August 15, 2015 | Posted in EPISODE RECAPS, REALITY TV | By

“Getting Ahead in the Competition”

Screencapture from the August 12 2015 episode of MasterChef "Getting A-Head in the Competition".

Screencapture from the August 12 2015 episode of MasterChef “Getting A-Head in the Competition”. Episodes available for viewing via Amazon Instant Video.

Last week we finally said goodbye to Shelly and the top nine became eight: Tommy, Derrick, Claudia, Hetal, Stephen, Olivia, Nick and Katrina. And with an even number of competitors again that means this week will be another team competition.

As they walk into the MasterChef kitchen, they find four large crates: two marked “Meat” and two marked “Vegetables”. They’re going to have to use the ingredients inside those crates to prepare their next dishes. But they don’t have to make just one dish…they’re going to have to make “around…50”, according to Christina. A dish for every one coming for dinner in the MasterChef restaurant that nights. The guests are VIPs shaping the future of restaurants around the world, Gordon says. Both teams will have to make one elegant, composed entree for each of the 50 guests, and those guests will be the judges as well.

Hetal and Tommy are team captains and it’s Tommy’s first time getting that honor – and responsibility. Tommy had the winning dish so he gets first pick for his team. He picks the “world famous” urban gardener: Stephen. Stephen isn’t exactly happy to be picked for Tommy’s team. What did he do so wrong in his life, he wonders? Hetal picks someone she’s worked with before: Derrick, who isn’t too pleased to get first pick for her team, either. He doesn’t think Hetal has the voice of a leader so he’s worried about the protein box. Tommy then goes for Katrina, and Hetal picks Olivia. Tommy gets last pick and goes with Nick. That puts Claudia on Hetal’s Blue Team. Tommy feels pretty good about his Red Team picks.

So, what do they have in their crates to cook with? They open the vegetable creates to find a variety of beautiful fresh produce: peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, artichokes, cabbage, carrots, radishes. Stephen says it looks like his backyard. If he dies of irritation working with Tommy, they could bury him in this box!

So, what is in the meat box? Here comes the “good stuff”…or so some of them are thinking. Nick hopes it’s pig. But when they open up their boxes, they are empty. Hetal is happy because that means it has to be a vegetarian challenge, and that’s exactly the kind of challenge she should be captain of. Nick loves meat so this is not his kind of challenge at all.

Gordon explains that tonight, the diners they are going to be cooking for are the who’s who of the vegetarian world: restauranteurs, food critics and others who are all vegetarian. They will have 60 minutes to prep their composed vegetarian entries before 30 minutes of restaurant service.

Time gets started and both teams hurry into the pantry to discuss their plan. Hetal has a strong vision of what she wants to do: a potato, chickpea and English pea curry with tomato sauce, coconut rice. Claudia is worried that Hetal is the only one who knows these Indian spices and flavors, but she assures her team she can walk them through it.

On the Red Team, Tommy is trying to come up with a plan, but it seems that everyone wants to be team captain and talk over him. Katrina and Stephen seem to have an idea to do a Fall-themed dish of lentils and butternut squash, also with mushrooms and goat cheese. These are the people he picked, but now he has to deal with them.

15 minutes gone and everyone seems to just be getting started on their cooking. They all need to be moving faster. The judges discuss how this is a true test of a chef to be able to put together a balanced fine dining vegetarian entree.

Gordon checks in with Hetal and he wonders if she’s too much inside her head with her plan and not communicating enough with her team. Derrick isn’t really comfortable with what he’s working on. The Blue Team seems to be all over the place, she needs to delegate more. With 29 minutes to go the vegetables are all raw. Claudia says nothing is done, and everyone is running around like chickens with their heads cut off. It’s a mess, according to her teammates. Hetal needs to take a few minutes to get everyone on track.

Meanwhile, time to check in with the Red Team, with 25 minutes to go. Tommy is doing a butternut squash cradle with lentils on top a portobello mushroom, with a goat cheese medallion. But goat cheese isn’t cooking well in the pan and Gordon challenges that he can’t serve them to these VIP guests. So they’re going to 86 the goat cheese. Will they get the butternut squash rings cooked in time? Nobody is listening to Tommy.

Back on the Blue Team, Hetal’s rice is no good, it’s too wet. Christina checks in with them and they ask her for any way to save it. She wonders if they could make it into a rice porridge or do something else if it’s an essential part of the dish. They have to be clever and creative to make it work.

