Joe Bastianich

MasterChef 100th Episode

One hundred episodes of MasterChef!  Guys, I can’t help but wish Joe were here for this occasion.  Still, it’s reason to celebrate and there are 100 guests here to do that.  That’s exactly what the team challenge is this week– to serve those 100 guests.  Each team is tasked with making an oyster and caviar appetizer and a duck breast entrée.

Nick captains the Blue team, and as the winner from last week, gets the first pick.  Blue ends up with Amanda, Stephen, Sara, Charlie, Shelly, and Claudia.  Olivia picks Derrick, Katrina, Chris, Hetal, Kerry, Nick, and Tommy for her Red team.  Each team comes up with their lunch menus and starts cooking.

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It’s not that easy, of course.  Red immediately overcooks a bunch of their oysters, resulting in smaller portion sizes and eventually, having to completely change their appetizer.  When it comes entrée time, Charlie on Blue has burnt the carrots to an absolute crisp resulting in a sudden change of vegetable.  Despite cooking problems on both sides, the winner is declared to be the Red team!

Unfortunately for Blue, that means they’re facing the pressure test.  One person will get to sit out, but the team must come to a consensus and pick this person.  They choose Stephen, and he joins the Red team on the balcony while the remaining home cooks prepare to make three-layer birthday cakes!  Oh, and two will be eliminated at the end.  Talk about pressure!

Results and mixed.

These cakes do not look like Christina's from the celebration...

These cakes do not look like Christina’s from the celebration…

  • Nick’s sponge cake with blood orange mascarpone icing is pretty good.  He feels safe looking at his competitors’.
  • Amanda’s vanilla cake with Nutella buttercream and strawberry filling sounded so delicious, but she took her cake out to early.  It’s not cooked and she knew it.
  • Shelly’s mojito lime cake is also undercooked, but I appreciate her MasterChef decoration on the top!
  • Sara’s yellow cake with raspberry sauce doesn’t impress, but doesn’t disappoint.
  • Claudia’s tres leches cake impresses upon slicing and is delicious!
  • Charlie was a disaster and the cake looks like one too, piled high with frosting and looking like it’s melted on a hot summer day.  It’s delicious, miraculously.

The clear winner here was Claudia.  Nick and Sara find themselves safe.  Amanda, Shelly, and Charlie find themselves up for elimination.  Charlie’s swiftly sent packing.  Gordon pulls a mean switcheroo on Shelly and Amanda, telling Shelly to say goodnight… to Amanda, as she’s been eliminated.

We’ve lost a lot of home cooks these last couple of weeks!  I’m excited for the next mystery box challenge to see what those left standing can do.

Happy birthday, MasterChef!

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MasterChef Junior 3: Finale

It came so quickly, but here we are for the finale of MasterChef Junior season three!  It’s 12-year-old Nathan, self-proclaimed superman of the sauté pan, facing off against 11-year-old Andrew.

They have just 90 minutes to cook the best three course meal of their young lives– an appetizer, entrée, and dessert.  They must accomplish this task in front of their families, friends, and former competitors, then serve to Gordon Ramsay, Joe Bastianich (for the last time on this show, wahh!), and Graham Elliot.

Former competitor Quincy calls this match up between “the quiet mouse in the corner and the big lion.”  I agree with this– these two are so different in personality and food!  I’m still stuck on Andrew thinking dessert is useless, while Nathan’s desserts have blown the judges away!  Andrew is cooking Tuscan-style and Nathan is cooking traditional French-style.

Here is what Nathan cooks:

His appetizer is "not perfectly executed" in Graham's assessment, but Gordon praises the idea and the flavors.

His appetizer is “not perfectly executed” in Graham’s assessment, but Gordon praises the idea and the flavors.

Graham says Nathan's entrée is the best dish he's ever created.  Gordon loves the melt-in-your-mouth lamb, and Joe loves the asparagus purée.

Graham says Nathan’s entrée is the best dish he’s ever created.  Gordon loves the melt-in-your-mouth lamb, and Joe loves the asparagus purée.

My mouth is watering looking at Nathan's dessert, which the judges agree is delicious!  It brings cohesiveness to his menu as a whole.

My mouth is watering looking at Nathan’s dessert, which the judges agree is delicious!  It brings cohesiveness to his menu as a whole.

Here is what Andrew cooks:

Joe calls his appetizer "professionally executed," and Graham praises the work he put in to his homemade ricotta.

