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.
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.
So, this time I’m almost a week late with the MasterChef recaps. To be quite honest, it was really starting to look like I wouldn’t be doing it, and I’m still not convinced that I’ll bother, going forward.
The longer I’m back from LA, the more I hear about things that happened to my friends… the more disgusted I am with everything. On one hand, I feel like I would be doing a disservice to my friends – and those I didn’t even meet – by NOT giving them some exposure, after we all uprooted our lives for ~6+ months for this.
On the other hand… two of my MasterChef friends have had suicidal thoughts since coming back, as a result of the treatment out there. One friend was sexually harassed by the judges to the point that she had her lawyers get her edited out of the show completely. (As part of it, one of the judges told her that the only way he’d have an appreciation for her is if he was looking at her naked body!). Two of my friends were physically assaulted – one by production, one by a judge.
Of the incidents I mention, there is no crossover – these are all unique individuals. They’re not alone, either – I know of a few other women who were treated in a sexist, degrading manner by the judges… and all of these incidents that I mention are just the ones that I KNOW of. Many have been dealing with depression as a result of the experience.
I knew that MasterChef contestants can be in a bad way when they come home, and I knew that the show has sent many from previous seasons – even those who have “placed” high – into depression, and even ruined a few lives… I guess it’s just harder for me to tolerate in specifics – it’s easier to wave off an abstract idea, without any context. Also: without knowing those involved. These aren’t mentally unbalanced people, or drama queens – these are real, everyday people. Good people. For this reason, I have very little desire to give MasterChef any real coverage, going forward. I’m beyond disgusted…. I’m livid.
Add to it the fact that it sounds like they’re going to full on, super trashy reality TV this season? Blargh. This article actually had me envisioning the show turning into a “Scary Movie”-esque parody of reality TV, it’s all so over the top.
Still, this past set of two episodes gave us the first – and last – brief glimpses of some of these people. So… here we go.
They show a quick montage of people, and then Howard. Howard makes a peach cobbler, get an apron. I’ll admit, this one still stings a little – Apparently he used canned peaches and frozen blackberries. Awesome.
Then we have a very brief montage of rejections.
We have Paulina, who manages one of the most gorgeous food blogs I’ve ever seen, Potato Chips are Not Dinner. Fun fact: Joey the Ignorant told Paulina that her traditional Phillipino dish was “bad Chinese food”. WTF.
There’s Mark Famiano, a TOTAL sweetheart firefighter from Cleveland. Liyah with her “babies – stuffed animals – and we see Grace Chen for all of two seconds.
Carl “Pen” Wippert presented the judges with white chocolate spaghetti with strawberry puree and lemon cake “garlic bread” <- complete with finger quotes. LOVE this guy, and you should too - check out his website and Facebook page – he has a cookbook (“Gourmet for Everybody”) coming out VERY soon!
Jonny B uses a beer bottle as a rolling pin to extract lobster meat from the shell, to put on his caramel and coconut “crackerjack”. I’m still not sure how I feel about that dish. Unique, weird, and… I THINK I’d be interested in trying it? I dig salty and sweet, not so sure about seafood and caramel though. Anyway, he gets an apron after some big fake judge dramatics and “suspense”.
At this point, just 10 minutes into the show… they’re done with the audition round. SO many people, stories, and elaborate set ups were not even mentioned, much less shown. So many other people having months of upheaval condensed down to even a second or two. What is the point of having a second 2 hour episode, and only spending 10 minutes on the auditions?
So then we go to the next round of eliminations. The 40 people with aprons are assembled – equally spaced out among the “Fight Club” space – and told they’ll be competing to stay, asked to follow the judges out to another area
Brian Baum tells us that he has adrenaline coursing through his veins. I promptly get Phat Bass stuck in my head.
Nancy Fillipelli isn’t thinking about going home, she “IS” home.
They go to this other area, and they show individual faces. Let me go all “Romper Room” for a minute..
I see Seonkyoung, Mark Oberle – a trapeze artist!, and Gabriella.. I see Steve Smith (who doesn’t seem to have a MasterChef page for some reason?) and Dean Karadimas, who is QUITE the character, btw. There is Seymira Salamy, and Kevin Tindell, who I just adore! I see Dahlia Abrams (and you can tell on her face, she thinks she’ll be told to kill the poor lamb that Ramsay just presented.. does NOT look happy with it!). I see Duckie and Bime … and then a flood of sheep run into the area, apparently relieving themselves all over the contestants.
Cause, you know, that’s a great thing to do to people about to cook, and in an area they’re about to cook in.
They’re told they won’t be killing any of the lambs, and a HUGE display of every possible cut of lamb is revealed.
I’ll admit, I shed a tear at this point. I am SO glad that I went home when I did – and I manage to feel even happier about that with every new story I hear – but man… challenges would have been so much fun. Forget TV, forget the competition even… I’d love to be able to walk into a pantry / meat department like THAT, have my pick of it all, no worries about budget, and just make whatever I want. What a dream!
Ramsay makes some bizarre comment about how the contestants will be like lambs to the slaughter if they make a mistake. The hyperbole in this show is epic… and not in a good way.
So they start the 60 minutes, the contestants go running, James talks about getting shoved down, and Seymi laughs – she was a rugby player, by the way. 🙂
Some coverage of contestants picking ingredients, with judges yapping.
I want to eat whatever Gabriella Aronja is making. I have no idea what she just said. It was in Spanish, and I bet it’s amazing. There are roasted peppers involved.. yum!
Malcolm is making a lamb sampler plate, Joe makes a snotty comment about how it sounds like he’s not confident enough to make one dish. Because, you know, I’m sure none of Joe’s restaurants sell anything with more than one preparation of an ingredient, and because such a dish has NEVER gone over well in past seasons, right?
Beth cooks her lamb on hay. Was kinda surprised to hear they had hay as an ingredient, seems kinda random.
Luca is stuffing a lamb loin with sweetbreads and goat cheese.
Brian is describing what he’s doing, gets insulted. Whatever.
Judges discuss James Ladd, saying he’s “way out of his depth”, mentioning his BBQ sauce. Apparently, that sauce was straight up amazing, btw.
In a moment of fake “spontaneity”, the judges “decide” that some people have been ‘showing their true colors’ (you know, mid-cooking time)… and should just be eliminated right now, before they’re even close to running out of time.
What a ridiculous slap in the face. I can’t imagine having had to stay another week, just to be fodder for craptacular forced drama BS like that. So disrespectful!
So with 15 minutes left – a full quarter of the time still remaining – Joey Coattails walks through and eliminates people. Gabriella – oh, her food looks SO good! – is first to go, being told she has “too many technical mistakes”.
James Ladd is next to go, then Brian Baum.
I’m struck by how much time is being spent on drama, and how little is being dedicated to the actual food. We see a few photos, no titles or descriptions of what’s being cooked.
The contestants are divided into two main groups, with a few stragglers. One group goes through to the competition, the other is just cut. Not a word about what anyone’s cooked. Past years, we’ve seen a LOT more about the food, about what was made, thought behind it. This year, it’s like they’re not even pretending that the show is about food, on some levels.
Duckie tells us that the judges are missing out, with her being eliminated. I had her pegged as top two from the minute I met her, so I totally agree. She KNOWS food – you should check out her site, Duckie’s Dine-asty. Don’t go when you’re hungry, though… just amazing stuff. She’s also hilarious, smart AND witty (not the same thing!), and just an all around great person. She actually did my makeup for me right before I cooked during the auditions, and made me look FABULOUS – thanks again, Duckie!
They show Luca’s dish, which doesn’t look appetizing at all.
Malcolm goes up against Seymira, Seymi goes home 🙁
Seymira’s African culture comes through in her cooking, and her dish looks insane. Girl, I would happily snarf your cooking any day.
The elimination is dragged out for far too long. Also, I hate seeing Seymi cry. This chick was a ray of sunshine the entire time I was in LA, love her to pieces.
Then it’s Jonny with a lamb rangoon, vs Brian “Crazy Eyes” with a lamb liver dish that looks very tasty. Gordon insults him, Brian goes home in another looong drawn out elimination.
I’ve got to say, I wish American MasterChef was more like Australian MasterChef: Way more focus on the food, it’s actually kind of educational for the home audience. Also, the judges are far more positive and encouraging.
