Masterchef 4 Recap: WP-24 and Calamari (S4E20)

First of all, if you are visiting from Ben Starr’s blog, Welcome! I hope you will stick around and check this place out for a bit :). On to the recap!

Once again, we are back at 6 contestants (I almost clicked on the wrong episode on Hulu when I tried to watch it!). This time, it’s another team challenge, one that is notorious for driving contestants up the wall. I foresee a lot of Gordon Ramsay screaming at the contestants to get a grip, which as Ben has mentioned in previous blogs, is the WORST way that you can get a kitchen back on track. From my experience working and staging in many excellent, busy restaurants, the best kitchens run off of quiet, efficient communication. Any amount of screaming just frazzles everybody and causes chaos, rather than accomplishing its purpose of getting a station back on track.

So we get to the intro, and see a shot of poor Krissi on the verge of hyperventilating and throwing up at the thought of being up on top of a skyscraper. The judges arrive on a helicopter (WTF is with helicopters and reality TV? Such an overused gimmick), and inform the contestants that today is they are going to take over WD-40 WP24 (seriously though, did anybody elase instinctively think about the magical lubricant/solvent?). While not personally familiar with the restaurant, Wolfgang Puck is one of the most well known chefs in the country, so it will be a challenge for the contestants to produce food that is worthy of his enormous reputation.

It cracks me up to hear Bri talk about Krissi, knowing the kind of sisterly love-hate relationship they have in real life.

This challenge is right up my alley. I’m very familiar with traditional Chinese food, and the techniques used to prepare the dishes. how many Western cuisines intentionally “cook” eggs into a sauce to form little egg drop ribbons? Just the sight of that brings back many food memories from growing up.

Shumai are a variant of Chinese dumplings. They have an exposed top, and are always steamed. The skin more closely resembles a thin, delicate wonton skin than a sturdy, slightly chewy dumpling skin. The shumai looks like the most difficult dish to execute, because the contestants have to make the sauce (which can be delicate with the starch slurry and the egg), prep and wrap the shumai into the proper shape (which required finger dexterity), and keep track of the orders in the steamer, making sure each shumai stays in for precisely 7 minutes (overcooking will lead to a mushy wrapper, undercooking will lead to Ramsay’s favorite word: RAAAAAAAWWWWWRR).

The lobster lettuce wraps look like a breeze. Toss lobster in flour, shake off excess, fry for the proper amount of time, and the rest is just cold salad ingredients and sauce.

As for the Chili Shrimp, it looks like the sauce is premade already. It’s apparent like a lot of the kitchen prep has already been done for the contestants, which certainly makes things easier for them. There are a few keys to stir frying: A sizzling hot wok to actually sear and stir fry the food rather than boiling it, a good coating of oil on the bottom/sides of the wok to prevent sticking, even knife cuts to ensure even cooking times (add ingredients in order from longest to shortest cook time), and constant motion (whether via tossing or a spatula) to ensure all the stuff in the wok gets cooked evenly. It’s really not that difficult ;).

The stir fry beef uses the same technique, but I notice one of my favorite ingredients in the wok: Garlic Chive Stalks! These are the central flowering stalks of the Garlic Chive, and if picked before they get tough and stringy, are DELICIOUS. Sweet, chivey, oniony, garlicky, tender and juicy. Saute some of that with bacon and garlic and you have one of my favorite things on the planet. I just wiped some drool from my mouth. If you have a well stocked Asian grocery store around, you may be able to find them for $3-4 a pound. WELL worth it.

From the beginning, it seems like the blue team is at a disadvantage, with the previously mentioned vegetarian issue and the fact that this kind of food is probably as far away from Krissi’s cooking style as possible. Which just makes me further convinced that they are going to win.

Sure enough, an undercooked shumai gets sent back. I have a beef with the mention of a “raw scallop shumai”. Pretty much every single properly cooked seared scallop you have ever had was probably raw (barely warm) in the middle. Cooking them through leads to another favorite phrase of Ramsay’s (“They’s RUBBER!!”). As long as the rest of the filling (which looks like it might be precooked anyways) and wrapper are cooked and warm, there is nothing wrong with that dish. I could be completely wrong, and the filling could have been stone cold in the center, but I smell bullshit, a gimmick to frazzle the red team, and Joe’s overly dramatic acting (oh my GOD it’s COMPLETELY raw) doesn’t help matters.

