Wal-Mart Product Placement Extravaganza – and Yet More Desserts
Tonight’s episode followed the classic Mystery Box/Elimination Challenge combination, as the remaining 13 contestants vied to keep their aprons for another week. This had to be one of the most annoying product-placement challenges ever on MasterChef – a box of $15 worth of ingredients from WalMart including a T-Bone steak. Yes, we get it MasterChef, Wal-Mart is one of your big sponsors this season. We’ve seen the “I can’t believe it’s a Wal-Mart steak!” ads enough times (and I still won’t buy meat there.) Do we really need to ram home the message further with a rather boring steak challenge? I guess the answer is yes.
Along with the steak, the chefs are given corn, watermelon, peaches, cabbage, fresh tarragon and other basic ingredients that sound perfect (and rather simplistic) for a summer BBQ meal. After an hour in the kitchen where some seem to be struggling to get their steaks cooked properly (Tali), the judges call up Frank, Tanya and Becky as having the three best dishes. Frank cleverly separately the strip and the tenderloin meat from the steak and prepared them a cream sauce of corn and cabbage slaw. Tanya’s tarragon T-Bone looked perfectly medium rare and was served with braised cabbage and corn puree – which Gordon said was easily a $40 restaurant dish. Becky skipped using the steak entirely and went the dessert route, preparing a Caramelized Peach with a cream puree sauce. Becky’s dish looked pretty and got tasting raves from the judges, but it certainly wasn’t a “$40 restaurant dish” which the FOX announcer seemed to make it sound like was part of their challenge.
The judges end up awarding best dish honors to the surprised Tanya, who then is lead to the pantry to find out what her advantage will be for the elimination challenge. And, again, we have yet another dessert challenge! I’m starting to wonder this season if I’m not watching Sweet Genius or Cupcake Wars instead of MasterChef. The chefs will have to prepare the judges’ favorite desserts: for Joe, it’s Tiramisu; for Graham, it’s Strawberry Shortcake; for Gordon, it’s an English Trifle. Tanya is safe and doesn’t have to compete – but she gets to decide which of her competitors will be preparing which dishes.
Tanya makes what appear to be pretty kind choices based on the strengths (and weaknesses) for her fellow chefs. The (supposedly) simplest dish, Strawberry Shortcake, is given to Christine, Mike, Scott and Tali. Frank, Felix, David and Anna get Tiramisu. Trifle, which in ways is the most complex because of the layering of ingredients, is given to Becky, Monti, Stacey and Josh. We see some missteps and issues as the chefs get to work, notably that David’s cream is more like cream cheese in consistency, Scott is overworking his shortcake dough and Monti starts a kitchen fire.
The tasting begins with the tiramisu desserts. Felix is first and hers is a complete disaster. She added macadamia nuts, it’s not layered properly, and she seems to be having an emotional breakdown over realizing this might be her last dish in the MasterChef kitchen. Anna and Frank both did good jobs according to the judges, but David’s is also a mess almost as bad a Felix’s – too heavy and not at all the “pick me up” that a tiramisu is supposed to be.
The trifle desserts are next. Josh’s tastes like a banana split – and that’s not a good thing. It’s not layered properly and has too much cream. Monti gets praise from Gordon, but not as much as Stacey gets from all three judges over her bold flavoring choices like adding balsamic vinegar to her strawberries. Becky, who has set herself up as the dessert queen so far, makes a huge misstep with her trifle by going overboard with the spices (star anise and lemon grass?) It may look picture perfect, but it tastes so awful Joe actually spits it out.
Last up are the strawberry shortcakes. Mike’s plate is laughably over-done, a fine example of an amateur trying to do fancy plating. Christine makes the misstep of using blackberries and raspberries in her dish instead of just strawberries, so even though it tastes good it’s not true to the concept. Tali finally nails one home with his dessert, where he made strawberry foam to accent what looked to be a beautifully plated shortcake. Scott is last and his is a failure apparently on all levels: his shortcakes are as dense as hockey pucks, his strawberries just sliced and not at all glazed or finessed, and his whipped cream too sweet.
The worst dish in each of the three categories will be up for elimination, but first the judges announce that Stacey had the finest dessert of the competition. We’ll see if that ends up giving her any special advantage or award next week. The judges pick Felix, Becky and Scott as the bottom three, unsurprisingly, but who will be sent home? Will it be based more on complete failure with this single dessert, or will it be more based on (seemingly) overall performance? Becky is told she is safe, and Felix is called forward. Gordon pulls one of his mean almost-dismissals and tells her it’s time to say goodbye…to Scott, who will be leaving the MasterChef kitchen tonight.
This elimination wasn’t too surprising except that I didn’t think he had the worst dish of the night, but just that his overall performance to date was not up to the level of the others. The competition is getting to the point now where any of the “amateur chefs” without real serious skill and finesse will get picked off one by one – sometimes, I think, even when a supposedly better chef (like Becky) makes some really horrible mistakes in a dish. My prediction is that Mike and Josh will be soon to depart as well, as neither has been really showing (in what we’ve seen) the level of finesse in their cooking that the other contestants have. David might also be in trouble, as he has not shown a lot of ability to do well outside of his comfort zone dishes – unlike Frank, who is now proving himself capable of cooking a lot more than just pasta. Tali could go either way – he could start to shine if he can use his love for molecular gastronomy effectively (like in this episode) but he has to stop making mistakes like overcooking his steak and being too weird in his ingredient choices.
For more on Season Three of MasterChef US including polls and background information on all contestants, check out my full season hub!
MasterChef US 2012: Season 3
MasterChef has been a hit television sensation all around the world. Learn about the contestants from Season Three, which aired in the summer/fall of 2013 on the FOX Network.
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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.