. Aaaaand k-hole.

James is concerned. Me too, James! Natasha is confident and comfortable. Krissi is in unfamiliar waters. She’s a buoy on the dreaded seas of the Pressure Test.

Luca notices that James put the panna cotta in the fridge instead of the blast chiller. No, James! Pull it together!

Joe checks on Krissi and calls her poor again. Luca and Jessie watch her put the filet in the oven after heavily searing it. “That was very stupid,” says Luca. Ouch, Krissi. She’s getting it from all angles.

#whosintrouble? Graham says it’s James. Joe is worried about Krissi, what with her being so poor and stupid.

Time ends, and everything looks pretty great.

Natasha goes first. She’s missing some sauce and truffles, but her scallops are – how you say? – on the money. Gordon and Graham like it, but Joe is a little harder on her.

Krissi brings up her filet. It looks identical to Joe’s. He cuts into the filet, and it’s more medium than medium rare. It could be worse, though. She left the skin on the pear, because Krissi leaves the skin on things. Gordon leans on her a bit for overcooking the meat.

James presents the panna cotta. It didn’t set. The flavor is right, but the fact that he didn’t use the blast chiller might get him. I’m freaking out.

After conferring with the other judges, Gordon delivers the news. “The person leaving MasterChef tonight…” Graham presses the stem of his glasses to pursed lips. Joe folds his arms. “…Krissi and Natasha…” Cymbal crash. “…please say goodbye to James.”


My bro. I’m gutted.


James is gone, and only one guy is left. I said at the beginning that a guy was winning this year, so that means it must be Luca.

I’m going to miss James, obviously. He’s funny, gives great interviews, and has beautiful hair. Congrats on making it this far, James. Congrats on your wedding. And congrats on making the great decision to follow me on Twitter.

#brohug #brofeels

S4E21: A Damn Good Effort

We’re down to the Top 5, and the remaining Home Cooks can almost taste that delicious cookbook. But before they receive that amazing prize and the even more amazing and illustrious title of MasterChef (and $250,000 no big whoop), they’ll have to navigate this week’s Mystery Box Challenge. The contents of the Mystery Box will be put together by Gordon Junior, Joes Junior and Junior, and Graham Junior Junior, the sons of the judges.

Joe introduces his sons. “This is my 11-yr-old son Ethan. He’s vocal and direct, just like me. And then Miles, age 13. He’s my eldest son (and a huge disappointment being nothing like me, and I suspect he isn’t really mine).”

Graham’s two-and-a-half-yr-old son is named Conrad and is a clone of Jonathan Lipnicki.

Gordon’s 13-yr-old son is Jack. He’s apparently already a great cook. He loves great food and bullying.

The Junior Judges get to take the Mystery Box into the pantry and fill it with 15 items of their choosing. They pick: white chips (what?), chocolate spread, ketchup, peanut butter, coconut, rainbow marshmallows, baby pineapple, passion fruit, bacon, cheese slices, maple syrup, bananas, blueberries, strawberries, and puff pastry. While the ingredients are being called out, Luca falls into a deep depression, and no amount of rainbow marshmallows will get him out of it.

They start cooking while the judges discuss what they would make if they were in the challenge. Gordon would make a stunning white chocolate mille-feuille, which is a word he just made up. Graham would make a pineapple Carpaccio. Isn’t that just thinly sliced pineapple? Being a MasterChef is easy. You just make up words and slice fruit thinly.

Gordon and Jack visit Jessie’s station. “Do you have a boyfriend?” Jack asks. BACK OFF, JACK. SHE’S MINE. She replies, “I do have a boyfriend.” And I fall into a deep depression.

Joe’s kids visit Luca and like what they taste. Miles asks Luca if he has any kids, but Luca made a promise to himself long ago that he would never earn the right to reproduce until he won the title of MasterChef. How can anyone bring a child into the world without the stability of his very own cookbook behind him? That’s just being irresponsible.

Jack along with Gordon visits James and asks him, “So are you a big fan of making desserts?” James is not. “I don’t really care for sweets that much,” he says, prompting a look from Jack that translates to “What a ponce.” As they leave James’s station, he thanks them with, “Thank you, chef. And thank you, mini-chef.” Jack barely controls the urge to hop over the station and bludgeon him with a baby pineapple.

