And then there were four.
Leslie has dreams of opening a bistro casual restaurant in Malibu and winning MasterChef is the only way that dream is ever coming to fruition. I hope my personal dreams never come true, because last night I dreamt that Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were chasing me through my neighborhood, trying to kill me. I don’t even know why, but do Matt and Ben even need a reason? Those murderous psychopaths would end us all if they could.
Courtney’s dream is to become a food critic, specializing in hole in the wall establishments. It’s not exactly the kind of job one does when seeking glory. It’s more a niche occupation, much like being a reality food competition critic. It also pays just about as well.
The remaining four Home Cooks will be pairing up in teams of two. The losing team will then face against each other in a Dreaded Mystery Elimination of Death.
Since she won last episode, Courtney gets to pick her partner. She picks Elizabeth. “Mmm,” Graham says.
“I get Cutter, and boom—there goes my dream. It turns into a nightmare,” says Leslie as Matt Damon and Ben Affleck begin chasing him around the MasterChef Kitchen.
“In the MasterChef Equipment Room there are four boxes, one from each of the four states that you come from,” says Graham. The boxes are filled with ingredients from each state, and the teams will get to choose one of their two boxes. Half of the original cast was from Texas, so it certainly is convenient that only one Texan remains for this challenge. They have one hour to make an appetizer and entrée from their chosen box.
Cutter and Leslie have to decide between a California box and a Texas box. Leslie immediately acquiesces to Cutter’s Texas box in hopes of a harmonious relationship for the challenge. Choosing between New York and Pennsylvania, Elizabeth and Courtney go for the latter’s Pennsylvania box because the New York box is probably filled with rats.
“A (Dreaded) Pressure Test that is just comprised of me versus Courtney is basically my nightmare,” says Elizabeth who has never looked into the cold dead eyes of Matt Damon. “We need to win so that we don’t have to face each other.”
Their one hour starts…now. And the #HometownBox challenge is officially on.
When the Home Cooks on MasterChef get whittled down, the amount of actual cooking goes up. Many feel that this is good for the show, but it’s bad for these recaps. I mean, what is this? A cooking show? Puh-leaze.
Team Cutter & Leslie is making a spare ribs appetizer with a grapefruit and molasses barbecue topping and a corn salsa. Gordon thinks that is just lovely and then inquires if they’re going light for the entrée after such a hearty app. They aren’t. They’re preparing a ribeye. Gordon does not think this is as lovely and would love to talk more about their choices, but Leslie has no time, saying, “I’d love to chitchat, but I gotta go.” Leslie runs to the MasterChef Equipment Room with Ben Affleck hot on his tail.
Joe asks Courtney about their appetizer. “It’s two slices of the trout with poached pear with an apple butter, ginger beer sauce,” she tells him.
“You really have to nail that, or it’s going to be kind of amateurish and terrible,” Joe replies. Not much wiggle room there. Their entrée is venison medallions marinated in root beer. So they’re rocking ginger beer and root beer, but the lack of a sarsaparilla is what might ultimately get them.
Cook, cook, cook.
Medic! Mistaking it for an onion, Cutter cuts a chunk out of his thumb. All season long, everyone has been telling him he’s too clumsy in the kitchen, but he isn’t all thumbs anymore. After a few minutes of sticking his hand in a Philips Airfryer—that thing works miracles—he’s back at his station and ready to piss off Leslie.
Courtney makes a pear sauce that she tries to convince Elizabeth—and herself—is good. “It tastes weird,” Elizabeth tells her, and Courtney doesn’t fight it. They instead decide to quickly make an herb mash.
Courtney tells Elizabeth to hurry. Elizabeth says she is hurrying. Courtney apologizes. Elizabeth again says she is hurrying. Courtney tells Elizabeth to hurry. Elizabeth exhales. Serious fireworks going on here.
Cutter asks Leslie about possibly making biscuits, but Leslie is done with breastfeeding Cutter—too much teeth.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth is getting frustrated. “Courtney, sometimes the things that you tell me are (shit?) that I already know, and I just need you to tell me things that I don’t know,” she says just as Courtney is about to tell her that 15 minutes could save her 15% or more on car insurance—but thinks better of it.
Things are just not running smoothly for Team Courtney & Elizabeth. They each made a sauce for the same dish, making their reductions redundant.
Cutter can’t get his reduction to reduce. There’s too much fat in it, so he’s starting over with a red wine sauce.
Cook, cook, cook.
Plate, plate, plate.
Hands in the air. Well done.
Courtney and Elizabeth bring their appetizers forward. It’s a pan-seared rainbow trout with poached pear and cheddar cheese. “It looks like something left over from a finger buffet gone wrong,” says Gordon. He thinks that pear and trout is a weird combination. Graham thinks cheese and trout is a weird combination, dismissing the dish as fish sticks. Do these girls like fish sticks? It’s unclear.
Cutter and Leslie present ribs with molasses glaze and corn. “What the fuck is that?” asks Gordon. It’s just ribs on top of some corn. Gordon calls the corn the most depressing corn he’s ever seen but the ribs are delicious. But the corn. My god, the corn!
The girls present their entrée. It’s venison medallions with mashed potatoes and apple butter reduction. “Finally, some beauty,” declares Gordon. He thinks the venison and sauce are delicious, but the mash sucks. Joe agrees about the tasty meat but bemoans the lack of vegetables on the plate. So far, everything has been rather disastrous in this challenge.