Nancy up against Bri, Nancy goes home.
Luca goes up against Beth. Beth’s dish is gorgeous, Luca’s… not so much. While many of the cooks here seem to have some grasp on use of color, everything on Luca’s plate seems to be variations on bile yellow. Just… not appetizing at all.
I’m fast forwarding through the drama surrounding the elimination. I may have a short attention span, but really – do people like seeing this stuff drawn out so long, and so… forced?
Also, why does Gordon. Ramsay. Try to. Talk like. William. Shatner?
There is only one Shat. Gordo is not it.
Now we’re on to the second episode from last Wednesday. I’m just going to include my review for it here, rather than start a new one.
It’s a mystery box challenge. Tomato, Bacon, Chocolate, and Potatoes are the main ingredients.
Krissi excitedly yells “BACOOOON!”, and America falls in love with her 🙂
Graham describes “an INCREDIBLE single potato”. It’s a potato. Don’t get me wrong, I am a VERY stereotypical Irish Canadian, I adore potatoes… but the hyperbole bores me so. I’m assuming that Graham has a better grasp on language than Joe the moron does. (I’m still laughing at “Butter is the antithesis of Greece”!)
Gordon has never seen chocolate and potato together, which reminds me – have you guys tried my peppermint patties recipe?
Then we have a little bit of talk about the food, then a whole bunch of manipulated drama.
Just a comment on this: I’ve seen a lot of comments out there online, usually on forums and comments section of news articles, about how the drama between Krissi and Natasha “came out of nowhere”. Keep in mind that at this point, the contestants have been in LA for almost two weeks. That’s a LOT of time to form some opinions about others. Hell, most of us were only there for a week, and THAT was enough time to form some very tight, lifetime friendships. There are two sides to that sword, and not EVERYONE there was awesome to each other.
Bime is up, Joey Coattails says that his dish “smells like a fake” to him, asks where he’s ever had food like this before. Definitely a recurring theme, after accusing Bime of his mofongo being “a ripoff of shrimp scampi, with a little plantain”
Does Joey not eat anything besides Italian? I have a hard time pinpointing whether his BS is racist, classist, or just general ignorance. Maybe a combination? So much stupid…
He tells Bime that he hopes he can “walk the walk”. I’d love to see Joey “walk the walk” – does he even know how to cook? Any time – over ALL of the past seasons – that any of the judges cook, it was not Joe. There WAS a tortellini forming demonstration once, but I remember noticing at the time that the edits were such that it very easily could have been someone else’s hands doing the close ups.
Anyway, Natasha gets on and yaps about how pretty she is.
I’m torn on this. Instinctively… barf.
On the other hand, I was there… and I KNOW how much footage they have of me talking about my IQ, etc – all prompted. I was DREADING them using all of the various “Great! Now say it like ____. Cool, now can you say _____ also?” incarnations of it all, piecing it together and making me look like a mega douche.
So I know there’s a good chance that it’s all VERY manipulated, etc.
The thing is… for each time I had to talk about my IQ, I was cracking jokes and doing my absolute best to make it impossible for them to edit it in a way that made me look like I take it seriously, or am actually hung up on it. With her… she really seems to be genuine about it. So, again… barf. Well, unless she’s acting. She did claim to be a model (??), and tons of these people are model/actors, so… I dunno. I digress.
I’ve already seen this, the night it aired… so this whole recapping thing is tedious. I remember how much of this was all the interpersonal drama and BS, and I just don’t feel like watching it.
Also, I’m really grossed out by the fact that every one of the women have their long hair flowing everywhere. IN A KITCHEN. Having been there, I know they don’t have a TON of control over their appearance, but I wish the show had them tie their hair back.
I still remember being grossed out, on past seasons, by people actively sweating OVER their food. So gross. This show is supposed to be able encouraging/preparing the contestants to pursue their culinary dreams (with a little suspension of disbelief applied, anyway!)… I don’t get why they don’t encourage some adherence to the basic hygiene rules and regulations that they’ll encounter in the real world.
Luca is making pasta. Go figure.
Krissi Biasiello is making langoustine mac and cheese. Smart – Lobster mac and cheese is very trendy, popular, and well received in general.
Howard starts insulting Krissi’s mac and cheese … while he’s pairing langoustines with STRAWBERRIES? WTF?
LOVE Krissi’s responses to him, grinning and giving the finger. She’s so adorable in her snarking back, rather than being straight up angry/obnoxious. It’s like she’s more amused by it than anything – I like that.
They show Bri apologizing to her meat once again. Kind of weird that she’s the token vegetarian, and very little mention is made of the fact that Adriana Guillen is a vegetarian. She was “Mexican Veggie Girl” during the pre-audition time, and is very passionate about promoting tasty and healthy vegetarian recipes. I am seriously the biggest carnivore out there, and even *I* find Adriana’s stuff to look amazing, btw. She has a blog started, HERE.
Blah Blah… Howard made a small amount of a citrus and spinach salad with a little bit of meat on it. I can’t imagine being given such a specialty ingredient and minimizing it in such a way.
Loads more forced drama…
I love the irony of Joe telling anyone that they’re wasting his time.
Lynn’s dish looked amazing.
Blah Blah Blah… Joey acts like a child, Ramsay makes some comment about there being a “cardinal rule” against stuffing langoustine (BS!), more forced drama… whatever.
Lots of skipping ahead.
Sasha goes home for some reason. I can’t stand her, but I was craving cheese grits the next day – not a crappy little salad that looked like a cheap side dish.
I will continue to watch the show until my last friend is eliminated, but then I’m done – with MasterChef, with Fox, and Reality TV in general. This crap is the bane of society and culture, in SO many ways. In today’s society, we need to be encouraging people to have empathy for each other… not training the masses to lack it.
Ok, so now that I’ve gotten through the first half of the MasterChef premiere, time to recap and give commentary on the second half of it!
Ok, here we go.
This episode starts out with Bime Cruz.
Bime was one of the first people I met in LA, and he was HILARIOUS. Really great guy, kept us all laughing.
Man, his Mofongo de Camarones looked ridiculous. I have GOT to get that recipe from him.
“I’m wondering if this is really a Caribbean dish, or just shrimp scampi faked with some plantain put in it” – Joe
I’m going to spare you from my rant on the usage of “Shrimp Scampi”. (Along the lines of “ATM Machine” and “PIN Number”, but with the added fun of genus confusion / misclassification).
I will say that when people use “Scampi” to denote a cooking preparation (rather than species), it generally refers to shrimp cooked in garlic butter and white wine.
… where Joey Coattails gets the idea that Shrimp Mofongo (traditional dish) is a ripoff of this American usage of the term is completely beyond me. I mean… wow. Moron.
Bime gets an apron, moves on.
Next is Jessie, a model and pageant queen.
Her dish looked nice enough, the judges were wishy washy… and in THE MOST CONTRIVED MOMENT IN MASTERCHEF HISTORY, Gordon Ramsay came flying out of the audition area, into the cooking area where the rest of us were waiting, and hauled two whole sea bass out of the fridges.
… because they just happened to have two whole sea bass just laying around.
They challenge her to prove that she’s “the real deal” (that phrase needs to be retired from the show, seriously), by fileting the sea bass right then and there.
She gets an apron, obviously.
Next, they show the “circus reel” – Damian, Rachel Jesse, Jim Blesi, Abby, Dennis Hong, Andrew Keller, Shaun Jay. Tori.
Where to start? They don’t show a ton about the food!
Let’s start with Damian Legion, the pro wrestler and one of my ABSOLUTE FAVOURITE people there. Within minutes of meeting him, he complimented my “Magneto was Right” shirt and showed me his Dalek tattoo. I think that was one of the first moments that I didn’t feel super alone in LA, there was another geek there to hang out with!
Damian is a total teddy bear. Super sweet, caring, all around wonderful guy – I just love him, along with pretty much the rest of the cast. Just an all around great guy! You can check him out on Facebook, his page is Death Metal Domesticated, which is also the name of his Podcast.
Didn’t really get to know Rachel (Fire Performer), Abby Wolf (Farmer), Shaun Jay (Magician)or Andrew Keller (Pogo stick, crazy hat) all that well.
He’s from Minnesota, the biker guy. Tough guy, badass, no nonsense, etc. I had NO IDEA that he made a fouffy baked Alaska for his audition – this kind of made my day.
