Masterchef 4 Recap: Mini-Judges and Noodle Soup (S4E21)

Hello! I’m back with my blog for the first part of the show from this Wednesday. Part two will be up soon! I hope you pour yourself a drink and enjoy this post, all 3600 words of it! Haha.

Right as this episode starts, the special guests are revealed to us: the judges’ kids!  Apparently they get to pick the ingredients that go into the first mystery box. It will be interesting to see how their personalities are, and how closely they resemble the on camera personalities of their respective parents. Kids are much more honest about their emotions and personalities, and through them we might get a glimpse at how the judges are around their families, away from the cameras, where they can truly be themselves.

One quip in the intro reel catches me slightly off guard, and that is the Ramsay’s son Jack asking Jessie if she has a boyfriend, followed by an encouraging high-five from Ramsay himself. MasterChef does not have a great record when it comes to treating women with respect, and with the ongoing allegations of sexual harassment going on, I’m a bit shocked that something like this (which comes across as being patronizing to me) made it to the final edit. Am I making a big deal out of nothing? Regardless, it would be interesting to me if MasterChef took one of the less compelling judges (I’m looking at you, Joe Bastianich) and replaced him with a female judge. Which female chef would you like to see join the show as a judge? It would be interesting to hear what y’all think :).

And of course, for an added injection of drama from Ramsay: “In the history of this competition, this is the most difficult decision that we have ever had to make”. How many times have you hear that or some variant of that before? To me, it’s so overused that it makes me roll me eyes every time I hear it.

I have to giggle once again at how hard Joe is trying to act. His face looks so strained. And those pauses between words? That is him pausing to receive the lines he has (either via earpiece or cue cards) and regurgitate each word out. Seriously, nothing against his character or his palate, but his acting skills are so horrible that MasterChef is just digging itself deeper into a hole credibility wise each time he opens his mouth.

I have to pause for a second when they finally show the staple pantry box with some sort of clarity. From what I can tell, it includes eggs, lemon, flour, rosemary, basil, mint, thyme, sage, a vial with what looks like a vanilla bean, a small mason jar of sugar (?), a small pitcher of cream or milk (?), an unidentifiable container with a metal lid of something, and eight vials of herbs and spices, which include red pepper, cinnamon, bay leaves, smoked paprika, and four more other items that weren’t shown. Of course, there is also kosher salt, telicherry peppercorns, and olive oil on each station. I’ve always been curious as to what the staple pantry included. Ours season didn’t have nearly as many flavoring agents (none of the herbs and spices), but a pretty similar stash otherwise (flour, eggs, butter [maybe that's what's in the little metal thing?], lemons, sugar, and maybe a few other things that I forgot). But Ben I believe said that on season 2, they didn’t even HAVE a staple pantry. So perhaps they are expanding the staple pantry season by season to give the contestants more options. Either way, it’s an interesting development. The staple pantry itself is almost enough stuff to cook a meal with!

Graham’s son (Conrad?) is SO adorable. I love how he just stays by the candy section. Hahahahahaha. Jack walks a lot like Gordon, but speaks in a heavier accent. Gordon spends so much time in America that I guess he’s picked up more of an American accent.

The list of ingredients: white chocolate chips, chocolate spread (aka “greeked” nutella), ketchup, peanut butter, coconut, mini marshmallows, baby pineapple, candy sprinkles (looks like Ramsay didn’t announce those), passionfruit (YUM!), bacon, American cheese slices (LOL……blech), maple syrup, bananas, blueberries, strawberries, and puff pastry. I guess the reason the sprinkles weren’t announced was because the kids were only supposed to grab 15 ingredients but there are 16 on the table. Regardless, I wonder who will be gutsy enough to go beyond the obvious and do something savory with the OVERLOAD of sweet stuff on the table.

If I had to think quickly, I would definitely candy the bacon in the maple syrup, and make a peanut butter custard with freshly made coconut milk (blitz the meat in a blender with some water, strain through fine cloth). I would caramelize the bananas with some sugar and spices in the staple pantry, and perhaps do a white chocolate mousse with the egg whites. Arrange it all in a puff pastry shell in a sort of “tart”. It’s tempting to try and incorporate the nutella, or some of the other fruits, but to me that would overcomplicate the dish and they don’t really go well with the peanut butter, banana, white chocolate, coconut, maple, and bacon, which I feel like complement each other in some way. What do y’all think? Would you eat a tart with peanut butter coconut custard, white chocolate mousse, topped with caramelized bananas and maple candied bacon? I would ;).

Natasha is doing a pancake trio layered with passionfruit. I’m nervous about the coconut pancake, because while the flavor sounds delicious, I’m not so sure about the somewhat gritty texture the raw coconut might impart. The appearance/presentation could be somewhat problematic as well. It will be interesting to see how she pulls it together.

Krissi is making banana cupcakes with peanut butter buttercream and a white chocolate sauce. I HATE buttercream with a passion. Way too cloyingly sweet and overwhelming for me. Give me a good, light whipped cream frosting or mousse anyday, but if there is enough peanut butter in the buttercream for the flavor to come through, then I might like it. The challenge for her is to not make everything too overwhelmingly sweet. Banana cakes/breads are usually really sweet on their own, and adding buttercream and a white chocolate sauce might push it too far. If the sugar use is judicious though, it sounds like it would be really delicious.

Jessie is making little tropical fruit tarts with vanilla cream. That to me sounds like a safe choice, with little to no creativity needed, and not much thinking outside of the box. If executed correctly though, fruit tart is one of my favorite desserts. I’m not sure about the chocolate drizzle on the edge of the plate to “elevate” it though. If it’s just kinda put on the plate without a real intention to incorporate it into the dish, I feel like it doesn’t serve a purpose.