I don’t know if any of the rest of you caught this, but Krissi is the only only contestant that doesn’t have a wok to cook with. She’s using a regular pan on an regular burner, so no wonder she’s having trouble cooking the prawns properly. A heavy bottomed stainless steel saute pan handles and cooks way differently than a wok (and the flames under the wok seem to be MUCH more powerful than a regular burner too), so it’s unsurprising that she is having difficulty replicating the example that she was shown. Completely understandable. I wonder if they intentionally put Krissi in that position (it looks like there are only 3 true wok-stations), knowing that she was least familiar with Chinese food, just to induce a meltdown).

Now if you rewatch the episode, notice something. Pause right after Ramsay’s tirade of “what do you mean the whole round????” and you will notice a female with short blond hair coming up and adding some garnish to the window. Who’s that? That’s not somebody on the Red OR the Blue team. That amazing woman’s name is Sandee, and she is the culinary director of MasterChef. She and her team do ALL of the cooking behind the scenes, from the example plates in the MasterChef kitchen, to stocking the MasterChef pantry, etc. It looks like the culinary team is helping the contestants with this challenge also, which again, makes it that much easier for the contestants ;).

Naturally, Krissi is falling further behind because her cooking setup can’t compete with the wok station’s. The smart thing for Bri to do would be to move her onto a station with an actual wok, but at this point Krissi is morally dejected and about ready to go home. Say this about her: she at least has the humility to know when she truly is making mistakes and dragging the team down.

So Graham finally comes to save the day, and WHAT DO YOU KNOW. HE’S TEACHING HER ON AN ACTUAL WOK OVER AN ACTUAL HIGH FLAME. Amazing how that makes things SO much easier! To be fair, you can stir fry in just about any conditions (I use a dinky little frying pan and electric stove in my apartment!), but for somebody like Krissi that has no experience doing that and was relying on watching the demonstration to base her technique (which used the full setup), spending all that time trying to turn out an identical product with a completely different set of tools must have been frustrating and pretty much impossible for somebody that has no experience. It would almost be as if I was teaching somebody how to make aioli (emulsion of egg yolks and oil) in a blender, and then handing them a bowl and a whisk and telling them to replicate it. Can somebody that is familiar with how to make aioli do it with a bowl and a whisk? Absolutely. Is it a tall task to ask somebody who just saw aioli being made in the first time (with the vitamix) to replicate with a bowl an whisk, over and over again, throughout the course of a dinner service? You betcha. Granted, my analogy is far from perfect, but I don’t envy her at all. And the sad thing is, most people watching probably didn’t even notice that difference (did you???), and instinctively bash on Krissi for being a terrible cook.

So the challenge finishes, and the blue team limps to the finish line. It’s not looking good for them at that point. Cooking in a professional kitchen is stressful for any home cook. If you compare this year’s restaurant takeover with previous seasons (Patina, with from Season 2 and Hatfields, from Season 3), it seems like this challenge was a little bit easier in terms of the scope and the menu. Season 4 contestants, feel free to comment down below and roast me, but that’s just something I noticed. Or maybe it’s just my familiarity with Asian food, haha!

Back to the challenge, at least based on how this was edited, it seemed like Natasha did a much better job leader her team, and Bri seemed much more passive. One of the rare moments of weakness that Bri has shown (or the producers have allowed to be shown) thus far this season.

The contestants file into the MasterChef kitchen to learn their fate. Joe gives a shpiel about how “we talked to EVERY customer, and tasted EVERYTHING you made.” Raise your hand if you believe that! *looks around*. Anyways, the red team wins, unsurprising considering their only hiccup was a shumai that got sent back, and even that is somewhat questionable. So it’s up to the blue team to try and save themselves from elimination. After some more attempts at injecting drama by the producers, it’s revealed that their pressure test challenge is to produce a perfect plate of…crispy fried calamari.