Dennis: Funny story about Dennis. He had two grad students there to help with the robots, and they sat right behind me in the van on the way to the first day of auditions. We were all introducing ourselves, I turned to say hi to them..
… and DAMNED if one of the two didn’t look almost exactly like one of guys in Bran Van 3000, per the “Drinking in LA” video. Given that it had become my theme song by then, I had a good laugh / wanted to see it as an “omen” of sorts, LOL!
Really nice guys, all three.
Funny story about Tori Cunningham, the ice sculptor (They really only showed her squash carvings, but she’s a competitive ice sculptor).
A few of us were looking for her, and had very little information to go on. We knew her first name, and that she was from somewhere in Ohio.
So one day, one of my Mensa friends – Alan Baltis, from Cleveland – posted some photos from an ice festival he was at to his Facebook profile.
I thought “Hrm. I wonder if Tori did any of the sculptures, maybe there will be a sign or something?”.
Sure enough, the ONLY photo he had with the sculptor actually IN the photo? I was 95% sure it was Tori. Confirmed it with the others, and then we found her almost immediately. What are the odds of THAT?
Another funny thing – this was while we were still in our contractually-imposed silence, so I couldn’t tell Alan HOW I knew her, when I called him up to ask if he was still there, to pass a message for me. This, while he had very recently dropped the news that he would be on an upcoming episode of Jeopardy! (July 19th – be sure to watch him, he’s one of my favourite Mensa friends ever!)
Anyway, John and Shaun get aprons.
Next up is James “Jesus James” Nelson. (There were 2 guys named James, someone had come up with ways to differentiate them at some point!
James told of losing both his parents, cooked a pork belly, and won an apron. Check out his sauce company, Bravado Spice.
Next, we have what my MasterChef Roomie Alexandra Jones refers to as “The Slut Reel”. These are the girls who were encouraged to flirt with the judges, etc – including Alexandra.
Julie Ann Gibson…
I’m so disappointed that they didn’t show more of her audition. This chick was HILARIOUS. Before the filming, she was talking about how she wanted to take Gordon Ramsay home in a box, and had the most hilarious way of describing her dish. Words don’t even do it justice, you’ll have to watch Matt Orsini and I discuss it in This Youtube Video we made!
Alexandra Jones, my roomie:
Alexandra actually got one yes (from Joey) during her auditions. Her dish sounded and looked amazing, a Spanakopita Wrapped Chicken with roasted eggplant puree and arugula salad paired with Laurelwood brewing workhorse IPA (click that link for the recipe!).
This would be one of the more interesting uses of creative editing. They show Sheena biting one of her green pepper pieces, then later has the judges asking if she had plated the piece she had bitten. They then cut to her confirming “That’s right”.
It was an awkward cut / response, because it was pieced together from other footage – any idiot can look at the plate as shown on the screen, and clearly see that it is NOT the pepper she had bitten.
I don’t even get why they bothered to do that, if they were going to show the photo. So much stupid…
She was such a cutie, from the little I got to know her. Wasn’t fond of how they had her bring her whole group in, so excited for her, only to deny her the apron. Kind of a dick move.
With that batch done, we have a feature on Sasha Fox. I’m going to be honest, I have nothing nice to say about Sasha.
One of the first things I heard her say in LA was a loud declaration of how cooking “wasn’t (her) THING”, and that she was “just there to get FAMOUS”.
While that alone is enough to rub me the wrong way, given the nature of the show AND how many good cooks got cut, she then proceeded to berate those who did not get aprons as somehow being beneath her upon her return from the show. It was really insensitive and disgusting.
Also, she’s MUCH older than I am, but saw fit to act like a schoolyard bully and name-call about my appearance. Who DOES that?
That’s all I have to say about her.
Now, we’re told it’s been more difficult to get an apron this year. There’s some interesting math… they gave out 36 aprons (of 100 auditions) last year, and 40 out of 100 this year.
Now we have Rudy Reyes…
Rudy is a super sweet guy, and took SUCH good care of my while I was away at MasterChef. His girlfriend (who is a total sweetheart!) is autistic, and he knew exactly what I was going through with the whole thing.
I was so happy to meet her as well – the first words she said to me were double checking to make sure he had been taking good care of me, and asking if she had taught him well. She had! Thank you, Rudy and Cristina!
By the way, you can check out his audition video here
Unfortunately, Rudy’s Buffalo Frybread “Indian Tacos” failed to earn him an apron 🙁 This actually happened while I was away buying groceries for my audition the next day (They make you go at certain times), I came back and he was gone – didn’t even get to say goodbye! 🙁
I heard that those tacos were AMAZING, by the way.
Once more, we’re told it’s harder to win an apron this year… than EVER before. *snerk*!
I don’t remember the name of the first guy, with the scallops.
Elden is “James Dean”, the guy in the olive green shirt. I didn’t get to know him as well as my roomie did, but she tells me that his cooking is INSANE, including his plating. Him not getting an apron was a bit of a shock, especially as he’s a model.
Name up is my good friend, pilot Carrie Landry Peterson:
You may remember Carrie from her guest blog last week… where she shared how to make her audition dish, Whoopie Pies.
You know why her Whoopie Pies looked “like a 9 year old would make”? Because her oven that was supposedly up to temperature was very much NOT. Ugh.
You can follow Carrie on her Facebook page, Carrie’s Confections.
Next up, we have my friend Matt Orsini.
Matt made a spinach and lemon ravioli with sage brown butter sauce. He actually made this for me a month or so ago when he came to visit – no word of a lie, that was the best damn pasta dish I’ve ever had in my life. He’ll be guest blogging the recipe this week!
.. and another case of “auditioned while I was out shopping, failed to win an apron, was gone before I got back, did not get to say goodbye”. I COMPLETELY lost it when I came back from shopping, only to find he was gone. It’s a really shitty experience.
And then we have… me! For like 2 seconds!
I served up my Mango Mojito Upside Down Cake, which is ridiculous and turned out absolutely perfectly. I’d actually made 3 small cakes and served up two of them to my fellow contestants in my final minute of cooking time – so there are plenty of people who can attest to it 🙂 Hell, even my batter bowl was absconded within seconds of me filling the pans!
So, here’s the deal: I was SO relieved to not get an apron. Seriously, after a week of not seeing my husband, one of the very first things I said to him were “Get me OUT of here!”.
I was similarly relieved at the edit I got, after seeing how awful and CREATIVELY the show had cut some of my friends. Sure, I would have liked it if they’d shown that the first words from Ramsay’s mouth were “Graham is going to LOVE this”, the fact that they all enjoyed the cake, etc.
REALLY would have loved to see what happened when Joe tried to stare me down, and I laughed at him for it… and really, REALLY would have loved for them to air my exit interview – it was cold, articulate, and scathing! – but hey… overall, I think I did pretty well.
I think my “wow” and the look on my face said it all, and was a nicely condescending response to such a ridiculous insult – and to a GROWN MAN blowing a raspberry. “Boarding School Pudding, at best”, eh? I’d love to know what boarding schools serve up such boozy rum cake!
Ok, I’m gonna be honest, I hadn’t seen the rest of this episode before this morning. Once I was eliminated, the crowd at my party was pretty much relieved to not have to watch anymore (Most are NOT “reality” TV fans!), so we all decided to turn the TV off and just chat.
So this next stuff is all fresh to me…
Aww, Dawn Hunt was so cute, asking if she could hug the judges after not getting an apron.
You can check out her business site, Cucina Aurora.
Next up, we have Eddie Jackson, a former NFL player:
Eddie is one of the people that I didn’t really meet in LA, but wish I had. He seems like a genuinely nice guy… and his jerk meatloaf looked SO yummy!
Holy crap, writing these recaps really takes FOREVER.
Ok, then Luca from last year got an apron.
It’s almost a week after the MasterChef premiere… probably about time I do up a recap / review.
So we start out with the mass audition footage, and some ridiculousness with helicopters and boats. Boring, let’s get to the actual “Auditions”
Actually, before that… I’d like to say something about the setting money on fire thing.
In today’s day and age, many people are hurting pretty badly for money. While I’m used to Joe Bastianich (“Joey Coattails”) reeking of entitlement on this show, this took it to whole other levels.
