“Clawing to Victory” is the name of the game in episode 5 of MasterChef Sesason 6
There are 19 people left now and it’s time for another Mystery Box challenge. In the opening “confessionals” we hear first from Shelly, who says she can almost taste that quarter of a million dollars now that could change her life. We also hear for the first time, really, from Justin, the “Texas teen” and youngest competitor on the show. I have a feeling this doesn’t bode well for Justin’s fate this episode right off the bat; any contestant we don’t see focused on early enough in the show usually ends up being “dead weight” to be eliminated before we get anywhere near to the top 10 or 12 home cooks of the season.
The judges tell them they’d better watch their fingers as they open their Mystery Boxes, because what’s in their is alive! And they turn out to be crabs. Lots of them, lots of different types of crabs as well. Olivia wants to die; she is mortified. Shellfish reminds her of bugs or aliens. They have 60 minutes to cook and Gordon tells them they want to win this challenge as it’s a “game changer”.
As they get started, the judges debate what to do and which crabs they would use. Gordon wouldn’t go for the small blue crabs—they are too much work. Hetal has never made crabs before as she’s vegetarian, but she’s doing the blue crabs with tomato curry and rice. Claudia is doing a Mexican-style crab soup.
Olivia has never made live crab before and she needs help from Gordon to know how to tackle them. She wants to do crab Benedict-style dish. Amanda is making crab cakes and she thinks she will make her home town of Seattle proud.
Charlie, too, is confident. He eats crab three times a week, he says, this is an ingredient he’s very familiar with. “There ain’t nothing clean about eating seafood,” he tells Christina when asked about how he eats them at home. Jessie, too, is from Louisiana so he’s also familiar with the ingredient. He’s doing dumplings in a fish stock soup, along with a marinated crab and apple salad.
Time is counting down and Graham is excited about Jessie’s dish. Christina is worried about Olivia, but Gordon is excited by her Crab Benedict idea. We’ll have to see who ends up pulling off the best dish!
It’s time to taste the top three dishes. The first home cook, we’re told, made some stunning crab cakes. The plating was magical and it was a welcome surprise. They are looking forward to tasting Amanda’s dish. She’s got Dungeness crab cakes with mango and arugula salad, along with an avocado cream sauce. She used Dungeness crab because that’s what they have in Seattle, and it has the most meat. Gordon says the secret to a good crab cake is that it is 90% crab, which hers look to be. The panko breading is crisp, and for Gordon he would just like a little more granny smith apple. Graham says it’s delicious maybe could just use a little heat, but cook and seasoning is perfect. Christina asks about the avocado cream and she likes the yogurt that’s in it, because it’s light and refreshing.
The next person was really smart with their twist on a classic preparation. She has definitely had some issues, though, and that was Olivia. She has one of the prettiest plates, we’re told, with her Crab cake Benedict with caper-herb aioli, pouched egg and roasted asparagus. It’s well done, Graham says. Very flavorful, and very strong. It takes a lot of skill, Graham says and it is cohesive although the asparagus was a bit of a weakness on the plate and needs salt. Gordon says he loves the style of it, though, but she has to overcome her fears. She needs to start stepping up.
The third and final dish was put together by someone who clearly knows crab it’s Jessie’s plate. Charlie is rooting for him, if it couldn’t be his own dish. Jessie has crab dumpling soup with avocado, mango, cucumber, and green apple salad. Christina tastes first and asks what is in the soup, is is Andouille or sausage? It’s peppercorn bacon in the pot, Jessie says. She would expect that, it’s very smart and gives it that smoky flavor. The side salad slaw is good, but maybe the soup could have stood on its own. Gordon says it’s delicious, the dumplings, the broth with the bacon fat. Jessie can cook and he needs to cook more like this every time he comes to the kitchen.
So there were stunning dishes, and any one of them could be served in one of the judges’ restaurants…but the winner is Jessie! But he’s not going back into the pantry to find out his advantage as usually is the case. He’s going to get his major advantage there on the floor and the fate of everyone is now in his hands.
