The Mystery Box Challenge is about to begin
Jaimee contemplates her dish
Daniel works on the cheap box
Leslie with the Mystery Box Challenge and gets to choose the pasta
Christian Prepares his pasta
Elizabeth and Cutter work on their pasta
Courtney fills her caramelle
Cutter finalizes his pasta
This week begins with a Mystery Box Challenge. They have two boxes before them, one containing household ingredients, the other more sophisticated upscale items. The home cooks will have to choose which box of ingredients they would like to use to prepare their dish for the judges. The lesser box contains things like ground beef, ham steak, ice berg lettuce, processed cheese dip, tilapia and other common items. The elevated box includes Kobe beef, Berkshire pork chop, Ahi tuna, black truffles, stilton cheese and caviar. There isn’t a right or wrong box and they will only be judged on their cooking.
Mystery Box Challenge: Teams will have one hour to prepare a savory dish with either the deluxe or pedestrian box. Each chef has their own idea of what to cook and they are split between using the lesser and elevated ingredients. This is the first time ever that home cooks have been given a choice in a Mystery Box. The problem with the elevated box is that you will need to know to cook the more difficult to cook items such as Kobe which cooks quickly. The lesser box will have to be transformed into something worthy of the judges.
With 20 minutes remaining the chefs are well into their preparation. Courtney, Elizabeth, Francis and Leslie are using the elevated box. Victoria and Daniel are using the common ingredients. Joe grills Leslie over the lack of seasoning in his dish. Joe tells him there is no salt. Francis is making a filet and tuna chessboard with blocks of Kobe beef and Ahi tuna. The judges are excited about Victoria’s common box tilapia dish. The judges make one final pass through the kitchen to select the top three dishes.
Elizabeth is the first to be called up to the front of the room. She’s made pan roasted Berkshire pork chop with herbed biscuits and pea salad. It’s a delicious blend of a mustard cream sauce and properly cooked pork. It’s cooked through but not dry and crumbly. The seasoning is perfect and Chef Elliot calls it the best dish she has prepared so far. Joe agrees that it’s a great dish and that she is “one to watch”.
Victoria used the everyday items to make a Tilapia and Ham Steak (with Nacho Cheese Sauce) with Iceberg Lettuce Salad with bacon and pickle vinagrette and side of potato crisps.
Leslie has used the elevated basket to perfection. He has prepared a trio of Kobe Beef, Ahi Tuna and Berkshire Pork with Truffle Puree, Stilton and Pea Puree. He was the only who “had the balls” to cook all three premium proteins, which has given him and edge. Chef Ramsay tells him he’s cooked his best dish “at the perfect moment”. Even Joe must admit it is seasoned perfectly.
Results: Leslie gets the “game changing” win. He will have two distinct advantages in the next round. He is happy to finally win. The other chefs, like Elizabeth are “terrified” as they have shown him so much disdain throughout the competition.
Leslie is taken into the pantry. He will get to choose which stuffed pasta the rest of the cooks will have to prepare for their next challenge. He can choose between Joe’s tortellini, Graham’s caramelle, which resembles a piece of wrapped candy, with the two twisted ends pointing out and Gordon’s Ravilacci. Each has their challenges but Leslie chooses the caramelle.
Pressure Test: Joe’s sample is classic mozzarella stuffed caramelle with grated cheese and a light tomato sauce. This is their target and standard upon which they will be judged. Chefs will have 60 minutes in total and five minutes in the pantry to collect their items. Each will be given a pasta maker to use to prepare the caramelle from scratch.
But wait, Leslie gets one more advantage besides immunity from this challenge….he gets to pick one chef who will use an old fashioned rolling pin in lieu of the pasta maker. After toying with a few contestants, he chooses Daniel, who is visibly upset. It seems to rattle him and negatively affects his performance. Leslie is ecstatic.
In the pantry, Cutter analyzes the ingredients and searches for the Gorgonzola cheese. Scottish Francis makes the decision to “go bold” and color his pasta beet red to look like candy. Daniel and Big Willie also try to go “outside the box” but they fall flat. Joe wanted a traditional mozzarella filled pasta dish, not experimental gastronomy.
Judge Elliot stops by Big Willie who is making a dessert caramelle. He tells Willie that it is “crazy town” what he is doing. Joe stops by Daniel’s station and he says he “seems to be in pretty good shape” aside from his wine reduction.
Jaimee is making a traditional mozzarella stuffed dish, copying her father’s traditional Italian recipe. The judges don’t know why Frances (Ramsay says his dish tasted awful) and others were taking unnecessary risks when the competition called for a straightforward Italian dish. The standard is that is should be something the Joe could serve in one of his restaurants.