Luca is making a white chocolate and pineapple napolean, with a passionfruit sauce. A solid sounding dish. It’s interesting to see him strain the pulp out of passionfruit, leaving the seeds behind. Passionfruit pulp is usually served whole, little crunchy seeds and all (remember Graham’s dish from last season that the contestants had to replicate?), but some people don’t like that texture so it might work in his favor. I laughed out loud at this: “As soon as I WIN the show, I’m going to start making kids.” He is so unintentionally hilarious. I picture him using the prize money to open a shop that cranks out kids, as if they were some sort of baked good. “Hot and fresh out of the oven!”

James is making white chocolate passionfruit turnovers with coconut whipped cream. Sounds tasty, but not sure if the presentation will be compelling enough to make it a “MasterChef level dish.” His turnovers look rather small and flat.

The kids start spouting some producer fed lines. Their acting is almost more compelling than Joe’s, ha ha. Jack seems to be the most composed kid, but as one of the oldest, and with a dad like Gordon, that’s hardly a surprise.

Apparently Jessie has changed her dish now to mini Napoleans. James has the oven open and seems to be checking on his turnovers (which look tasty). However, if they weren’t fully done, then opening the oven to check on them would be a BIG mistake since any opening or closing of the oven door during the making of puff pastry can drop the temperature and prevent the pastry from puffing up all the way. Krissi’s buttercream is melting, which is always a challenge when you have to bake, cool, frost, and decorate a cake in a strict time limit. Her cakes have also risen to giant pyramid peaks (which she trimmed down), which makes me worry that the texture of the cakes will not be uniform.

So Krissi is clearly out of the running. Natasha’s pancakes look delicious, and the appearance reminds me of Josh Marks’ carimanolas in the “Legs” challenge (Final 3). I’m a bit concerned the the judges might criticize her for doing 3 separate dishes rather than incorporating the ingredients into one spectacular dish. James’s turnovers look delicious, and the presentation is up to restaurant standards, but his whipped cream looks like it might have been overbeaten, or might have just sat too long before the “beauty shots” were taken. Luca’s Napolean looks okay at best, but the saucing at the bottom of the plate looks messy, and the filling doesn’t look particularly appetizing. Jessie’s Napoleans look pretty, but there seems to be a lot more of the puff pastry than the actual “filling”, so the balance might be off, unless she somehow hollowed out the puff pastry cylinders and was able to stuff more cream in.

The judges clearly disagree with me and think Luca’s looks spectacular (What about you guys?). The puff pastry is nicely puffed, and the amount of filling to pastry looks appropriate. It’s not a bad dish by any means. I think the judges are trying to drum up his successes and prepare him and the audience for a run to the final, and even the title. he is definitely the most marketable of the bunch, along with Jessie.

Jessie is clearly being in a more sexual light this episode, first with the singleness question from Jack, and the COMPLETELY RANDOM shot of her legs in heels as she approaches the podium. Blink and you missed it, but those that watch her for her looks (and I’m sure there are many), certainly appreciated it. She is definitely extremely attractive, but are moments like that really necessary? Anyways, the judges love her dish, and her position in the top is cemented, along with Luca.

James gets chosen as the third dish, and depending on how he incorporated the white chocolate, I’m not sure his use of it in the filling is a good idea. White chocolate is another one of those delicate ingredients where if it gets heated up too much, it will start to separate and develop an unpleasant, grainy texture. That can easily happen, and from the beauty shots it looks like that may have happened around the edges, where the filling got exposed from the turnovers not being sealed tight. The plate as a whole looks beautiful though, and the judges rave about how the mint-blueberry puree helps elevate the dish. I completely agree. It’s interesting to note that Jessie left off her chocolate drizzle, which was probably for the better. James’s admission that the best bakers in this competition were Krissi and Natasha, who didn’t get their dishes chosen, is an interesting revelation.

Along with hyping up Luca and Jessie, the producers and editors are showing Krissi making weird faces in between the judges comments, to get people to dislike her more and make her eventual elimination that much more satisfying for the audience (and believe me, there is no chance in hell that she is winning). Keep in mind though guys, that those faces could have been made at ANY time during the filming of this challenge. Krissi is not a dumb woman, and she knows damn well that she flopped miserably in this challenge and that the 3 top dishes all clearly deserved to be up there more than her half-finished cake did. It’s entirely possible that those bewildered faces were probably made when the mystery box ingredients were being announced one by one, and just edited and spliced in to look like reactions to the praise the other contestants received. I could be completely wrong, but I like to think optimistically about people until I’m proven wrong. Her comment about the puff pastry was a little bit weird, but again, we don’t know the context and the judges COULD have provoked her by asking her a question first (and then having that part conveniently edited out). All speculation, of course. That’s one of the sad things about this show, that I can’t trust the messages the show is trying to send anymore, always second-guessing what is being shown. They ALWAYS have a way for you to believe ANYTHING about ANYBODY.

James wins the mystery box, and heads back into the pantry. He doesn’t have to cook, and automatically makes it to the final 4. The challenge for the rest of the contestants is to replicate the FINEST dishes each of the judges has ever tasted. Joe presents an extravagant seafood dish of shrimp, sea urchin (uni) custard, and caviar. Is it just me or does using a sea urchin as a serving bowl seem to be kinda dangerous?? haha.

Graham presents a softshell crab sandwich, and the earthquake monitors around the world must be going off again. That sandwich looks DIVINE. Interesting to see that’s Graham’s choice, considering how many different foods he must have eaten in his life, but the emotional aspect of certain foods should not be underestimated. It seems like it would be a much easier and more familiar dish for the contestants to execute.

Gordon’s favorite dish is a simple, humble, but exceptional Vietnamese pork noodle soup. I LOVE noodle soups of all kinds, from ramen, pho, and the assorted noodle soups that I ate in my childhood (tomato egg, fried scallion, meatball, always topped with plenty of chili oil). There comes another rumble from my stomach….

The most difficult dish to execute would definitely be the pork noodle soup, because to develop the deep, complex, “assault of flavor” (as James puts it) in the broth, you need TIME. And since I doubt the contestants will have more than an hour to 90 minutes for this challenge, that will be exceptionally difficult. The one that would be most unfamiliar to the contestants of course will be the seafood dish filled with exotic ingredients. I would be splitting hairs to choose between those two, but James picks the noodle soup. The contestants have 75 minutes to complete the challenge, which is darn near impossible.

