Last week, we said goodbye to Tommy after a disastrous party platter challenge when he was paired with Katrina. This week, with six contestants left, it’s time for the annual, dreaded, “Restaurant Takeover” challenge. What happens when six home cooks have to take over a fancy restaurant kitchen and try to recreate some of their signature dishes? Chaos is sure to follow, of course, and that certainly was the case this time around.
The home cooks are in downtown Los Angeles, where they will be taking over the famous Japanese-fusion restaurant Chaya. You know this is a big deal because for once Derrick is wearing a jacket and is not in one of his sleeveless shirts alone! Claudia is grinning her most overly made-up Joker smile as she enters the restaurant. Her dream is to run a Mexican restaurant so this challenge should give her the chance to see if this is really what she wants. (Having to cook under extreme pressure on a reality tv show, preparing a cuisine you are clearly unfamiliar with while Gordon Ramsay screams at you? Okay, yes, sure, that’s a perfect way to decide your future, Claudia.)
The judges welcome them to this “historic, iconic” restaurant. Nick says restaurant takeover either beats the dream of being a restaurant chef straight out of you or turns you into one in 90 minutes (who needs culinary school?) Stephen and Derrick will be team captains because they had the best party platter last week. Derrick says this is perfect because he has a burning desire to beat Stephen, especially in a challenge like restaurant takeover.
Stephen gets first pick for his team because he’s been on the most winning teams so far this season. His first pick is someone “extremely strong” and someone he’s worked with before: Nick. Derrick picks someone who is first pick in his book: Katrina. Stephen then makes “no brainer” pick with Claudia, leaving Hetal on Derrick’s team. That means that Red Team is Stephen, Nick and Claudia and Blue Team is Derrick, Katrina and Hetal.
Time to get started in the kitchen, where they meet Chaya’s executive chef Shigefumi Tachibe. He’s noteworthy for inventing Tuna Tartare, and as Derrick says, “Who hasn’t had Tuna Tartare…except for Hetal?” The Tuna Tartare will be one of the two appetizers they have to make today, along with Wagyu beef and mushroom risotto. For their entrees they will fave to make venison loin with chestnut puree and mushrooms, along with miso sea bass with Japanese eggplant, bok choy and rice cake.
Gordon comments while Chef Tachibe shows how to prepare all the dishes. He points out how the tuna must be cut to order and be uniform in size. The sea bass is easy to burn. Stephen says that it’s going to be almost impossible to recreate these dishes. Gordon is going to be expediting.
Both team leaders start planning out who will take on each task in the kitchen. Derrick seems to be portioning out things well while Stephen seems to be taking on too many jobs for himself. Nick says that’s the way he works but the team will sink fast if he takes on too much.
The restaurant doors open and Christina is greeting guests while Graham is helping the teams get ready. The first orders get called for both teams. Pretty quickly Stephen realizes he has taken on too much and his team needs to find balance.
The Blue Team is starting to feel the pressure as well. One risotto is in the window getting cold while there’s no timing and communication. Hetal has no voice and says she’s not used to people like Gordon yelling at her. Meanwhile Gordon is banging his head on the wall, it’s “embarrassing”.
It’s almost an hour and no plates are coming out of the kitchen. Christina comes in the kitchen to check on where the appetizers are at. Blue Team needs to regroup, and meanwhile Red Team is losing focus on the Tuna Tartare. It looks like cat food, Gordon says, too much mayonnaise.
Both teams are finally getting back on track and getting orders out. The diners seem happy with what they are receiving, but now the teams have to get to work on the entrees. Red Team is having a hard time getting the difference in timing right between the venison and the sea bass. The sea bass takes four minutes and the venison takes twelve, and Stephen is cooking the sea bass too long. Nick says Gordon looks like he’s about to have a heart attack, but he’s probably going to kill them first.
Red Team is stuck on one table for three sea bass and one venison. The venison is overcooked and looks awful while there’s “half a deer” on Stephen’s cutting board.
Back on the Blue Team, Katrina is trying to cut off the burned parts of a sea bass filet to just serve it, but is caught in the act by Gordon. Is she trying to sabotage her team? Graham has to help Katrina out to get the fish cooked properly.
The diners are commenting on their entrees and most people seem happy except from the Red Team there’s a “film of oil” on everything on the sea bass. Red Team only has one table left to finish, and they get things done well before the Blue Team. But, did their plates deliver good results to the diners?
Blue Team is still trying to finish their last orders. Hetal says Derrick isn’t being a strong leader, everyone just has their heads down working. Where was the communication? Gordon wants to know when they finally finish. Katrina feels like it was her fault because she burned some fish and everything got backlogged after that.
Nick’s only worry is if they went too fast. Claudia doesn’t want to be in another pressure test after being in three so far. The judges reward them all with a round of drinks and say it’s time to relax while they “sleep on it” to decide which team won.
It’s the next day and everyone is back in the MasterChef kitchen. Red Team started chaotic but then ended up cooking better. Blue Team froze toward the end but got really positive feedback overall. So which team is safe and definitely going in to the top five? After a commercial break, we learn it is Red Team. Stephen, Claudia and Nick are safe; Derrick, Katrina and Hetal will have to face the pressure test.
Derrick says bring it on…he’ll wear the black apron all the way to the end. Christina remarks how there are three of them in the pressure test, and three judges, and tonight they will be making some of the judges’ favorite dishes. Pasta will be the theme of the night, and Christina’s pick? Manicotti with a spinach ricotta filling and tomato sauce. A perfect homey dish with many complex elements.
Graham says, “Man I like manicotti…” but it’s not his favorite. He likes colorful squid ink striped farfalle pasta tossed with simple fruits de mare sauce. There’s a lot of artistry in getting the dish right.