Whether it was real money (which would be illegal) or not, the symbolism of it was disgusting. My friend Shawn Bakken recently blogged HIS thoughts on it, which mirror my own pretty closely.
Natasha is the first audition. I didn’t really get to know her, which is kinda funny, given that I get asked about her more than anyone else.
While a lot of the others really don’t like her, I try to give the benefit of the doubt without firsthand knowledge. As far as all the stuff about “I’m so HOT!”, it *could* just be the show telling her to carry on like that. I was dreading seeing my edit, just for the amount of times / ways I was asked to talk about my IQ!
Anyway, she made empanadas, got an apron, and then promptly declared that everyone is intimidated by her looks, LOL.
On to 19 year old Christine Kim, or – as I’ve recently come to know her – my new baby sister. Yep, I have officially adopted Christine into my chosen family, and she is all kinds of awesome.
Christine’s Korean Duck dish looked ridiculously amazing, and I’d heard all kinds of great things from the other contestants. I was behind my station, cooking, as this she was finishing up cooking, so I missed out on trying it 🙁
Christine got frazzled, and plated the wrong duck breast. She’d had one cooked perfectly, one that wasn’t… came out without an apron and broke everyone’s heart. Broke hearts at my viewing party, of people who hadn’t even gotten to know her like we did!
Holy crap, that was hard to watch.
The next group is a bunch of exotic meats – rabbit, ostrich, bear, water bugs.
Joey Coattails refers to the water bugs as “cockroaches” immediately after being told they’re giant waterbugs. Ah, that ritzy boarding school education served you well, eh Joey? Moron. I loved the look on Chan’s face as he reiterated that no, they’re WATERBUGS.
I was really disappointed that they just held up Chan Heu’s dish as fodder for ridicule. He’s an entomologist, and was there to highlight certain bugs as an alternative protein source. I had really been looking forward to seeing his piece on TV – all of the other MasterChef series around the world are educational, not sure why the USA one isn’t. Well, why they seem to work so hard to be the opposite of educational, such as editing out education.
Oh right. Fox!
Steve – seriously the sweetest guy ever – is cooking bear, offered to let the judges smell the rub he was cooking it with. They all start cackling like 10 year old boys who just heard a sex joke, and Gordon says that he has NO interest in smelling the rub.
I don’t get it… ?
Steve had served up his bear to a bunch of the contestants, and I’m still kicking myself to this day that I missed out. Apparently it was AMAZING! “Barely edible”, “barely legal” (HUH?), and “I couldn’t bear it”. (Who had the “Judges try to sound clever” spot on their bingo cards?).
(On a personal note, when another contestant was talking crap about me behind my back in LA, saying I didn’t know how to cook and was only there for my hair color, Steve put him in his place and told him that if I was making the cake I made at our auditions – he was at the MN audition – that I would IN NO UNCERTAIN TERMS be getting an apron. Still SO touched to hear about him defending my cooking honour like that!)
So then we have Brian, the person I’m asked about almost as much as Natasha.
Yes. He was weird. Not quite as animated as he was on camera, but that was a … unique… dude.
Of course, the judges spent the time making ridiculous “beaver” jokes.
They go to commercial, showing a preview of George’s marriage proposal. I tear up!
They go to Jordan from Minneapolis. I don’t really know this guy. I met him briefly at our psych evaluation, and I got the feeling he was trying to convince them that he was nuts. Dunno what ended up happening … he seemed VERY different in LA!
Jordan makes a beautifully plated dish – ancho chile tostada – explaining that he loves to paint. Joe pegs him as the winner. It really does look ridiculously tasty! I may just need to screen cap it and figure it out.. hrmmm….
Then they do the “round of bad dishes” montage. UGH.
A few comments here:
1. The breast milk thing.
I’ve seen a ton of ridiculous comments online that need to be addressed: No one poisoned anyone, for one. IF that was even breast milk (I have no inside information either way, I just know that the “Reality” of “reality tv” tends to be anything but!), we were all subjected to a lot of blood/urine testing, and I would have to assume that they would have tested that milk THOROUGHLY. Laloni wasn’t being irresponsible or criminal in bringing breast milk to cook with, she was doing what she was told.
Oh, and by the way, Fox production people… I’m not violating the NDA here. In Googling to find Laloni, I did come across several posts from MasterChef casting people on forums and Facebook, actively LOOKING FOR people who cook with breastmilk.
2. “We’re going to eat raw ramen”.
An interesting comment from “Mr Italian” Joey Coattails. No, you’re not eating raw ramen, moron. Ramen is precooked pasta, I’m kind of shocked that you don’t know this, given how uppity you are about flour and water.
“We’re going to eat dry ramen” would be accurate – and not really all THAT strange, despite the shocked and disgusted airs you put on. Plenty of people use ramen dry, in a variety of ways. I guess you have to maintain your pretentiousness, though. Moron.
3. Nick Garcia
Nick Garcia is a really great guy who runs the kitchen at a local pasta bar here in Minneapolis. He KNOWS how to cook, and his Caribbean pasta with habanero and bananas looked fascinating – I’d try it it a heartbeat.
4. Wanda Allende-Ortiz
Wanda Allende-Ortiz was a total sweetheart, loves to cook, and KNOWS how to cook. Her dish was one that (as far as I heard!) EVERYONE who tried, loved. I don’t even know what to say about the judges telling her it was the worst dish in MasterChef history.
Andy Peters‘s “Oh Dear Lord Jesus” is going to turn into a catch phrase for him, I’m sure of it.
Now, the judges treatment of Ayla Skye.
I knew that the judges had treated a lot of the contestants in a very sexist manner, but I was shocked at the running theme of sexism that made it to air. I don’t remember any of it in past seasons, so I guess I kind of figured they were using such behaviour as a tool to get a reaction from contestants. (Not that I find that justified, I was just shocked to see it on TV).
Next up, we have Adriana Guillen.
Adriana was a COMPLETE AND TOTAL SWEETHEART, and I’m so glad that it came across on camera. On a personal note, she really helped me out when I was having a meltdown. Will always remember that.
Here we go back to the sexist stuff. “This is a great dish, but you’re too sweet and nice, so you can’t possibly hack this competition”? What kind of nonsense IS that? Aren’t they supposed to be at least pretending that it’s a food competition? Also, why don’t they talk to dudes like that?
Now we have George Mastrosavas.
We were all SO excited for George – he was a total sweetheart (and someone else who talked me down from the big meltdown!), everyone adored him, and he was GOING TO PROPOSE. SO excited.
George made a Greek wedding soup. It sounded and looked SO good.
Let me take this opportunity to once again point out what a douche Joey Coattails is.
George was born in Greece. BORN THERE. He is a bona fide Greek.
Joe is AMERICAN. He was born in America, to Italian immigrants. Not only is he NOT Greek in any way, he is Italian by heritage only, not by birth.
Gotta love it when Joe the American is telling George the Greek ABOUT GREEK COOKING. What the hell…?
I know a ton of Greeks, both by birth and by heritage. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Danforth area of Toronto – Greektown – which turns BLUE AND WHITE at certain times of the year (sporting events!), from all the Greek flags everywhere.
Butter is “The antithesis of Greece”, eh? Joey, I’m not so sure that you know the meaning of that word…
All I have to say is this. You show me a Greek that doesn’t cook with butter, and I’ll show you a Greek with Lactose Intolerance.
Wasn’t fond of them telling George to “Man up” in proposing … Oh hang on, I can’t recap this, I’m crying again. I don’t usually bawl over proposals, but this one got me. Nice touch with the judges throwing plates and yelling “Opa!”.
George and Maria, you’re awesome. SO MUCH AWESOME. Congrats again, and all the best for your upcoming nuptuals!
Since filming the show, George has opened a pizza restaurant in Ohio. If you’re in the area, you should totally stop by and order something – dude KNOWS food. 3 Brothers Pizza in Middleburg Heights, Ohio. They also have a Facebook page here. Check it out!
Next up is Krissi Biasiello, the single mom from Philly.
I didn’t really get to know Krissi while out in LA, but have enjoyed getting to know her since. Someone who is into direct communication, that I never EVER have to “read between the lines” with. No passive aggression anywhere! She’s a dream!