Natasha tells Miles and Jack that she wants Krissi to go home. “Why?” Miles asks. “Do you guys ever have those people at your school that are bullies?” Natasha asks. Miles responds, “Yeah.” Jack shoots him a look, and Miles quickly changes his answer, “No. What is a bully? Mmm, those pancakes look delicious.” A puddle begins to form on the floor directly beneath him.

As they finish up, the Cooks begin plating. Everyone’s dishes look great, except for Krissi’s, which resembles a sad, gooey lump. Has it been long enough since I last made a she-put-herself-on-the-plate-joke? Haha. I’m the best. High five, me.

The judges send the juniors home and begin the judging. The first dish has that wow factor, and it belongs to Luca. He presents his white chocolate pineapple Napoleon. He’s made a mille-feuille, which impresses Gordon, seeing as how he just invented that word an hour earlier.

Jessie’s dessert is called up next, and James smells his mustache in disappointment. She presents her vanilla cream puffs. She describes her dish, but I haven’t been able to understand a word she says since she mentioned her boyfriend. I hate him so much.

Lastly, James is called up. “Finally,” he mutters as he brings his passion fruit turnovers up. “Very foofoo for the big bearded man,” says Joe, completely ignoring James’s long, luxurious hair. Joe and Gordon love the dessert.

Krissi can’t hold back any longer. “You made premade puff pastry,” she says with derision. “Congratulations.” Just when I thought that gooey lump couldn’t get any sadder.

The victory goes to James, his first of the competition. He follows the judges into the MasterChef Pantry. He won’t have to cook, propelling him to the Top 4. He’ll have to choose from the greatest dishes that the judges have ever eaten. Joe presents Marinated Botan Shrimp with Sea Urchin and Caviar, and it basically looks like one of Guillermo del Toro’s nightmares. Graham presents his Grandpa Franny’s Soft-shell Crab Sandwich. Finally, Gordon presents a Vietnamese Noodle Soup with Slow Cooked Pork.

James tastes the dishes. “A rollercoaster.” “An assault of flavor.” This is some good ass food. He has to choose one for the other Home Cooks to create, and he picks Gordon’s soup. It’s not as daunting in appearance as Joe’s spike-covered nightmare, but it’s a good choice seeing as how it’s a more complicated dish and a good opportunity to suck up to Gordon.

The four cooks taste the soup, trying to figure out how to make it. Krissi is particularly worried as she attempts to remember what part of China Vietnam is in. She expresses her fears to the judges, and Joe prompts her to, “Use your brain.” Bad news for Krissi, who’d rather rely on her fists.

They begin to cook, and Natasha realizes she has forgotten garlic. She asks Luca for some of his, and he gives it to her. He could have taken out one of the strongest cooks in that moment, but he says that it’s not how he wants to win. That’s not the reason he gave it to her. He did it because he’s nice. There’s not a drop of guile in Luca, and damn it if that isn’t the most endearing thing.

Gordon gives Krissi a pep talk. “You’re good out of your comfort zone. Stop doubting yourself. So adapt. You’ll surprise yourself.” Krissi does love her comfort zones. It explains a lot.

Graham visits Jessie, who is dead to me. She doesn’t have much broth to work with and what she has is too acidic. It's looking like she might go home here, which is just fine with me. Hear that, Jessie? Go home and hug your stupid boyfriend. See if I care.

After I finish crying, the judges discuss what they’ve seen. Natasha impresses them. Jessie concerns Graham. Gordon thinks Krissi is going to come through. From the balcony, James says Luca is looking the best. James has been very complimentary toward Luca this whole episode. Is it because of Luca’s cooking, or because he’s so damn lovable? Maybe this has been Luca’s plan all along, to blind everyone with lovability. Perhaps he’s filled with guile, after all.

Time’s up.

Natasha goes first. Graham likes Natasha’s proportions, if you know what I mean. Her broth is too sweet, but her pork is good. The editors want me to believe that she has a chance to go home here, but I’m not buying it. Now that I’m over Jessie, I may have to switch over to #TeamNatasha. Her days of being Evil Robot Natasha are far behind her. Sexy Robot Natasha, perhaps? That has a ring to it.