I F&(*^#$ LOVE CALAMARI. It’s my absolute favorite appetizer to order at any restaurant that offers it. When I was filming season 3 of MasterChef, one of the best items that the hotel restaurant offered was a plate of fried calamari and rock shrimp (well executed, too!). At 10 bucks, it was pretty cheap, and I would get it EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I love the light, crispy batter, the tender, sweet, savory squid (ESPECIALLY the tentacles, haha! Extra crunch!), the light squeeze of bright lemon on top, and the zesty, tart, chunky tomato sauce to balance it all out. SO GOOD. I’m sorry, USGS. That 9.0 magnitude vibration you registered was NOT a devastating earthquake, it was just my stomach rumbling while I was typing out that paragraph.

Krissi instantly looks happy, and for good reason. I’m sure she is VERY familiar with calamari, and makes it at home all the time. She will probably be successful, although familiarity with a dish has been the downfall of many a contestant in the past. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. It’s interesting to see Bri’s quick and nonchalant “yes” to answer Graham’s question of whether they have had it before.

The most difficult part of this challenge is probably cleaning the squid. I’ve never actually cleaned squid before, but I know it involves separating the head from the body, removing the “quill”, ink sac, skin, and other internal organs, and scraping the mucus off the meat. The breading and the marinara sauce are pretty hard to screw up, and as long as the squid isn’t overcooked, it’s smooth sailing.

Everybody seems to do a good job starting off. Krissi is apparently clueless as to how to clean her squid, and it looks like she is tempted to cut it open to remove the guts (rather than using her fingers or utensils to scrape them out. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, but the calamari can no longer be sliced into the classic rings, which is more aesthetic than technical but you can bet the judges will knock her for that if that’s what ends up happening.

Ramsay comes over for his usual interrogation, and again, the focus is on Bri’s vegetarianism. All of a sudden, Bri doesn’t eat calamari again. Do they expect us to forget the fact that 30 seconds ago Bri gave a loud and confident yes to having eaten calamari, and looks completely comfortable cleaning and preparing the squid? Some people may say that she might have had it before she turned into a vegetarian (which was when, right when the show started filming? Ha ha), but I find the whole Bri is a vegetarian thing way overused and less believable every time I hear it.

Some of the contestants are having trouble maintaining the proper oil temperature on the stove, which can definitely be a challenge. You have to bring the oil up to temperature, lower the heat to maintain that temperature, and raise it again when you add food to compensate for the drop in temperature, and then lower it again when the correct temperature is once again achieved. Look away, or be occupied with something else for a few moments, and you may have smoking, overheated oil (EXTREMELY dangerous), or oil that isn’t hot enough to cook food properly, leaving you with a soggy, greasy mess.

Bri’s calamari have too much breading. Breading acts like an insulator to protect the food it coats from the aggressive heat of the oil and prevent it from overcooking, but too much will insulate the food too much and prevent it from cooking thoroughly, which apparently was the case. Adding the lemon to the marinara is a little bit unusual, but by no means a cardinal sin (perhaps she tasted the sauce and felt like it needed more acidity? who knows?).

Krissi’s calamari is notable because the breading is smooth and shiny. This happens when the outer layer of the breading is a liquid batter (think corn dog, or beer battered fish). The exception is tempura batter, which is such a thin, light, and airy batter that it still fries up extremely crispy If the outer layer is something dry, whether it be breadcrumbs, cornmeal, or just plain old flour (like old fashioned fried chicken), the breading tends to look more rippled or even “grainy”. I personally like most breaded and fried savory foods to have the second kind of breading, because it usually is lighter and crispier. The exceptions of course are a nice beer battered fish and corn dogs. Batter fried foods can be really heavy, bready, and greasy. Not characteristics I typically want in my food. Unfortunately that is how Krissi’s calamari comes out. Remember what I said earlier? Maybe her son doesn’t like calamari. She nails her marinara though, of course.

James’s calamari looks the most delicious, but apparently he has a bland marinara sauce. His tomatoes shouldn’t taste any more like the can than anybody else’s (unless there was something different about his can), but No olive oil, no herbs certainly doesn’t help things.

