'MasterChef' Recap: top 15 compete

The top 15 arrive and walk into the MasterChef kitchen unaware of what challenges they will be facing that day as a traditional mystery box was not in the cards. From the beginning Courtney was sent to the top of the gallery and is then told what her advantages from last week would be.

Instead of picking a meal or team captains, Courtney instead gets to pick the 7 pairs who will be working together to create a beautiful and unique surf and turf meal. The first pair she sets up is the one she was hoping would ruin each other: Christian and Francis B. These two chefs are great cooks but together the two just might not be able to see over each other’s egos. Jaimee and Elizabeth are paired off, as are Victoria and Christine, Cutter and Dan, Willie and Daniel, and Francis L and Elise. The other pair that Courtney intentionally put together in her hopes of destruction was Ahran and Leslie, the youngest and oldest chefs in the competition.

Over the past few weeks it is no secret that the two can barely get along. Most of their interactions turn into large arguments with the root of their problems being that they are from two completely different generations and views on life. Even before Courtney started making pairs, the two expressed that if there was one person they would not want to work with – it would be the other. The moment Courtney announced their partnership, Ahran said, “I just might die in a hole.”

The teams were given 60 minutes to create a wonderful surf and turf dish that successfully fussed the two different flavors together. In addition they were given five minutes to search the pantry for any other ingredients they felt they would need with the warning that once they left the pantry and time was called, there would be no reentry and you would be stuck with what you grabbed. This element especially played out negatively on Cutter and Dan as the two bickered over what the dish should be and barely grabbed anything from the pantry before time was up. The two of them were doomed from the start.

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The results were surprising as the judges surveyed the different meals in progress throughout the time and as the click striked 0, it was time for the real judging to begin. Ahran and Leslie were asked to come forward first and the two created a pork belly tostada with crab guacamole and kimchi fried rice. Their dish was incredible and stunning as the two may have just been a match made in Heaven. It was a moment of relief for the two, as it appears a truce had been reached and a level of respect has been earned.

Some other shining dishes were Jaimee and Elizabeth’s lamb and red snapper with carrots and kale, Willie and Daniel’s seared ahi tuna with buttermilk miso fried chicken and Christine and Victoria’s pork belly and monkfish with green apple risotto. Francis L and Elise’s rack of lamb with crab risotto, yogurt and caviar did not do as well despite its creativity and the same went for Christian and Francis B’s Moroccan spiced rib eye with king crab as Ramsey expected more from the two spectacular chefs.

Yet the real failure was Cutter and Dan’s seared venison loin with seared ahi tuna as Joe allowed Cutter to do the honors and throw the embarrassment out himself. The two continued to argue even when presenting their dish and it was just embarrassing to watch. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that they would be going into a pressure test.

Following the dish tasting, the judges evaluated who to save and who to put through the pressure test and there were some surprises in the decisions made. It was Victoria and Christine, two unsung heroes throughout this competition, who were named top chef with the best dish for this week and were safe. Jaimee, Elizabeth, Daniel, Willie, Leslie and Ahran joined the winning pair and Courtney in the gallery as it was the other three pairs left to face the judges’ mercy.

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But there was no mercy as the judges unveiled the pressure test of true skill and difficulty in a tasty, flaky and generously filled Chinese spring roll. But before the chefs could get started the judges chose to send one more team to safety with their choice of Elise and Leslie L. Secondly there is the fact that Dan was born in China and has experience with this food item. Cutter was biting his tongue on just how unfair this entire situation was for him while Dan remained cool as a cucumber without one complaint on his lips.

The four men were given an hour to create six spring rolls and a dipping sauce to accompany it and it was an interesting sixty minutes. Christian has never made a spring roll before, same for Cutter while Dan and Francis B felt fairly confident. Close to the end of the house, Cutter notices that one of his rolls has opened up in the deep fryer and has to make a new one with less than 5 minutes to go and somehow gets it done.

During the judging process of the spring rolls, the judges are shocked by Christian’s performance as they are delicious and have a nice crunch. Dan disappoints with his rolls as the judges expected more considering his sauce is the only redeeming quality of his dish. Cutter and Francis B are even worse as Cutter’s are not even close to crisp and Francis B’s are greasy, due to his decision to sear them in a frying pan with oil.

In the end it was Christian who was first saved as his rolls were considered the best and the shock on his face was heartwarming. For someone who had never cooked the dish before and to be considered the best, it is a large honor. Dan is saved purely because of his sauce, a part of the dish, which the judges did inform the cooks not to ignore, and Cutter gets a lucky escape sending former front-runner Francis B home.

The line that truly stuck out to me from this weeks episode was when Cutter had told Judge Joe that, “Some people don’t work well with others” and Joe responded with a chilling, “Some people don’t work well on their own.” He speaks the truth as in this competition while being a part of a team is important, at the end of the day you need to be able to stand on your own feet and stick up for yourself in the kitchen. Unfortunately Francis B lost his gripping’s and could not find any stable ground so his time was up.

image courtesy of Dara Kushner/INFphoto.com

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