“Happy Birthday MasterChef”
As this week’s episode begins, we find ourselves “60 miles from the MasterChef kitchen” in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. The 14 remaining home cooks are dropped off for a “historic” team challenge. Charlie says no matter what’s coming up he’s going to enjoy it. Olivia says she’s a total California girl, through and through so it’s refreshing to be outdoors.
The judges tell them they are there to celebrate a huge milestone: the 100th episode of MasterChef. The contestants will be making all of the food for this celebration: 100 lunches for 100 esteemed guests. They will be cooking for restauranteurs, critics, and former contestants from the show as well. Each team will have to prepare an appetizer and main course. The judges want one “amazing” appetizer featuring Malbec oysters and caviar. Then, an “elegant” entree starring duck breast. Their food must rise to the occasion. Will they be able to do it?
Nick and Olivia had the winning dishes last challenge so they are team captains. Nick gets first pick, since he had the best dish, and to start off he chooses the hardest worker in the kitchen: Amanda. She is honored. Olivia picks someone who has demonstrated a lot of technique: Derrick. Derrick, meanwhile, says he’s worried Olivia isn’t confident enough in herself to be a team captain. Nick then picks Stephen because they’ve been on two winning teams together before. Olivia picks Katrina. Nick goes with Sara next, and Olivia chooses Chris. Nick picks Charlie and Olivia takes Hetal. Nick goes for Shelly and Olivia takes Kerry. Tommy and Claudia are left as the final picks and Tommy says it’s like being back in grade school when he was always the last one picks. Tommy wants to be on Nick’s team but Nick picks Claudia. That leaves Tommy for Olivia, and she’s worried about having him on her team.
So the teams are as followed: Nick’s Blue Team includes Amanda, Stephen, Sara, Charlie, Shelly, and Claudia. Olivia’s Red Team is Derrick, Katrina, Chris, Hetal, Kerry and Tommy.
They have 60 minutes to prep before their appetizers are to be served. Each team will be serving 50 of the guests. Stephen is feeling good with Nick’s menu for the Blue Team, that it’s very collaborative. Nick’s thinking poached oyster with some kind of pickled cucumber slaw for the appetizer, and a Moroccan inspired duck with candied carrots. “Simple upscale” seems to be the theme of their menu.
Meanwhile, Derrick thinks Olivia has too many elements in her dishes, it’s going to be too complicated. She’s talking about smoking the oysters, and dictating how Christopher should do the cucumber. The duck she wants basted in orange and ginger, toasted pistachios, cauliflower puree, cumin and onion-roasted carrots…everyone on her team is looking at her like she’s grown two heads. There’s too many ingredients.
While everyone is prepping, out in the dining area the VIP guests are arriving. We see for sure that Leslie, Daniel and Ahran are in attendance from Season 5. Graham say MasterChef’s “reputation” is on the line with this challenge. Daniel says they shouldn’t overthink their dishes because of the beautiful ingredients they have.
Red team is smoking oysters, but Tommy and Olivia are arguing over how long they need to be smoked. Christopher says 6 minutes but Tommy says that’s way too long. Sure enough, Gordon checks in and the oysters are all overcooked and there are no more available. Tommy says “I told you!”
They make it sound like all of the oysters have been cooked, but in fact they do have more. It just means that they can only serve two oysters per plate, not three. Gordon checks back and now they are getting ready to serve an appetizer that looks like it should be the garnish or an amuse bouche, not an appetizer. Is she serious? It’s not good enough, and there are only five minutes to rethink things.
Nick’s Blue Team is doing what needs to be done, he says, and they are ready for service. They have butter-poached oysters with cucumber-apple pickle and caviar vinaigrette. Red ream is working on their revised plate of smoked oysters and caviar with a fennel and grapefruit salad.
Derrick says they need to push so he’s helping to expedite. Tommy says Derrick is an “Alpha Male” and he’s going to take over if he gets the chance. Red Team’s dish may not be what is expected, according to some of the feedback. But then we get some feedback on the Blue Team’s dish from Season 3’s Becky Reams. She doesn’t think the caviar should have just been sitting there on the plate by itself. Leslie has cleaned his Blue Plate dish and thought the oysters were delicious. One critic of the Red Team’s plate said she wanted more oysters and caviar.
The Red Team is getting their last table out. Gordon pulls Olivia over to say that the Red Team appetizer was terrible and she’s got to get her team under control. Olivia breaks down and tries to blame it on Derrick. Gordon says she’s got to get back in control of her team and put Derrick in his place.
