Last week we had our first chance to meet the MasterChef Season 5 contestants, and watch as the Top 30 became in fact the Top 22. Those home cooks lucky enough to receive their aprons and officially earn a place in the MasterChef kitchen now are facing their very first “Mystery Box” challenge of the season. What will they find inside? Chocolate, bananas, brandy, strawberries, blueberries, lady fingers, brandy, honey…it’s all dessert stuff right off the bat. That makes Willie happy. The contestants will have 90 minutes to make one amazing dessert, so they’d better get cooking.
Joe announces that at least one person is going to be eliminated by the end of this challenge. That’s not too much of a surprise…clearly they are going to want to eliminate some of the (apparently) weaker contestants quickly with 22 still in the competition. The judges think over-complication is the biggest challenge most contestants will face at this point, wanting to use everything in their boxes instead of focusing on just a few ingredients.
We see that Courtney is making a honey cake of some kind; she’s confident as is Willie, whom we get another glimpse of with his family life back at home. Next we see Cutter, who is making some kind of cappuccino pudding with vanilla whipped cream. Astrid is nervous…she doesn’t bake. She’s attempting to make lemon bars with lavender.
Jaimee is finally introduced to us, and she seems to be the resident nerd–or in her words “Black Sheep”—of this season, similar to Bri last year. She’s making chocolate pecan brownie. Joe thinks she has a big advantage for this round because of her background. I’m not sure how long I can take her being on screen with her incredibly awkward way of talking!
Next we see Elizabeth, who got a lot of screen time in the first episode. She is making strawberry balsamic cake. Gordon wants to know who she thinks is is going to screw this one up and she says Leslie—that sets him off and the two start going at each other big time! Gordon finally tells him to dial it back and he apologies to Elizabeth…but he does seem to be struggling with his dessert.
Time is up and the judges are looking around to see which dishes are standing out. Who had the best dishes? Cutter and Astrid are asked to come forward…and then also Courtney and Big Willie. Willie doesn’t see Courtney as a baker so now his confidence has dropped. It turns out two of those called forward are in contention for worst dish, and two are up for the best.
The worst? It turns out to be Cutter and Astrid. We see Cutter and his plate first: it’s a cappuccino pudding with biscotti. Gordon hates that he added a Masterchef logo on his cappuccino. “Honestly?” Gordon says,”It doesn’t look like a dessert.” Joe asks Cutter if he even knows what a biscotti is. “Dishes have standards”…and his clearly hasn’t met them.
Astrid is next. The lemon dessert she’s prepared is raw. Gordon is struggling where they can go with her based on this dish. Graham picks her plate apart and says pastry may not be her strength but she has to still step up and make it happen.
Will one of the two be going home right away? It seems so…and Gordon announces that the person whose journey will continue is…Cutter. Astrid is going home, but Cutter needs to get a grip. This doesn’t seem too surprising to me as the judges really gave Astrid hell last episode for the mess she made at her station. It didn’t seem that they had much love for her right from the start—and as I am interested in noting the ages of the competitors, it’s worth noting that means one of the two oldest in the competition, Astrid at 41, has now been eliminated very quickly. (Once again I ask, is MasterChef ageist? Or was she really the worst of the pack? Hmm…)
So, that means Courtney and Big Willie had the best dishes of the night. Courtney made a honey cake with mixed berry coulis and vanilla whip. It looks like a restaurant dish, Graham says. He praises the way she used salt in the dish to balance out the sweetness of the honey. Gordon loves the crunch. The judges all seem to be impressed.
Willie has a gingerbread cake that Joe says shows a lot of finesse and it’s really good.”Watch out for Willie.” Gordon says it’s amazing and it’s like a “party in my mouth.”
Two stunning desserts…whose will be the winner? Congratulations go to Courtney—that makes two challenges in a row she seems to have been tops in, as she was the first to get an apron in the premiere episode. Courtney gets a huge advantage in that she is brought into the pantry and will get to choose the dish the other contestants have to cook for the elimination challenge. They had their desserts…now the judges want their main courses, and the feature ingredient is ground meat! They have three classic American dishes: Joe has meatballs, Graham has meatloaf and Gordon has a hamburger. Courtney must choose between these three for the other contestants, and she won’t have to cook at all; she’s safe.
As they leave the pantry to announce to the rest what their challenge will be, it turns out Courtney gets another advantage as well: only 10 of the 20 other chefs have to cook now, and she will be picking who is safe and who isn’t. Seems like a sure fire way to quickly make some enemies and friends. She’s definitely trying to pick using strategy and says she will save some people who she thinks are weaker and that she’ll be able to beat easily later on. Her first pick is Leslie, then Jaimee, Gordon, Elise, Cutter, Francis L, Kira and Ahran. Next she thinks it’s in her best interest to save Elizabeth. With one pick left, she’s going to save the person she thinks wants it more than anything…Christian. Dan definitely seems to see that she left the top ten toughest competitors out on the field, including himself, which means they are the ones she fears.