Luca is next. His soup is perfect. The colors are beautiful, the heat is good, the amount of lovability is undeniable… Luca is officially the frontrunner in this competition. I should have seen this coming sooner. A guy has to win, and Luca has a great story with losing his audition the year before. Don’t get me wrong. My heart is still #TeamJames and other parts of me are still #TeamNatasha, but my cynical brain is #TeamLuca.

“This looks like a beautiful soup,” Joe says to beautiful Jessie, who I never want to see again. Joe loves it, and I’m surprised. Gordon also loves it, only slightly critiquing the sourness. The judges completely ignore the fact that she shattered my heart.

Krissi is last. “I don’t particularly enjoy Asian food,” she says. “I really tried, and I think I did alright.” It’s too spicy, but Graham is giving her an A for effort. Joe is also impressed with her effort. Gordon is a little tougher with his critique. He asks her, “Have you ever thought about the biggest problem in your cooking?” It certainly can’t be effort. She has that in spades. Is it unbridled rage? He whispers into her ear, “It’s you.” He finishes by pointing at her bowl of soup and calls it a good effort.

The judges are having difficulty deciding who should go home. They call all four Home Cooks to the front. Gordon asks Jessie and Luca to step forward and sends them to the balcony after declaring Luca the winner.

Gordon begins, “Natasha, Krissi, again two strong performances…” Graham removes his glasses. “…That was an extraordinary challenge…” Graham presses the stem of his glasses to his chin. “…You both came up with stunning dishes…” Natasha and Krissi look at the floor, unable to hold eye contact with Gordon. “…This is where it’s very hard for us…” Joe looks at Gordon and nods. “…But we have to make a very tough decision…” Natasha and Krissi exchange a glance of solidarity. “…Natasha, you cook like a dream. You wowed us on so many occasions. You have the technical ability…” Graham presses the stem against pursed lips, closes his eyes and nods. “…to cook like a professional chef. Krissi, you’ve been in all the Pressure Tests, yet you fight back. If anyone confirms food is about an emotional journey, you’re the one…” The corners of Krissi’s mouth flinch upward, almost forming a smile. “…This is one of the most difficult decisions we’ve ever had to make…” The music crescendos. “…Krissi…” She can’t look. “…you’re going upstairs. You’re safe.”

She can’t believe it. I can’t believe it. What the fuck just happened? How good did that effort really taste? This decision reeks of the producers.

Natasha can’t control her tears. Gordon says it’s unfair because she produced a great dish. And he believes it, because he sends her up to the balcony to join the others! Natasha’s trickle of tears becomes a waterfall as she nearly collapses from the release of pressure.

Apparently, all of that talk of the Top 4 was nothing but lies. Oh well. If Natasha had gone home there, it would have been pretty suspect, though it did appear rather clear that Krissi had the worst dish. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to reflect on this as I just realized there another hour of MasterChef I need to get through. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

S4E20: The Running of the Drunken Bulls

High atop the Ritz Carlton skyscraper in Los Angeles, the six remaining Home Cooks cheer as a helicopter carrying the three judges flies in and touches down on the landing pad. “It looks like we are in a movie!” says Luca. They aren’t in a movie. However, I am starting to think that we all are just characters in one of Luca’s dreams. Soon he will wake up in the pantry of a small trattoria owned and run by his family in Ravello, Italy, and we will all fade away to nothingness as he begins kneading the dough for the day, while trying to recapture glimpses of the amazing dream he just had where he was in America on a famous cooking show and could speak English.

Only five of the cheftestants are actually on the landing pad. Krissi is shivering in the stairwell, terrified of heights. “I’m going to pass out up here, and I’m probably going to die,” she tells us. We’re all going to die, Krissi, just as soon as the sun begins to rise over the Ravello countryside. “MasterChef waits for nobody,” says a cold, heartless Gordon Ramsay, and they continue on without her.

It’s #RestaurantTakeover day, and they’ll be cooking at WP 24, a Wolfgang Puck fine-dining restaurant that cooks modern Chinese cuisine. Natasha (red) and Bri (blue) are the captains and pick their teams. Natasha picks first saying, “I need a co-captain, and Jessie puts out beautiful plates and has finesse” and floated down to this rooftop from heaven above on the wings of angels after being carefully sculpted by God himself, “so I pick Jessie.”

