MasterChef Recap: Season 4, Episodes 7 & 8

Having watched these two episodes last week, I’m not super in the mood to watch them again to recap them, so let’s start with a “too long, did not read” version: The entire two hours were spent with two apparent goals: getting rid of ONE contestant, and fawning all over Luca.

I’m way too ADD for this crap…

Anyway. the first episode had the contestants cooking for 101 firemen, as their team challenge. Immediately, I’m happy to see that Bethy Rossos is getting more face time. For as interesting as she is, the show has done pretty much NOTHING with her.

I mean, this girl is an archer, hunts her own meat, just MADE a gorgeous wooden bow. She’s Greek, is always posting amazing looking Greek food (The show makes a big deal of the Italian cooks each year, but not a lot is said about other backgrounds!), and she was the host of a show called “Adrenaline Hunter” that just won an Emmy. But hey, let’s just ignore her in favor of a bunch of name calling and forced drama.

Then we have a bunch of fluff about how awesome Walmart is. Yay for product placement? I’m pretty sure that my MasterChef roomie – Alexandra – is still traumatized by being forced to carry a big Walmart logo bag in the opening scenes of the audition rounds!

First person chosen is Lynn. If I recall correctly, this isn’t the first time, and for good reason. Absolutely everything Lynn has posted online looks ridiculously amazing, and what little we’ve been shown of his stuff on the show is much of the same. I have NO idea why they’ve shown so little of him. Does America really prefer watching the judges prance around, and the focus on BS drama… over actual cooking? I’m really disappointed. Lynn is a culinary *Artist*.

“Banqueting is like the medical school of restaurants” – Wow, Joey. I honestly don’t even know where to START with that ridiculousness.

Anyway.

I find it weird MasterChef professes to encourage professional food dreams – and makes comments like Joey’s – but actively discourages contestants from acting as they would in pro kitchen.

In restaurants – and in medical school, for that matter! – people wear gloves. People tie their hair back, and people wear hair nets (or surgical caps, if we’re continuing the med school analogy!). Whether restaurants or med school, people realize that physical or biological contamination is a huge issue, and one that must actively be avoided.

In MasterChef, we see long hair worn loose, sometimes dipped in the food. We see people touching their hair or face, and then going right back to preparing food, without even washing their hands. While this is certainly not unique to this challenge – or this season – it’s an interesting contrast to all of the talk about how these firemen are America’s heroes, should be treated with respect, etc. Prepare them an amazing meal, but don’t tie your hair back! Got it…

This challenge makes me think of Mark Famiano, one of the 100 finalists – Cleveland Fireman. TOTAL sweetheart! Check out his audition video, here

So one plate’s missing sauce, Joe grabs the plate to go yell at the contestants, and one of the most hilariously disgusting MasterChef moments ever happens:

As Joe Bastianich yells “DO I SPEAKING ENGLISH!?”, he spits all over a bunch of steaks to be served to the firemen.

Way to respect your heroes, Joey.

So Bime’s team loses, and he does NOT want to save himself. I respect that, the show does not (obviously), so they make him “safe”. He further displays commendable sportsmanship by “saving” the person who he actually felt performed the best, rather than playing strategy to benefit himself. Good on you for showing some honour, Bime! There is NOT enough of this on this show, in popular media, or in society.

The pressure test is making Eggs Benedict, and it’s just a boiling pot of bizarre at this point. For some reason, Gordon carries on about how the Hollandaise sauce should be made first. Um. No.

Is he deliberately misleading contestants, or is he not a logistics person? I have no idea. Poach the egg first, shock it & hold it in cold water to stop the cooking process, and reheat it in some hot water right before serving. The Hollandaise should be made as close to serving time as possible, or it’s far more likely to break. At BEST, it’ll cool to a much thicker texture – which would be fine AFTER plating, given the logistics of judging… but you don’t want to spoon congealed sauce over your egg.

Bottom line: Always start with the most time-stable element!

One thing that’s really tiresome about this show is the forced “suspense” that’s supposed to enable “shockers”. If a team is being shown as being strong, blah blah.. they’re going to lose. Beth gets some face time talking about how she makes Eggs Benedict all the time? She’s going to fail miserably.

The show does a good job of keeping things inversely proportionate (The bigger the brag, the uglier the fail), but I’m not sure that’s something to be commended. It’s weird that they’re so threatening about spoilers and such, but spoil everything themselves – whether showing the results of last week’s challenge before the audition episode even aired, or by making it patently obvious what’s going to happen with challenges, before people are even finished cooking.

Loads of attention is given to Krissi botching her sauce. LOADS.

As is their pattern, Beth screws up royally, Krissi comes out on top, and Bri – the vegetarian who says she’s never poached an egg – also comes out on top. Yawn. It would be nice if they weren’t so heavy handed with it all, and employed even a little bit of subtlety.

As a preview of the ridiculousness to come in the second episode of the night, Ramsay declares the remaining 4 people to be leaving the kitchen for another elimination challenge.

Second episode starts, and they’re in Vegas for the first of two challenges.

They have them cooking burgers in a “real” restaurant, Gordon Ramsay’s Burgr (I hate that spelling, it pains me to type it and see the little red “you misspelled this!” indicator!)

Once again, reality tv apparently is exempt from common food preparation ordinances, and we’re treated to more bare hands, loose hair, face touching, etc. So freaking gross. I’m disappointed that the judges didn’t put their foot down, even if producers wanted contestants to wear their hair down. Also, seriously – how would wearing gloves take away from anything? So gross. I’m in the process of planning a trip to Vegas this fall, after seeing this… I know where I will NOT be eating. I wonder how the diners feel about this episode of MasterChef, watching the utter lack of food prep hygiene… especially in an expensive restaurant (It’s a burger joint, but apparently the average entree is $25 = expensive).

