Last season, I thought I would be clever and try to predict who would win MasterChef after only the first episode had aired. Clearly, I was wrong in thinking that Elise Mayfield was being set up to be the plucky, come-from-behind winner as she ended up going down rather quickly (she finished 13th out of the top 22). I guess I really did not want to believe that Courtney Lapresi would win it all, even with the clear favoritism she seemed to be receiving from the judges right from the start. Season 5 was my least favorite to date of MasterChef, and Courtney’s was one cookbook I have absolutely no interest in buying.
With that out of the way, I have to say that Season 6’s contestant line-up is proving to be much more interesting and impressive overall. I didn’t have any clear feeling after the first few episodes who could be the winner, but now that we are five episodes in, I feel a bit more confident in making a call in who I feel has the best chance of being this year’s “MasterChef”. I could be wrong—I have absolutely no inside information beyond being an avid viewer of the show for every season since Season 2—but if I had to place a bet today, I would name Shelly Flash as Season 6’s likely winner.
Here’s my reasoning for that decision, by eliminating who I feel are the weakest potential winners first.
Clearly, Ailsa is going to go home soon—if not next then certainly before much longer. We’ve hardly seen her on screen since the beginning, no talking head “confessionals” that I remember, and no spotlighting of her dishes in either the bottom or the top. The only time we’ve really seen or heard anything about her was when Darah saved her first after last week’s team challenge, which the judges seemed to find completely baffling. No grudges or issues with her, but, from the editing it’s clear they aren’t investing any time in her because she’s just not that interesting for tv and isn’t going to make it anywhere near the top of the group.
Similarly, Sara seems to be near the back of the pack. Very little time has been spent on her, and the judges seemed very disappointed in her after the first team challenge, although she apparently did well in the apple pie elimination. She may hang on for a little while longer but definitely seems like primarily a background player. I don’t expect to see her in the Top 10.
And after being the center of a good amount of attention early on, in the first head-to-head battles that took us from 40 to 22 home cooks, restaurant manager Christopher has largely faded into the scenery. He did win the apple pie elimination challenge, but did not even seem to get any advantage from it in the first team challenge the next episode, which seemed a little peculiar. They just don’t seem to be working to turn him into any kind of “star” of the season.
Likewise, Nick and Kerry have not had a lot of screen time or real focus on their food. We’ve seen Nick in some of the confessionals talking about some of the other contestants and challenges, but what has he actually cooked? We’ve seen very little of it beyond him taking over the onion ring station in the theme part team challenge. Kerry was picked to be a team leader in that challenge, but again had been completely in the background before then and has continued to be so since. If either of these two were to be a winner we would have seen at least some spotlight on their food by now (likely a dish or two that would end up in their cookbook as part of their “story”). Again, I don’t see them even making it into the top 10.
Tommy may make it into the top 10, but only I think for his “entertainment value”. The Powers That Be clearly love the “flair” he adds to the show, and the tension between him and Katrina, but he’s not the type that will ever be a final winner on MasterChef—he’s not marketable cookbook material for Middle America. And so far, his dishes either come out lovely (his corn panna cotta was gorgeous in a Salvador Dali-esque way) and tasty or a complete hot mess, like his pistachio cinnamon rolls the time before. Eventually I wager he’ll fail in some elimination test, it’ll just be a question of when. That said, it is interesting to note that before he got into fashion, Tommy was a profession sous chef and a line cook. So it seems that his skills in the kitchen aren’t just made up for the cameras. Perhaps he’ll make it further than I/we might think at this point in time?
Tommy’s supposed nemesis, Katrina, I bet will go home before he does. While we’ve seen a fair amount of her on screen, her most successful dishes have been pretty basic (pork schnitzel, cabbage and peas) and she seems to get quite flustered under pressure. She could be this season’s Elise and end up crashing and burning soon, or she could hang on some how closer to the end, somewhat like Krissi in season 4. But I’m betting she’ll be gone sooner rather than later. Her tendency to “shut down” is not going to suit her well in the later very intense competitions or pressure tests outside of her comfort zones.
Charlie is someone we’ve only finally seen a little bit of in episode 5, and it wasn’t all complementary. He seems like a very nice, likeable guy but not a home cook with the kind of finesse, artistry and skill set that will impress the judges or keep him in the competition too much longer, in my opinion. A 25-year old A/C tech from New Orleans doesn’t really have a huge story to tell, which is what the producers want.
Veronica has been the focus of a fair amount of screen time so far but her results in the elimination tests have been mixed. Her apple pie supposedly tasted good but was bizarre and messy. Her corn creme brulee was a total fail. Personally I find her exceedingly annoying, with her constantly playing the mom/grandmom card. And for all of her bragging about her baking skills we haven’t seen them in a truly successful dish yet. I don’t see her as long for the competition.