Bri picks James first, because duh. Natasha picks Luca, because also duh. And finally Bri is stuck with Krissi, loser of every Team Challenge in the competition so far…except for, if I remember correctly, the one she got to sit out. What an anchor, Krissi is! If she did fall off the roof, she’d manage to bring two or three others down with her.

The Home Cooks are given a quick course in how to make the four dishes they’ll be serving at WP 24: Steamed Scallop Shrimp Sui Mai, Crisp Lettuce Cups with Tempura Sweet Maine Lobster, Singapore-Style Chili Prawns, and Stir Fried Wagu Beef with a Chili Garlic and Sweet Bean Sauce. WP 24 head chef Kiefer Sutherland runs the demonstration and is a tornado of wok activity, though he brags about how slowly he’s actually moving.

Krissi tells us, “I gotta cook 4-star Chinese food. I hate Asian food” and Asians and black people and heights and hipsters and nature and love and puppies.

“This is a nightmare scenario,” says James. “I’ve got a vegetarian and a girl who won’t eat Asian food. How the hell am I supposed to prepare modern Asian cuisine with those two?” You’re not. This is a certain loss for the Blue Team. Save your energy for the Dreaded Pressure Test, James. We can’t afford to lose you and your comic stylings.

WP 24, coming this fall on Fox, opens for business, and every customer/extra arrives and sits down at once, which is weird. The Blue Team starts off great on apps, so they’ll absolutely be losing this challenge. Meanwhile on the Red Team, Luca is struggling with the steamer. “This supposed to be put the dumplings in the steamer, the steamer cooks them for you,” Luca says. “I have no idea what I’m doing.” One of the customers gets a raw scallop sui mai from Luca, and I’m grateful for the subtitles, because now I know how to spell sui mai. Gordon inspects Luca’s steamer to discover that he put cold water in that hasn’t come up to temperature. Meanwhile in rural Italy, a young chef stirs restlessly in his sleep, tossing and turning between sacks of onions and potatoes.

They move on to entrees, and Krissi immediately begins to plummet. “Krissi is handling that wok with the finesse of 27 drunk bulls in a very, very small China shop,” says James. There you go, James! #27drunkbulls #comedysuperstar #comingformyjob #idothisforfree #doyouknowanyonehiring #goodwithrecaps and #hashtags.

Some of the diners/extras begin to complain that they haven’t gotten their food, completely oblivious to the fact that they all sat down at the same fucking time. The amount of anger they feel at their lack of food rivals only their joy at receiving a couple seconds of camera time on national television in potency.

Graham steps in to help Krissi, and at this point we haven’t heard from the Red Team in minutes, so it’s officially over. Can we call it now? Let’s move on to the Dreaded Pressure Test, please.

Joe checks in on the diners/extras. “I’ve eaten at a bunch of different high-quality Asian restaurants around the country,” says a nebbish man eating James’s wagu beef. “And this one, by far, right up there.” Whatever that means. How can something be right up there by far? This was your opportunity to show the world your talents, nebbish man eating beef, and YOU BLEW IT. Let’s hope your community theatre’s performance of Pippen next week goes better than that just did.

Service ends, and we get to hear that the Red Team wins. Wait. No we don’t. Apparently, the judges want to sleep on it. … Back in the MasterChef Kitchen, the judges break the news. The Red Team wins! Holy shit! They celebrate with a group hug, making a Luca sandwich between slices of Natasha and Jessie. This dream just took a turn for the sexy.

It’s time for the Dreaded Pressure Test, and this time each losing Home Cook will have to participate. They’ll have to make a plate of fried calamari with flavorful marinara sauce. Bri has had calamari in her non-vegetarian days, James loves it, and Krissi grew up on it.

They have 45 minutes and begin cooking. As someone noted on Twitter (I can’t remember who and can’t be bothered to look), James puts his hair back while Bri and Krissi do not. Why don’t the judges comment on this? That should be a free pass up to the balcony for James. I’m actively rooting for James in this competition. And that has nothing (everything) to do with him following me on Twitter (@joellugar).

