“Team Gordon Ramsay”
And so we’re down to the end of this season of MasterChef. It’ll be a two-hour event – or really, the final two episodes shown back to back as in the first hour we’ll go from three to two contestants, and the second hour will be the traditional head-to-head battle for the title. Because of the time involved I’ll be splitting my recap up into two separate posts…expect part two by tomorrow!
The lights come on in the MasterChef kitchen and Stephen, Claudia and Derrick enter. Claudia says she has “grown and changed” so much since this journey began and she’s setting the example for her daughter. Derrick says seeing the MasterChef trophy there in the kitchen, that’s his “culinary Grammy” and he’s taking it. Stephen is practically dancing with joy to be there in the top three as 8 months ago he was just working in his garden. The judges rehash, once again, what will come with the title of MasterChef. I’m mostly distracted by Christina’s pants and shimmery top…
What will tonight’s challenge be? The MasterChef dining room will be full of culinary VIPs, true professionals who expect good food. They will be the judges who will decide which of the three of them will get the first spot in the finale. They must head to any station to start their “huge task” that’s nearly impossible to achieve alone. Luckily they won’t have to do it alone as they will get one sous chef each to help them. Who are those sous chefs? Hetal, Tommy and Katrina. Interesting that Nick wasn’t one of the possibilities, given these three were the last to be eliminated before him…
Who would Stephen be worried to have to work with? Tommy, he’s dangerous. He has to unroll his apron to find out the name of his sous chef. Of course, it turns out to be Tommy. Claudia unrolls her apron and gets Katrina, leaving Hetal to work with Derrick. They will have 75 minutes to conceive, cook and plate restaurant-quality entrees for their diners.
Rushing into the pantry, Stephen tells Tommy to stick with him “like white on rice”. He’s making pan seared scallops with rutabaga, asparagus and a nut sauce. He knows he has to cook the best dish of his life.
Claudia is doing a Mexican dish (of course), but says it’s going to be truly innovative. She’s doing octopus over oregano roasted potatoes and frisee salad. Derrick knows he has to make not just one beautiful dish but something he can replicate for the room full of diners. He’s doing miso-marinated black cod, daikon puree, oyster mushrooms and bok choy.
The judges give us a rehash of each of the contestants and their strengths throughout the competition.
At one point the judges ask them to stop, turn around and hear about the judges as they are arriving. Gordon explains they are the chefs and sous chefs that they work with, that make their bakeries and restaurants a huge success. There are ten people each on Graham, Christina and Gordon’s teams. Tonight they are the judges and they are hungry. Talk about pressure, Derrick says. Claudia hopes that the “heart and soul” she’s putting into her cooking translates onto the plate.
Claudia takes her octopus out of the pressure cooker and Gordon says the color looks amazing. It’s from the annatto seeds she added to the cooking liquid. Graham checks in on Derrick and says his dish sounds very “cheffy” and thought out. Derrick seems very confident in what he’s doing. Meanwhile, Stephen and Tommy are of course not working too well together when Christina checks in with them. Stephen assures her everything is fine even though there’s only 15 minutes left and he has a lot left to do.
Time is running out and they need to start plating. Derrick’s looks good with Hetal working well with him. Claudia looks in control, whereas Stephen seems unsettled and it may be a mistake to trust Tommy to cook all of the scallops–the protein on the plate.
Meanwhile, Claudia seems to be a plate short on service as she didn’t take one octopus out of the pressure cooker. Does she have enough time to get that order completed? Fortunately she left one grill on so she can try to rush to get it done.
The three teams of two rush to finish plating their dishes and then service is called. They say goodbye to their sous chefs and now it’s time for the tasting. But first the three are called in to describe their dishes for the judges. Stephen begins, as he has his pan seared scallops dusted with smoked paprika and nutmeg, served with rutabaga, beets, asparagus and walnut sauce. Claudia has a grilled octopus with frisee salad, roasted poblano and honey vinaigrette over oregano potatoes. Derrick has miso black cod with daikon puree, sauteed bok choy, oyster mushrooms and bonito flakes.
The scallops are amazing, one chef says, and he’s pulling together things they’ve never tasted together before according to another. But could the dish use a touch of acidity? Derrick’s plate is aesthetically beautiful, the cook on the fish is great, but maybe the marinade falls a little flat. The daikon puree didn’t taste a lot like daikon at all, perhaps, although another comment is that the dish looks like it could have come out of one of Ramsay’s restaurants. Claudia’s octopus is tender but the potatoes may not make sense and the sauce might be too overpowering. The scallops may not have been cleaned properly which could be a ding against Stephen.
