Last week five became three as Christian and Cutter went home. Now it’s down to Leslie, Courtney and Elizabeth. It’s the semi-final so who will win the money, the book and the trophy this season on MasterChef? We’ll find out one way or another tonight? The judges want them to cook a special dish for some very special guests. Each of the guests are chefs. They have one amazing professional chef from each state coming in to taste that night – 50 chefs in total!
They have to serve a MasterChef-worthy entree in the kitchen. They have some help, however: Willie, Chrisitan, Jaimee, Victoria, Daniel, and Ahran are back to be their sous chefs.
Who is going to be working with whom? It will be determined randomly by pulling fortune cookies out of a bowl. Each of the three semi-finalists will get two helpers. Courtney gets Daniel. Leslie gets Ahran – no surprise! Elizabeth gets Jaimee. Courtney gets Willie for her second. Leslie gets Christian, and Elizabeth gets Victoria.
So they have 90 minutes to conceive, prep and plate their “stunning” dishes for 50 guests. Leslie wants to do a prime filet with herb gnocchi. Elizabeth is doing pan-seared red snapper and cauliflower three ways. Courtney is doing ginger-soy glazed halibut and with beet and dashi broth.
The judges debate their choices and the problems each could pose. Will Courtney overcook her fish? It’s delicate and tricky to pull off for 50 people? Joe likes what Elizabeth is doing. Gordon doesn’t know what Leslie is doing combining filet and gnocchi.
With 30 minutes down the 50 guests come in and it looks like a who’s who of TV celebrity chefs (see a full list of who was there, including Cat Cora, Jet Tila, Susan Feniger, and Duff Goldman). It’s like all the cookbooks Courtney has been studying from come to life.
Courtney is confident even if her dish is challenging. Elizabeth has a very complex sounding plate. Is it a good strategy to do such a chefy dish for 50 chefs?
Joe thinks Elizabeth’s team has it totally under control, and they are working well together. They are still worried about Courtney as she seems to be butting heads with Daniel, and Willie seems out of his comfort zone for sure. Leslie is now on fire – literally! Gordon has to run over to stamp out a flare-up at his station.
Courtney doesn’t have anything on her plates yet. With 8 minutes left Courtney’s team seems totally out of control. She’s not okay with how her plates look, some are missing elements, and her sous chefs seem as frustrated as she is.
Time is up and Leslie says his filet came out beautiful and everything looks beautiful. Elizabeth is happy with having her “dream team” at her side. The three chefs will be coming into the restaurant to explain their dishes to the guests. Courtney has her pan-seared halibut glazed with ginger and soy with beet dashi vermicelli with guajillo chile sauce. Leslie has 8 ounce filet mignon with herb gnocchi and summer vegetables in a wine reduciton. Elizabeth has her pan-seared skin on red snapper with cauliflower three ways and a pistachio sauce.
The chef-guests seem impressed with Elizabeth’s cauliflower. Every component on her plate works separately and together, if it just needs perhaps more seasoning. Courtney’s fish is cooked nice, it’s sophisticated, but it could use more sauce. Leslie made gnocchi which is a gamble, but it’s delicious. It’s a dish they would order but it’s a little disjointed. Did Elizabeth steal the show, they wonder? And Leslie? One chef says things are cliched for a reason.. Courtney’s halibut might be perfect so it’s tough to tell from the (highly edited) feedback.
Who had the best dish? Congrats end up going to Elizabeth and she will be in the finale! That means Courtney and Leslie have to go head to head to fight for the chance to do battle against her. Leslie is psyched. They have one more pressure test to face. Leslie has been through so many pressure tests at this point and survived; Courtney wants to send Leslie home where everyone else has failed against him in the past.
Only Elizabeth is in the balcony to watch as they prepare for battle. In the previous challenge they had to make a composed entree. Now it’s time for dessert…three of them, it turns out, that celebrate America. First is something Joe is very familiar with: New York Cheesecake. Next is Florida’s key lime pie from Graham. Last is Boston Cream Pie from Gordon.
The judges ask if they have any last words before starting? Leslie says he’s not going down sleeping. They have two hours to make all three desserts. Time starts and it’s Leslie’s seventh pressure test. Who has the advantage? Courtney is more of a baker but Leslie has had more experience in pressure tests.
The cheesecake has to go in the oven first, the judges say. Next the sponge cake for the Boston Cream Pie. There’s 95 minutes to go and Courtney is feeling incredible. She looks composed and together. It’s what she loves to do. Elizabeth notices Courtney talking to herself the whole time. Leslie is talking to himself too but he’s not as composed. It’s like 7 separate voices in his head, she says. Leslie needs a miracle for his cheesecake since he was late getting it in the oven.
He’s always on the verge of a nervous breakdown, it seems. Graham points out that the Key Lime Pie is a balancing act between sweet and sour. There are thirty minutes remaining and Courtney has her cheesecake ready.