Joe calls his appetizer “professionally executed,” and Graham praises the work he put in to his homemade ricotta.

Andrew's ravioli has a problem: the meat is undercooked.  The pasta is delicious, though.

Andrew’s ravioli has a problem: the meat is undercooked.  The pasta is delicious, though.

Despite being an odd choice, Andrew's dessert works.  Joe calls it a king's rice pudding and I think the judges finish off the bowl.

Despite being an odd choice, Andrew’s dessert works.  Joe calls it a king’s rice pudding and I think the judges finish off the bowl.

 

The judges assess the meals they’ve just eaten and as usual, have the young home cooks switch places with them as they make the announcement.  The winner of MasterChef Junior is, starts Gordon, then leaves a long pause…

NATHAN!

Congratulations, Nathan!  I was cheering you on!

I loved watching this dark horse get more vocal and rise to the top of the pack.  And his menu?  I’d totally want to eat that!  Are you as happy as I am with our next MasterChef Junior?

MasterChef Junior: Raspberry Brûlée

This week was the semi-final of MasterChef Junior!  Jimmy, Jenna, Andrew, and Nathan are in for a night of delightful dessert making!  Well, maybe not so delightful for them  The first challenge for the last available elimination advantage is a crème brûlée relay!

Twenty un-sugared and un-brûléed crèmes sit out before the junior home cooks.  The race is on with sugar to sprinkle, blow-torches in hand, and 10 minutes to make the most perfect crème brûlées.  Nathan only gets one perfect crème brûlées, having burned most of his.  Jenna gets 4 perfect crème brûlées having the opposite problem.  Jimmy, meticulous as ever has 8 perfect ones!  Andrew was double fisting those blow torches, but only manages 4.  Jimmy wins!

Jimmy’s prize is to assign the desserts that each will be cooking for a spot in the final.  Raspberries rain from the sky to announce the theme of the challenge and the judges announce the desserts by degree of difficulty.

  • The raspberry napoleon is assigned to Jenna.  It’s the easiest, but Jenna is worried about all the different components taking up her time.
  • The raspberry trifle, Jimmy keeps for himself.
  • The raspberry mousse is given to Andrew, who is happy with that.
  • The hardest dessert, the raspberry tart, is given to Nathan, the dessert master.

Here are the results:

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Jenna did let time get away from her and her plating suffered.  Jimmy’s trifle is a bit messy as well and proportions are a bit off.  Andrew’s mousse had to be remade because it was at first too sweet; his remade mousse tastes much better but isn’t the right consistency.  Nathan was a superstar with this tart; he won his place in the finale with one taste.

Nathan was a shoe-in for the final, and they select Andrew to join him due to the way he saved his mousse.

I’m actually sad to see Jenna go.  I know her plating was a disaster, but on taste alone the judges gave her good marks.  For me, the texture of Andrew’s mousse is a bigger mistake that the plating error.  I felt she and Jimmy were both more deserving than Andrew.

Personally, I just don’t like Andrew’s views on food.  He thinks dessert is useless!  That being said, Nathan and Andrew could not be more different in their cooking.

I’m going Team Nathan!

Who are you cheering for in the final next week?

MasterChef Junior: Takeover

With six junior home cooks left in the kitchen, the stakes are higher than ever.  Jimmy notes that everyone’s 11 and up, so the competition is at another level.  This is true, though, regardless of age, because these home cooks are headed to Comme Ça to cook a service at this busy LA restaurant.  As Joe notes, the customers have no idea that their chefs are in 5th, 6th, and 7th grades.

Andrew and Jimmy, the winners from last week’s challenge, serve as team captains.  Andrew gets first pick since his dish was the best last week.  He chooses Nathan.  Jimmy then picks Ayla, despite Jenna’s hopes that he’ll pick her.  Instead, Andrew takes her as his last pick leaving Kayla to Jimmy’s team.

Executive Chef Brian Howard demos the dishes for the kids.  They’ll make two appetizers:

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And two entrées:

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Gordon announces that he will be expediting, then it’s time for the teams to make a game plan.  Jimmy of the Red Team takes a diplomatic approach, asking everyone what they’re comfortable with.  Andrew of the Blue Team dictates what everyone is going to do instead, insisting he’s the leader.  Red has a harmonious prep, while Blue gets frazzled to the point where Jenna burns herself on the oven.  She bounces back perfectly, though!