Though the show only just started, Krissi has already been subjected to one of the ugly side effects of reality TV – people are attacking not only her, but her 13 year old kid.
I can’t even … If you are going to get so invested in a “reality” TV show about people you don’t even know, as to go only and spew your hatred about them, I feel sorry for you. If you are going to take it a step further and call 13 year old kids awful stuff like “retard” – you are a loser of the highest (lowest?) order. Get a life.
Seriously, what the hell is wrong with people?
Krissi makes a stuffed meatloaf florentine with a fontina sauce and “dreamy potatoes”. Looks tasty – Gets an apron.
Krissi, your son seems very well spoken – especially for a 13 year old. From everything I’ve seen and heard, you did a great job raising a good kid, and you should be very proud.
And that’s it for episode one… now going to work on episode two!
Three weeks ago, I gave you all some insight into how I trained and prepared for MasterChef… but I left out a BIG part of my preparation.
As I watched all threee seasons, I was on the lookout for more than just information about the show, what the judges were looking for, etc. I was keeping an eye on the contestants, looking for SOMETHING. I am big on gathering information before jumping into anything, and this was going to be the biggest, most insane “thing” I ever attempted. What I really needed was information from someone who had been there.
Due to the contracts we had to sign, this would be a sticky situation. We weren’t allowed to tell anyone that we were on the show, which would make it difficult to obtain that information. I had to figure out how to do it in a way that wouldn’t violate the contract, and I needed to figure out who the perfect person to approach would be. Pick the wrong one, and for all I knew, I’d be messaging the best friend of one of the producers!
After watching all three seasons, the choice was obvious to me. I would anonymously contact Ben Starr, from MasterChef season two.
You see, something about him really grabbed me. He reminded me a lot of myself, and something told me that he would not only be an amazing source of information, but that he would be trustworthy – an important combination, for what I was about to do.
Against the recommendation of my husband and VERY small group of people who knew what I was doing, I set up an anonymous email address that wasn’t connected to ANYTHING – only ever to be used to contact Ben. I called myself “X” (LOL!), and carefully crafted my initial email to not ACTUALLY say that I was one of the 100. I knew he was smart, and I knew that he would know what I was getting at.
Over the few months before I left, we would email back and forth. I would pepper him with questions – mostly about logistical concerns – and he would provide just the information I was looking for.
I’ll never forget how generous he was with his time, answering all these questions from a complete stranger… especially given that he knew nothing about me! I was extremely careful to not reveal my gender, location, or anything that ANYONE could identify me by. I was even careful to make sure that I used region-neutral language and syntax!
Aside from answering questions I had about logistics concerns (“What is the laundry situation?”), Ben was like a personal, private cheerleader. He gave me the pep talks and confidence that could only come from someone who had been there.
He told me to cook my butt off and cook from the heart. To not try to play someone else’s game, just cook the food I know and love. He told me to be the biggest, boldest, but still most genuine version of myself that I could be. He told me to not to censor myself or try to “act,”but to be the person I am after a few drinks with friends – great advice!
He told me listen to the judges’ feedback, but always trust my heart over all. He reminded me that I’d know if I really cooked a bad dish, and sometimes harsh criticism is exaggerated to heighten drama. He told me not to take that personally and not to let it ruin my love of cooking or cause me to doubt myself. Above all else, he told me to embrace my fellow contestants, learn from them, and love them, because years from now, they will still be like family long after the world has forgotten about MasterChef.
Some of that, I didn’t really take to heart (Sorry Ben!). I read it and I processed it, but I wasn’t exactly able to tell him that the likelihood of me embracing anyone, making friends, or coming to see anyone as “family” was very slim, on account of me not being a people person in the SLIGHTEST – no identifying information about me!
Whoops. I guess he actually was right about it. I promise I’ll listen next time, Ben!
Funny thing – I had no idea just how good a job I’d done at concealing my identity, til I finally “introduced” myself to him. It was a confusing exchange, he didn’t immediately pick up on what I was saying… because he thought that “X” was a DUDE! Hahahahaa!! I don’t think he fully believed that I was female until got on Skype together!
Anyway, enough back story from me. Ben is an amazing guy, and I’m so glad that I met him – I chose WISELY. I thought it would be fun to get him to do a blog entry, leading up to my debut on MasterChef. When asked what I specifically wanted him to write about, I left it wide open. He has such a diverse range of interests, and is just a really interesting, entertaining writer, I didn’t want to give him any guidelines. I knew that whatever he would write about – food, travel, home brewing, gardening… or whatever else – would be great.
What he emailed me as a guest blog blew me away. This is amazing, and I really hope that people keep this essay in mind when watching MasterChef both this evening, and going forward.
Thank you, Ben, for everything. You’re amazing.
All photos courtesy of Ben Starr.
|It’s been 2 years since I found myself locked in a hotel room in Los Angeles, unable to leave without a babysitter, unable to connect to the outside world (including family, friends, and career.) Awake at 5am every morning and hustled into a cold van, driven to a grimy warehouse where I’d sit outside in a tent for 3 hours.
Every 10 minutes, a production assistant would come by and say, “5 minute warning, everyone. On-set in 5 minutes.” That warning would be repeated for many hours to come. Then suddenly a cry, “EVERYONE ON SET NOW!” Hustlebustle. And we’re herded in front of Ramsay, Bastianich, and Elliot to begin the 8-hour process of filming a 1-hour challenge. Then it’s back to being locked in a hotel room for a few hours of desperate sleep before the process repeated. Every day. Without stopping. For 2 months. Making MasterChef. Season 2.
On May 22, MasterChef season 4 will commence. And in a scant 3 hours of broadcasting, the lives of 100 contestants will flash before your eyes.Within 3 hours of programming, more than 80% of them will be gone forever,and only a tiny core of contestants will remain for the bulk of the season.
This blog is not about that core. This blog is about the ones you’ll see for fleeting seconds. Or the ones you’ll never see.
These initial 100 contestants were selected from live auditions that took place last fall. When you attend a MasterChef audition, you bring a signature dish of yours (they want it to convey “you on a plate”), and you stand in line for an hour or two (or six) with hundreds, or sometimes thousands of other hopefuls. Looking around, you see nervous, shy people with what appear to be truly spectacular dishes. You also see folks dressed up like pirate strippers or gangsta rappers, hopeful to make enough of a spectacle to warrant a second glance from the casting agents. When you reach the front of the line, you’re herded into a large room with 19 other people, where you have a couple of minutes to plate your dish…which has been silently curdling, wilting, fermenting, and basically dying while you stood in line all those hours. (Little do you know, this is preparing you for an everyday occurrence on the show…food on MasterChef is NEVER judged when it is fresh, only after sitting at room temperature for hours after it came out of the oven.)
Once your dish is plated, a series of people begin walking around the room. Some are casting agents. (That could range from the supreme executive producer of the show, to an unpaid intern at a local casting firm.) Some are “culinary experts.” (That could range from an instructor at the local culinary school, to a TRUE world-class Master Chef like Ferdinand Metz…the kind that FAR outrank formidable judges like Ramsay and Elliot, neither of whom are actually real Master Chefs.) The trick is that you don’t know who is who. You don’t know who to explain how you crafted the dish to, and who to explain that your family died when you were 2, you were raised by a pack of wolves, and you learned to cook by watching Mongolian television which was the only channel you could intercept through the airwaves in the remote mountain valley where your wolf-pack family lived. 2 or 3 people will ask you some basic questions, and after you’ve talked for about 30 seconds, they say, “THANK YOU,” write a few notes on their clipboard, and move on.
After all the casting folk have made their rounds, a few names are called for people who are to remain for further questioning. Among them are probably the pirate stripper and the gangsta rapper. Also, that outgoing, food-geek dude who rigged his homemade immersion circulator to run on battery power so he could keep his curried hollandaise at perfect serving temperature until plating time. Staying along with him is the adorable old grandmother who made her famous church-potluck deviled eggs with Hellmans mayonaise and a package of dry French Onion soup mix, and who does stand-up comedy at the Senior Center on Tuesdays.
Amongst the “rejects” who are cast back out into the real world are probably the most skilled and talented among all those present that day. But they don’t fit the list of characters the casting folks are looking for. Because reality television is most certainly NOT about skill. That is incidental. They are looking for *characters*.