I would run straight into the pantry and grab lots of lemongrass, basil, mint, star anise, garlic, onions, ginger, galangal, thai chilies, sugar, cilantro, coriander seed, fennel seed even, scallions, limes, kaffir lime leaves, carrot, fish sauce, cinnamon sticks, some dried mushrooms, whatever cut of bone in pork I can find, and anything else my palate picked up in the broth. I notice that some of the contestants have premade containers of broth/stock (those plastic containers you see in the baskets, which to be fair is probably the only way to turn out an acceptable product in 75 minutes. I would try and go the more traditional and less “cheat” route and use a pressure cooker to hopefully extract as much flavor as possible and speed things up.

Some of the contestants seem to be using lean cuts of pork, which is a big mistake. The pork in the soup looks moist and falling apart tender, and the only real way to do that in 75 minutes is to use a fatty cut with lots of connective tissue (like the shoulder) and pressure cook it for 30-45 minutes. I also catch Krissi adding powdered spices to her broth, which is also a big mistake since it can cloud the broth, make it gritty, and overwhelm the palate. ALWAYS use whole spices that can be strained out later when making Asian-style noodle broths.

Good for Luca for giving Natasha some garlic. Ben has talked this point to death already so I won’t dwell on it for much longer, but I’m happy that he did the right thing. Natasha (and later Jessie) however is also using powdered spices, which just makes me cringe a little. Perhaps there isn’t enough time to extract enough flavor from whole spices in the given amount of time, so the powdered spices are being used to pack more of a punch? Perhaps powdered versions of certain spices were all that were available? I would still stick with using my pressure cooker technique though.

I notice some of the contestants searing the meat. While not a bad idea by any means, I have NEVER seen a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup with seared meat by any means. I’m trying to think of one, but every single meat that I can recall is always poached or braised. From MasterChef Christine Ha herself, my ultimate authority on Vietnamese food, “The only time I ever sear meat for noodle soup is chicken for curry chicken.” Again, not necessarily a bad idea per se, but definitely not “traditional”, although without an Asian version of Joe Bastianich I doubt any of them will care.

I laughed again at Gordon talking about Krissi’s broth. “She’s got no garnish in there, and she has no pork in there, but it has a nice base to it.” That’s because her broth at that point is just the premade pork stock that the culinary team (Led by Sandy, whom I mentioned last time) whipped up! Just needed something to say, I guess.

Time is called, and all contestants finish this time. Natasha is up first, and her bowl looks nice. Interesting to hear Graham comment positively on the sear on the meat. The judges say the broth is a bit too sweet. Believe it or not, some sugar is used in most Vietnamese broths, just to add a tinge of sweetness and to mellow it out somewhat. Be too heavy-handed though and that sweetness can definitely become too noticeable.

Luca’s dish also looks great at first glance, perhaps even a bit better than Natasha’s. The judges rave about it (again mentioning the sear), and Ramsay and Luca both almost look like they are about to cry.

Jessie’s also looks great. I’m starting to think that the appearance of each soup is really unimportant, because realistically, each contestant could just take the premade pork stock, heat it up, dump it over the noodles, and as long as the garnishes on top are correct (not difficult if you pay attention), then the final product is going to look like a convincingly good replication of the initial dish. The flavor, smells, and textures are what is important, but that is something that none of the audience can experience or appreciate, so the judges are free to criticize or compliment each dish however they like and there is no real way for us at home to challenge the assumption that they are right.

Krissi is up last, and just based on the judges feedback hers seems to be the weakest. The judges are all surprising positive, complementing the “base” (beating a dead horse here!), and applaud her effort. Gordon shares a sincere moment of encouragement with Krissi, telling her that if she truly is bold and steps outside of her comfort zone rather than being intimidated from the start, then she has every chance of being as successful as everybody else.

If this competition were based purely on food, then Krissi should be going home. Not because her dish was bad necessarily, but it clearly wasn’t at Luca and Jessie’s level, and was probably below Natasha’s level (based on the judges’ feedback, of course).  However, Krissi gets to be safe, and we see a heartwarming moment between Krissi and Natasha as they hug goodbye and Krissi tells Natasha to give her son a hug. Still think they hate each other’s guts now? Just like Bri hated Krissi too, right?

And of course, they don’t send Natasha home either. Nobody is going home. Even if I didn’t see the spoilers on twitter and facebook, I would have guessed it already by this point. Krissi’s facial expression looks like mine at this point. I HATE having my emotions played with. That was the part I hate MOST about being on the show, having my emotions being treated like a pawn in the producer’s hands, to stir up drama and entertain the audience and put money into their pockets. Was that long, drawn out moment, filled with dramatic, sad music, the long monologue by Ramsay, and the roller coaster of emotions that Krissi and Natasha got put through, really necessary? Natasha is understandably EXTREMELY relieved, but from my position I feel furious at what the producers put her and Krissi through. It makes me sick. And poor James too. All of that effort, the thought that he was one step closer to the prize, for what? To be back in the exact same position he was in before the episode even started. It all just makes me a bit sick to my stomach.

And that wraps up the episode. A bizarre one for sure. Not a pleasant one for me to sit through and write about, so I hope that those of you that read it enjoyed it and had your thoughts provoked! Let me know what your thoughts are for this somewhat controversial episode down below.

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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101 Responses to Masterchef 4 Recap: Mini-Judges and Noodle Soup (S4E21)

  1. Andrea says:

    Read it in one sitting, and I agree with several things. Though you always crack me up with the earthquake alert coming from your stomach, Michael, You have a flair for written humor :D.

    I mostly agree with what you say here, so I’ll just give this two thumbs and two big toes up and look forward to your next recap, Michael.

    • Michael Chen says:

      Haha, thanks andrea! I try. I’ll have to be careful not to overuse that one too much though ;).

      Just out of curiosity, what don’t you agree with? I’d love to hear your honest opinion. I like having discussions on here, and if you think something I said isn’t correct then please do let me know!