Graham asks him on the spot who he wants to send out of those doors—out of the kitchen. Everyone looks shocked and upset. He will be “deciding everyone’s fate”, Gordon tells him. He picks Stephen. BUT, it’s not going to be that simple…of course not! Graham says if he uses his upcoming advantage smartly, you never know, it could easily happen. Ha, ha.
Jessie’s first advantage is he will not be cooking. Everyone is going to be cooking with something “no other country” holds with such respect. Inside the box is a special, awe-inspiring ingredient…a gift from mother nature… Graham opens the box and a golden light comes out of it. Derrick says like a scene out of Pulp Fiction, it’s glowing and their eyes are fixated on it.
Gordon asks Stephen what he thinks is in that box, and he says “My —-ing destiny.” No one will know what they are cooking with tonight until they go into the pantry. If Jessie hands them a regular shopping basket before they enter, they will make a savory dish. A basket with a bow? It will be sweet. Cooking or baking the amazing ingredient in the box. Gordon says it could be game over to use this ingredient in a sweet dish.
Derrick is first up and he’s getting a savory basket. Because he wouldn’t crash and burn with a sweet basket, Jessie is going to give him savory, but he’d better remember it. Veronica is next and she tries to play the “mom card” but it doesn’t work on Jessie one bit—she gets a sweet basket. There are too many weak links, he says, and he needs to see her bake. Jessie is going to give the stronger chefs the savory basket because sweet or savory, they are not going to be at the bottom three no matter what. He wants to weed out the weaker contestants by giving them the challenge of the sweet basket. We don’t see what everyone gets, but it’s clear through the cooking time that also Dan, Shelley, Stephen, Nick, Ailsa, Charlie, and Hetal get savory baskets while Tommy, Katrina, Olivia, Claudia and Justin get sweet. Jessie thinks that 100% the people with the sweet basket are “doomed” because it’s going to be hard to make the ingredient the star of the dish.
So, what is the ingredient?
It’s corn. We see there’s fresh white and yellow corn, canned corn, corn tortillas, popcorn and even candy corn (My question: is there any actual corn in candy corn, besides corn syrup?) Stephen is excited as he’s been growing corn for years and loves the ingredient. Claudia also looks happy and says it’s “Corn Heaven” in the pantry, whereas Tommy and Charlie seem to think it’s “Corn Hell”.
Veronica doesn’t think corn and dessert go together so she’s having a struggle thinking of what to do, even though desserts and baking are usually her thing. They will have access to a limited pantry of ingredients that go well with corn and sixty minutes to make their dishes. As they start cooking the judges talk about why this is a tricky ingredient. Christina says we normally don’t think of corn as a sweet ingredient, but at the same time making corn the star of a savory plate could also be a challenge.
Veronica is doing corn creme brulee and now says she’s excited about it. Claudia is making sweet corn tamales and says that Mexicans use corn in everything so this is not a big challenge to her. Justin is doing creme puff stuffed with corn with candy corn sauce. But is he making too much? Graham is confused about what he’s got going on. Christina tastes the filling and says it needs more salt while he insists he put some in. He doesn’t seem to be listening to what she’s telling him and she feels he’s a little shut down.
Charlie is making corn grits with traditional New Orleans barbecue shrimp on top. It’s the best thing he can possibly do for these judges, he says, and he’s never really elevated corn before. Tommy is doing sweet corn panna cotta with some caramelized candy corn. He wants to prove he is still a contender to Jessie.
Shelly is doing five spice shrimp tacos with roasted corn guacamole, Sriracha lime slaw. She wants the corn to be the star of the dish and not just in the background. Stepehn is doing a chipotle sauce for his chorizo corn tamale topped with roasted carmelized corn. Christina seems impressed with the flavor and he’s doing this dish for all of his friends in Palm Springs.
In the final few minutes, the judges say they are excited about Claudia’s dessert tamales and Shelly’s tacos look great.
