Welcome to the fifth season of MasterChef, the worlds largest cooking show where thousands of Americans compete to earn the title of the best home cook in the United States. The season begins with a montage showing the three judges, Gordon Ramsey, Graham Elliot, and Joe Bastianich in different parts of the country surrounded by hopefuls who wish to make their way into the MasterChef kitchen.
The competition is stocked with rules and instructions that are easy to follow – cook your way through the challenges to the judges’ high praise and approval. If they do not like what the contestants are doing, they could be sent home in a flash.
For the season premiere it all began with the top thirty competitors walking into the MasterChef kitchen to be greeted with a warm welcome from the three judges. After a small amount of praise and congratulations from the judges, the true competition begins. All of the chefs are sent to their cooking stations equipped with an oven, stove, sink and all the necessary tools of a five star restaurant. At their stations is a wood block with the MasterChef logo on it and the contestants are told to pick up the block to see what they would be working with for the day.
It turns out to be a mirror and each contestant is staring themselves down, some in confusion and others with a small smirk. One contestant even said, “I saw myself in the mirror and thought, ‘Hey I look good’.” After a few moments the judges chose to explain the mirror by announcing that the objective for their first challenge is to put themselves on a plate. Show the judges who they are in the form of the cuisine of their choosing. For some, it is a simple task and for others it means a little bit of soul searching under pressure.
Ramsey continues on to explain that this is not the only thing that will determine if the contestants move on to the next round, and by doing so earning them the specially coveted MasterChef apron. Ramsey, Elliot and Bastianich will be surveying the kitchen the entire hour as the chefs cook to evaluate their technique and how they operate. And then Ramsey drops the largest twist of all, all of the chefs may not even make it to finishing their dish as at any moment can a chef be told to shut off their burner and sent home. It is in this moment that the staple tradition of, “If you can’t handle the heat, stay out of the kitchen” applies.
And then they are off and sent into a pantry suited for three kingdoms stocked with anything and everything imaginable. The contestants are quick to grab what they need to return to their stoves as they have one hour to show these judges everything they have and why they deserve to move on. The judges begin to survey the crowd and search for who is organized, who uses their knives correctly, who can keep a clean work station (this will come back later, promise) and more.
Within the first half hour the judges eliminate Gavin due to his inability to taste his food as he cooks, a major strike in Gordon Ramsey’s eyes. He is dismissed from the competition and everyone is sent back to cooking. In Gavin’s exit interview, he admitted, “It’s a lot more difficult than I thought.” It is pure cutthroat competition as every contestant eyes go wide with panic every time a judge tells them to stop what they are doing. Again with ten minutes left, Natania is the second to be eliminated due to her poor cooking methods. In fifty minutes of the first challenge two chefs are gone and thirty has turned to twenty-eight.
Once the hour is up, the chefs walk around to all the plates and taste the food while asking why the contestants chose to make what they did. After evaluations from the judges, they began to hand out contestants to those who stood out. The first was given to Courtney, a student who turned into a gentleman’s club worker when five jobs and taking eight classes still left her without money for her rent. Eighteen additional aprons were distributed leaving nine standing at their stations feeling pure defeat. Everyone felt it was over until Ramsey surprised the remaining few again by announcing that they have a chance at redemption in one final challenge.
Those nine were provided with the exact same ingredients and were instructed to take those ingredients and make something extraordinary. One last twist was thrown into the mix when Ramsey himself announced he would be cooking alongside the chefs. It was another hour of pressure as the chefs worked quickly to use the common ingredients given to them: chicken, bacon, bell peppers, potatoes, shrimp, and carrots.
Now remember how the judges were looking to see if the chefs could work in a clean environment? One chef, Astrid, was nearly eliminated halfway through the second challenge when Bastianich noticed how messy of a worker she was. After a public display on how her work ethic will not be tolerated, she was let off with a warning. No one is ever safe in the MasterChef kitchen.
Ramsey floors everyone in the kitchen with his incredible shrimp dumpling in a sweet and sour sauce, a prime example of everything these chefs should hope to become. The nine then display their dishes to all three judges and wait for their judgement to be announced. In the end, five out of the nine received an apron from a job well done on their challenge. The most heart wrenching of all might have been Elise who almost got sent home after the first challenge due to her mini pies and then followed up with a chicken potpie. Ramsey handed over the final apron to her with the statement, “No more pies.”
In total twenty-two chefs received their white aprons and are moving on to the next round. From here on out the real challenges begin with the famous and notorious mystery box challenges. It’s shaping up to be an exciting season for the home cooks that will lead up to one in a blaze of glory with a trophy, a quarter of a million dollars and their own cook book which will be sold across America. Tune in next week, June 2nd at 8pm, to see which chefs can handle the heat and which two will fizzle out.