Graham checks in with Stephen on the Red Team and seems impressed with his mushroom sauce. Is Tommy okay with them nixing the goat cheese? He didn’t really have a choice, and right now he’s not really comfortable owning this dish. But he’s got to step up and be more assertive, be the boss.

In the dining room the guests are seated and start explaining what they are looking for in the dishes tonight. It’s time to start getting their plates together and ready for service. Tommy is trying to get one demo plate composed but meanwhile Katrina, Nick and Stephen are yelling at him to hurry up and work faster.

It’s like three wild dogs in the yard barking and barking at him, he says, and what does he have to say to that? “Shut. Up!”

Service begins and the Red Team is finally coming together now that Katrina has shut up and Tommy has finished his demo plate. Hetal thinks her dish looks beautiful and that the VIPs will appreciate where she is coming from.  One guest tells Graham that she prefers the Blue Team’s plate because it was delightfully fresh. But another person thought the spiciness of the Blue Team dish was overwhelming all the other flavors.

Tommy’s squash cradle with lentils, mushroom gravy and pickled radish is garnering some praise and criticism as well. One diner really loved it, especially the mushroom gravy. Another thought the lentils were a little overdone and that the dish was something he’d seen before.

All diners get their plates and now it’s time for them to cast their votes. All the team members can do is wait in anticipation of the results. When the voting is completed, the chefs enter the dining room. Tommy doesn’t just have butterflies in his stomach, he has bats with teeth inside of him! Hetal feels it’s important for her to win because these are “her people”. But with a margin of 13 votes, Tommy and the Red Team win the competition. He is bursting with pride. And now, the Blue Team will have to face the “dreaded pressure test”.

Hetal feels extremely guilty that her team members are now up for elimination. Derrick thinks that he, Olivia and Claudia don’t deserve to be there because they just followed Hetal’s orders and gave her exactly what she wanted. Did she want a pressure test?

Well, now at least one of them will be cooking their last meal in the MasterChef kitchen now. Graham asks them to turn around and they see a black box resting on each of the stations behind them. Each box is different in size and with different contents, but they all share one common theme. The four cooks must randomly choose a station.

Olivia says it’s silent as the competition is fierce. She can’t imagine what is coming. As team captain Hetal is asked to lift her box first. What does she find there? A lamb’s head! She definitely does not look happy about it, it fact it’s probably every vegetarian’s worst nightmare. She’s never cooked one before but she did dissect a lamb in biology class so she’ll attack it the same way.

Derrick lifts his box to find a fish head. It’s a halibut head in fact. He hasn’t cooked with it before. Claudia lifts her box to find a pig’s head. She’s not so unhappy, in fact she is in “hog heaven” now. Every major party in her family involves a whole roasted pig. The final box in front of Olivia is the biggest one there. Hetal is not looking so good right now and Gordon advises her not to look. What did Olivia end up with? It’s a giant cow’s head.

And so they each have to make a dish featuring at least one part of the animal head they received, in 60 minutes. They’ll have a limited pantry to work with as well. Time begins and the judges debate who will do well and who seems likely to struggle. Hetal doesn’t look right and this is really out of her comfort zone. Derrick arguably has the easiest protein but he could overthink it and overcook the fish. Olivia is so dainty, how can she make a 100-pound cow’s head look gorgeous. Claudia seems to be in her comfort zone and seems to want to send a message to the others with her dish.

Gordon checks in with Hetal. She is doing shredding tongue and cheek on jasmine rice. She needs to “wakey wakey” and concentrate, he tells her. Olivia is doing barbecued beef cheek with cheddar polenta. Who does she think is going home? Graham wants to know. She thinks Graham is making her nervous and she’d rather not talk right now. I don’t blame her!

Christina checks in with Derrick, who is doing Tandoori-spiced halibut, coconut cauliflower puree, smoked mango balls, grapefruit gastrique. He says he loves the pressure of being in the black apron. Claudia feels great because pork is so significant to Mexican cuisine. She’s doing a stacked tostada with pork cheek and pigs’ ears.

Graham is worried about Olivia because she hasn’t added a lot of herbs or garlic to her meat and it will be too late to get those flavors in once it’s cooked Christina is worried about Derrick and sees that the Red Team members want him out. He’s all over the place and practically setting himself on fire with his torch. He’s definitely feeling the pressure and Stephen is trying to get in his head.

Everyone rushes to finish plating until time is called. They start with team captain Hetal. She has lamb tongue and cheek braised in curry spices with turmeric jasmine rice and cilantro mint oil. She’s going on smell since she couldn’t taste the meat. Which is the tongue and which is the cheek? Gordon wants to know. She cooked them together. It’s confusing because there’s way too much rice, it’s slightly undercooked, and he’s frustrated even though the meat is good.