I have to laugh at Gordo saying “welcome to my world”. I would love to know when he last worked in a kitchen, he has something like 20 shows!

Blah blah, I can’t handle watching this again – I value my few remaining brain cells too much – so I’m going from memory on the rest of this.

This episode was hard to watch, because it was mostly a whole lot of Gordon screaming at the contestants. So much for the “This show is positive and encouraging” and “The softer side of Gordon Ramsay”. Blech!

Interestingly enough, while cooking burgers… there is NO mention of how awesome Walmart’s beef is. 🙂

Luca and Kathy lose the burger challenge… so they have THEM do *another* challenge: butter poached lobster.

One thing that stuck out to me when the challenge was announced was the lead up to it. The judges (probably Ramsay, IIRC) carried on about how this was one of the most expensive, luxurious ingredients in the world. Um.. No.

There are SO many food items that are far more rare, exotic, luxurious, etc. Hell, in one of the past seasons, contestants were each given – EACH – a $500 truffle to work with. I can’t even imagine…

Lobster? Lobster is great, and yeah, a little on the spendier side. You know, when you compare it to Walmart steak, anyway. You can usually find a decent lobster tail for $10-15, even here in landlocked Minnesota.

Also, fun fact: Lobster has a history of being referred to as “poor man’s chicken” on the east coast of Canada. Yes. For those on the coast, lobster was so plentiful and easy, that’s how it was seen. Actually, Googling it just now, this wasn’t just in Canada – in America, lobsters were apparently fed to prisoners, slaves, and servants all the time, because it was so cheap.

Anyway, especially after the “Everyone gets a $500 truffle!” thing, I have to wonder how disappointed Kathy and Luca were when the “most luxurious, expensive ingredient” was… Large ocean bugs. (Don’t get me wrong, I love pretty much every manner of sea crustacean!)

Luca wins, after a long spate of mediocre performances.

As they focus on Kathy’s exit, we’re treated to all sorts of fluff about her journey, about how far she’s come, and what a fighter she is. WTF? They’ve shown pretty much nothing about her “journey” or her, no one sitting at home has any idea who she is, what she’s cooked, what she can do, etc. Wouldn’t it be great if the show focused more on the contestants, so people could actually get more invested in them? So that stuff like this actually makes sense to the viewing audience?

As a fun “behind the scenes” fact… man, the show was awful to Kathy when we all first arrived. Apparently she showed up with bright orange hair, and production marched her over to a salon and made her dye it the colour you see on the show. If THAT wasn’t bad enough (she was NOT happy about it!), they decided to change her entire look. The spunky, flashy little Brooklyn BRONX diva look that we met in the first few days – fitted jeans, spangly earrings, metallic embossed flashy shirt, etc… was replaced by a plain purple t shirt, HUGE baggy jeans, and hiking boots. It was beyond bizarre… and signaled to me that she would be going far in the competition, before we even “auditioned”.

At the time, she seemed kinda pissed that I was allowed to keep my bright turquoise hair! (Had they insisted I change it, I would have walked. I’m sure they knew that.)

I haven’t been in contact with Kathy at all in a long time, after some weird Facebook drama. Regardless of what went down, I wish they’d shown more of her personality, background, and food, and I wish her all the best. The show really did her a disservice, on several levels.

The weird thing is, the show is doing itself a disservice. They whole point – for them – is to end up with a best selling cookbook… so why are they actively turning off their potential buyers with all the forced drama, and preventing people from getting invested in the FOOD aspect of the show at all? SO WEIRD.

8 thoughts on “MasterChef Recap: Season 4, Episodes 7 & 8

  1. Your insight is so true, again. The food that comes out of a good kitchen is far more dramatic and entertaining than mean-spirited judges and edits-for-TV.

  2. Yeah, it’s kinda like we share a brain. Freaky. One CRUCIAL thing people can’t get from my blog is the first-hand experience from the season, like you have. FASCINATING about Kathy’s image transformation. (They started doing that last season. We were thankfully spared. Though they did encourage top 100 folks from my season to hype up their colloquial accents and they wanted Adrien to speak Spanish when he got frustrated.)

    NO idea that Bethy was so interesting. Gonna have to go digging now…

  3. Thanks a bunch for writing these recaps. I’m sure it bugs you to watch the show, but your insight is really valuable and your writing is delightful. I’m sorry to see that you didn’t stick around longer–I’m sure you’d have made for an interesting perspective. I really hope that you keep writing these recaps!

    On a side note, thank you for continuing to highlight some of the people we didn’t get to see a lot of–it is really special to see some of those still hidden gems.

    Oh, and Ben Starr, I sobbed for an hour after you were eliminated. If you are anything like the warm and kind hearted person they showed, then the world is a better place. 🙂

    A smile to all of those who uprooted their lives whether or not they got to continue on the show–here’s to your dreams coming true anyways!

    Cheers!

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Jenny!

      I really wish the show would drop the focus on interpersonal drama, and show more of the people they’re ignoring. The show would be a million times better – knowing what everyone is missing out on, it just feels like a big waste.

      Ben really is every bit as warm and kind hearted as he was shown to be, and then some. Amazing guy, and the world really IS better off for him being in it!

  4. It annoyed the heck out of me that the judges couldn’t make a decision in the Eggs Benedict challenge when it was plain to the viewers that Natasha and Beth had the worst dishes. Then I realized that it had been planned from the beginning. You can’t just jump on a plane to Vegas and take over a restaurant kitchen without forethought. Still, it pissed me off that Kathy and Luca had to compete in three pressure tests in a row.

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