Cutter and Leslie bring forward their ribeye steak with potato, turnip, and carrot purée. They took the bone off the ribeye, much to Graham’s chagrin. But then they put the bone in the pan to make the sauce, much to Graham’s delight. But then they screwed up the sauce and started over sans bone, potentially boning themselves.
Well, that was a horrible challenge! The two teams stand before the judges, and the girls are deemed the best of the worst and are sent upstairs to the MasterChef Balcony. I am so bored.
It’s time for the Dreaded Pressure Test, Leslie’s sixth. “The oil man versus the stay-at-home dad,” says Graham, and Cutter cracks up. These two are a polarizing pair, and during the airing of the episode, my Twitter feed was ablaze with fans taking sides and tossing insults toward either contestant. I don’t see why we can’t all just get along. We’re all Americans; aren’t we? Isn’t that what this show is all about? Bringing the best American Home Cooks together to compete and crown the best Italian in the bunch?
They’ll be cooking with ingredients from the previously discarded California box, but the three dishes they’ll be making have already been determined for them: sea urchin risotto, Jidori chicken teriyaki, and tuna nicoise.
They head to their stations and prepare to get cooking. Cutter has no last words for Leslie, who always has some last words, and they are, “I hope he likes Texas.” Shots fired.
They have 90 minutes, and they start…now.
Cook, cook, cook.
Cutter begins cooking his risotto way before he should. “This is the worst dish ever,” he says, starting to freak out. Graham tries to calm him down while Leslie giggles with evil delight at his station.
Courtney and Elizabeth do their best to help Cutter from the MasterChef Balcony. They obviously would rather see him in the Top 3 with them than Leslie, who would rather see Cutter lose on his own “and not with his mother up there.”
Leslie feels like the girls are nervous to face him, and they think Leslie should get over himself. But come on. He has a point. That is why they’re helping Cutter.
Gordon feels that Cutter is still too clumsy—even with only nine fingers—to properly prepare the tuna.
“This is a Pressure Test times three,” says Joe as Cutter and Leslie begin to plate their dishes. It appears that the judges did them a favor by preparing the sea urchin for them ahead of time as they only have to take slices and place them on top of their risotto. This is a Pressure Test times three minus one-half. This is acutally 2.5 Pressure Tests, which is still a lot of Pressure Tests.
Stop. Hands in air.
Leslie forgot his quail eggs for the nicoise salad, and he’s feeling concerned. Cutter is feeling awesome. He says he nailed all three dishes, but I’ll be the judge of that. Wait, no I won’t. I think I’m over MasterCheffed. These double episodes are just too much. I need a MasterSoak in a MasterSpa.
Joe judges the risotti. He tastes them both, saying that Cutter’s flavor is good and quizzing Leslie on the amount of wine he added. He then returns to the judges’ platform and declares Leslie’s risotto to be the winner. Moving on.
Graham judges the Jidori chicken teriyaki. Cutter’s looks a lot better than Leslie’s, whose chicken is missing sauce and on the wrong type of plate—a huge mistake. Both of them overcooked their chicken, but Cutter gets the win. It’s a good thing, too, because this would be pretty anticlimactic without a tie going into the final dish.
Gordon judges the tuna nicoise. Cutter’s tuna is poorly seared and too raw, but his plating and the rest of his salad are on point. In contrast, Leslie’s plating is sloppy. He’s missing his quail eggs, but his tuna is prepared beautifully.
It’s close. The judges have a quick whisper huddle to discuss which Home Cook is better for ratings before turning to face them.
Gordon delivers the news. “This—is—a—very difficult moment—for both of you and equally for us. The person with the winning nicoise salad—the person who is now—in the Top 3 of MasterChef—congratulations—” Graham presses the stem of his glasses to pursed lips. “—Leslie.”
So it’s finally over for Cutter. “You have true grit. You have true determination,” says Gordon, “and you’ve done an amazing job.”
Graham asks Cutter how the journey has been. He responds, “I tell you what, man, it’s been a roller coaster. I came in here just knowing how to cook a few things really good, but I learned so much from you guys.” He begins to choke up as the emotion of the moment takes over. Fighting through tears, he continues, “I put my heart on the plate every time that—every time…I appreciate everything, man. Damn!” he says with a smile. “I appreciated Leslie! That was a good competition. That’s all I wanted.”
He shakes the hands of the judges, giving each of them a hug. Then he turns to Leslie in the MasterChef Balcony and says, “Hey, good luck to you, sir. My hat’s off to you. You are the better chef.” Leslie accepts the compliment with zero humility.
In his exit interview, Cutter tells us, “I came to MasterChef as a small fish in a big pond. And I grew.” He continues, “You learn from the past, you live for today, and you dream about tomorrow.”
Placing his apron on his station, he walks out the doors giving everyone a Hook’em Horns salute and shouting, “Cutter Brewer, baby!”
That’s the way to go out.
Was Cutter one of the strongest chefs this season? No. Was he one of the four best chefs? Probably not. But whether you think he earned it or not, he made it to the Top 4, and no one can take that from him. As a search-and-rescue diver, Cutter mastered the sea. As a petroleum landman, he mastered the land. What was left for him but to attempt to master MasterChef? And damn it, if he didn’t give it his best shot.
Thank you, Cutter. You were a joy to write about. You got a big heart, and you cooked it well.