In the judges’ words, it’s too close to call. Ramsay threatens to send them all home (which of course won’t ever happen), but Luca smiles and lets out a “wouldn’t that be nice!”. Now is it just me, or is Luca getting a little bit sassier and cockier now? He’s too likeable of a character for the audience to knock him for it, but it’s interesting whether the producers let that aspect show through more in the upcoming episodes. He’s definitely a VERY strong contender to win.

James’s calamari is the best (I agree), so he’s safe. It’s left to Bri and Krissi, and Bri  gets the axe for the second time. She is surprisingly level headed during her elimination, with no tears or any real negative emotion (didn’t she say that she would never forgive herself just seconds ago? odd). But we catch a glimpse of the friendship between Bri and Krissi again at the end.

I didn’t actually watch the “redemption” episode, but just seeing from tweets and Ben’s previous blog posts, I knew exactly what happened. During the redemption from my season, everybody that actually used their brains while watching that episode could see that it was a huge scheme by the producers to bring Josh back (everybody that participated in the “redemption” agreed). This year seems more of the same, with the picking of the contestants even more arbitrary with three seemingly random contestants. Raise your hand if you think that each judge actually realistically selected “their favorite contestant”. *looks around*. So to me it seemed like Bri was brought back with a specific purpose, which is why I’m a little bit surprised to see her eliminated. Perhaps the producers FINALLY saw that this vegetarianism thing was really becoming a big liability to the credibility of the show? (As if things like Walmart and all the strategic drama didn’t do a good enough job already).

All the controversy about the legitimacy of her as a contestant and her vegetarianism aside, Bri is definitely one of the most talented cooks to ever be on the show, and obviously she has gone far, having received numerous job offers at Michelin starred restaurants all over the country, and accepting one in New York (which shall remain unnamed at her employer’s request). I want to make it clear that Bri doesn’t deserve ANY hate for her role this season. If you should be upset at anybody, it should be at the producers for allowing this show to become this scripted, drama-filled game of culinary Survivor rather than a true cooking competition. I have nothing for respect for Bri and her talent and skills in the kitchen, and look forward to trying her food someday. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter!

Please discuss and let me know what your reactions are down below! I’d love to know your thoughts, and always respond to every comment that is posted.

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About Michael Chen

A contestant on season 3 of FOX's MasterChef! Tune in on June 4 and 5 at 9/8c to watch me compete in the top 100 home cooks in America!
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42 Responses to Masterchef 4 Recap: WP-24 and Calamari (S4E20)

  1. eloahjames says:

    Well, first, you did a great job – I felt like I could taste all three of those calamari attempts, you described them so well! =) I can’t believe they made her use a frying pan instead of a wok! Maybe that was the only way they could get her to screw up and they needed her to fail to add drama? Sad that the amount of false drama that exists in “reality” tv…

    • Michael Chen says:

      Thanks for the nice words :). Ben is a writer by nature (and I am not) so it’s nice to see that I’m not too far off of the mark ;). I was kind of shocked at the pan thing too. But then again, it looked like there were only three wok stations so SOMEBODY would have to use the other “side” station to execute their entrees. Whoever it was would have been in big trouble, and unfortunately it was Krissi this time around.

  2. Melanie says:

    Thanks for taking over Michael. I think you did a pretty good job taking over for Ben. I actually prefer reading Ben’s recaps (and now yours too!) rather than watching the show. I love that you both cut through the drama and just tell it like it is with insight into the show production, wonderful tidbits of culinary education and witty humor.

    • Michael Chen says:

      Thanks Melanie! I was the same (that’s why I haven’t been watching the latest episodes), but now that I’ve had to step into his shoes i have a profoundly new sense of appreciation for how much work it takes. 4 hours! hahaha

  3. Actually in regard to Bri and her vegetarian lifestyle, Michael. If you watch her episode of Master Chef Cookalong she explains she has only been a vegetarian for like 5 or 6 years now. She may well have eaten it in the meat eating days of her life, but chooses NOT to eat it now. I find the cookalong shows interesting as people ask questions of these contestants and the Bri and Krissi episodes are my favorites. But then I was never too fond of Eddie and Jordan during there time on the show!!