The Home Cooks begin prep, and Krissi looks at one of her squid like she’s wondering what a squid has to do with calamari. Aren’t they ring-shaped? James is cleaning his squid like a pro, and Bri seems to be handling hers alright, as well. The chefs in the balcony watch Krissi mishandle her squid with amazement. She responds by lobbing f-bombs at them along with a spoonful of marinara. #sauceflinger

Gordon asks Bri if she’s tasting everything, and she says she’s tasting the flour before she seasons it. I guess she wants to make sure that it’s actually flour instead of something like cream of tartar. At home, Bime nods knowingly.

“They’re scared of me. That’s why they want me to leave,” says a delusional Krissi. “I’ve dominated every Pressure Test.” Graham asks Luca if he’s scared. He says he isn’t, though it probably isn’t fair to ask him while he’s hypnotized by the pheromones emanating from Jessie and Natasha standing to either side of him. #Lucaboner

Bri squeezes a lemon into her marinara sauce, and her oil is too hot. “They’re screaming,” Bri says about the souls of her tortured calamari. Those calamari will be waiting for her in hell where she’ll get to decide if this modicum of fame was worth eternal damnation.

Tasting time!

Bri goes first. Her rings are thick and overcoated with flour. “You can see that the breading is fried, but the inside is squid tartare,” says Graham. Oh noes! Creamed by tartare! Bri explains to Joe why she put lemon juice in her marinara, and Joe says it’s about the stupidest thing he’s ever heard. A few feet over, Krissi cream of tartars in her pants.

Krissi’s calamari is tasted next. Gordon says it’s spongy. Marinara expert Joe likes her sauce but thinks the batter on her calamari is like funnel cake.

James tells us that he’s worried about his marinara. “I kind of forgot about it, so I’m hoping they don’t notice that. But they will.” They do. He didn’t put olive oil in it. His calamari are perfect, though, so he’ll be fine.

The judges confer. The chefs commiserate. Krissi worries that if she goes home on calamari that she’ll lose her street cred that she had to stab a lot of people to get. Bri says she likes her lemony marinara, and Krissi stabs her.

James is called forward first, and he gets the reprieve. Natasha tells us, “I’m not even religious, but I’m praying to God that Krissi goes home.” But God has his focus solely on Jessie. “I made that,” God brags. “That was allll this guy.”

Gordon, aka God Jr., calls Krissi forward. “You have come so far…” Krissi sniffs as a tear rolls down her cheek. “…but, it’s time…” Another tear falls as she presses her lips together in agonizing fear. “…to take your apron off…” Bri gives a sigh of relief as Krissi removes her flour-speckled apron in disappointment. “…and head on upstairs to the gallery. You are safe.”

This time, Krissi breathes the sigh of relief. She goes upstairs, leaving Bri to feel the sharp blade of the ax for the second time this season.

Bri gives each of the judges a hug and says James is going to win. #TeamJames #followmeontwitter Gordon asks her to give Krissi some advice. “Be nice. Please? Try to be nice?” Don’t listen to her, Krissi. Continue being horrible and belligerent. These recaps need your misguided rage.

Farewell to Bri, once again. I’ll miss your glasses. I’ll miss your bangs. I’ll miss your specious claims of vegetarianism. I’ll miss your interview skills. I’ll miss your battles with Krissi. But most of all, I’ll miss your…bangs. Wait, I said that already? Screw it. I’m doubling down on the bangs.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

S4E19: USDA Inspected Choice Premium Recap

“Walking into the MasterChef Kitchen again just feels so right,” says model, actor, dancer, and possible vegetarian Bri. Normally, a quote like this to start off an episode is the kiss of death, but there’s no way Bri goes home one episode after coming back. No damn way. I would bet $250,000 and my very own cookbook on it.

It’s Mystery Box time again, and the remaining seven Home Cooks lift their boxes to reveal a 16 ounce T-bone steak. Jessie gives the cutest little dance of joy and is perfect and I love her. Bri feigns disgust. James is from Texas, is also a man, and is a sound byte machine who eats steak once a week. Fact.

Let’s hear more about this steak! Joe? “Walmart has provided you with a choice premium T-bone steak. Walmart sells the highest quality choice beef which is inspected by the USDA for quality.” Thanks, Joe! Mmmm, just hearing the letters USDA gets me wet in the mouth.

The MasterChef Pantry is being replaced by a Walmart truck because this season the branding needs to be as conspicuous as possible. Next season, the truck is actually going to blast through the MasterChef Kitchen walls like the Kool-Aid Man.