Five minutes are called and each team has to put out 50 stunning entrees. Something is burning on the Blue Team’s side, something that smells like plastic. Gordon checks the oven and it’s their carrots. It’s Charlie’s fault and Nick’s mad that he only gave Charlie one job to do and he couldn’t manage it. It’s supposed to be a celebration, not a cremation, Gordon yells! Now, Blue Team needs another vegetable.
Time for service while Christina puts the finishing touches on a celebratory cake for dessert. Blue Team is serving a Moroccan-spiced duck with Forbidden rice and roasted fennel. Red Team is serving a butter-braised duck with cauliflower puree, roasted carrots and cilantro oil.
Red Team has found their rhythm, the plates look beautiful, and Olivia seems to have control back. The Blue Team is having timing issues. Their duck is cold. Nick needs to get his team under control because Shelly is burning her sauce, Charlie is cutting the duck too early. They started out so strong, where are they going now? Nick wants the duck cut but it’s not cooked. Charlie says Nick is the worst leader ever. Gordon has to get the team back on track. They’re not on holiday picking grapes in the vineyard.
Christina is finding that the Red Team is having trouble with their duck as well, according to the diners’ comments. Some is overcooked, some is undercooked and the fat isn’t rendered down.
After service is done, Christina brings out a cake to celebrate the 100th episode and the contestants are brought out for a round of applause from the diners. Both teams had their ups and downs but only one team can be the winner. Who is it? They will be decided…back in the MasterChef kitchen, of course.
Olivia says it’s her time to be the winner after being in every elimination test so far. Red Team bounced back after problems with their appetizer. Blue Team nailed the appetizer but had problems later on. So, the team safe from elimination is the Red Team. They will all be going on to “episode 101”.
Nick is disappointed in himself. He’s used to being a winner. Not everyone on the Blue Team has to face the pressure test…just six of them. One person will be safe and everyone on the team has to make that decision. The team gets give minutes to work out a unanimous decision amongst themselves. If they can’t come to a decision, everyone will be eliminated immediately.
They are sent off to the wine room to make a decision. Amanda wonders how are they going to come together to make a decision in give minutes when they couldn’t work together in the whole challenge. Sara says they should all just say a name. Shelly and Charlie both think they should be saved. Nick says Stephen and Shelly wants to argue with him about it. Nick says Shelly “lives in a whole other galaxy” and doesn’t know what she sees in herself. The team thinks Shelly dropped the ball but she doesn’t agree. She doesn’t want to be down for elimination whereas Stephen says even though he did well, he can survive the elimination if it comes down to it.
Finally they line up and the person stepping forward who is safe is Stephen. Nick says he really deserved to be safe because of the way he worked and kept the team together.
Christina announces the elimination test, so we know it’s going to be a baking challenge…again. Yesterday she made a birthday cake for the celebration, and now they have to make something like a perfect birthday cake. There are two candles on the cake she shows them, because after this pressure test, two people will have their MasterChef dreams “blown out”.
Every great birthday cake has its own unique style, but theirs must have a minimum of three layers, have a beautiful frosting, and somehow celebrates the 100th episode of MasterChef.
Charllie says it’s the most important cake he’s ever baked in his life. He doesn’t want to go back to fixing air conditioning units in New Orleans. They have a limited pantry and basic ingredients to work with. They have ninety minutes to make their cakes.
Christina says you have to start with the sponge cake batter, and don’t add too many eggs at once. The cake needs to be baking in the oven in the first twenty minutes otherwise they will really be behind.
Nick is doing a basic sponge cake with a little orange and coconut. Charlie is going to keep it simple with a vanilla cake but he’s going to dress it up. Amanda is doing a cake she has made for her own birthday before with Nutella and strawberries, so it should be a “piece of cake”. Claudia is doing a traditional Mexican tres leche cake with fresh fruit.
What is Charlie doing? Charlie is making more cake batter and he needs to get his baking. And meanwhile, Amanda’s cakes have collapsed and they are raw in the middle. The judges are worried they may be losing one of their favorites?
Gordon comes over and wonders what she is doing. She took the cakes out of the oven too early and is upset that she’s failed a baking challenge. She has to use her icing to patch up her cake, and Gordon tries to get her to cheer up.
Time is running out and Charlie may be cutting it close with getting three layers done in time. He’s doing a mini-cake he says, but will he get three layers done? Ten minutes are left and Graham is excited about Shelly’s cake because she’s going with an island theme, and Gordon is excited for Claudia’s dish that’s playing to her strengths.