    The link for Bri’s show is

    • Michael Chen says:

      I just found it weird that the editors allowed that big, confident Yes, I’ve had calamari to slip in whereas later on, she refuses to taste it, without any explanation. Yes, that may have been what she SAID. To be honest, I didn’t really watch any of the cookalongs (for the most part, haven’t really had a desire to engage with the show much this season). I wouldn’t put it past the producers to feed the lines to her though, especially if the rumor that she is a hired actor is true.

      AGAIN, just to reemphasize that Bri deserves NO hate or anger, even if somehow these rumors turn out to be true. Whether or not it turns out she is a vegetarian (or a hired actor), the responsibility rests solely on the PRODUCERS’ shoulders. I have nothing but the utmost respect for Bri and her talent, which is definitely there in abundance. She could outcook me ANY day. I’m not anywhere NEAR Michelin star level, and she clearly is to be offered those kinds of jobs. So major kudos and props to her!

  4. Lisa says:

    Great job. I did notice Krissi’s set up seemed different but am not familiar enough with Asian kitchens to be sure. Thanks for the validation. Given the tendency this year to exclude people from the pressure test I really expected James, who was the only one on the blue team to truly execute all night, to be excused. But of the 3 he’s the one I wanted to stay so all is well.

  5. Gregory Wright says:

    Krissi, pointed out that it sure was strange when the show aired that she SEEMED to be the only one having trouble cleaning her squid…

  6. Angel Taylor says:

    We knew who was going to the pressure test BEFORE they even started, Princess Jesse and Natasha always win, and to be honest I doubt it’s their cooking that keeps them out of ALL the pressure tests. NO ONE in Masterchef has great meals ALL the time. I have read from former cooks and people that tried out this season that Natasha is a B**ch. Maybe that will be showed when they finally get rid of the “bad guy” Chrissi (she is outspoken, and upfront with how she feels and it tends to rub people the wrong way) Is it just me or does Jesse not really show real emotions, and maybe kept around for the “eye candy”? After this season I think I will just stick to Masterchef Australia, started watching Masterchef in Ben’s season because Christine and my brother knew eachother ( we live in a small county named Wakulla in N. Florida) but it seems Masterchef has just gone downhill. In the Australia version the judges seem to care about the people, so much so when someone has a meltdown they pull them aside and give them peptalks, not yell at them!!! Thank you for letting me rant a bit about the stupidity of this season Masterchef.

    • Michael Chen says:

      Haha, thanks for commenting Angel! In case some of yall didn’t notice, guess who in my season only had to face ONE pressure test the “competition” (the first one, with me), and then miraculously managed to avoid all the future ones? Take it for what it’s worth.

      I think every person on this planet has both positive and negative attributes. The former contestants that tried out this season (I’m assuming you meant those that got eliminated early) might have only gotten to seen Natasha’s bitchy side because she still had her guard up at the beginning of the competition. Funny fact, at the beginning of the competition all the way up to just a few days before I was eliminated, I was an ASSHOLE to Felix. I was honestly a bit scared and intimidated by her strong personality, being the shy little Asian that I was back then (times have changed! haha), and basically ignored her and stayed as far away as I could and answered her attempts to talk to me with short, curt answers. Later on in the show though, she quickly became one of my favorite people. Now, if Felix had been eliminated early, when I was still an asshole to her, then her impression of me would not have been very good and anybody that asked her about me might have gotten the response that “Michael is a huge, arrogant, rude asshole.” But I would hope that those of you that have interacted with me know that’s not the case.

      It’s kind of the same with Krissi, where for most of the season they have only edited her to allow her rude, brassy side show through. But she clearly has other, likeable sides to her as well, and I’m glad that those have made more of an appearance lately (the family episode, with her son, and her big sisterly interactions with Bri).

  7. Susan says:

    “…the credibility of the show? (As if things like Walmart and all the strategic drama didn’t do a good enough job already).”
    You hit the nail on the head for me with this statement, Michael.
    When MasterChef first came out, I would watch it ~ commercials and all ~ the night it was on. This season, I’ve recorded them all and watch them sometimes days later. I skip so much of the bullcrap; the time-wasting recaps coming back from commercial breaks, as if we don’t have the brains to remember what transpired five minutes ago. I also fast-forward through the “nail biting” elimination announcements, just relying on facial expressions to know when to watch again. This show has become a shell of what it used to be for me. (I can’t stop watching it though, in my own abbreviated way :)
    Ben sent me over & I must say, nice job on the recap! Thank you for your insights.