Two great dishes, Gordon begins, but honestly? “Not your favorite,” Derrick supplies, taking the expected words out of his mouth. Gordon’s is a bit more daring, a “stunning” egg yolk ravioli in a sage brown butter sauce.
The judges want exact replications of all three dishes in just one hour. Nick says being an Italian, making all three dishes perfectly in sixty minutes is not possible. All of the ingredients they will need are there on the benches in front of them, so there’s no rushing to the pantry this week – just rushing to cook!
Where do they need to start? Making the pasta first, then the spinach-ricotta filling. Graham explains how you need to make two different pastas to then layer and intertwine to get the stripes in the final farfalle dough (thank you – I’ve always wondered how to do that!) The secret to Gordon’s ravioli is the thinness of the dough, while not puncturing the egg yolk.
Katrina is making weird noises while she works to get her ravioli layered and cut just right. Derrick says he loves making ravioli but he’s never made egg yolk ravioli before. He doesn’t mind being in all of these pressure tests as that’s where you learn an get better.
Graham checks in with Katrina after another one of her nervous squawks/squeaks/whatever noises she is making. She is most worried about the squid pasta because she doesn’t know how to make the lines in the noodles. Hetal is making a ricotta filling…for the egg yolk ravioli? Christina questions her if she saw what Gordon presented and all she seems to take note of is that the ravioli was round. Christina doesn’t correct her.
Katrina nearly knocks over her whole pasta station. Her pasta “looks like a cow” with just splotches of black and yellow together, no stripes. Hetal is putting the egg yolk for her ravioli on top of her ricotta parsley mixture…what is she doing? Katrina yelps again.
Claudia ends up telling Hetal how to make the ravioli properly. How is that fair? She doesn’t think she’s going to get her squid pasta dish done so she’s not even going to try to finish it. But she has nine minutes left, and Graham gets her back on track to get it finished.
Katrina seems all over the place, and Derrick is having problems getting his ravioli the right size. Everyone is rushing to get all three plates done and up for presentation. Derrick says he’s just done the three most difficult pasta dishes in MasterChef history (really?) and he thinks he’s nailed it. But it’s time to taste and find out for sure.
Christina begins with the manicotti, and with Derrick’s plate in particular. He has a thin, even layer of pasta but the filling is a little stingy. The tomato sauce has a good depth of flavor but is lacking a pinch of salt. Katrina’s manicotti “looks like dinnertime”. There’s a nice even round of pasta and the manicotti is far better than anything you could find at the store. It tastes like it was made with love. Hetal kept her manicotti simple and clean, but she under-filled the ends. The filling is fine but needs more seasoning, the marinara is lackluster.
Graham is up next to taste the farfalle with fruits de mare sauce. It’s meant to taste of the ocean. The pasta looks good but is it cooked? It’s undercooked in the middle. The seafood is cooked beautifully, good flavor, but overall a good job. Katrina is asked for an honest assessment between the three and she is sure hers is at the bottom, she didn’t know how to make the pasta stripes. It’s undercooked as well. Refinement is needed but the cook on the scallops and clams is beautiful. Hetal almost didn’t make this dish, but her pasta is better looking than anyone else’s. The scallops are white and look like ceviche. Raw wine, unseared scallops and clams…she definitely screwed this one up.
Now for Gordon’s egg yolk ravioli. Gordon says he could scream right now because Derrick could be going home for one thing: a leaf of raw sage on top of his ravioli. It’s like eating an air-freshener, Gordon says, it’s so pungent and vile. (Over-the-top much, Gordon? I grow sage in my garden every year. I love picking a fresh leaf to nibble on while gardening. Fresh sage is common in salad dressings and other uses. I think someone is reaching for a reason to cause B.S. drama, here.) Fortunately his ravioli is cooked beautifully and the yolk is like velvet.
Katrina’s ravioli looks beautiful. What’s inside? There’s a “tiny dab” of ricotta with the yolk. That’s enough to get Gordon raging again. The yolk is beautiful and it’s near perfect but it’s spoiled by the ricotta. Lastly, it’s Hetal’s ravioli. If it’s full of air then water seeps through and destroys the texture. Her yolk is overcooked and there’s a lot of pepper in there. It’s embarrassing, Gordon says.
Hetal says that the mistakes that Derrick and Katrina made are “far worse” than hers. Really? Can she be that delusional? In perhaps the least surprising elimination decisions this season, Hetal is the one going home. At last. Before she leaves, Gordon’s “favorite vegetarian” declares that Katrina will be this season’s winner.
The “Restaurant Takeover” is never one of my favorite episodes in a season of MasterChef, and this time was no exception to that. It just doesn’t seem fair to expect a group of home cooks to be able to do well in a restaurant kitchen, cooking completely unfamiliar dishes, even if they are very skilled at what they know how to do. It always seems like an excuse for Gordon to go all “Hell’s Kitchen” for an episode with lots of screaming and insulting.
But Hetal’s departure from the show was well overdue by this point, in my opinion. I’d almost say she was acting and cooking in this episode like she’d already “checked out” of the competition and was ready to go home.
I only wish there was someone left who I felt at all excited about winning at this point! But at least next week it looks like my favorite MasterChef contestant/winner of all time, Luca, will be coming back! Even if it means we have to suffer through the return of Courtney as well. I find it interesting that in past seasons, they’ve only ever brought back the previous season’s winner (Whitney showing up for a season 2 challenge, Christina showing up for a season 4 challenge, etc.) Yet this time we’re seeing Christina, Luca, and Courtney. Could it be that they know so many people truly disliked Courtney and she alone would not be a good draw for fans? Or perhaps I’m just speculating out of turn. Anyway, next week…Luca!
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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.