Meanwhile, Charlie’s cake could be a disaster. He’s using his hands to try to patch something together while everyone is laughing or cringing. Time is called and Gordon says that is what’s called pressure.
Everyone brings their cakes to the front, and sadly two out of the six people there are heading home. Nick is up first for tasting and he’s nervous for Christina to be tasting his cake since she’s probably the best baker in the world. But, looking down at the others’ cakes he seems to feel more confident. He’s made sponge cake with mascarpone and blood orange icing, topped with toasted coconut, It looks pretty good after slicing, Christina says. The frosting is sweet, a little orange juice and zest in the batter would have helped reinforce the flavor, but overall she is pretty impressed.
Amanda is next, and she has a vanilla sponge cake with Nutella butter-cream and strawberry filling and buttercream outside. The center is clearly not done when Graham cuts into it. It’s delicious, however. Just a shame that the cake itself is not cooked. But based on the flavor she is not out yet.
Shelly has Mojito rum cake with lime zest and spiced rum. The sponge is undercooked. Is it her best performance? Sadly not, Gordon says.
Sara has a yellow sponge with raspberry sauce inside. It’s nice, soft and even, Christina says. The cream cheese frosting tastes more just like sugar. She’s on the same playing field as everyone else.
Claudia has traditional tres leches with lemon cream cheese frosting. The layers are even and Graham says it’s delicious. It’s everything they were looking for. Claudia is excited.
Charlie is last, and oh boy. Gordon says that his cake that “looks like a lump of frosted concrete.” Is he being serious that this cake says Happy Birthday to MasterChef? It’s a three layer sponge cake with sprinkles in the cake and blood orange in the icing. He says it’s really good, and Gordon says it would be really good…if he were blind! Charlie promises it tastes really good, and Gordon asks Claudia to taste it. It is delicious, she says.
It may taste delicious but it is the ugliest cake in America, Gordon says. But now it’s time to see who is going home and who is safe. Shelly says she is disappointed in herself. The judges say it’s time to send two people home, but one chef put together a birthday cake they were really excited about: Claudia. She’s gloating (in a very obnoxious way) that she beat Amanda and Sara, who are known to be the best “bakers” (Claudia puts that work in air quotes. Ugh.) Nick and Sara are called forward next. Their cakes were on the same level, not the best but not the worst. They are safe and going up to the balcony. That leaves Amanda, Shelly and Charlie, and only one of them will be safe. Amanda’s needed more cooking, Shelly’s was too dense, and Charlie’s didn’t really look like a layered cake.
Charlie is called forward first. His time is done. He’s leaving a well-tuned chef now, he says, so it’s the beginning of a lot of good things for him. He’s nowhere near done cooking, he promises.
That leaves Amanda and Shelly and it’s a really hard decision for the judges to make. Amanda’s hoping that the flavors were there enough to save her. Shelly doesn’t want to go home today. It isn’t easy, Gordon says. Shelly is called forward first. She is asked to take her apron off and say goodnight to Amanda…and go upstairs to the balcony, of course! Once again MasterChef tries to draw out the drama before giving us the conclusion we knew was coming from the set-up: Amanda is going home. Nick doesn’t look happy at all about this.
Gordon gives Amanda a hug before she leaves the kitchen to the applause of the other contestants. She’s proud of herself for breaking the stereotypes out there about being Muslim. She has her own voice and she’s going to continue cooking and baking.
So that’s it, down two chefs two episodes in a row so that we’re already at 12 from the original 22. I wonder why they are rushing things now, and if that means we’re going to see a “comeback” challenge at some point, for someone to get a second chance?
I was surprised to see Amanda gone, that she didn’t even make the top 10 as I thought for sure she’d make it closer to the end. But more and more I’m beginning to think that my sneaking suspicion that Shelly is going to win is going to come true. No matter how she has screwed up in the last two team challenges, she keeps avoiding elimination…and the other chefs don’t seem to happy about that either. Just speculation on my part, but could it be that they feel she is getting unfair treatment and favoritism from the judges, as seemed to be the case with Courtney last season? One does begin to wonder.
It’s getting harder to predict who will be going out next, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s Kerry. He’s hardly been featured at all and is really the last of the “background” contestants left at this point. All told my favorites (of those left) are still Derrick and Stephen, so I hope they both stick around for a while longer even if I doubt either of them will win it all.
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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.