“I’m excited to see what’s in the truck,” says Natasha. Jordan opens the gate to discover dozens of naked small business owners who have been hogtied and gagged. “Bingo. Everything I need is actually there,” says Krissi who immediately fills her basket with tankinis and DVDs of The Bounty Hunter.

They start cooking, and Graham & Joe visit James’s station. James, who knows how to get camera time, tells them, “Every time we use these Walmart steaks, I’m always blown away at the quality of them…I’m going to cream some spinach and kale on the side.” Meanwhile, the Walmart marketing team is creaming something else on the side, if you know what I mean. Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink. Barf, barf.

Ok, editors. No more shots of Krissi tilting her head back and slowly dropping food into her open mouth. Those shots are reserved for Jessie only.

“How come you’ve never won a Mystery Box?” Graham asks Jordan who is wearing an atrocious pastel hoodie. “Because I over think it and go a little too crazy,” he responds while rubbing just the right amount of crazy into his steak.

Joe is impressed by Krissi’s potato flower-looking thing and Brussels sprout onion salad. Lately, Krissi is coming into her own and really feels more comfortable now that all of the black contestants are gone.

Time ends, and it’s time for the top three. First up is Jordan with his horribly ugly hoodie. I mean, what is going on with this thing? Did he get it at Walmart? It’s sea green and lavender with stripes of varying thickness, and it makes him look like he weighs 295 lbs. Really bad hoodie performance this week. Meanwhile, his steak is good. He only used the strip and not the filet, which is a strange choice, but that hideous hoodie is so distracting, the judges don’t seem to notice.

Luca gets the call next. He’s been on fire lately. Could Luca take down the whole season? It’s starting to look like a possibility. He cooked his strip and filet two different ways, and the judges slather him with praise like they’re James describing the quality of a Walmart steak.

Last is Krissi. The secret to her caramelization of the steak is using a cast-iron skillet, which she also uses to do her hair in the mornings. The judges love her food the most and give her the win.

Krissi heads into the MasterChef Pantry, which looks like a real piece of shit compared to that beautiful Walmart truck from earlier. Awarded with immunity from the Elimination Challenge, Krissi looks at five canvas-covered boxes of various size sitting in front of her. Joe lifts the first canvas to reveal a caged quail. Next cage is a pigeon. Then a Midwestern pheasant. Chicken. Gorgeous duck. And finally “the most amazing, incredible” turkey. She gets to pick which cook uses which bird.

The other Home Cooks enter the MasterChef Pantry to discover their feathered fates. The birds are loose, and each is wearing a medallion with the image of one of the contestants on it. “Quite the fowl scenario,” says James with an eyebrow-raise. Graham cannot keep up with him on the joke front, and he doesn't even bother trying anymore. They have to catch their birds, and Luca, who thinks the turkey is a peacock, tries to lure his with a leaf of kale. That might work, depending on how trend-conscious this turkey is.

Obviously, they don’t have to kill their birds as each of them is given pre-murdered birds. James tells us, “I’m very relieved I don’t have to strangle a duck in front of other people. It seems like more of a private thing.” Uh oh. Now James is coming after me. I need to step my game up.

They start cooking. James is confused about how to butcher his duck, and Natasha doesn’t know anything about her pheasant. From the balcony, Krissi tells Natasha that she’ll be fine, followed by a series of blurred obscene gestures.

Gordon tells Luca that Krissi wants him out of the competition, and Luca looks genuinely surprised at this. Poor, innocent Luca. Jessie is pan-frying her chicken and gets warned that it’s too simple. Bri is stuffing her pigeon with sunshine and love. Jordan’s sauce is not to Joe’s liking. He wants some quail flavor in there. I suggest he dip the quail in it.

The judges discuss among themselves what they like (Bri and Natasha) and what they don’t (Jessie and Jordan). Graham hates how Jordan boiled the quail in store-bought chicken stock. Jordan, forget what I said! Get that quail out of the sauce immediately!

Tasting time, and Jessie goes first. Joe is not happy. Her dish pales in comparison to her own stunning beauty. In the future she should put her dish in front of the judges and then return to her station so as not to overpower it. Jessie admits to playing it safe, and the judges give her a tongue-lashing. (They wish.)