The tickets start flying in.  There are struggles on both sides with appetizers.  Red drags at first, then catches up.  Jimmy seems to forget to that he needs to clean his plates.  The Blue Team’s problems are worse.  Andrew seems to be imitating Gordon Ramsay, but his leadership skills are lacking.  He yells at his team and almost sets a fire.  Gordon sends him out to the parking lot to cool down.  He almost hands the leadership role over because Andrew’s just trying to show off.  In addition, Jenna has a problem burning her chickpea cakes.  The executive chefs plate doesn’t have that component on there since she ran out.

Entrée service is next.  Andrew changes his leadership approach to be more of a team player.  They fall behind when Jenna badly burns a piece of skate.  Andrew holds them back after Jenna recovers.  Red struggles to keep up too; they are almost derailed when Jimmy serves up raw skate.  Kayla shuts down a little.  The Red Team’s communication isn’t strong.  Both teams have their issues with the mains, but the diners are super impressed to learn their food was cooked by kids!  Well done!

Back in the MasterChef kitchen, the Blue Team is declare the winner.  Andrew, Nathan, and Jenna are through to the semi-finales.

Jimmy, Ayla, and Kayla face elimination.  Only one can be saved and make it through to the semi-finals.  The one home cook is Jimmy!  I’m happy with this decision, though I though Ayla was doing well in the kitchen.  Jimmy was the most deserving of the three, though.  What did you think?

Let’s see what these final four can do next week!  Raspberries rain from the sky in the preview, so I’m totally interested in this…

MasterChef Junior: Family Favorites

This week’s MasterChef Junior started out with a Mystery Box Challenge that wasn’t so much of a mystery.  Thanks to a floating banana from the sky, the home cooks are not surprised to find bunches of bananas under their boxes.  Bananas are one of my absolute favorite foods, so I love this challenge!

Gordon, Joe, and Graham taste Jenna’s, Nathan’s, and Ryan Kate’s.

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Nathan wins!  How could he not with those mouth-watering macarons?!  He wins an advantage in the elimination challenge, which Gordon’s youngest daughter, Matilda Ramsay, comes out to announce.

Twelve-year-old Tilly explains that the one dish the Ramsay kids always request their father make is salmon en croûte with hollandaise sauce, baby potatoes, and minted peas.  The kids will basically taste it/make it (for those of you who watch Hell’s Kitchen) but with a little help from Matilda, who lists the ingredients for the dish which they also find on their stations.

Though Tilly sports a British accent, she pronounces basil like an American, much to her father's chagrin.  Gordon teases her about this, but she's adamant it's bay-zil.

Though Tilly sports a British accent, she pronounces basil like an American, much to her father’s chagrin. Gordon teases her about this, but she’s adamant it’s bay-zil.

Nathan doesn’t have to cook, instead he gets to eat a salmon en croûte prepared by Gordon Ramsay himself.

The kids try to replicate Gordon’s dish, with varying degrees of success:

Gordon's dish is in the center.  How did the kids do?!

Gordon’s dish is in the center. How did the kids do?!

Jenna | salmon perfect, pastry cooked beautifully, even the hollandaise  came together!
Andrew | just nailed it, overall excellent!
Kayla | way too much pastry, and it’s raw, very little salmon.
Ayla | the sauce is spicy, but the salmon, the hero, is perfect!
Ryan Kate | overcooked her salmon
Riley | pastry is raw, potatoes need more color, hollandaise is broken.
Jimmy | visually, near perfect, and the taste aligns!

The top two are Jimmy and Andrew, whose the real winner.  On the bottom, we have Kayla, Riley, and Ryan Kate.

Ryan Kate is eliminated, and I literally gasp out loud.  Riley is also eliminated.  I’m really shocked at these results, as I thought Ryan Kate had been a strong contender and Kayla was looking a bit weak lately.  Let’s hope she can make a come back!  It’s just Jenna and Kayla hanging in there for the girls, now.

I’ll miss Ryan Kate, who cooks with such maturity.  I’ll miss Riley, with statements like he “made a lot of nice friends.”  It goes without saying that they are both very talented!

Six left means the competition is really getting down to the wire!  Can’t wait to see what these kids do next!

MasterChef Junior: Tag-Team Sushi

This week’s episode started off with a test-your-knowledge challenge for the top three from last week: Jenna, Nathan, and Corey.