    • Michael Chen says:

      Thanks Susan! I’ve taken over Ben’s social media and blogs for a couple of weeks (so technically *I* am the one that sent you over ;) ), so expect some more posts like this for the upcoming episodes!

  8. bobC says:

    QUESTION: If Ramsay was expediting, how did a raw scallop make it out of the kitchen?

    • Michael Chen says:

      It’s pretty much impossible to tell if a scallop is truly stone cold raw on the inside when it is wrapped up in a shumai like that. Then again, whether it ACTUALLY was raw is a completely different story. Could have just been a picky/squeamish customer, or engineered drama.

  9. Andrea says:

    I’ll just paste what I said on Ben’s BLOG:

    Thank you for taking over the recaps, Michael, and reading your P.O.V about it.

    “I’m sorry, USGS. That 9.0 magnitude vibration you registered was NOT a devastating earthquake, it was just my stomach rumbling while I was typing out that paragraph.”

    I know the feeling. In spite of me not liking seafood, I’m a total sucker for calamari. And over here (Colombia, South America, by the way), there’s a place where they’re dedged in rice flour, which makes them lighter and go well with spicy mayo! Though I am deeply afraid of deep-frying, so I’ll let someone else handle it.

    Also, while I’d love Luca to win (I am a die-hard fan of his, mostly because he roots for my favorite Italian team, Internazionale), I think he’s going to be eliminitaded soon. Which would be a darn shame.

  10. Seener Beaner says:

    Just found your blog from Krissy’s twitter account. Loved you as a contestant and loving this blog. Love Ben Starr too *mwah*

  11. Constance says:

    Hi Michael. I’m another Ben Starr follower though I remember you (and rooted for you) on MasterChef. Thank you for the excellent recap.

    One thing I noticed was the producers seem to have a formula for the team challenges. The team shown struggling at the beginning will be the ultimate winner.

    I had to laugh at Joe’s claim that calamari was one of the most common items on menus in the US and that most of America had grown up eating it. I would hazard a guess that the majority of Americans have never eaten calamari and many have never heard of it.

    You’re right about Luca, the producers are showing him being more snarky than before. They’re doing the same to Jessie.

    • Michael Chen says:

      Thanks! I actually thought the blue team was going to win in the beginning because of how they made a big deal about Bri’s vegetarianism at the very beginning of the episode again.

      I don’t know, from my perspective, just about EVERYBODY that I grew up around has had calamari before and loves it. Even my parents love it, and they are usually really picky about “liking” unusual, non-Asian foods.

  12. Michael:

    How are you? Hope all is well! Wonderful job by the way. :) Great to see you picking up where Ben left off – and don’t knock yourself – your writing skills are excellent. I had to laugh when I saw your comment about Sandee B. helping out in the Kitchen at W.P. 24; should we expect anything else? She truly is a backbone to the show. I’m also happy to see Luca still plugging along; he’s an affable fellow and deserves all the success I’m sure he will attain. He’s smart enough to avoid much of the manufactured drama.

    I am a bit disappointed with certain things I saw, however. How anyone worth their salt in a kitchen can’t deep fry calamari and put together a passable (note I didn’t say good) marinara in 45 min is beyond me. It’s absurdly easy to clean and prep (even if you haven’t done it before), and after that it’s just deep frying…nothing complicated for an aspiring “Masterchef.” I find it funny how the chinks in the armor are constantly rearing their ugly heads and it becomes more and more obvious that culinary acumen is such a small part of what it takes to wit the show.

    Going into it I was actually foolish enough to think I could cook my way to a win. I remember speaking to David Mack after he got kicked off for cooking a bad risotto and he confided in me that he had never made one. I was blown away! Or Lawrence Hing..he was kicked to the curb for free form lasagna, actually a favorite of some Italian chefs including M. Batali, but once again Joe thinks it’s a “travesty!” (They didn’t show that exchange on TV).