      • Andrea says:

        Oh, trust me Michael, it’s not that I don’t agree with what you say regarding the show and how the food looks! But I’d think it twice before trying the crab sandwich. That’s the point where I don’t quite agree with you… Due to my personal preferences.

        I’m not too good with seafood, to be honest. I am a sushi fangirl (though I can’t stand the smell of cooked fish in other dishes), and I will sell my soul for a nice dish of calamari (or baby octopi the way my mom cooks it). I also enjoyed the time I had crawfish (when I was living in Houston) quite a bit, but otherwise, I have a hard time enjoying the taste of seafood. It just tastes fishy and rather foul to me. So the crab sandwich… I’d give you my share if need be to appease the earthquake in your stomach. I’m more of a land lubber regarding food ^^;;.

      • Michael Chen says:

        Oh, of course, that’s fair! hahaha. I LOVE seafood ;).

  2. says:

    As a woman I do not see asking if a girl has a boyfriend as sexual harrassment at all. Jessie always had the choice to say no to the question. I was not aware though Michael that desserts were yor expertise given the amount of cheese you covered a pie with in your season! But to each their own

    • Michael Chen says:

      I didn’t claim it was directly sexual harassment. I just feel like the way the show has portrayed Jessie, in this episode in particular, is to show her as an object of desire. I feel that the interactions between Jack and Jessie, and Gordon’s encouragement, is awkward at best and demeaning at worst, but of course you are entitled to your own appearance.

      I’m also not going to sit here and try to defend my whole cheese on the pie thing. I (and my supporters) have done PLENTY of that, and nothing I say wouldn’t be uncovered by a quick google search. I have never ever claimed to be an expert at desserts, and openly admit to baking as my weakest culinary skill. My comments about each of the contestants’ dishes were my own personal insight, opinions, and preferences on how I would prefer a dish. For example, there are plenty of people out there that love buttercream (hence its popularity), but I hate it, so my comments on that particular subject for example would be just my opinion. In fact, just about everything that I write is an opinion, seeing as how I wasn’t there to experience any of it so I don’t know ANYTHING for sure. If there is anything I say that you don’t agree with, feel free to point them out.

    • thelungsofourcity says:

      I like my apple pies covered in a hearty layer of crusty cheese. *shrug*

      • Michael Chen says:

        Hahaha! I can’t tell if you are kidding or not, but thanks! I personally think that sounds really tasty… the past few years sweet and savory pairings have been my thing (Mango-corn salsa on pulled chicken nachos? DIVINE!).

      • thelungsofourcity says:

        Oh I’m dead serious! We have some friends coming over in a few weeks; maybe I can convince them to go apple picking so we can make some pies :)

      • Michael Chen says:

        Mmmmmmm….I had some AMAZING apple pie from a local pie bakery a few weeks ago. It was seriously the best fruit pie I had ever eaten.

  3. Kayla says:

    I doubt with all her controversy FOX would replace any judge with Paula Dean. That beeing said with Giada on Next Food Network Star, and I personally like Joe, I would love to see Graham replaced with a female chef possibly with Rachael Ray or maybe even Alex G or Amanda Freitag from Chopped!!

    • Michael Chen says:

      I agree, Paula Deen is probably out of the question. Giada or Rachael Ray would be good choices, but I think they are doing too well individually to want to get roped into a silly reality TV show like MasterChef without taking on a Ramsay-esque leadership role. I LOVE Amanda Freitag, but I can’t help but feel like this show would hurt her image and credibility more than help her. Hahaha

      • MaryAnn says:

        I like Graham a lot better than Joe. Maybe it’s the warmer personality and the fact that Graham actually has cooking chops. We’ve never seen Joe cook on this show that I recall and I just think if you are judging this type of show you need to be able to cook as well as or better than those you are judging.
        As far as a female judge, it might be smart to bring in a relative unknown, meaning unknown to the TV world. Someone that hasn’t judged Chopped, Next Food Network Star or Iron Chef America. Maybe one of the chefs that have been on Master Chef, not hugely known on TV, but known in the foodie world. Just an idea as I don’t see MC changing their formula any time soon.

      • Michael Chen says:

        I agree, Graham is much more fun to watch for me and brings a smile to my face more often :). Unfortunately I also agree with you that MC is probably not going to change anytime soon.

  4. T. says:

    Great read, Michael. I’m interested to learn what a tomato egg is.

    • Michael Chen says:

      Tomato Egg noodle soup is a simple soup that used to be eaten in my house all the time as a simple lunch. Saute garlic in a little bit of oil, add tomatoes, cook for a bit, add water, salt, pepper, cook until tomatoes are soft-ish, add chinese noodles, cook until done, and then drizzle some beaten egg in at the end “egg drop soup style”. Drizzle sesame oil, sprinkle with scallions, and eat with lots of chili oil. Yum!

  5. Laurie says:


    Do you have a recipe for the beef-noodle soup? I have been searching the internet all day and none of the recipes I have found seem to have the same ingredients I saw last night (and in your helpful list!)

    I have never seen anyone put spices into a hot fry pan (the Star Anise, cinnamon stick, and something else) what do you do with that?

    Thanks for any help, LOVE your blog!

    • Michael Chen says:

      Are you referring to how I would have made the PORK noodle soup in this particular challenge, or just a general beef noodle soup recipe? I don’t actually make my own noodle soup broth that much, so I don’t have a specific recipe for it (usually just using whatever’s available/in the fridge. I’ve grown much more familiar with Vietnamese food lately though, so those are just a list of ingredients that I would turn to as an idea to start replicating the flavor. What exact ingredients I would end up using/not using would depend entirely on how the sample soup tasted, since the challenge was to replicate that dish rather than create your own.

  6. Gregory Wright says:

    And the judges saying…”We’ve never done this before” keeping them all safe. UM..LIE. They did the same thing with Derrick, Christian, Adrien and Jennifer on a Soufflé challenge in season 2.