Daniel’s dish is a disaster. Joe says it looks more like a steamed dumpling in a Chinese restaurant. The pasta is too thick (never put red wine into pasta). His biggest challenge was not the curveball thrown by Leslie but his own poor decisions. He made this task more difficult than it needed to be. Chef Ramsay calls it, “disgusting”.
Jaimee’s caramelle, made according to her father’s recipe, is delicious. Joe loves it and would be happy to serve it in one of his restaurants. He thanks her and says she brought him a “taste of Queens”. She nailed it, following Joe’s directions precisely.
Scottish Francis presents his too out of the box dish. It’s beet juice colored, short rib filled with a cauliflower puree. Chef Elliot hates it.
Cutter is up next and he has made another great dish. He is the only to have made his caramelle with a cream sauce. Chef Ramsay says he “cooks like an angel” although he looks like a ruffian.
Courtney has made (according to Joe), caramelle filled with mozzarella with fresh tomato sauce. “A super sexy, simple dish”.
Big Willie is also goes too far out of the box with his dessert pasta. Chef Ramsay is angry and unimpressed. He says “it looks like regurgitated dog vomit”. He calls him “Lazy Willie not Big Willie”.
Results: The top two dishes were made by Courtney and Jaimee (winning dish). The two Italian ladies will be the captains in the next episode’s team challenge. Bottom three are Daniel, Francis and Willie. Daniel and Big Willie are safe and Francis is eliminated. Joe tells him “our business is a craft not an art”. Francis is sad to leave on the cusp of the Top 10. He wants to harness his experience and continue on his culinary path.
It was a bit shocking to see Scottish Francis turn in his apron. He seemed to be one of the more interesting and talented performers. But he hasn’t done much in recent weeks and his dish failed on every level – appearance, taste and staying true to Joe’s challenge. So it makes sense that he would be sent packing. That aside, I’m sorry to see him go because he always provided a spark and willingness to look at this differently and take risks. Good Luck Scottish Francis!
The good news is that fan favorite Big Willie survived. But for how long? He seems to seem to suffer the same affliction as Francis, the desire to go too far beyond the guidelines of the given task. When Joe Bastianich tells you to make a mozzarella filled caramelle with a red sauce, you have to work within certain parameters. You cannot entirely ignore the call of the question. It’s clear the winners, the two Italian women, knew exactly how to prepare the dish Joe craved. Cutter, continuing his resurgence, mixed it up a little bit by making a vodka cream white sauce, for which he was commended. There’s a difference between creativity and foolhardy over exuberance.
The competition is now down to its final 10 home cooks. It’s starting to heat up as the remaining chefs are all pretty strong with many of the weaker competitors sent home. Scottish Francis was unquestionably the best cook so far to be eliminated. For a time, he looked like he could win this competition. If he played it safe this week and just knocked out a solid pasta dish, he’s be moving on and could threaten to take the Master Chef crown. However, in trying to shoot the moon, he shot himself in the foot.
First Tier – Likely Final 4
1. Courtney – She roared back to life this week and crushed the pasta dish. To be sure, she probably made this hundreds times in her Italian household but she delivered. She will choose and lead one team in next week’s team challenge.
2. Elizabeth – She did well in the mystery box challenge, almost winning it again.
3. Ahran – She was not the focus of this week’s episode, so nothing positive or negative.
4. Leslie – He rebounded after a tough week to win the Mystery Box Challenge and avoided his first Elimination Challenge in a while.
The Second Tier – Middle of the Pack
5. Jaimee – She crushed the pasta dish and won the Elimination Challenge. She will choose and lead one team in next week’s group challenge. Her culinary range is still in question, but she is hanging tough.
6. Cutter – He had another strong week and even garnered praise from Chef Ramsay. Is he really the comeback kid or are we going to witness a return of clumsy, clueless Cutter?
7. Victoria – She was in the top three of the Mystery Box challenge and continues to compete.
8. Christian – Not much from him this week, but a past challenge winner who can cook.
Third Tier – Most in Danger of Elimination
9. Daniel – He hit the skids this week after Leslie threw down the hand roller in exchange for his pasta maker. He seemed rattled and made poor decisions almost leading to his dismissal from the competition. Caramelle should not taste like a spicy Chinese dumpling.
10. Big Willie – Another clueless performance and he seemed unaware of what the judges wanted for this task. Perhaps his cooking schools are too related to dessert and he’s not able to translate into more standard dinner fare. But it shouldn’t be so difficult to make a cheese filled pasta with red sauce. Let’s hope Willie figures it out before it’s too late.
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