Courtney chose meatloaf for them to cook. Willie says he makes a mean meatloaf and he thinks he’s got it. They have one hour to make their dish. Time starts and we hear more from Dan about his dish. He is a self-proclaimed “food snob” and he will make a better meatloaf because he expects better.
Stephani is doing a blue cheese cream sauce over a lamb meatloaf. Joe wants to know if she is out of her mind. Francis B is putting cheese inside his meatloaf until Gordon questions it; maybe he should take a different approach.
Whitney is next and we finally learn a little bit about her. She had to drop out of culinary school and is on MasterChef to try to win so that she can finish her studies. It sounds like she is doing an Asian-style meatloaf that she thinks will be good. Big Willie is making a pork and beef meatloaf and Gordon thinks he’s sending a message to the other competitors with his dish!
Dan is going in an Asian direction and the judges are excited to try it. They also are looking forward to Francis B’s meatloaf now that he seems to have it together. But who will really have done well once time is called and everyone must face the judges?
First is Francis B. His meatloaf is stuffed with burrata cheese and served with a Romesco sauce. Gordon says it’s a bold move and it works. Great job. Graham says it’s “Great.” Joe wants to know about the Romesco sauce and says that’s a MasterChef idea to do that…Francis is playing the game at a high level.
Next is Stephani with her lamb meatloaf with couscous and blue cheese cream sauce. Blue cheese and couscous is a classic combo, Gordon says, but there’s no way on Earth he can swallow it! “H. O. M. E.” he says is where she should be headed based on her meatloaf.
Whitney is next and Dan thinks it looks pedestrian. It’s a Caribbean meatloaf with lemongrass and soy sauce. Graham says it doesn’t really taste like anything but honey and mango…like a meat dessert. The meat is dry, Gordon says, and it looks like a TV dinner turned into a “TV disaster”.
Next is Christine’s meatloaf, made with egg and basil fennel pesto. Graham doesn’t think the egg is needed. Jordan has pork and veal meatloaf. Jordan is the second youngest in the competition at 19 and his young age shows in the dish. In contrast, Daniel’s meatloaf gets good marks from Joe; he likes everything about it.
Big Willie has his meatloaf with mashed potatoes and roasted brussels sprouts with bacon and pine nuts. Gordon says the seasoning is spot on. He’s a strong contender!
Dan Wu is next and extremely confident about meatloaf with kimchi. Of course, with the way Dan has been shown as so arrogant and judgmental about the others dishes, I have a feeling they’ve been setting him up for disaster. Sure enough Gordon says his meatloaf is absolutely disgusting. It’s way too wet and it’s one of the worst meatloafs he’s ever eaten. Yikes. Seems like Dan could definitely be going home after this dish!
Francis B is announced as the winner of the challenge and he will have a “huge” advantage next time around (I assume it will be a team challenge, if things follow the usual routine, and he may get to pick teams?) The worst? Three chefs are called out. The first had a bizarre choice of flavors and was ill-conceived: Stephani. The second dish was all over the place: Dan’s. The next chef plated a horrendous meatloaf: Whitney.
Dan is called forward for cooking out of control…he got too cocky for his own good. But there were two dishes worse than his. He’s safe. Courtney is asked who is getting sent home. She thinks Whitney is going home and she’s right: Whitney is done with MasterChef and Stephani is safe, for now.
All in all it wasn’t a bad episode in my opinion, although pretty predictable based on past seasons of MasterChef. Courtney continues to be spotlighted as a judges’ favorite and I predict she won’t be going anywhere any time soon. Remember that last season, Natasha won the first Mystery Box challenge, got a fair amount of praise and spotlighting at the start, and ended up making it to the final two. Natasha also got edited/shown to be pretty arrogant because of her early success and Courtney seems to be getting a similar, if not quite as nasty, edit. Elise was pretty much invisible this episode, and I had her pegged after the first episode as my pick for this season’s winner. Even though we saw very little of her here, I didn’t see anything this episode to change my mind. Kira and Ahran remain completely under the radar and out of the spotlight; two episodes in that doesn’t bode well for them lasting too long (we’ll probably only really meet them when they face elimination?) Big Willie is getting a lot of airtime and seems to be doing well, but so far the challenges have let him cook pretty standard, classic dishes. I wonder how he will do when it gets time to do some more restaurant-level food or have to cook with more unfamiliar/”out there” ingredients.
If next episode features the first team challenge, I’m sure we’ll see more of the cheftestants’ personalities and alliances emerge—as well as who seems to be competing hard against whom.
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sockii is just your typical Jane-of-All-Trades who never has enough time in her day for all of her projects. She has written for many websites online including Squidoo, Zujava, Yahoo! Contributors Network, HubPages and Wizzley. She has been attending and vending at science fiction and media conventions for over 15 years, and for several years ran an art gallery and jewelry store in Philadelphia. Today she is happy to be living in South Jersey with her partner David and their 6 cats. Sockii is a member of several affiliate sales programs including Amazon Associates and Viglink. Products from these services may be advertised on her posts and pages to generate sales commissions.