Time is up, and first up for tasting is Stephen. He had a savory basket and made corn tamale with avocado and corn salsa, corn sauce and red chile sauce. He used chorizo in the tamale to give it a more complex flavor. Gordon says the tamale with the chorizo is a nice idea. He’s put together a good energy of corn using it four times. It’s been his best effort so far. Great job. Graham says he would “mow that down”. A refined version of street food. Easily one of the best dishes they’ve had.
Next up is someone who had a sweet basket: Veronica. She’s feeling really confident about her “amazing” corn creme brulee with “delicious” dark brown caramel corn. Christina wants there to be that perfect top…it’s got that crack, which is a good sign. But when she tastes it, the creme brulee is not well done at all. There’s too much fat and it was cooked too high, too quickly. From a technique standpoint? Fail. And the real downer is it doesn’t celebrate corn. Christina is not sold. Her brain goes into writing her swan song.
Next up is Shelly. She had a savory basket and made five spice shrimp tacos with corn guacamole with vinaigrette tossed in corn oil. She used rice wine vinegar, soy and honey in the vinaigrette. The shrimp is cooked delicious, the cool down with the slaw is delicious, Gordon says. She’s growing in confidence which is what MasterChef is all about..
Next up is Claudia’s sweet corn dish. Sweet corn tamale with plantain puree with Mexican chocolate sauce. Graham loves the flavor, the tamale has great technique but it feels pretty dense, he thought.
Justin has profiteroles with sweet creamed corn and candy corn caramel. The pastry is undercooked, Gordon shows him, the mixture is way too sweet and he used canned corn in the center. That’s got Gordon upset.
Tommy has sweet corn panna cotta with orange and vanilla bean. Christina says it’s beautiful. It’s so velvetty, so refined, maybe could use a little more corn flavor but Christina is impressed.
Last up is Charlie. He has yellow corn grits with New Orleans barbecue shrimp. He says he is satisfied. There is dried rosemary and dried oregano in the grits. But Gordon says the grits “give him the ***”. They are undercooked and bland but the corn is not the star. This should be him in his comfort zone and but he has got to wake up quickly. Time is not his friend. He feels like dirt and he hopes the judges see that he’s got the drive to do better.
So one person will be leaving tonight. After deliberating the judges say there were two standout dishes…Shelly and Stephen’s. They are safe from eliminations and will be team captains next time. The three worst dishes of the night? Veronica, Charlie and Justin are called forward.
One homecook let themselves down and has gone as far as they can. Charlie is called forward first, and he’s safe. Luckily there were two worse dishes than his. That leaves Veronica and Justin: the oldest up against the youngest in the competition. They both struggled. When asked, Jessie thinks that Justin should go home for using canned corn and Jessie is right. Tonight’s hero was supposed to be the corn, so Justin is going home. Veronica is safe for now.
It was a predictable outcome for sure. From the opening of the episode it seemed clear that today would come down to two home cooks we’ve seen very little of so far, Justin and Charlie. They’re still just “weeding out” the people for sure who have not been clearly made the “stars” of the season, and with that in mind I’m pretty sure Ailsa has got to be one of the next to go; have we seen anything she’s done at all so far? No. I also don’t think Sara, Christopher, Kerry and Nick have much longer to go as they’ve been so far in the background at this point, and I’m starting to get some sense of who we will end up seeing making it at least into the top 10, if not further. My picks at this point? Shelly, Amanda, Hetal, Stephen, Derrick, Katrina, Dan, Claudia, Jessie, and perhaps Tommy so long as he keeps putting out plates like today’s corn panna cotta. He’s too much of a character for them to want to get rid of just yet. Veronica and Olivia, while focused on a bit so far, don’t seem strong enough—nor interesting enough—to last too much longer in my opinion.
But what are your thoughts? Are you getting any inklings on who might win the season yet? My senses are telling me that Shelly, Amanda and Hetal really have perhaps the strongest shots and are some of the best chefs here, but I’m not willing to pick a winner quite yet between them.
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!
Related posts at Spacial Anomaly
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.