Thursday, August 29, 2013

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. 


  1. The only thing better than Master Chef is Master Chef Theatre. Dog Damn this mille-feuille!

  2. White chips are basically chocolate chips, except without the actual chocolate- basically just cream and sugar.

    They also refer to the little dried-up pools that form on your boxers after every episode.

  3. Jessie is amazing. So beautiful and talented. Girls like that are rare.