After an invasive and arduous several months of interviews, psychological evaluations, background investigations, and blood tests for everything from STDs to drugs to full DNA sequencing (I’m not joking), 100 contestants are informed that they are cast on MasterChef.
When they arrive in Los Angeles to film the show, they immediately become perplexed. Because, as they get to know each other and chat about food, they discover that there’s a surprisingly wide range of skill and knowledge levels present. There are plenty of contestants who have never heard of “sous vide” cooking, have never tasted arugula, and don’t know what “mise en place” means. Then there are other contestants who may have been to culinary school, or may have worked on the line in a restaurant…who have dined VERY well…who have even more knowledge of sophisticated cooking techniques than many chefs. Most candidates fall somewhere in between. And the core group of finalists, after the majority are sent home without aprons, will be pulled from both extremes and the middle group. But in that first week as the contestants get to know each other, it can be very puzzling for some, and very intimidating for others. Puzzling to the advanced candidates because they are wondering, if this is really a skill-based competition, why are there people here who only know how to make casseroles from cans. Intimidating for those casserole candidates, because there are people here speaking in an advanced culinary language that they can’t understand, and they wonder how they fit in.
Eventually, they all spend a week inside a dusty warehouse filming the “signature dish” challenge. This is where each of the 100 contestants has an hour to prepare their “signature dish” for the judges, and find out whether or not they get the coveted apron. Some contestants are truly lucky enough to actually cook their own recipe. Contractually unable to reveal any more, I’ll just say that other contestants don’t have that luxury and have to cook something else…sometimes it’s something they’ve never even cooked before. This week of signature dish filming is incredibly tense. Up to 10 contestants are cooking at any given time. Once their hour is complete, they put their food on a cart and wait for their turn before the judges. That wait can be up to several hours long, depending on how smoothly the production is running.
And this solid week of 12 hour days gets condensed into 2 or 3 episodes of MasterChef. The premiers. Out of 100 contestants, you’ll be lucky to see half them on the final edit. Those that are displayed will be a carefully selected sampling of some (but not all) of the top core of finalists, along with candidates who have inspiring stories, candidates with crazy mad skills but who are deliberately eliminated without an apron to prove to the rest of the contestants and the audience that this is a “tough and very serious” competition, candidates with bizarre aspects (ie a guy who plates his sushi on a naked woman, a guy who rides in on a horse, a guy with a pet monkey who sits on his shoulder as he cooks, a girl who cooks with her own breast milk, etc.) and contestants who were deliberately cast to be ridiculed by the judges for having amateur skills. Yes…that happens too.
Do I know this because I have “inside knowledge?” Of course not. You know it, too. MasterChef auditions gather thousands of VERY serious, knowledgeable cooks. If the casting agents had truly sought out the 100 best home cooks in America, there wouldn’t be a single amateur in the house. No one would be sent home for having offended the judges with sub-par cuisine. But this is entertainment, folks. You wouldn’t watch MasterChef if they had TRULY recruited the 100 best home cooks in the country. Because it would be pretty darn boring.
One contestant creatively expressing their extreme boredom from being locked in their hotel room all day.
So as you watch the first 3 hours of MasterChef, let yourself be entertained. This isn’t reality. It’s television. But the lives *behind*the show are reality. And if you connect with a contestant who really strikes something inside you, reach out and find them on the internet. Because MasterChef changes lives for the worse, perhaps more often than it changes lives for the better. People discover that they were just cast to be made fun of. Others who truly believed they had a chance at winning, and who produced a truly fabulous signature dish, will be eliminated because they just didn’t have the right chemistry to be in the core group…and are judged based not on their cooking, but on their “package” as a character. And that is really traumatic for a lot of folks. Contestants will make it to the top group who know *very* little about cooking. Contestants will be eliminated who are breathtakingly talented. That’s just the way reality TV goes.
What can help heal them, and inspire them to continue following their food dreams, is to be contacted by fans who felt a connection to them. Because one of the truly remarkable things that MasterChef does is cause people to take a long, hard, objective look at their lives. They made the choice to potentially lose their job, their house, their spouse, because they have a dream of making a difference in the culinary world. And that’s powerful stuff. And those that get tossed out like yesterday’s salad can find themselves in a very trying place. But you can help push them to continue their dreams by showing that you were moved by their performance and you want to see more…*that their sacrifice and performance made a difference to someone*.
After the first 3 episodes are over and the core group of finalists is chosen, reflect on the fact that you only saw a handful of the total number of people who risked almost everything in their lives to be on the show. There are people who will never even make it to the final edit. You’ll never even know they were on the show in the first place. But their entire life was turned upside down for half a year. They had to leave their job with no more information than, “I’m going away for at least a week, maybe up to 2 months, and I can’t contact you until I get back.” They left their families the same way, too.
So while you laugh and cry as you meet the lucky (and sometimes very unlucky) folks who are featured during the first few episodes, think of the ones you *didn’t* meet. And realize that, even for the people the judges laugh out of the studio who seem to have no cooking skill at all, they took a very frightening risk to be there. Deep inside, they truly dream of being the next MasterChef, of leaving their mark on the culinary world. And, as every true Master Chef knows, *all* skills can be taught…but passion can’t be.
Two blog posts in one day, would you look at that?! Anyway, just a very brief update here .. more a case of using the blog as a public repository than a post, really…
In preparation for my MasterChef Viewing Party on Wednesday (to which the public is welcome to attend!), I have designed and PDF’ed some MasterChef BINGO cards!
We’ll be using these to play MasterChef Bingo at my own viewing party, and I welcome you – whether a fellow MC4 contestant, past contestant, or MasterChef fan – to use these at your leisure as well.
Click here to get the file … Enjoy!
New here, and a fan of MasterChef? I have some other links for you to check out as well!
Directory of all 100 contestants, with links to many: Here.
Group Pinterest board for season 4 contestants: Here.
Follow my experiences as a MasterChef USA season four top 100 finalist: Here.
Well, here we are… just a couple days away from the Masterchef premiere. It’s been a bizarre – and kind of amazing – few months, leading up to this point.
It’s crunch time! As I plan the final details for my own viewing party, the invites and plans are flying for many other such parties across the country. New clips of the show are being made available online, and I’ve been screen capturing like a madwoman … posting, and tagging for the group.
It’s been great to see more of their faces in these new show clips, for the most part… but the clips are also presenting/reinforcing the harsh reality that some of our new friends were not necessarily treated the best during their time on air. It’s hard to watch. On the upside, we have a very caring and supportive group, and I know most of us will be there for each other, whatever happens on Wednesday night.
I’m still amazed at how different things have been, compared to what I was thinking when going into this. How my priorities have changed… and how far off the mark I was about the idea of being surrounded by PEOPLE. Going in to this, I thought that if I could get along with my roomie, that’s about the best I could ask for. I didn’t think we’d have much chance to get to know anyone, based on what I knew of the show logistics… and I thought of that as a good thing.
… never in a million years would I have guessed that I’d walk out of the experience with a ton of new FRIENDS. *Definitely* never would have guessed that many of us would come to see each other as new extended family members. (Extremely nutty new family, in many cases!)
Guys, it’s been an honor and a pleasure getting to know you over these past few months. With the premiere just a few days away, I’m dedicating today’s Eurodance Monday pick to YOU!
So, we’re one week the big day – MasterChef premieres on May 22..
I’ve been back from filming for a while now. While the initial trauma is long gone (I almost passed out at the TSA in LA, phased in and out of consciousness my whole trip home, and then slept for four days – something I’ve never done in my life!), there is one thing that remains.
I still have no idea how I’m going to be able to watch next week’s 2 hour premiere, which features the “auditions”. Not a sweet clue.
Let me back up a little… going into the experience, I thought I had prepared for everything. I was absolutely confident that there was nothing that this experience could throw at me, that I couldn’t handle. I can cook anything! I worked on sensory training! I knew that the “Reality” of reality TV was bullshit, and that there was the unspoken “game” to play with the producers.
… but there was one thing that caught me completely off guard, and really screwed with me: I made friends.
If you’re a longtime reader here, you know that I’m a bit of a misanthrope. Humans – as an overall data set – are awful, and extremely difficult to get along with and/or even just relate to. Part of that is growing up different than everyone, as someone with Aspergers. Part of that is a holdover from how random people have treated me, my whole life. Part of that is just seeing what society has become, what passes for acceptable behavior, and what behaviors are actually rewarded.