  7. What a seriously crappy thing to do. I hate when they do that. Great write up, but what comment did Krissi make about puff pastry? You didn’t say and I don’t actually watch the eps, I just read Ben’s (and now your) recaps ;)

    • InfinityBall says:

      She said something like “They just used a pre-made puff pastry”

      I thought that all of her comments shown at that point were made with her horrid-looking failure of a… cake (maybe) sitting in front of her, but I wasn’t paying that much attention

      • demigord says:

        And was that the worst looking dish ever made in the history of the show?

      • Michael Chen says:

        Definitely not. It looks amateurish and not very pretty, but definitely edible (I’d taste it!). Josh Marks’ chocolate mousse that he made during the “redemption” episode my season comes to mind. A shapeless brown blob surrounded by red liquid. I couldn’t stop chuckling, because it literally looked like a bloody turd. The fact that the judges awarded that dish as among the top two in the group basically gave away to every viewer with half a brain that the whole “redemption” was a ploy to get Josh back and that Ryan was screwed no matter what. But there have been other bad, uncompleted dishes too. I just can’t think of them off of the top of my head.

      • Michael Chen says:

        That could be the case, but I’m not going back and rewatching the episode to find out! Lol. Even if that were the case, the exasperated looks (no real verbal “comments” if I remember correctly) could still have been edited from any point after the challenge was completed. I could list a million examples. Or the could have been actual reactions portrayed accurately. The only person that knows is probably Krissi herself.

    • Michael Chen says:

      Krissi said something along the lines of “Y’all just used premade puff pastry, while I left that alone and did my cake from scratch”. Fair point, but obviously their dishes were superior to hers in this particular challenge.

      • Who knows the real context and anyway, she makes a fair point. Sure, it didn’t work, ok, but she took a risk, didn’t take the easier route and she failed with her own cake instead of something pre-made. I can get behind her thinking on that (having not actually watched the show, I have no pre-conceptualized bias against her or anyone else, so I accept that this might not be a popular opinion, hehe)

      • Deborah says:

        I thought it a very fair point that could have been made by any of the judges or the other contestants. Sometimes you’re yelled at for playing it safe, then they turn around and the three very safe puff pastry plus fruit dishes are the winners over the attempts to think a little bigger.

  8. Drea says:

    Hi, Michael!
    I was a bit disappointed when I found out Ben wouldn’t be doing his recaps any more, but you’re doing an excellent job! Every recap is a joy to read, and so insightful. Thank you for writing them! I also really appreciated your comments about Jessie’s sexualization this episode (what was with that random short of her feet??), and also raised an eyebrow at Gordon’s Son’s question about her relationship status. He’s a child and it’s all just bravado, sure, but I don’t think that kind of behaviour should be encouraged (and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was scripted, either).

    By the way, I’ve recently been rewatching Season 3, and yours was by far one of my favorite auditions. :) I think it’s wonderful how far you’ve come since then–never stop being awesome!

    • Michael Chen says:

      Thanks, Drea! I’m glad I’m not the only person that had a few raised eyebrows about the portrayal of Jessie in this episode. It was probably scripted.

      And oh goodness, my audition was so silly >.>. I’m glad you like it though! Thanks for stopping by :)

      • Constance says:

        It isn’t just this episode though. Jessie and, to a lesser extent, Natasha have been showcased in previous episodes in a femme fatale manner. The recent episode in which Bime and Bri cook the salmon was one instance. The women contestants were attired in what could only be described as party/date dresses. And the camera lingered a little too much on the legs of Jessie and Natasha.

      • Michael Chen says:

        This episode I think was particularly noticeable, but I agree often times the focus on the “pretty girls” is more on their appearance than their cookery.

  9. Rosiecheeks says:

    Hi Michael, You asked: Which female chef would you like to see join the show as a judge?

    Hm…I think Cat Cora would make a great judge. What about you?

    • Michael Chen says:

      I agree! Cat Cora was actually a guest judge on season 1. I LOVE her!

      • asdfasdf says:

        cuz she’s a lesbian and you’re gay

      • Michael Chen says:

        Funny, I didn’t even KNOW she was lesbian until very recently. She’s one of the most badass chefs I know, and I loved her well before I even knew she was lesbian.

        Also, if my sexuality makes a difference in my preferences, wouldn’t I be more inclined to like a hot male chef? Like…Curtis Stone…or Yigit Pura <3 <3 <3 who won top chef just desserts season one. THE hottest chef ever in my opinion, and he's gay too! :)

      • MaryAnn says:

        Asdfasdf: Rude and uncalled for! Michael is a great guy and is doing recaps as a favor to his and Ben’s readers. Sexual orientation does NOT enter into it. You should apologize.

      • Michael Chen says:

        Oh MaryAnn, it doesn’t matter. I don’t take stuff like that personally. Please ignore it if it bothers you. Thanks for having my back though! :)

      • Gregory Wright says:

        Curtis Stone? Eww. Sorry, can’t stand him. I thought Cat Cora was a great guest judge, she’s super cool and an Iron Chef. Tough stuff.

      • Michael Chen says:

        Not that I think he would be a good judge, but just saying that if my sexuality really played into which chefs I like then Curtis is definitely one of the more attractive ones ;)

  10. veb2b says:

    Thank you for the recap, Michael. I didn’t see the episode, but I’ll respond to two of your prompts for comments. On the first mystery box, I’d have fried up the bacon and used it with the pineapple and maple syrup as a caramel base for an upside down cake (or muffins, depending on the time they had) because bacon and juicy pineapple together are great. But that’s assuming that the pineapple bits were not candied.
    As far as adding a woman chef to the judging panel, I can’t think of any who would risk their culinary reputation on this show or willingly work with Gordon Ramsay for several consecutive months. Besides, Joe B. plays the role of the mean judge who says stupid things. I think he could be replaced best by a “celebrity guest judge of the week”, who would promote themselves and look dismayed or puzzled at creative dishes. In other words, they would act like Joe without the self-importance, but just for a week, so they can’t be blamed for the season’s results.