Natasha makes risotto with her pheasant. Joe loves the dish, calling it “delicious, great, smart, intelligent, flavorful, very elegant, very refined.” He leaves no adjectives for Gordon and Graham to use, so they just take bites and say yummy.

James presents his togarashi rubbed duck with mushrooms and kimchi. “Togarashi is a Japanese chili pepper spice blend,” says Graham. Yeah, Graham. I know that. Because I just Googled it. The dish is good, and James is safe.

Next are Luca and his pancetta wrapped peacock, err turkey. Despite never having heard of the mythical turkey before, Luca does well with it. He’s safe.

“Bri decided to leave the pigeon whole instead of butchering it because of her animal views,” according to Krissi, who rolls her eyes and makes air quotes while saying “animal views.” “Krissi” doesn’t “understand” how “air” quotes “work.” Bri nailed it, though. Gordon gives it his wow factor seal of approval.

Things are looking bad for Jessie as every cook after her has done well, but Jordan and his suspect sauce are up next. Graham cuts into his quail, and it’s raw inside. “That’s disgusting,” says Joe. The judges hate it, and that hoodie certainly isn’t helping.

Bri is one of the top two dishes with the win going to Former Evil Robot Natasha.

The two bottom dishes belong to Jessie and Jordan. “Two Home Cooks that all three of us were marking for the top five,” bemoans Gordon. “We’d like to keep you both in the competition…” The other contestants’ stomachs drop. “…but we can’t.” Jessie and Jordan’s stomachs drop. “Someone is going to leave. Jessie, step forward.” Jessie glides forward like the angel she is. “It was really, seriously close, but you are on your way…” The music crescendos. “…into the Top Six.”

And with that, Jordan is gone. He was one of the early frontrunners, but he struggled once the competition got tight. Wiping away tears, Jordan hugs the other contestants. “I wanted to do my mom proud. And I think I did my mom proud,” he tells us in his final interview.

Goodbye, Jordan. You came into this competition to prove yourself, and you delivered.

Get it? Because he’s a delivery driver. High five, James!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

S4E18: Zombies!

We’re down to the Top 6, but only for a moment, because one of the previously eliminated Home Cooks will be coming back after this episode. Three corpses have been reanimated and will face off in a zombie cook-off for a chance to win another shot at the title of MasterChef and a bucket of brains.

Each judge has brought back one chef. Gordon brings back vegetarian Bri because she gives the best mini-interviews, Joe brings back Lynn because Joe has a taste for sweat, and Graham brings back “5’11” 295 lbs” Bime. 295 lbs? How heavy is that fedora? The MasterChef cameras must remove 60 lbs. {insert Graham fat joke here}

The three zombies are told that they have five minutes to grab whatever they need from the MasterChef Pantry, and they race in there to find only eggs. “What the cluck is this?” jokes Bime. “I don’t know what you’re cooking, but I think I’m cooking eggs,” jokes Lynn. Bri drops an egg, but fortunately the psychic cameraman had a perfectly framed shot of the floor where the egg fell to capture the splatter. Does he also know who’s going to win? He must.

They each carry two huge baskets filled with eggs back into the kitchen, and Luca remarks, “You look like a chicken!” Chickens don't carry baskets of eggs around, Luca. 

The zombies have 15 minutes to cook as many perfect sunny-side up eggs as they can. The two that complete the most will move on to a Head-to-Head Challenge. They each have 100 plates, 12 pans, and two stoves, but share one dream.

Time begins, and they begin running around like a chicken with a serious disregard for the unfertilized embryos of its species.

Bime is using butter in his pans instead of oil, and even I know that’s a bad idea. Bri has her burners too hot, but James helps her out from the balcony. Lynn starts off very well, but the sweat soon starts to pour, blinding him. This probably won’t work out for him like it did Christine Ha from last season or how it certainly would for Mister Magoo.

“I’ve experienced firsthand that Lynn definitely cracks under pressure,” says James as the psychic cameraman captures a shot of Lynn making a sunny-side floor egg.

Time ends and the judges judge Lynn first. They don’t take it easy on him and send many plates crashing into the trash. Fortunately, these plates are from Walmart and are very affordable. “There’s no other sound than my dreams dying one plate at a time,” says Lynn. Yikes. When the carnage ends, Lynn is left with only eight good eggs.