Stocked up in the MasterChef Junior pantry are over 500 ingredients without labels including 83 herbs, 32 kinds of peppers, and 11 types of rice.  Jenna, Nathan, and Corey each receive a shopping list of 20 ingredients with two minutes to shop the crowded pantry.

Corey successfully identifies and retrieves 7 ingredients.  Nathan beats him by one, correctly identifying 8 ingredients.  Jenna is the winner with 10!  She wins an advantage in the evening’s main event.  For the win, she selects the teams for the elimination challenge.  For herself, she selects Kayla.  She pairs Andrew with Riley, Ryan Kate with Nathan, Jack with Corey, and Ayla with Jimmy.

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The junior chefs’ challenge is to recreate this sushi boat.  They will work individually while their partner advises from the side for 3 minute intervals, then switch and tag in their partner.  This intricate task involves rolling the California roll, slicing the fish for the nigiri, preparing the tempura batter and frying the shrimp.

Jenna chose Kayla because she’s her friend, but their teamwork was nonexistent.  They cry through the judges’ evaluation.  Jack thought he was a sushi master and Corey was too crazy for him.  He was not a sushi master and they had no success either.  Andrew and Riley made a nice team and a nice plate of sushi.  Nathan and Ryan Kate did well too.  The true superstars were Ayla and Jimmy, who created the best sushi and won the challenge!

Ayla & Jimmy's excellent duplicate of the sushi boat looks so delicious!

Ayla & Jimmy’s excellent duplicate of the sushi boat looks so delicious!

The bottom two teams are Jenna & Kayla, and Corey & Jack.  It was almost good night ladies, but Corey and Jack end up being asked to leave the MasterChef Junior kitchen with their heads held high.

It’s always impressive to see these kids cook, but the highly technical preparation of sushi just leaves me awestruck.  I love to see these kids work, and these two should be proud to be in the top 10!

I know Jenna has more to offer, so I’m glad she’s safe for now. I’m excited to see what else Ayla has in her now, too!

MasterChef Junior: Whippersnappers

IMG_6906This week’s episode of MasterChef Junior starts out with a giant mystery box to introduce the Mystery Box Challenge.  Inside the big box stand Gordon and Graham wearing age make-up to look 80ish.  Where’s Joe?  He comes in on the most Italian rascal scooter I’ve ever seen!  I’m dying at this whole thing, especially the streaming Italian flag.

When the kids open up their own mystery boxes, they find ingredients that get better with age.

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This box includes dry aged New York strip steak, 2-year aged iberico ham, smoked salmon, black garlic, perserved lemon, 12-year aged balsamic vinegar, and 5-month aged blue cheese.  They also get baby veggies to use and a limited pantry.

The kids get to use some “new fangled technology” to Skype their favorite old person for recipe idea.

When Joe does get up from his scooter, his sweatpants pants are pulled up so high… I’m literally dying.  “This is what old Italian men look like,” he says, and I 100% agree!  I’m going to miss Joe so much!  The judges point out that the balsamic vinegar on the table is older than most of the contestants.  Hah!

For our top three, it’s Jack, Riley, and Andrew.  They make the below, respectively:

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And the winner is Andrew, who heads into the pantry to take control of the Elimination Test.  He doesn’t have to cook in the elimination challenge.  He has to choose between three animals that you could eat, but could also eat you… rattlesnake, snapping turtle, or alligator.  These are all cool but scary… I love turtles, but that snapping turtle is hideous.  Andrew chooses alligator, to the chagrin of some of the young ladies.

The kids seem to do well with the challenge, though!  Here’s some of what they make:

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  • Jenna’s alligator curry | absolutely delicious, tender alligator, great spice.
  • Kyler’s grilled alligator | very tough, but flavor is there.
  • Mia’s fried alligator tacos | alligator has been fried too long and is tough.
  • Cory’s alligator stir fry | one of the best things Graham’s had in the competition.
  • Nathan’s alligator chili | delicious, excellent use of alligator, raising the bar
  • Jimmy’s alligator frajitas | dish is a bit simple

On top: Jenna, Cory, and Nathan!

While leaves Kyler, Jimmy, and Mia on the bottom.  Jimmy narrowly escapes elimination, and Kyler and Mia are sent home.

This has been a really fun episode, especially with Joe’s yoga incident (warrior pose gone awry!) and it’s always sad to see kids eliminated.  Kyler and Mia keep their heads held high and there aren’t any tears on the way out.  They must know that they’re all amazing!