    I’m also a bit frustrated at some of the cheap shots the judges take only because the tenor of the show seems to require it. For example- adding a squeeze of lemon to marinara. So what..done it many times – as do many notable chefs. Although canned tomatoes are often less acidic and more metallic tasting, with the exception of san marzanos (usually), a tiny bit of lemon and a pinch of sugar are often needed to brighten things up. Joe made it sound like Bri was a moron for doing it. Ok, maybe she’s clueless as far as properly frying calamari, but give me a break. Sometimes they are grasping at straws and I really wish the criticisms were more genuine. In the end, I really, really wish they would do some of the tastings blind so that things seemed a bit more honest.

    You, my friend are being generous to Krissi over the wok/pan issue. I have made many, many stir fry’s in deep All-Clad pans as opposed to a wok on my outdoor burner. If you know what you’re doing, it’s only a bump in the road, not a roadblock. :)

    Anyway, if you speak to Ben give him my best. I was supposed to go to Burning Man myself, but work got in the way. Maybe next year!

    • Michael Chen says:

      Hey Thomas! I completely agree with just about everything. This episode seems to be “easier” in terms of the dishes the contestants have to cook. Joe is a big sucker for “tradition”, so I guess anything non-traditional (free form lasagna, lemon marinara) is probably enough to earn his wrath.

      As for the wok-pan issue, of course if you know what you are doing it’s easy! I make delicious stir fries in my dinky little electric apartment stove all the time :). It’s just if you have NO IDEA what you are doing (which honestly she didn’t) and am trying to replicate an example given to you in a different set of circumstances, then it’s much more difficult to turn out an acceptable product as a first timer. She clearly had no experience cooking this style of food.

  13. veb2b says:

    Michael, I decided earlier in this season that it might be more interesting to read about this season than to watch it, so I’ve used two websites as my viewing portals into MC4. One is Ben’s. Thank you for taking over his blog for the remainder of the MC season. I’ll look around your website while I’m here.
    It is suspicious how the pressure tests became skewed toward Krissi’s skill set (fried food and homestyle Italian) as the season progressed, while the opening challenges still show her struggling with either teamwork or unfamiliar foods. She has become the focus, and she is not being edited for glamour. Natasha complained on Ben’s site that if she had known how she would be shown then she would not have participated. Many other contestants from this year and the past seasons would agree, I’m sure, including Krissi.
    Michael, please include in your recaps your opinions about the best way to prepare the foods involved in each episode, or what you would have done if on camera. Of course you will have had the benefit of extra time to think about it, so you can give us brilliant ideas…

    • Michael Chen says:

      My guess is that Krissi will be eliminated soon to satisfy the audience’s desire to see her gone.

      I will talk about what I would do for sure! In this episode it was pretty straightforward, and I can’t really say much about the restaurant dishes, and for the calamari with such limited ingredients creativity is limited. I would put a lot of garlic and herbs and olive oil into my marinara to make it extra flavorful, and for the calamari to soak it in a buttermilk brine, then drain well, dust with flour, egg wash, and then toss it in a mixture of flour and cornmeal, seasoned with LOTS of cracked black pepper and little bits of garlic that had been finely minced and fried in some oil until crispy (or tossed a few garlic cloves into the oil to scent it with garlic before frying the calamari). I guess that would be the only really “creative” thing I would do.

  14. B. Harden says:

    You’re doing a fine job so far of filling Ben’s shoes. Very good read!

    I was poking around your blog and thought you looked really familiar then I noticed you were from Austin. I myself moved out of Austin a ways back for work. I miss the Hell out of it too, especially The Alamo Draft House and to a lesser extent The Nomad and Austin Books. I know Austin is a big city but you look damn familiar. I’d wager we probably know a few of the same people.

    • Michael Chen says:

      Hmmm…try me. What’s your history in Austin? You can try and stalk me on facebook if you can find me ;).

      • B. Harden says:

        Outside of going to SCAD (Savannah College of Arts and Design) and this past year and change I have always lived in Austin or it’s outskirts. I worked for a game studio there up until we got hit with layoffs early last year.