    • Michael Chen says:

      Yum! That sounds good!

      That is definitely a good point. I doubt many people in America even knew who Joe or Graham were before MasterChef, so I think IF they do choose to replace one of the judges with a woman, it would probably have to be a relatively unknown character that could really benefit from the extra exposure and would be willing to put up with the reality tv shenanigans that come with it.

      • I knew who Graham was because he competed on Top Chef Masters seasons 1 and 2. He was known as Elliot and he was hilarious.

      • Michael Chen says:

        Yes! You are correct. However, he definitely didn’t have the kind of profile that MasterChef has given him. Somebody like him (that has some previously established reputation/exposure/credibility in the food world, but could benefit from being on prime-time tv) would be the perfect kind of person to replace Mr. JB.

  11. Michael:
    Doesn’t it frustrate the crap out of you to KNOW you could do better? LOL. As for Jesse’s legs…well they probably helped her make the cut in the fist place auditioning for the show, so I suppose all is fair in reality television. :) I saw better cooks than myself and others who made it turned away for lack of personality, looks etc. Bottom line, the legs certainly don’t hurt and I’m sure they get a few extra viewers heavy breathing in a Lay-Z-Boy sucking on the few teeth left in their mouth who are ONLY tuning in because of legs like that. :)

    • Michael Chen says:

      It’s not “frustrating” in the sense that A) being put in the high pressure situation of “competition” could completely change my thought process and cause me to make more questionable decisions, so I sympathize, and B) not being there to see each contestant cook and taste each final dish, there’s no telling how incredible (or awful) their dish actually is. So, while watching the episode, I can always look from my perspective and say that I would have done XYZ differently, but I don’t consider myself a better chef than them by any means, and who knows the quality of the product I may have turned out in their shoes? As one commenter so GRACIOUSLY pointed out earlier, I did make that disaster of an apple pie last year. Lol.

  12. MaryAnn says:

    Michael, thank you again for keeping us MC recap junkies happy while Ben is off to Burning Man. I appreciate it because while I do watch the episodes, I love to see what other people think about the show too.
    I absolutely agree with you about what they put Krissi and Natasha through during the elimination that wasn’t. I felt absolutely awful for Natasha after Krissi was sent upstairs. You know she felt she was going home and the grief and tears were real. No one should be forced to experience that type of emotion for ratings or someone else’s satisfaction! If I were Natasha I would have felt very used and I’d also have been angry (after I got over the excitement of staying I guess).

    • Constance says:

      Natasha commented on a previous blog recap that she had little idea she had been edited to appear so nasty. Krissi said people had told her she was in a commercial on the local Fox station and her face was on billboards. She joked on Twitter that she signed her life away when she agreed to participate so the producers can do what they like with her image and words.

      • They can edit you to accentuate certain things, but it’s pretty hard to make someone nice seem bitchy or nasty unless there’s something already there to work with. No one likes to be portrayed as mean, nasty, whatever – even if they really are – any than many times, they simply don’t believe it. Ever met someone who kicks you in the groin then disingenuously apologizes for your groin getting in the way of their foot?

      • Michael Chen says:

        That is true up to a certain point. For people like Ben, that NEVER say anything bad about anybody, it would probably be difficult to make him appear like an asshole. But without going into specifics, I can tell you that ANY one of the top 18 from my season (except maybe Anna and Helene, who both had quiet, passive personalities) could have been edited to appear like an asshole. The specific questions we are asked, combined with the constant prodding for names, will almost ALWAYS produce a sound bite that when spliced in to a certain point in time, can make us look like complete idiots.

      • Michael Chen says:

        Ryan Umane from my season had the exact same concerns. It can be devastating to see your name and reputation being smeared on national TV, and with there being nothing you can do about it. Ryan was one of those people that was goofy but honestly passionate about food; however the show and the way it turned the general public off to him really crushed what self esteem he had and I don’t even think he’s posted so much as an instagram photo of his cooking in months. Such a demoralizing, sad, story. I feel awful for him. Natasha, though definitely also drawing the editor’s wrath, isn’t in nearly as bad of a position as Ryan was (and has appeared almost likeable lately), and though she certainly has her share of haters, I think she will definitely have many open doors for her in the future.

    • Michael Chen says:

      Thanks MaryAnn! It’s definitely not easy, and forcing myself to sit through these sometimes makes me wanna pull my hair out, but to interacting with y’all in the comments and knowing how many of yall appreciate this makes it worth it :)

  13. bobC says:

    The end of the episode where it appeared that Krissi was saved and Natasha was eliminated was a bit much and evil spirited. I’m not a fan of either Krissi & Natasha but the sporting thing that GR should have done was to call it a tie an be done with it. Making Natasha stand there for what likely seemed like an eternity (to her) was totally uncalled for.

  14. hasteur says:

    I agree with some that Joe really needs to go. It’s not “Top Restauranteur”, it’s “Top Chef”. As to who should replace him… Hrm… They could pull a wild card and use Whitney Miller from season 1 (US) as a female judge to give the show some of the purloined credibility.

    • Well…they can’t use Batali (Joe’s partner) as mario and Gordon don’t see eye to eye and Mario has previously banned Gordon from his restaurants following Gordon calling Mario “fanta (as in the soda) pants”. I like the idea of an accomplished female chef – preferably one with an ethnic flair. Perhaps Michelle Bernstein? Anita Lo? someone like that. Gordon’s female head chef in London has three Michelin stars, but that would look like nepotism. Hell, they could bring Sandee B. out from behind the green curtain as a voice of reason. :)

    • Michael Chen says:

      With all due respect to Whitney, she is not well known for being a strong cook/chef by any means. I feel like Christine would be a much better choice (based on her palate alone), but I HIGHLY doubt she will ever want to be involved in MasterChef ever again.

  15. Constance says:

    (Waves to Andrea and Mindy Ellen)

    If the producers replaced Joe with another judge who would the viewers hate? Joe gets almost as many nasty comments on Facebook as Krissi and Natasha.

