The Final Battle
This is it: the finale of season four of MasterChef US. The last two chefs standing are Natasha and Luca; did any of us predict that combination?
We start out the episode with an overview of the entire season before getting into the actual battle. Who will win the title, the $250,000 and the chance to write his or her own cookbook? Will Natasha’s “exotic flavors” and “refined techniques” win the day? Or will it be Luca, the restaurant manager from NYC who struggled so much at first only to rally with win after win?
There to cheer on the two are not just the other contestants for this season but the families of the final two. Natasha’s large family is called in first for a tearful moment, and Luca has a grand Italian welcome with his wife and his extended family on her side. But then there’s a real surprise for Luca: his father has flown over from Italy!
They will have to prepare a three-course meal for the judges who will be looking at not just the individual dishes but how they work together – and how the two have progressed through the competition. Jordan and Jessie both think Natasha is going to win; Bri and Krissi are in Luca’s camp.
Natasha and Luca rush to the pantry to assemble all of their ingredients for the meal ahead. First is the appetizer round. Natasha is doing a pan-seared scallops plate with seaweed salad, couscous and heirloom cauliflower puree. Luca is doing pan-seared duck liver with french brioche and caramelized peaches. Luca says this is like being in the World Series; Natasha says it’s war.
The judges debate their choices. Joe says Luca is doing a very technically difficult dish, getting the liver just right. He’s also worried about Natasha’s mix of seaweed and cauliflower. He thinks she’s out of her mind with that one. Joe is also worried that Luca’s dish may be too sweet – he’s going to need some acid in it to balance things. Up in the balcony Krissi says she think’s Luca’s dish looks wonderful, and she’s not so impressed with Natasha’s. Natasha shoots back asking Krissi who is there in the “Thunderdome” – not Krissi!
Time is up and the judges head to the “restaurant” for tasting. Natasha isn’t impressed with Luca’s plating but he’s happy with it. She is also confident as she presents her plates first for tasting. Joe says it’s a dish that an experienced chef would never make. She took a “leap of faith” that in this case…works. He’s not sure if she’s brilliant or lucky. Gordon likes the cook on her scallops. Graham’s favorite part of the dish is the couscous. It’s one of her prettiest plates to date and the most delicious.
Luca is next. Gordon says the perfume off his plate is incredible; it’s a very bold effort. Great first mouthful, but he thinks it needed another 90 seconds in the oven. Graham says the sear is perfect but it’s a very rich dish…maybe too rich for a first course? Joe says it does a great job of riding in between savory and sweet and thinks it’s a masterpiece. It’s hard to tell who “won” this round, but there seemed to be a few quibbles with Luca’s plate and nothing to criticize (as shown) with Natasha’s.
Next has to be the best entree they’ve ever made in their entire life. They have 60 minutes. Natasha is going for a Five-Spice Monkfish with Jasmine Rice and Coconut Curry Sauce. She’s wrapped the monkfish in caul fat, which Graham thinks is a good technique although he seems concerned that she says she’s not going to remove it before plating. Luca is making Tamarind and Balsamic-glazed beef short ribs. He’s using the pressure cooker for the ribs – which means he cannot check on the ribs at all during the cooking! So they will either be perfect or not have cooked enough – it’s a risk.
Time’s up and we’re back in the restaurant for tasting. Natasha thinks Luca’s dish looks like a lot of “brown on brown”. Joe says they both certainly look restaurant quality. Natasha is first up again. Gordon likes the color and sear on her monkfish. Graham says it’s arguably the prettiest dish he’s seen in four seasons of MasterChef, but it might be too much heat. Otherwise it’s “edible dynamite”. Joe says it’s amazing and Gordon says it’s an elevation of curry.
Luca’s braised beef short ribs with chanterelle mushrooms and watercress is next. It looks fantastic, Gordon says. But are the short ribs cooked properly? That will be the question, as he cuts into one piece of meat. Gordon says it’s not what he expected…it’s incredible. It’s pretty phenomenal. A little clumsy on the puree beneath, however, and very, very heavy. Even so, it’s the kind of dish he’d have as his last supper. Joe says it’s created with the sensibility of a restaurant chef. Graham says it’s the best dish he’s ever tasted from Luca. Who won this round? Hard to say. It seems it’s going to come down to dessert and how the dishes all work together as a whole.
Both chefs are doing panna cotta. Luca is going bold with basil panna cotta and a sweet tomato jam – sounds more like an appetizer than dessert, so he’s going to have to be careful that it’s more sweet than savory. Natasha is doing two different panna cottas: lime and coconut. Is that a good move or overkill?
Both chefs start running into problems in their 60 minutes of cooking time. Luca forgot to strain his, so he has to start over and it’s going to be a race to make sure his set in time. Natasha gets hers in the fridge quickly enough, but the lime ones don’t turn out well at all. She tosses them completely and decides to only serve the coconut ones.
The plates are done and it’s back for one more round of tasting in the restaurant. Natasha is first with her Coconut Panna Cotta, Passion Fruit Couli.
Natasha tosses one of her panna cottas as they are not good. She only serves the coconut. Natasha has her coconut panna cootta with passion fruit coulis and edible flowers. Gordon thinks the passion fruit brought the whole thing alive but he wanted more on the plate. Graham says it’s the perfect ending. The consistency is delightful, Joe says. But is it too simple?
Luca is next with his Basil Panna Cotta, Tomato Jam and Honey Mascarpone. The texture is sublime, Gordon says, but it’s got a savory taste. But then it “explodes’ with lusciousness from the tomato jam. It shouldn’t work and yet it does. Graham says it’s Luca on a plate. Joe thinks structurally there are some issues because you need all the tastes at once for it to work together.
It’s time for the judges to debate, and they think it’s been the toughest decision they’ve had to make in all of MasterChef history. Could they end up calling it a draw? They seem to seriously consider it, but then know that they can’t do that, they have to make a choice. And at the end of the discussion, that choice is announced: Luca is the Season Four MasterChef winner! Congratulations to Luca! I must say my Italian heart is very happy with this decision and proud for my fellow countryman. I do look forward to seeing what will come of his cookbook; I hope it showcases some of his creativity as well as his Italian style and roots.
What’s next? Well, I’ll be continuing my MasterChef recaps with the upcoming premiere of Junior MasterChef … and also attending the Philadelphia open call for MasterChef Season 5! Stay tuned….
Looking for more on MasterChef Season 4? Then check out my season Hub Page:
MasterChef US 2013: Season 4
Who will be the next MasterChef? Find out in Season 4 of the intense cooking competition where talented “home cooks” compete for the ultimate title – and prize! Learn more about the contestants in my hub for the season, share your opinions in weekly polls, and check out video highlights as well.
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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.