Leslie has great looking sponge cake but Courtney’s cheesecake looks better. Elizabeth things Leslie has the upper hand just from experience. Courtney’s cake looks uneven for the Boston Cream Pie. Last five minutes and Leslie falls while running around the kitchen, but he’s okay.
Time is called and the cakes are rushed up for judging.
First is the New York Cheesecake. Courtney’s cheesecake looks like you’ve googled the perfect cheesecake. Joe says the crust is crispy and the cake is light, airy and smooth. Leslie’s is less visually appealing. What about the taste? Leslie’s is raw in the center, maybe. The graham cracker crust tastes burnt. Given the circumstances they both did a pretty good job. One looked and tasted better, which was Courtney’s.
Next is the Key Lime Pie. Graham says Courtney’s looks like “key lime smores”. It’s very sweet. The lime is obliterated. Leslie thinks he hit his on the mark. The flavor is awesome, the curd baked perfectly, he nailed it. It comes down to the details and the winner is Leslie.
So it’s down to the Boston Cream Pie, naturally. Courtney’s has “sludge” oozing out of the sides. Gordon says nothing about the taste. There’s a lovely ratio on Leslie’s, Gordon says, but he makes a bit of a weird face tasting it. Now the judges have to decide who is going on to the finale. Courtney’s has no filling but there’s something weird tasting in Leslie’s. What tastes so weird in his sponge cake? According to Gordon, he put the salt in place of the sugar. The person who made the best Boston Cream Pie, and moving in to the finale is Courtney. Time for Leslie to go home.
Personally I smell a rat – or at least something not right in the supposed fatal flaw in Leslie’s sponge cake. While I am not much of a baker myself, others have noted that a cake with salt instead of sugar would not have browned as nicely as Leslie’s did, nor would have risen as well. Did they make up the story about using salt instead of sugar, just to have the set-up for the finale they wanted: Elizabeth vs. Courtney? I really wouldn’t put it past MasterChef at this point.
So now it’s time for the finale: Courtney verses Elizabeth…the b–ch fight you knew was coming. (Are we bored yet?) Elizabeth is ready to win MasterChef and she feels she is one of the most consistent competitors in the kitchen. Courtney is not proud of her past (cue the water works) but she wants to do something to make her family proud.
Both teams have their families there with them to cheer them on, and also there are all of the eliminated contestants from this season. As usual for every season finale, Courtney and Elizabeth each have to make three courses: appetizer, entree and dessert, and three plates so there is one for each of the judges. They have 10 minutes in the pantry to get their ingredients. Leslie wants Elizabeth to win. Willie thinks you can’t count Courtney out. Daniel thinks Elizabeth is “The Terminator” and something has to stop Courtney. Christian thinks Courtney has it.
Time to go. First up is the appetizer. Elizabeth is doing grilled octopus with chorizo sausage and chick peas. Courtney is doing crispy pig ear with dandelion salad and quail egg.
Courtney is not afraid of Elizabeth. There are no heels in the kitchen now, Elizabeth says. Yes, it’s going to be like this for the rest of the hour. Courtney’s heels versus Elizabeth in her buckled black boots. It’s not even good girl versus good girl; it just seems like bad girl of one kind versus bad girl of another. I’m finding it hard to care one way or another, except for the fact that I wanted anyone other than Courtney to win from the start!
Will Courtney get the pig’s ears right? They could be just cartilage if not done properly, the judges observe (and I’ve been there and made that mistake myself!) Ninety seconds left and Elizabeth has to start plating. She seems to be having time management issues from the start.
Time to bring the dishes to the judges. Courtney thinks Elizabeth’s octopus looks haphazard. Elizabeth thinks Courtney’s pigs ears look a little beige. Elizabeth’s dish is first for tasting: grilled octopus with warm chick pea and chorizo salad. Joe was concerned with the octopus but it looks better than he imagined. He likes the grill portion but that it’s slightly overcooked. Overall though it’s very punchy and strong. It’s aggressively spiced and seasoned which shows confidence. Visually it’s pretty great flavor on the char. Bold move and difficult to pull off.
Courtney has her crispy pig ear with dandelion and fennel salad, quail egg and guajillo chile sauce (didn’t she just make that same sauce in the last battle?) Is a salad with fried pig ear enough in the finale? Joe is asking himself that and he’s not sure. Elizabeth thinks it’s a typical Courtney plate: meticulous but a little bit soulless. Joe says it’s assertive and opinionated. Great balance and a very well dressed salad. Graham loved the chile sauce. Gordon also says it’s a great job.
Gordon thought Elizabeth pulled it off even if her octopus was slightly overcooked. But Courtney made a bold move with the pig’s ear. Who won that round? We don’t know, but they now have 60 minutes to make their main courses. The judges say it’s neck and neck. Elizabeth is doing a spiced lamb dish. Courtney is doing sumac duck breast with spring vegetables and farro. Elizabeth is giving herself more time to do her lamb here. Both are working on getting their protien’s just right. Courtney is plating while Elizabeth’s lamb is still in the oven.
Elizabeth’s lamb looks raw to Courtney and she thinks she was a little rushed on plating. The gloves are off, Elizabeth says.