  16. MsShay says:

    One thing that keeps bothering me is that the chefs are always saying dishes need more seasoning, meaning more SALT! There are those of us, who have to cut back on salt use. There really is more to cooking than adding more salt. I will remember your advice, Michael, about adding whole spices to broths. Sounds yummy.

    • Heidi says:

      McShay, sea salt has half the the sodium as regular table salt, and kosher salt has 1/4 less than regular salt.

      • Michael Chen says:

        By volume, sea salt and kosher salt do contain less salt than regular table salt, but not nearly at the fractions you mention (though that is entirely due to the shape of the grains). Sea salt and kosher salt have other trace minerals that are not in highly refined forms of salt, but is still 99+% NaCl. If you were to try and achieve the same level of saltiness in a dish (say, seasoning a soup), you would need to use approximately the same amount of each by weight (and more Kosher by volume), and the sodium content would be roughly equivalent regardless. However, if you just like a quick sprinkle on top of a dish (say some eggs, or a salad), then a pinch of kosher does contain less salt than an equivalent VOLUME of table salt.

        I usually use Kosher salt at home because it’s easy to use (pinch, measure, etc), and dissolves quickly.

    • Michael Chen says:

      Salt is, of course, one of the most crucial ingredients in any dish, and can really enhance the flavors. Both times I’ve visited my favorite restaurants (one in Dallas and one in Austin), I have been TREMENDOUSLY disappointed in an underseasoned dish. It can completely ruin the dish.

      But yeah, oversalting a dish is definitely no good either! In a perfectly seasoned dish, you shouldn’t be able to TASTE the salt, but all the other flavors in the dish should be bright and dance all over your palate. Acid and salt enhance each other, so the next time you feel like a dish is underseasoned but don’t want to add any salt, try splashing on a bit of vinegar or a little squeeze of citrus!

  17. Heidi says:

    I think Nigella Lawson would make an interesting addition to MC. Those Food Network chicks give me a toothache.:)

  18. Jo West says:

    Totally agree with what you are saying with regards to the sexualisation, Michael.
    I’m really starting to get annoyed with all the added ‘drama’ now too. It was totally awful to do that to Natasha. I imagine along with the sad emotions of being knocked out she would have been thinking about seeing her child too then had that taken away. Really not on. I wish they would understand they don’t need all this overdramatised crap to make it a good show. So many things have annoyed me this series like them throwing all those perfectly good plates in the bin on the fried egg challenge.
    The whole Krissi/Natasha thing is confusing though. Natasha did openly call Krissi a bully though. I was so peeved that she didn’t go this episode. Also felt the same as you for James. Mind you, given the rest of what goes on I doubt anyone ever truly believes they are in ‘the final x’ anyway.
    I’m intrigued by one of your comments here that you feel Christine wouldn’t be involved in the show again though.

    • Michael Chen says:

      Here’s one simple thing that most fans don’t know. Christine wasn’t paid a single CENT for each cookbook that got sold. She got NO money whatsoever for the weeks and weeks of effort that she put into writing it. Does that comment still seem so surprising?

      • Gregory Wright says:

        But…but…to have your name associated with MasterChef in a printed cookbook is reward enough, right? C’mon, admit it. ;P

      • Jo West says:

        Hmm. She did at least get money for winning though, right? Probably nowhere near what is made from the profits but something at least?
        I would assume the fact you only recieve the prize money and no royalties is in the contract you sign when you enter so why do people still enter?

      • Michael Chen says:

        She of course did receive the main prize money, of which half of it went to taxes, and about 1/4 of what was left she has used to simply pay her lawyer to do battle with MasterChef. Doesn’t leave much left for any big plans. If she made even ONE dollar off of each cookbook sold, she would be in a much better financial position. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.

      • MaryAnn says:

        You may not be able to comment further on this and if so, I understand, but why would she have to do battle with MC? Was there something they required that wasn’t covered in the contracts or did they try to not meet all their obligations?

        I really disliked the show the time they had Christine as a guest judge. I felt like they were disrespectful of her, but maybe that was just me.

      • Michael Chen says:

        Well just EVERY time she has a major request come in, her lawyer has to look at it, submit it to MC for approval, they look at it and send back revisions, the lawyer negotiates terms with MC, and it just goes back and forth and back and forth.

        I didn’t necessarily think that they were disrespectful to Christine, but perhaps TOO respectful (to the point where it maybe feels patronizing) of her. She didn’t have any negative comments about the guest experience though.

      • Michael Chen says:

        Unfortunately, most people in America probably don’t buy books for the information it contains, but for the power of celebrity association, visual appeal, and marketability. I certainly think that a book written by James would be more interesting to read than any of the remaining home cooks (except for Krissi, but we have already established that she won’t win). A BIG reason why Christine’s book was so successful was because of her story and marketability. James just doesn’t have that. It’s just an ADDED bonus that Christine happens to be a fantastic writer.

  19. Constance says:

    That’s pretty awful Michael. When I think about the stress of the competition and the lost income while filming it’s a puzzle why anyone would sign on.

    • Michael Chen says:

      Because we are all ignorant people with delusions of grandeur at the beginning, LOL!

      • Gregory Wright says:

        Even with all the knowledge gained since, several contestants have been able to utilize their time on the show to an advantage they wouldn’t have had, and as you will admit made some incredible life-long friends. There can be a lot of good to come from the show as long as you don’t drink the kool-aid, and have a tough skin.

    • Greg and Michael pretty much hit it on the head. This is all about opportunities and the doors it can open, not necessarily the bottom line – at least from a prize money standpoint.

      For someone with real culinary skill and genuine aspirations, the exposure alone is priceless. I was barely seen on TV (I think I spotted myself 5 or six times total) and yet I still get offers for certain events to do demonstrations, catering, or judge or whatnot. One day I may open a restaurant, but right now I’m a lawyer pretending to be a chef. :) Even if I could have won, I wound’t have – the producers would not have allowed it – I was not the right person for the poster. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it immensely though.