The judges/chefs have finished eating and enter the MasterChef kitchen with their votes cast. The first home cook in the MasterChef finale? Gordon reads the decision, and with 15 of the 30 votes it’s Derrick. He runs through the judges and high fives many of them before giving Gordon a huge hug. He runs up to the balcony where he gets to enjoy a glass of champagne to celebrate. That means Stephen and Claudia will have to battle now, head to head, in one big battle.
It’s nerve-wracking for Claudia to go into another pressure test, especially against Stephen. For this “epic” battle, they will be facing three pressure tests: an appetizer, an entree and a dessert. First up is a savory version of one of Christina’s favorite desserts: a Gruyere cheese souffle. Technical to pull of, and nearly impossible to nail. Next up is a true classic of an entree: steak frites – two elements on the plate but elevated. Last is one of the most difficult desserts to nail: a stunning, delicious panna cotta but inside, a raspberry coulis to make it even more tricky. It’s a MasterChef three course dinner and all three need to be made in just one hour.
Derrick says they could both be going home having to make that. The judges know they must be stressed out but in order to calm their nerves, they’ve been provided with something special at their stations. They open the drawers to find a tablet where they can Skype call and see friends and family around the world.
After this little moment of sentimentality (and of course lots of crying on Claudia’s part) they have everything they need to make their dishes at their stations. It’s a challenge of mastering the three different courses and managing time properly to get things done in time. Stephen has his panna cotta out in 25 minutes and is putting the filling in already. The judges seem impressed with his organization. Claudia, meanwhile, doesn’t have the extra panna cotta to top them and it seems like she could be going down for that mistake. She has to use what she scooped out to put in the raspberry filling and hope it is enough.
Back from a commercial break and we hear the judges worried about the flat spatula Stephen is using while folding the eggs in for his souffles. He’s also put his souffles in early and they could fall because they can’t be rested.
The steak and fries could go wrong with overcooked steak, non-rendered fat, and soggy fries. Five minutes to go and they begin plating, getting their panna cotta out first on both sides. The steak frites are coming out next while Claudia and Stephen rush up at the last second with their souffles.
Claudia is “floored” and says she can’t believe how well she did compared Stephen, going by how each of their dishes look. Christina starts with Claudia’s souffle, then goes to Stephen’s which has already fallen. Christina only asks about how much cheese they put in each and how long/at what temperature they cooked them. When she reports back to Gordon and Graham she comments that Claudia’s obviously had more height but Stephen’s was seasoned better.
Next up, Graham goes to taste the steak frites. He’s looking for perfect seasoning and medium-rare cook. Is it possibly a $250,000 steak? The color looks spot on. The fries get a nod, but did she add enough salt, is the seasoning correct? We’ll have to see. Stephen is more confident about his steak than his panna cotta or souffle. He double-cooked the fries to give them better texture. Graham says both steaks are really great, Claudia’s fries were nicely seasoned, but Stephen’s were nice and crispy. It’s really “up and down”, he says.
Gordon next will be tasting and judging the panna cotta. Derrick says Stephen had better have infused some serious flavor into his big and messy panna cotta because from a visual standpoint Claudia’s got it. Stephen says his might have a “little leak” (it’s sitting in a pool of raspberry coulis) but he knows the “flavors are there”. Gordon cuts into Claudia’s panna cotta, which seems to have the raspberry coulis well set although hers is smaller than Stephen’s. They are both very good, the texture and flavor in Stephen’s is delicious but he didn’t nail the coulis filling the way that Claudia did.
The judges agree that they have a “clear” winner. One person barely had the edge in the souflle, one in the steak, and one in the panna cotta. Yet in every case the same person had that edge, and that ends up being Claudia.
Gordon tells Stephen that when he gets back home, he wants him to get a business plan together for his food truck because Gordon wants to invest in it. Stephen says goodbye to all the judges and says that Claudia is going to be the next MasterChef before he leaves.
I don’t have a lot to say at this point except I am disappointed we aren’t getting an epic head-to-head battle between Stephen and Derrick in the finale. But I have to give Claudia credit that her octopus looked really good in the first round, and that would probably have been the dish I’d have wanted to taste the most. Technically her dishes in the pressure test looked like they came the closest to nailing what the judges wanted as well, so I don’t have a hard time believing she edged out Stephen in that pressure test. I just wish when she wasn’t cooking something specific to the judges’ challenge that she’d do more things – any things! – outside of her Mexican food comfort zone.
Want to share your thoughts on this season of MasterChef and learn more about the competitors? Then check out my MasterChef Season 6 fan page on Wizzley!
MasterChef is back for its sixth season in 2015. Are you ready for another round in this competition of talented home chefs?
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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.