'MasterChef' recap: Top 11 Compete

The battle for the Top 10 home cooks brought out the best and worst in the eleven remaining contestants on this weeks episode of MasterChef.

For this round of the usual Mystery Box challenge, the contestants arrived at their stations to find two boxes sitting before them. You were probably just as perplexed as them but there is always a plan. The judges first had the group lift the top off of the box on the right and in it revealed an array of food found in most home kitchens around the world. I admit, I even spotted a few that I know for a fact are always kept in my house. Some examples were ground beef, ham steak, dill pickles and cheese dip (yummy for me, gross to them). They then looked at the box on the left and underneath were an elevated version of the home version box. Or as Courtney put it, “All of the groceries I would buy if I could afford it.”

Now for that plan I spoke of… the judges chose for tonight to be a mystery box of choice as each contestant was allowed to pick either box to work with and prepare a dish. While most of the cooks go for the more expensive box, Victoria chose to go with the simple box, as she believed being able to elevate simple ingredients shows more of her talent. I always knew I liked Victoria for a reason. The chefs showed full potential and promise as they worked to complete their dish except for Leslie, who ended up in a yelling match with Chef Joe over seasoning. For ten minutes I once again hoped for the fall of Leslie.

image courtesy of Dara Kushner/INFphoto.com

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With the hour completed, it became time for the judges to call forward the top three dishes they wish to taste further and the names they chose did not surprise me. Maybe I have been watching this show for too long and gotten really good at figuring out what the judges want or it is simply that predictable. The first name called was Elizabeth who I am considering to be the new Courtney, or at least Courtney’s sidekick because either of them is always glowing in this competition. Elizabeth presents pan roasted pork chop with herb biscuits and pea salad to all three judges approval. The second name was Victoria who cooked a gorgeous tilapia and ham steak with iceberg salad. She even used the nacho cheese to her advantage, which I consider to be a high quality ingredient in my pantry. Following both stunning dishes my hopes of Leslie’s fall came to a halt as he was called down for the third dish. A, what I hate to admit, stunning pork, beef and ahi tuna with truffle puree, stilton and pea puree came before the judges and Joe gave Leslie a bravo for the seasoning. As much I do not like Leslie’s attitude or personality, I have to agree with Gordon Ramsey when he said, “Let’s admit it, you’re not a fluke.”

Yet was anyone shocked that Leslie was chosen as the winner of the Mystery Box challenge? Leslie sure was as his face lit up like Christmas morning for a single child in a mansion. He even knew the routine down pat as he told the judges flat out, “I am ready to go into the pantry!” when asked if he was prepared for his advantage. It was once he was inside that he got to choose between stuffed tortellini, stuffed caramelle and stuffed raviolocci for the other ten chefs to cook. I feel this was one of the harder challenges that I had never heard of the last two and had to Google search them for the correct spelling. For the record, yes I did feel like a failed pasta fan in that moment, but thankfully I am not the one in the spotlight here, that’s Leslie.

It appeared that it took Leslie no time to make a decision as he walked himself up to the gallery as it was revealed the chefs would be cooking stuffed caramelle (and it made me feel slightly better when some of them had no idea what that was either). Of course though there was one more surprise as Leslie was asked to come downstairs and was handed a rolling pin. Leslie then got to give the rolling pin to one cook and take away their pasta machine, a very dangerous feet if you are an enemy of Leslie, which half of the kitchen has been at some point. Then just as my anger at the man was about to reach a new level when he came over to Ahran and gave her a hug, he moved on and towards Daniel, who knew it was coming all along. In Daniel’s own words, “Leslie is a petty man who holds onto grudges,” well ouch.

Ignoring the set back, Daniel was able to finish his pasta on time alongside everyone else but that does not necessarily mean it was good. Another thing I have begun to notice about this show is that the top three and the bottom three dishes are shown being tasted which disappoints me because I would have loved to have seen how Ahran or Victoria’s pasta came out, but for now I’ll assume it was good enough to fly under the radar.

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The first dish tasted was Daniels’ short rib caramelle with tamarind habanero curry which the judges proclaimed just did not work, or as one chef called it, “disgusting.” Jaimee, who is nothing but a ray of sunshine with the heart of a six-year-old, brought her dish close to home using her dads meat sauce recipe for her caramelle with creamy tomato and pork sauce. All three judges raved over her dish and insisted her dad would be proud in this moment. Francis, who the chefs still call ‘Scottish Francis’ despite Francis B’s dismissal weeks ago, short rib caramelle with cauliflower and pepper puree was a horror show as he had dyed the pasta pink using beet root so the caramelle looked like bubblegum. As you can imagine, it did not work, at all. My heart hurt for Francis as he always tries to be himself and come up with new ways to impress the kitchen but this one was a miss. Plus while I have tried to do some crazy things myself, such as throwing in whatever spice I felt like with a dash of hot sauce and hoping it worked, I never considered dying pasta.

Cutter got to shine again this week with his own short rib caramelle with vodka white sauce as Ramsey told him, “You do cook like an angel,” and wowed the judges. I like it when Cutter isn’t getting into trouble. The episodes just seem calmer that way. The good streak continued with Courtney’s caramelle with tomato sauce as she earned herself a job well done in her classic heels. Then Willie disappointed us all with his squash and apple caramelle with crème anglaise. Why he felt he could create a dessert pasta is beyond myself and any of the judges and it was this dish that would land him in the bottom three.

It would be Jaimee and Courtney who had the top two dishes and be team captains in next week’s episode. The bottom three of the night turned out to be Willie, Francis and Daniel and more shocking was Francis being chosen for elimination. I personally had hoped Francis would make it farther but I could not imagine him winning. As the weeks go on it gets harder and harder to watch the chefs go.

The top 10 are: Courtney, Willie, Leslie, Victoria, Elizabeth, Daniel, Jaimee, Elizabeth, Ahran and Cutter.
(I told you I would remember all of their names eventually.)

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