Bri goes next. She does much better and gets 13, moving on to the Head-to-Head Challenge.

Bime needs nine to move on. A lot of plates get tossed early and we go to commercial break, meaning Bime will be fine. He gets to eight with a few plates left and only needs one more perfect egg to make it. It’s in there, and Bime celebrates with an emphatic clap and spin, relieved that he never had to use the one egg he was hiding underneath his fedora.

Lynn says goodbye once more, shooting a giant torrent of sweat from his temples and surfing it out of the MasterChef Kitchen. Okay, he just gave an awkward wave and walked out.

For the Head-to-Head Challenge, Bri and Bime will be judged by the other Home Cooks and Joe Bastianich, and it will be blind as a salute to Lynn and Christine Ha…and Mister Magoo.

I like that they’re doing a blind taste test and feel that the show should do more of these. The show needs a boost of credibility and these challenges help.

Wait. I just noticed that the Top 6 is more dressed up than usual. The ever-radiant Jessie is wearing a beautiful pink dress, Jordan is sans hoodie, Natasha is wearing a tight mauve number, and Luca is wearing a suit! They obviously knew that they weren’t going to be cooking today. Krissi is even wearing her nicest gray sweater.

For their main ingredient, Bri and Bime will be cooking “this most incredible, this most beautiful, the freshest king salmon,” as elegantly described by Joe. Graham adds, “These beauties were caught while trolling off the coast of Alaska.” Good. Fuck the trolls.

They have to make seven dishes of pan-seared salmon with hollandaise sauce, asparagus and potatoes. Bime gets the blue apron and Bri, the red. They only have 60 minutes to filet their fish and prepare all of the dishes which is pretty daunting, particularly for Bri who also has to pen an apology poem to the remaining salmon in the world, reciting it while standing upon a cliff above crashing waves, before throwing herself onto the rocks below in atonement.
Time starts, and they begin to filet. Bime looks like he knows what he’s doing, but Bri does not. She’s carving the filets out of the salmon like slices of cake. Though, once she gets eight portions cut, they don’t look half bad.

Bime is making garlic mashed potatoes with cheese. “Cheese? With Salmon?” asks an incredulous Graham. Bime begins whipping eggs in a stupor while flashing back to his meringue pie disaster. “You know I believe in you,” whispers Graham. In the douchebag dating book, I think that’s called negging.

“I know Bri is gonna kick his ass just because Bime sucks at life,” says Krissi, winner at life.

Time ends, and Bri is unsure about the seasoning on her vegetables but feels good about her salmon. Bime thinks everything about his dish is perfect. They lounge in the MasterChef Lounge while the other Home Cooks taste their dishes.

During the tasting, compliments fly left and right, and it isn’t easy to tell who has the advantage. The chefs and Joe all vote, and he brings the envelopes on a silver platter back into the MasterChef Kitchen. Bri and Bime hop up out of the MasterChef Lounge having not even cracked a single book during their luxurious stay.

Whoever gets at least four votes will rejoin the competition. The first vote goes to Bime. The second to Bri. The third to Bime. The fourth to Bri. The fifth to Bri. The sixth to Bime. It’s a tie so far, and the next vote will declare the winner. We know what that means: commercial break!

Joe opens the final envelope. “Coming back into the MasterChef competition…is…”

The Top 6 are standing in the MasterChef Dining Room, evenly staggered in front of Graham and Gordon. They eagerly anticipate the news of the rebirth of one their formerly fallen comrades/enemies. Luca rubs his palms together, Gordon exhales deeply, Krissi rubs her lips together, Natasha…smells a fart maybe? Joe enters to announce the winner.

“Please, welcome back…” We see heels walk into frame. “…Bri!” Jessie beams. Luca claps. Natasha scowls. Krissi rubs her lips together even harder.

Bime exits the deserted MasterChef Kitchen to return to his daughters.

So the Top 6 is back to a Top 7. I couldn’t be happier to have Bri back, and I’m not just saying that because she follows me on Twitter. It’s because she’s a dynamic character who adds a lot of energy to MasterChef. She’s a vegetarian who constantly kicks carnivore ass, and she knows how to give a solid interview, which I really appreciate.

Also, she follows me on Twitter.