Most of it is that by and large, people are illogical, and that frustrates me to no end.
Individuals – separated from that overall data set – can be ok. Hell, some individuals are awesome. It’s not that I can’t stand persons, it’s that I can’t stand *people* – and going into this, I knew I’d be surrounded by 99 PEOPLE – in addition to all of the producers, staff, etc. That’s just not a good situation for me.
I hoped that my roommate would be tolerable, and planned to spend all of my time alone, studying. I knew what kind of people made it on to reality TV, and I knew I was not one of them. There’s a reason you don’t see a lot of Aspies and Auties on reality TV, and really… if it wasn’t for being underinsured for the tornado damage by well over $60k… there’s no way in hell I’d be doing this. Desperate times, desperate measures.
Well, then some weird things happened.
Sitting at the Minneapolis airport on the morning of my flight out to LA, I was almost a wreck. I’d just said goodbye to my husband, and was seriously questioning my judgement on doing this. I waited for my flight… and then a familiar face walked towards me. It was Liyah, someone I’d talked some smack with at the pre-show psych appointment.
I was so happy to see her (Up til that point, I had NO idea who had made it through!), I almost cried. Actually, I may have teared up, now that I think about it… it’s been a long time.
We sat together and chatted for most of the flight. On our layover, we met up with Joan – a woman I recognized from my initial audition group. The three of us sat together on the second leg of the journey, and I felt like… OK. I know two people, they’re nice. That’s all I need, I can handle this.
Shortly after arriving at the hotel, we were giving the opportunity to go shopping for snacks, drinks, etc for the hotel rooms. We piled into vans, and started meeting each other.
… there were so many super cool people in my van. I actually LIKED them. Like, a lot.
At the grocery store, two of the guys chatted me up about my “Magneto was Right” shirt, and various geekery. One of them – Damian Legion – showed me his Dalek tattoo. OMG! Genuine geeks! I wasn’t alone!
It wasn’t just geeks, though. There were people of all types there, and that van ride was probably the most fun I’ve had with strangers ever. This was a good group.
Later that night, I said and did something that still shocks me, months later. I’m still not sure that my husband believed me when I told him this, either… but I swear it happened:
I was sitting at a table with my new friends, feeling comfortable. I have NO idea where this ‘inspiration’ came from, but I stood up, said “I’m going to go mingle!”, excused myself and then DID SO. MINGLE!!
Insane. Hasn’t happened before, probably won’t happen again. Apparently I forgot to pack my “introvert”.
Over the better part of a week, we got to know each other – hanging out at the pool, hanging out in the lobby, a couple mall excursions, etc. I spent very little time studying, which surprised me. I’d heard that we would be on much stricter lockdown after the “auditions”, and wanted to make the best use of my time – I could study later.
When the show tried to provoke a “big autistic meltdown”, there were many people who helped me out, talked me down, calmed me. They went above and beyond, and they barely knew me… that will always stick out to me. These were good people, with only a few exceptions.
Then, the first day of auditions came. While I wasn’t auditioning til the second day, I can honestly say that the first day of auditions was the most traumatic day of my life. I’m not saying this lightly – I would sooner go through another tornado, than to go through that day again. I mean… no question.
All of my grand plans to remain cool and collected on camera went right out the window with the first person to be eliminated. It was someone I liked, and someone I expected was a given to go through, so yeah, I was shocked. (Don’t take this as a spoiler, the show will very likely rearrange the order of auditions when airing!)
That wasn’t the problem though – I realized right then that I had never actually been exposed to someone in the moment that they had their dreams destroyed. I’ve never seen someone that devastated. I’ve never seen THAT LOOK on someone’s face before. Months later, my hands are shaking as I type this, my heart just started racing, and I’m tearing up. In the moment that she came out that door without an apron, the look on her face… I’ll never forget it.
I may not have gotten PTSD from the tornado, but THAT moment traumatized me for life, I’m sure of it. I’m definitely symptomatic for PTSD over it, even months later. I’ve had nightmares about her coming out of that door, about her face, and the way it made me feel. (Chickie, you know I love ya… please don’t take that the wrong way!)
I honestly thought that I was going to throw up. My stomach knotted up and lurched. My CHEST hurt. I started into an adrenaline response, and was in physical pain from it… all from seeing a face. I cried.
All day, it was a stream of this devastation, peppered with the odd apron victory. For each person, they had us all line up for when the big door opened, and one one after another, we’d find out their fate, seconds after they did. I cried all day, and I’m sure the other contestants thought I was either crazy, or a big baby. Maybe I am – but I was NOT prepared for any of that. It wasn’t even just seeing my friends eliminated, it was people that I hadn’t even met yet. Every last one of them, that look in their eyes, THAT FACE… each one shook me to the core.
The part that confuses me is that I actually KNOW faces. I was diagnosed with Aspergers fairly early on, in my early teens. I made a point of studying faces, seeing it as a deficiency I had, and the “fix” seemed pretty simple – pattern recognition. Never once in my life – during studying faces or not – have I seen THAT facial expression up close, whether as a flash card, or in person. I’m sure I’ve probably seen it on TV at a distance, but damn… I never want to see it again.
I was afforded a brief respite from the carnage in the form of our required shopping trip, for those of us cooking the next day… and then I came back to the set to find that two of the people I’d grown closest to had been eliminated, and whisked away… I never even got to say goodbye.
I completely lost it.
That day ended very, very late. As we headed back to the hotel – tired, overstimulated, starving, and dehydrated – it felt very familiar to me, in an eerie and upsetting way. It felt *EXACTLY* like what I had felt like on the day of the tornado, as we headed to our temporary “home” at the end of a very long, very emotional day.
So… if I’m a total wreck at the viewing party next week, this is why. THIS is why I’m not sure how I’m going to be able to watch it. I feel sick right now, even just thinking about it.
Edited to add: I wrote this entry about two weeks ago. Shortly after, I went to see a therapist for PTSD treatment, realizing that I had not been able to handle it on my own, even after several months.
While I still find the subject of the first day of auditions to be horrible, I can at least think/talk about it without shakes and tears now. I maintain that I would find going through another tornado to be a far more pleasant experience, and I’m not prone to hyperbole.
I’m still not sure I’m ready to see the faces again, although I am – at the same time – excited to see all of my new friends on TV. I’m curious to see how things went, how the show edits everyone… and to be able to supply the words and support NOW, that escaped me at the time.
My viewing party is being held at Banana Blossom, an awesome little Asian restaurant on Lowry in Minneapolis, Wednesday May 22 at 6:45 pm – open to the public. This restaurant was smashed in the same tornado that my house was, and was closed for an entire year to rebuild. Come hungry, buy a lot of food! 🙂 Later in the evening, we will be sampling my Mango Mojito Upside Down Cake, my “signature dish” in my audition!
A while back, one of my
prison buddies MasterChef friends – Duckie – posted a photo of her dinner on Facebook. While that in itself isn’t anything special – my FB news feed has been FLOODED with dinner pics, since coming home from this MC adventure – man, that photo was the stuff that dreams are made of. Well, most of her photos are – they always have everyone drooling – but this really stood out to me.
It was a burger that featured not a meat patty, but a big chunk of paneer that had been breaded with corn flakes! As she described it on her blog, Duckie’s Dine-asty:
“Paneer Burger! Fried paneer on a garlic roll with cabbage, carrot, and a sweet and spicy tamarind chutney…accompanied by sweet potato fries and curried ketchup!”
… I knew I’d have to do my own version, and SOON. The idea of just frying a big patty of paneer as a burger just seemed so hedonistic, it kind of made me giddy to think about it. I don’t usually get like that over something… vegetarian. LOL!
So, I thought about which direction I’d want to go with it. I decided that, rather than a cornflake breading, I’d go for a giant version of a paneer pakora. Rather than using my cilantro-mint chutney with it, I’d make a mayo based on that idea, for a creamier texture. Then, to top it off, a mess of quick pickled veggies for some color, brightness, and acidity!
YES. It was every bit as awesome as it looks. My husband claims “I could eat that again and again!”, and that it ranks right up there with my Apple Chicken Burgers with Basil and Gouda. Given how completely buts he is about THOSE.. that’s saying something!