Time for the judges to taste. Elizabeth is again up first with her spiced lamb, rainbow chard and mint yogurt tahini sauce. Elizabeth admits to Joe that his lamb is under-done and he says it’s actually not just medium rare but really rare to black and blue. Gordon’s was perfect, though, and the quinoa served with it was spot on. Visually it’s beautiful with the carrot puree and he would absolutely order it in a restaurant.
Courtney has her sumac duck breast with pea tendril and chive blossom pickle, and a brandy pan sauce from the duck fat. Visually it’s gorgeous and it tastes as good as it looks, Graham says. Buttery and rich sauce. Overall one of the best she’s put up. The farro is delicious and the vegetables are cooked perfectly. Everything is spot on. Gordon is a stickler on duck and it’s beautifully done. Elegance matched with fragrance. Seems like Courtney nailed this round.
They have to see the dessert next to evaluate the menu as a whole. Elizabeth is doing a grapefruit and olive oil semolina cake with a plum trio. Courtney is doing cherry meringue with spiced almonds and salted chocolate. They have one hour to make their desserts. Cutter things Courtney is strong and a forced to be reckoned with. Joe asks Elizabeth if she needs it as much and wants it as much as Courtney and she says just because she works in an office and not in a night club doesn’t mean she doesn’t need it as much. Meow!
Courtney isn’t going to play it safe. Elizabeth’s cake is a little underdone in the center when it comes out of the oven, but she’s using the parts near the edge. Courtney tastes one meringue to make sure it’s right and then realizes she is now one meringue short. She didn’t make any extras. Oh no, will this one mistake cost her?
Time is up and the judges will be tasting their desserts. Elizabeth thinks Courtney’s dessert looks like second place. Courtney has her cherry meringues first for tasting, served with salted chocolate and spiced almonds. She’s missing the third meringue for each plate so Gordon hopes it tastes better than it looks. (Indeed, I thought it looked awful for a dessert.) Joe wants to know what tastes salty. The cherries? It’s either really brilliant or really stupid, Joe says, and he thinks it’s brilliant. It’s really elevating the intellectual component of the dessert. (The what?!) Joe is seriously waxing on in an over-the-top pretentious way over Courtney’s dessert. The presentation may not be what she wanted but Graham says it’s delicious. The cherries balance against the almonds and it’s almost eye opening. Gordon doesn’t like the cherries, though, he thinks it tastes like they’re in a brine. It’s just sadly her clumsiest plate according to him. Seems like Gordon and Joe have a major disagreement on this one..
Elizabeth has her grapefruit and olive oil cake with poached plums and ground pistachio. The actual olive oil cake is delicious, Joe says, the spiced pistachio balances it and it’s a smart dish. And Joe puts it in the context of an Italian dessert and it’s spot on. It’s a top notch dish. Gordon says she was smart in how to cut from the cake because of the underdone center, and it’s really delicious and the pink grapefruit makes it and lifts the indulgence.
eEizabeth thinks her menu is better. Joe and Gordon are arguing over Courtney’s dessert. Courtney took risks and she thinks that’s what a MasterChef is.
The judges debate and it’s time to announce the winner. Who will it be? Oh wait, but there’s drama as Elizabeth’s husband passes out! He’s okay, though, as Gordon “saves the day” by giving him some water.
The judges are so proud of the two of them. They have both elevated their skills. But who will be the winner? First, as usual, the two are asked to come up on the stage and switch places with the judges. The decision came down to the tiniest of details. But there can only be one winner. Congrats go to…Courtney.
Yeah, okay. I’m done with this season.
In fact it took some serious work for me to even want to put the work into writing up this recap because I was so disgusted with the results. I kept hoping against hope that Courtney wouldn’t win it all, but there you go, she just did. It was clear from the start how much the judges were favoring her every step of the way, excusing mistakes they wouldn’t excuse from other competitors (remember when she used salt instead of sugar in her donuts? SHE was safe for that mistake, but Leslie wasn’t when the rest of his dessert elimination challenge was better than hers?)
I’m not even being misogynistic, here, and snarking over her past as an “aerial dancer” in gentlemens’ clubs. I just feel like the audience was being played from the start with an obvious set-up. We had to suffer all season with leg shots, close ups of her high heels, dancer poses like she’s always got to pee, her little-girl breathy voice and silly dresses. For someone who supposedly wanted to put her past behind her and be taken serious as a chef, how does this go together? If you were want to move on from your past, you put all those aspects of your past that could stand in the way of being taken seriously behind you. At least that’s my opinion.
And no, I won’t be buying her “cookbook” – if it ever comes out. I don’t even know what the focus of it could supposedly be, besides desserts I’ll never make since I’m not into baking.
Could we please hope for a better crop of contestants next season? Because this year was disappointing start to finish.
But that’s just my opinion. What did you think – were you happy with the outcome this season or disappointed? Are you looking forward to Courtney’s cookbook or did you hope someone else would win it all? Feel free to comment here!
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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.