Olivia has either done very well (her Crabs Benedict) or just barely survived elimination (her apple pie with goat cheese). They’ve really done nothing to set her up as a winner as far as giving her talking head time to discus her story, her background, why she wants to win MasterChef…truthfully she comes across as having no real personality and a bit cold and dour, at least thanks to the editing. She is not your next MasterChef, and I don’t see her lasting much longer unless they want to turn her into a talented-chef-you-want-to-see-lose.
So that narrows things down to the chefs who seem to be the most skilled and/or who we’ve seen more from at this point: Amanda, Claudia, Dan, Derrick, Hetal, Jesse, Shelly, and Stephen. I could definitely see them all making it into the Top 8, and then it gets tricky to decide who will get sent home sooner rather than make it into the final few.
Jesse is a bit hard to pin down at this point. We only really saw a focus on him for the first time in episode 5, when he won the crab Mystery Box, but he seems a confident chef who gets respect from the other contestants. I think he’ll either be a surprise sudden “crash and burn” in an elimination test not suited to him, or he could make it into the top 6 easily. But I don’t see him as the winner because they haven’t played up any personal drama surrounding him at all.
Derrick was a favorite of mine right from the first episodes this season, but I admit I am naturally predisposed to cheer on drummers! He seems to get a lot of respect from the other home chefs and overall comes across as cool-headed and talented. But, is cooking really his passion compared to drumming? I don’t get that impression after following him on social media, including his Facebook page which is a lot more about his music career than food. I hope he makes it far in the competition as I do enjoy watching him, but I do not expect him to be the winner. In the meantime, you can check him out in this new music video by Syd Youth:
Meanwhile, of the male contestants, that leaves Dan—whom Amanda seemed to diss as little more than male model eye candy in the first team competition, but he does seem to be viewed as a serious contender. He won the first Mystery Box challenge with his savory eclair, but so far otherwise he seems to be a bit of a mystery himself. Could they be setting him up to be a bit of a “villain” in the later episodes, while keeping him around for the visual appeal? Uncertain so far. But he definitely doesn’t give off a season-winning vibe.
And of the men, that leaves the rather intense and over-the-top Stephen, who barely made it into the Top 22 in the first place. He’s definitely a character and surely has cooking skills, he just seems to have problems reigning them in to make successful plates. But he’s showing improvement so I think we’ll be seeing him for some time on the show. But as a winner? No, not getting that vibe at all. Although I wouldn’t mind his recipe for tamales from that corn competition…how about a food blog, Stephen?
That leaves four women whom overall I see as the most serious contenders for the top award this year: Claudia, Amanda, Hetal and Shelly. All of them have been doing some great things with food that draws closely upon their ethnic or local regional roots. All four of them also represent a diverse and empowering vision of women being strong, talented, and skilled with food. Claudia has drawn successfully on her Mexican roots and done some very good dishes, although of the four I perhaps think she is potentially the weakest. Hetal I personally find the most compelling from a culinary standpoint; I love the way she has brought Indian spices and flavors to the MasterChef kitchen and (unlike season 4’s Bri) she seems genuine in her vegetarian personal choices yet shows no qualms or issues about cooking meat products for others. She—like Amanda—has had a food blog up and running for several years now (unlike other contestants who just seem to have launched new, rather cookie-cutter style websites in the past few months.) But Hetal, I think, is doing so well for herself she may not be seen as “needing” the MasterChef prize compared to some of the other contestants. And perhaps the judges/producers might find her style of cooking a bit to Indian-specific and want to go with someone who could be marketable for a cookbook of more diverse cuisine?
Amanda has put up some great plates and has been fun to watch in the competition so far, I see her going far. And it is great to see a Muslim-American woman getting screentime on TV right now without her religion being any part of the discussion. But I think when it comes down to a story that the producers want to sell, combined with a talented “home cook” (albeit one who studied Culinary Arts and works in a culinary education kitchen, according to her LinkedIn profile), I think Shelly is the one with the best chances of being named MasterChef this year.
Just go back to the premiere night’s episodes. She faced off against Christopher in a head-to-head battle and begged her case to make it into the competition. Gordon was totally in her corner and said they’d made a “huge mistake” when Graham gave “the Last Apron” to Christopher instead.
When it came time to fight for one of the final two aprons that suddenly became available, even then she was the last of the six picked by the judges to compete. She did well and received an apron from Graham, but it’s been clear from the start that she is one of the chefs they are going to focus on a lot with her “single mom”, “working for 10 dollars an hour”, struggling to survive immigrant story. She also has a salable perspective for a cookbook, wanting to elevate common, ordinary and inexpensive ingredients into tasty dishes with a Caribbean flair, dishes that her daughter loves to eat (or at least so we’re told). She’s got things to learn so I could definitely see her story evolving a lot like Luca’s did in Season 4, where there may be some close calls and she isn’t perfect from the start, but she “learns” through the competition and ends up being the season winner.
And yes, I can say know I probably would buy her cookbook!
So that is my prediction, 5 episodes in: Shelly Flash to win MasterChef season 6. I could very well be totally wrong but I have a strong feeling this year I won’t be. But what do you think? Are you getting a different vibe so far? Feel free to share it in the comments below.
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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.