So freaking good. Yum!
You can also see Duckie’s work on her brand new Facebook page, Duckie’s Dine-asty”.
Duckie is ALL kinds of awesome, even beyond her cooking. She was one of the first people I met in LA, very friendly, outgoing, hilarious, and .. inclusive. On a personal note – she even publicly ripped a bully a new one on my behalf! I mean… in a spectacular fashion. I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone do that for me. This whole thing has been filled with unique experiences for me, but I digress – Duckie is awesome. That is all. 🙂
Paneer Burgers with Quick Pickle and Cilantro-Mint Mayo
(Makes two big burgers)
1/3 cup mayo
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
2 Tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1/2 – 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 green onion, thinly sliced on a long diagonal
1 small carrot, peeled
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
Oil, for deep frying
1/2 cups garbanzo (chickpea) flour
2 Tbsp cup rice flour
1 1/2 tsp hot curry powder
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp salt
pinch tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
1/2 cup water
12 oz brick of paneer, room temperature
1/4 cup additional garbanzo flour
2 burger buns of choice
Mix together mayo, cilantro, and mint. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.
Place sliced peppers and green onions into a bowl. Using a vegetable peeler, peel long strips of carrot into the same bowl, until you have as much carrot as you would like (I used about as much carrot as I did red pepper). Whisk together vinegar, sugar, and salt. Pour over the vegetables, tossing to coat well. Cover and set aside.
Start heating your oil to 375F – you’ll want at least 2-3″ of oil in your pot or deep fryer.
In a large bowl, combine flours, spices, salt, baking powder, and cilantro. Add water, stir well to form a thick batter. All batter to sit for 5 minutes or so, to soften the bean flour.
Slice your paneer into two “patties”. Sizing will depend on what shape your paneer loaf is in – we got two square patties, and a couple of extra sticks as a “side”. Toss patties with additional garbanzo flour, then dredge in the batter.
Carefully transfer paneer patties to the preheated oil. Fry for a few minutes on each side, until golden brown. Use a slotted metal spoon to transfer fried paneer to paper towels.
To construct the burgers:
Split the buns, toasting if desired. Spread cilantro-mint mayo on bottom half of each bun. Top with burger, and a generous helping of quick pickled veggies. Crown with top bun, enjoy!
Being a wedding industry veteran, I’m well aware of how working towards a big, stressful situation brings out the WEIRD in our dreams. Whether from brides or vendors, I’ve heard every sort of bizarre pre-wedding dream you could imagine!
I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when I started having some weird dreams before flying out to LA for MasterChef… or while I was IN LA for taping… or when I came back.
The Sushi Dream
Now, for the most part, pre-LA dreaming was strictly for problem solving/creating time. I’m a very lucid sleeper, and generally use sleep time to work through problems, create lists of what to do / how to do it, etc. (Those that wonder how I work so fast… now you know!). Most of that was pretty run of the mill… I’d go to bed thinking of fish, for instance, and would wake up with a ton of ideas to add to my study book.
1 week before leaving for the show, however, one of those “create” dreams turned out spectacular: It was a dream about competing on a sushi challenge on the show, and I was WAY ahead of everyone. I had some leftover salmon and decided to do something unique to add to my plate.
You know sushi art, like the stuff found at this link? I decided – mid challenge – that THIS was the time to attempt something like that, so I thinly sliced the salmon, wrapped it in nori and rice, and made a set of MasterChef logo sushi. Won the challenge.
I woke up thinking it out, and thought “you know… that could actually work. If given the opportunity, I think I WILL do that!”. Two of my “Aspie Superpowers” are being able to easily figure out how *anything* is made… and being able to easily reproduce something after seeing it demonstrated only once. Amazingly, these also apply to myself, as seen in my own dreams, LOL!
Porter and I differed on how I should go about doing it. He thought I should practice it ahead of time, I thought that I should NOT, because that first time happening in a challenge? That’d be MAGICAL!
Well, I ended up making sushi rice minutes after waking up that morning, and by 7 am – and on the first try – I had a batch of beautiful MasterChef logo sushi!
I’d elected to color some of the rice, as we didn’t exactly have sushi grade salmon laying around! It all went very smoothly, like I’d done it 100 times before. I’ve been meaning to get more into art sushi, but that logo sushi roll is still the one and ONLY time I’ve ever done art sushi!
The “Taking Things Literally” Dream
This was a few days before I left for LA… It was another competition dream, and we were making pastries for some bigshot food writer. He was using all sorts of words that were painfully awkward for him, basically coming off as a desperate attempt to sound smarter than he was. (Common with food writers, I hate to say.)
So he goes to taste mine, and whines that he was hoping for it to be more “unctuous”. I don’t remember what I had made, but it was something where “unctuous” would be totally inappropriate.
So I dropped my jaw and asked him if he was serious, he wanted “unctuous”, and he confirmed… so I dumped like a cup of vegetable oil over it. We both stared at each other, completely confused, and then I said “Um… maybe that word doesn’t mean what you think it means”.
I told a couple friends about it, and was told in NO uncertain terms that if anything similar came to pass while competing, I MUST respond that way. I agreed 🙂
The “Roommate from Hell” Dream
I actually wrote this out in a notebook while still in LA. Let me just type that entry out:
“Day 2 in LA. Woke up at 4am from a stress dream. Well, that’s not entirely true, I woke up at 1, then 3ish, then gave up at 4. Anyway, stress dream:
Dreamed that someone told me the name of my roomie, then acted shocked when I didn’t recognize the name. She hadn’t yet arrived, so this person whipped out their phone so I could google it… I guess so I could see for myself.
She was famous for being a very rich, very VERY right wing socialite. I’m talking like a young Ann Coulter … Canadian-hating and all! She was the daughter of a politician, and a beauty queen from some politically-oriented pageant. I don’t remember the full name of the pageant title, but it involved “Confederacy” in the title, and had the rebel flag stitched on to her sash. WTF?”
… that was the day my roomie was due to arrive. I’m happy to be able to say she was nothing like what my mind had conjured up. She was kinda nuts, for sure… but in the fun, TOTALLY acceptable way that the vast majority of my friends are!
I must say, I was relieved to hear that I wasn’t alone in this! Here are a few weird dreams from my fellow contestants.
Speaking of my roomie, Alexandra Jones had a dream of her own:
“I had a dream I had to shop at home depot with Gordon because we had to replace a piece of the set. He was in a three piece suit and I had to wear a “MasterChef Snuggi”. He started to get angry with me because we couldn’t find anything we needed and just kept walking in a circle. Eventually, we left and went to this pub by my house in Portland and had a few pints.
Then Joe and Graham showed up and the three of them left… and left me to pay for the beer…and it wasn’t even happy hour! ”
|From Matt Orsini:
“This dream happened before I left for LA…
All the top 100 was at the hotel and it was my morning to cook. They told me to get dressed and all I remember is getting all the way to set and right before I was cued to cook I looked down and had absolutely nothing on!
Before I knew it, Gordon walked out and told me to fuck off so I ran back to the hotel to get dressed knowing that this was do or die for me. I was so embarassed and all the contestants were laughing at me.
By the time I got back to the set I had all three judges waiting for me and they told me that regardless of what I was going to cook it was going to be a no! I was pissed off and that’s the last thing I remembered. In my dream I was so frustrated!
It was an awful dream. I woke up sweating after it, I thought it was real!”
From Christine Kim:
“I had a crazy dream before I knew I got accepted to top 100.
In the dream, I was hanging with my friends. Then a MC lady appeared out of nowhere and said to me, “Congratulations! You have been accepted in the top 100 of Masterchef! You have an hour to shop for your ingredients in this store, and to prepare you food for the judges. Good luck!”
So I was like “Holy shit what?” And I ran to the grocery store, and I had no idea what to make, and I had no idea what was in this grocery store. So I bought a bunch of random ingredients that I knew how to use and then I woke up really nervous and stressed because of my limited time to prepare.
It turns out that we shopped at a Ralphs that looked EXACTLY like the one in my dream, aisles and everything. I have this thing, where my dreams give me MAJOR Deja Vu, more often than not.”
… Just a handful of the crazy dreams we had!
Are you a past or current MasterChef contestant? Would LOVE to hear what kind of crazy dreams you had about the experience – post a comment below!