      For someone that makes it into the top ten, let alone win it, the exposure you receive is priceless if you truly capitalize on it. It stinks that Christine may be spending money and time to negotiate with One Potato Two Potato, but one must also consider, if an event is worth doing for whatever reason, that cost is taken into account. I’m sure she’s not going to pay an attorney out of pocket to negotiate a charity event. The quality of her recipes will dictate that in the long run (as well as her overall likability) whether her cookbook is successful. (she sent me an autographed copy :) ) I don’t think it’s a stretch that she may be one of the most beloved and well-recognized winners. So, he contract with the management company expires and then she uses the recognition and marketing she received to her own advantage – or not. Maybe she does a second cookbook and makes a tidy sum? Maybe she partners up with someone and opens a restaurant? It’s all her choice. Can you put a price on that?? How much would it cost to have your face plastered on prime-time network television for months if you were going to pay for it?

      Bottom line – in hindsight, is it a big pain in the ass to be on the show? Yes. Is it ultimately worth it? Probably – so long as you make the most of the opportunities that arise. I did it because I felt I had a good shot at winning and it sounded like fun. Afterwards I realized it wasn’t as fun as I had anticipated it would be. Would do it again? Probably. I have auditioned for some shows since then and have been solicited for others. I enjoy the competition and you really do meet some wonderful people along the way. For me, that’s compensation enough. I think it’s easy to try and find fault with the process if you haven’t been in it, didn’t want it badly enough, or tried but were relatively unsuccessful. The only people I feel sorry for is the ones who are allowed to compete who truly are in over their heads and are mislead by casting producers into thinking they deserve to be there – when in actuality their only function is to provide comic relief for the audience and ridicule from the judges. I walked away happy knowing that I impressed the judges, I didn’t look like an asshole on TV, and I had fun for three weeks. Works for me. :)

      • Michael Chen says:

        It’s a good way to put it. I remember wondering why Ben would ever encourage me to audition for such a show, and then thinking that maybe he realized that i was in a unique position to be able to benefit from it.

  20. bobby927 says:

    I’d like to see Anne Burrell as a judge on MC.

    • Constance says:

      Ooo, love Anne Burrell too. She could hold her own with Gordon and Graham. But I’d rather see her in another season of Worst Cooks In America. Now there’s a cooking program the shows technique.

      • MaryAnn says:

        I’m with you Constance. I enjoy Worst Cooks in America a lot.
        I’m wondering though if Bobby Flay and another chef will be doing Worst Cooks next season. Every season so far the chef with the losing team has been replaced until Bobby. His team lost the first season he was on I believe and Anne’s lost this last time.
        Will be interesting to see which way they go if they bring the show back.

      • Michael Chen says:

        Yes! I like that show, except for the silly expectation that they actually cast the “worst” cooks in America. That part seems artificial, and some of the cooking “horror stories” I can bet are probably engineered. But I agree, as a home cook you can lean a lot from those shows.

    • Michael Chen says:

      Anne burrell might be a good fit, but she is so successful on her own already (with her own food network show and such) that I don’t really see her benefiting much from being on MasterChef. As a guest judge for an episode? Definitely.

  21. Leah says:

    You know what is sad is that I didn’t even notice the “lingering” camera on Jessie. I did notice that one-sleeved shirt they had her wearing, and the suuuuuuuuuper tiny dress Natasha was wearing (I think) in the WP-24 episode. I feel like people are so desensitized to that kind of thing, like we are to violence.

    I HATED reading through the comments and finding out how MC screwed Christine over. I cannot believe she wasn’t paid for the book!! I’m genuinely upset for her and I don’t even know her.

    Anyhow, thanks for the recap. I watch the show, but I love the perspective from Ben’s [your] recaps. I learned a lot about reality TV. For example: I never want to participate.

    Actually, I really enjoy Chopped. I always keep in mind the comments I’ve read about engineering while watching that show and it just seems a lot less possible. There are times where a dislikable contestant wins and sometimes the person with the heart-rending backstory loses. Plus, it’s just a day long, so there’s a lot less time to engineer drama. Also, I too adore Amanda Freitag.

    Thanks for the blog, Michael!

    • Michael Chen says:

      When it comes to clothing, the choice is still the contestants’ to make, though the producers will occasionally exert some influence. For example, Samantha from my season (the hot Sri Lankan) chose to wear the tight, revealing, virtually nip-slipping dresses that she wore. There was also a moment where the production team bought a shirt for frank (nothing too odd or controversial, just a shirt with a somewhat floral collar) and asked him to wear it. You just never know.

      • Leah says:

        I’m just guessing, based on the way Jessie and Natasha seem to be the “hot” girls for the season. If that’s their choice of clothing, it’s not my place to judge – power to them for wearing what they are comfortable with. But for me, I can’t imagine being comfortable cooking in clothing like that!!

  22. Constance says:

    Leah, there have been some very awful comments on the MC Facebook page about the high heels worn by Jessie and Natasha and shortness of Natasha’s skirt. Someone pointed out that she was wearing shorts, not a skirt. Regardless of their attire there no need to be calling them skanks.

    • Leah says:

      I completely agree. I get all up in arms about people judging a woman’s character based on how she dresses. Not to mention the producers almost definitely made the wardrobe choices for them (not that that makes the comments ok).

  23. MJ says:

    Please tell me they’re not wearing stilettos the entire time they’re cooking and waiting.. If what Ben says is true about these episodes taking the whole day to shoot, those girls have got to be limping by the end of the day. I can’t even handle heels for more than a few hours.

  24. bounddreamer says:

    I would love to see Michelle Bernstein on the show, but I seriously doubt she would take a starring role on any show like Masterchef. And good for her! They would do well to dump Joe, though, and if they did, it would be great if someone like Anita Lo or Lorena Garcia or Carmen Gonzalez could take his place. (I think all of those ladies are probably too good for the show.)

    • Michael Chen says:

      Yeah, that’s the problem. Most people are too good for the show. If you had never watched MasterChef, would you have every guessed that Graham and Joe would be the ones to be the primary judges with Gordon?

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