Next up is Derrick’s Tandoori-spiced halibut cheek with coconut orange cauliflower puree, braised cabbage, smoked mango balls and grapefruit gastrique. Visually it’s the prettiest plate he’s ever put up, Graham says, but the flavors seem a little disjointed. It’s not just fusion but confusion. Tasting, the fish is cooked perfectly. He would have done the grapefruit or mango, not both. It’s overcomplicated. He’s got to pull it in sometimes.

Christina is up to taste Claudia’s dish: it’s pig ear and cheek tostada with mango salsa and chipotle cream. It has a rustic charm, Christina says, and after tasting she whispers, “I love it.” It’s so bright, the cabbage brings acidity, and the pig cheeks are the star.

Last up is Olivia with her BBQ beef cheek with braised kale, sauteed vegetables and cheddar polenta. It’s got a rustic charm, Gordon says, like it just came out of a neighborhood bistro. Gordon tastes it and says that the plating is smart but the bizarre thing is it’s hard to identify the beef cheek because the sauce is so strong. It could be anything. He wanted to taste the beef, and she forgot the hero.

Time for the judges to make their decision. One dish was absolutely remarkable, and that was Claudia’s. She’s safe. She’s happy because she didn’t deserve to be in the pressure test to begin with. Hetal and Derrick are called forward next. It’s really hard, but, they are both safe tonight. That means Olivia is the one going home.

She’s sad to go but before she leaves she says the person who will be the next MasterChef is Katrina.

Overall this was a pretty intense episode that certainly went to extremes: first all vegetarian, and then gruesome head meat. Now, I happen to be a fan of offal meats so I was certainly interested in seeing what they’d come up with in this pressure test. And I gotta say Claudia’s tostada looked delicious and I absolutely want that recipe. That’s the first time I’ve really been that super-impressed with her cooking. They could really be setting her up for the cookbook win now.

I was disappointed not just with Hetal’s leadership but also her teammates on the Blue Team, seemingly so clueless about Indian food and spices and seeming so confused about how to approach the dish. It really wasn’t that complicated, and Indian spices/techniques are not that different from what you would find in Southeast Asian cuisines. I am not an expert but I do enjoy cooking Indian at home at times and I’m a little surprised to see these so-called home cooking experts so thrown off-kilter by having to do something  with an Indian theme. That said, I do wish Hetal would show a little more variety in the dishes she prepares and chooses to make. She is definitely falling fast and I think could be soon for elimination.

Next week promises to be a major disaster, as usual with the annual tag team challenge. I tend to think we’ll see either Nick or Hetal eliminated next, what about you? Personally I’d kind of be glad to see Stephen get the cut next; he’s becoming far too annoying with his attitude toward Derrick and also Tommy.


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!

MasterChef is back for its sixth season in 2015. Are you ready for another round in this competition of talented home chefs?

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.


  1. Marie
    August 16, 2015

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    I totally agree with your conclusions. I wasn’t surprised to see Olivia go home based on the editing of her lately, but I do think that Hetal ought to have been the one to walk, both for her poor job as team captain and the feedback from her lamb dish. Still I’m hopeful that she might go this week. Olivia was spot on with her remark about Hetal making yet another Indian dish. I wonder when she’s going to get called out on that. Claudia also cooks mostly Mexican dishes – I’d like to see both of them try something else. This is the top 8, you can’t coast along in your comfort zone challenge after challenge.

    I was rather surprised to see Derrick cooking his fish Indian style in the pressure test after hearing him criticise Hetal for selecting Indian food for the team challenge when the rest of the team was not familiar with the flavour profile or cooking techniques. As you pointed out, it’s not that hard to grasp and anyway some techniques are the same as other cuisines – I laughed when they couldn’t even get rice cooked properly. Masterchefs? Best home cooks in America? Yeah, right.

    Stephen was appalling in this epoisode. I know they like drama in the US version of Masterchef and Stephen is providing it, but really he was beyond obnoxious. I get that he does not like Derrick (and I think the feeling is mutual) but that constant, cringe-worthy heckling from the peanut gallery with him and Tommy in cahoots was a step too far for me. I’d like to see him gone from the show, but I suspect they’ll keep him for the fireworks a bit longer. Please don’t let him win!

