MasterChef: 40 Home Cooks & 1 New Judge

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MasterChef premiered this week with 2 hours and a crop of 40 new home cooks to kick us off!  We’re all eager to meet them and see them cook, but if you’re anything like me, you may have been anxious about a new judge replacing dear Joe Bastianich.  I’ll really miss him!  We meet Christina Tosi, and I must admit I’m delighted to have a female judge with Gordon and Graham.  Hopefully she can bring something to the table, but this Italian girl will always love Joe!

In true Gordon Ramsay fashion, he tricked one group of 20 home cooks into thinking they’re the top 20, only to bring in another 20 home cooks to compete with them.  Here’s the really mean part: they’re going head to head to compete for the 20 jackets.  I hate this, because it doesn’t necessarily mean the best 20 home cooks make it through.  You have to be better than the other person you’re against.  That’s it, really.

Each home cook is paired to compete against a similar signature dish.  Some of the battles are featured:

  • Claudia, a signal mom with Mexican roots, and Andrew, a southerner and political fundraiser, do battle with shrimp.  Though the judges are split, the apron goes to Claudia.
  • Next up, we meet Steve, an urban gardener.  He battles Tommy, a flashy fashion designer and the most fabulous man I’ve ever seen.  Pork is their weapon of choice and there is no shortage of personality with these two!  Steve’s near raw veggies seal the victory and apron for Tommy.
  • To keep things interesting, and like, slightly more fair, the lamb battle is between four people for two aprons.  Monzia, Derek the drummer, Amanda, and Nate are all vying for those two aprons.  Derek’s is so good and everyone knows it.  Graham basically just tells him to take the first apron.  Monzia serves raw lamb, so she’s getting that second one.  It’s Amanda who wins that one.
  • After the first of two montages, it’s time for battle salmon!  Two Milwaukee natives face off: Katrina, an admin, and Taylor, a former college football player.  This one kind of broke my heart because Taylor is so warm and engaging.  Katrina lacks a lot of confidence.  The judges were torn, but Gordon thought he could mold Katrina more so she gets the apron.
  • Then it’s the battle of fruit desserts.  Hetal, an Indian baker with a biochemistry degree, faces off against hot-pink-haired Jill, a stay-at-home mom to four boys.  Hetal makes an apple tart, more or less, with cardamom whipped cream.  Though I definitely want to eat that, I agree with Gordon that it seemed a bit safe.  Jill made Danish aebleskivers which are, roughly, spherical apple pancakes.  So cool!  I’ve never seen them before and now I want one.  Hetal wins the judges’ favor, though, and an apron.
  • The second montage happens, and suddenly it’s the last battle: chicken.  Christopher wins the apron over Shelly, a Jamaican immigrant with a Bachelor’s degree but making $10/hr.  Honestly, her American dream story was gripping.  Gordon fought for her, though he was the only judge who did.  He announces that they’ve made a mistake.

Surprise!  Two more aprons are up for grabs.  Each judge picks two people to compete again: 6 home cooks, 2 aprons.  This makes things slightly more fair, again.  Graham picks Taylor and Steven, Christina picks Andrew and Demetria (who had gotten lost in the montage), and Gordon picks Jill and Shelly.

The challenge is in honor of our new judge: Christina’s essentials.  They basically cook with things she picked for them.  The results are mostly good, with the exception of Demetria’s risk that didn’t pay off.  It’s hard to lose people so early when you’ve already started to connect with them (Taylor!) but we say goodbye to apparently my first favorite, Jill, Andrew, and quite obviously Demetria for making something with chicken, chocolate, and cheese.  No.  Steve, even more animated this time, and Gordon’s girl Shelly join the group of now 22 chefs competing for the title of Master Chef.

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