        The people the wife and I would socialize with were mainly a bunch of film junkies. Most of them worked for various websites (ain’t it cool, spill, and a few others). When we could get a sitter on Sundays we also liked to hit up the Austin Sketch Group. We were no strangers to The Alamo Drafthouse and loved to hit up the Nomad Bar whenever the guys from Karaoke Apocalypse were there.

      • Michael Chen says:

        Unfortunately, none of that sounds even REMOTELY familiar. If you want, you can shoot me an email and we can try and figure it out :). I like a mystery!

  15. Isla says:

    Bri had plenty of time to get calm about “losing” – they were pretty sloppy about telegraphing it before the cooking started. “Oh you’re going to pick yourself for immunity? Um…in that case, there is no immunity! Moving on!”

    • Michael Chen says:

      That is actually a very good point. Nobody else looked surprised either. Although if I remember correctly, the statement about “not being able to forgive herself” came immediately before the actual elimination, not the challenge itself. My personal experience with the actual eliminations is that it happens very quickly, much quicker in person than on TV where edited dramatic pauses and music and such take up the majority of the time.

      • Isla says:

        Does it? Glad to hear they don’t drag that out in person. Obviously I have zero knowledge of when anything was shot. For all I know she wasn’t even talking about THIS elimination.

        That was REALLY awkward though, wasn’t it? It played as if it was all set for her to selflessly pick James, then lose in some Bri vs. Krissi drama (“what a shame…she could have saved herself”) – but Bri didn’t give the right lines, so they pasted over it with an odder-than-usual fakeout.

        I’m not saying that’s how it happened, but they clearly don’t care if it looks that way. It’s like the thing where every score is tied until the very end, but worse. If you squint at that you can figure “sure, the framing is transparently fake but the OUTCOME is what matters.” If the outcome is set, there is no game. At least, not the game it’s supposed to be…a different one, where neither the viewers nor the contestants are told what the rules are. What’s the point?

        I mean no disrespect to the winner (or any previous winners), they deserve whatever they can get from that. They’re actually the ones that will suffer the most if this competition gets a reputation as fake, even though they have nothing to do with it.

      • Michael Chen says:

        Nothing is for sure “real” in reality TV anymore. I remember learning that in a previous season’s steak cooking challenge, they had edited the actual color of a contestant’s steak to darken it and make it look overcooked! crazy.

        And from talking to Christine, I know that her life has been far from peachy since winning. Let’s just put it that way.

  16. Constance says:

    Michael, life doesn’t seem to peachy for many of the losers either unless, like you and Ben, you’re able to keep things in perspective. I’m thinking specifically of Josh Marks. And it’s extraordinarily cruel of the producers to bring contestants back for a second chance.

    • Michael Chen says:

      It does seem to be easier for us, in a sense, because we can do things out of the spotlight. I doubt if I got arrested for anything that it would make it onto TMZ. Along those lines, we aren’t bound by the winner’s contracts, and have a lot more freedom in what we can and cannot do.

  17. MJ says:

    My bf and I were screaming at the screen that she wasn’t using a wok. No idea why not, its possible she might have been uncomfortable with using one and thought she couldve made the dish in a pan she’s more familiar with. Not her fault really. We were very much feeling sorry for her, she looked so sad and lost! Krissi might be a bit sassy but enough of her playful good nature comes across that she’s not really vilified for me. I felt the same Ben’s year, with Christian. I thought he would win for sure, then they started painting him as a big jerk instead of the comeback kid great dad that they portrayed him as from the beginning.

  18. Jaume says:

    Hei, reading the recaps now, just one thing about aioli.

    Unless you are talking about something completely different this sounds a lot like allioli. It’s a typical Catalan emulsion done with garlic and olive oil with a mortar and pestle. It can be done with a blender too.

    Ok, searching in wikipedia I see that it’s the same, except that there are different variants. As I think I read you like garlic I guess you’d like the Catalan version. Grind the garlic and slowly add oil without stopping to grind/stir the mix. You could eat it with some traditional dishes, or just fry some potatoes and eat them with allioli as a sauce.

    Happy cooking!

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