    • sockii
      August 17, 2015

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      It makes me wonder if Hetal’s team weren’t being deliberately obtuse to an extent, it seemed so over-the-top in how much they were trying to make it hard to figure out a few fairly standard Indian-style recipes. Did they want to go to the pressure test, expecting Hetal to go? It seemed awfully strange to me. But again, she doesn’t seem to be a good team leader – she both was too much “in her head” as Gordon said and wanting to control everything too much.

      The more I’ve seen of Hetal the less impressed I’ve been, because it seems really like all she’s truly great at is baking (maybe why she was able to excel on the Beef Wellington?), not so much really innovative and delicious vegetarian cooking (Bri in season 4 was better at that.)

      Derrick’s Tandoori-spiced fish might have even been a little “FU” to Hetal, I don’t know.

      This was actually the first time I really wanted the recipe for one of Claudia’s dishes. I do a lot of Mexican cooking at home, and so far this was the only dish that was something I don’t already have recipes for and would like to learn how to make. Especially as we’ve raised pigs in my family and I have a freezer full of ears, cheeks, and other offal cuts that are hard to learn how to cook properly!

      I can’t see Stephen winning but I agree, he has gone beyond quirky to downright mean and hard to take.

  2. Marie
    August 18, 2015

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    You are right that the team’s attitude to the Indian food was almost deliberately “dense”. I can see that they might be more comfortable with Hetal’s experience at blending the spices they needed, but other basic techniques like cooking rice, peeling and chopping vegetables, frying up tomatoes, opening and rinsing some tins of chickpeas etc ought to be a walk in the park for these guys. I think that perhaps they simply didn’t like the idea of Indian food and sort of subconsciously sabotaged it. Hetal already took a bit of a risk as curry can really polarise people. What might taste mild to her palate, can be far too spicy for someone not used to it (and someone did comment on that). I have a friend here who breaks out in a sweat if you just say the word “curry” – ha, ha!

    I can also be a bit “in my head” when I cook and generally don’t like people helping me in the kitchen for that reason, no matter how well meaning they might be. I wonder if Hetal has made this dish a hundred times and has paced out the steps and got mentally thrown by people around her doing some of the work and messing with her usual rhythm. It’s hard when you have to explain things that you take for granted or forget to say something that you think is obvious. I had a friend help me once and I said she could thinly slice the leeks for the dish I was making. I’d already rinsed them and while I was slicing the meat and onions, she thinly sliced the leeks – lengthwise! Who on earth thinks leeks are sliced thinly lengthwise into spaghetti strips? I hadn’t said to cut them in rounds, merely assuming that she’d just “know” what I wanted her to do. Now I’m much more specific in my instructions and Hetal needed to make sure everyone knew how big to cut the potatoes and cauliflower etc to avoid the panic at the end. At the same time, I can understand that she just didn’t realise that they couldn’t read her mind. 🙂

    I agree that Hetal has not really shone in the way Bri did and I admit I was looking forward to seeing some innovative vegetarian food, especially in the mystery box challenges but that hasn’t happened. There’s been far too much baking on the program this season as well. I’m thinking that’s because of Christina, but really do we have to have a dessert challenge all of the time? It’s supposed to be Masterchef not Masterbaker!

    I was thinking after I posted my previous comment that Olivia may also have fell foul of the judges by not playing the drama game. When Graham tried to bait her about who she thought would be going home, she fobbed him off and refused to name anyone. Good on her! The judges on this version of Masterchef are always asking these negative things – who is going home, who is the weakest cook, what do you think of Person A’s chances etc which I think is awful. I never see that on the Australian or British version. It’s great to have confidence in your own skills, but there’s no need to insult or belittle your fellow contestants. It makes that person look a little less in my eyes.

    The other thing I find off putting is the way they choose teams – set up to be diversive and to foster resentments. The team selections are much more random on the other versions. Left side blue, right side red or front row blue, back row red etc. And another beef is when the judges spit out food or dump plates in the bin. That’s really childish and not something I think a professional should stoop to, especially as their role is to mentor these aspiring chefs. Again, this doesn’t happen in other versions of the series – there are far more instructive ways to get across the message that the dish was substandard without the need for badly scripted melodrama.

    Mexican food is not something you see much here in Sweden. Tex-Mex is everywhere, but not genuine Mexican cuisine. Are there no recipes for dishes on the US Masterchef website? The Aussie version has a recipe section and I’ve made a couple of dishes from them every season. failing that, does Claudia have a social media presence or blog? Maybe you could ask her to share the recipe. I can’t say that I share your love for offal and actually I rarely eat meat, but each to their own. I thought Claudia’s dish was beautiful to look at and really very clever – a well deserved win.

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