Masterchef 4 Recap: Paula Deen 2.0 and Fancy foods (S4E22)

Here we go, with part 2 of this week’s MasterChef!

Is it just me, or do the extensive recaps at the beginning of each episode (and even after each commercial break) come across as a bit excessive and unnecessary? Almost feels like cheap “filler” material to me, especially when the episodes play back to back like they did this week. I digress..

Random thing I noticed: In the “beauty shots” of the contestants at the beginning, everybody is showing off some sort of cooking skill except for Krissi, who just turns around and….stands there? Wonder why that was.

I’m actually somewhat looking forward to this episode, as I’m curious as to how the producers and editors portray Paula Deen (appearing for the 2nd season in a row…a bit weird), since the filming of the episode took place before all of the controversies tarnishing her reputation. She has largely stayed out of the public eye lately, so perhaps most of the public have forgotten the controversial events that unfolded earlier this year already.

Snorted upon hearing the Narrator call the event a “lunch party”. LOL.

Luca’s (slightly overly) dramatic reaction to seeing Paula Deen makes me smile. “I’m Italian, what do I know about SOW-thern food?” I actually find Southern food and Italian comfort food pretty similar, but maybe that’s just me. Maybe because I love them both so much…..

Each contestant has to cook for a table of 10 individually. They must each cook their assigned protein, along with two side. They are: Kentucky Chicken (I didn’t even know Kentucky had its own chicken, aside from KFC haha!), Alabama Pork Chops (…..), Georgia Shrimp (? not Florida?), Mississippi Catfish (makes sense..), and Gator Tail (No location given, though I guess Louisiana is presumed? I guess I don’t know enough about Southern food, because I had no idea that Kentucky was known for their chicken (aside from KFC), Alabama for their pork chops, or Georgia for their shrimp. Do y’all know those connections/associations?

Luca won last challenge and gets to pick who gets what protein. He picks pork chops for himself, an easy choice given its ties to both Southern and Italian cooking, and assigns catfish to Natasha, alligator to Jessie, shrimp to Krissi, and chicken to James. I forsee a lot of deep frying in the future of this challenge…

Luca starts off by pounding out the pork chop to tenderize it. It’s a very traditional Italian thing to do, but I don’t know if a pounded pork chop is very traditional in Southern cuisine. I personally like my pork chops unpounded.  Juicy, firm, but tender. Krissi’s shrimp come already peeled with the tail on, which is disappointing because I would have loved to see her use the INTENSELY flavorful shells in her dish. James has a tasty looking marinade going on his chicken, which looks like it’s a skinless, but bone-in breast cut. Krissi is putting lime zest on her shrimp, which definitely sounds bright and delicious, but again is not something I typically associate with classic Southern food. Jessie is soaking her alligator tails in what looks like buttermilk, a smart move and exactly what I would have done. I’ve never cooked alligator in my life, but the only way I’ve ever had it is fried or in a sausage. The meat is like a cross between chicken, fish, and shrimp. Very delicate and flavorful but easy to overcook. Natasha is breaking down some huge, gorgeous catfish fillets, and is apparently breaking down some cabbage for coleslaw. I LOVE catfish fillets, because it’s mild, sweet, and delicate but is super rich and moist from being a fattier fish. Catfish nuggets though (from the belly)….blech.

The judges check in with Luca, and it looks like he is preparing a breadcrumb mixture to crust the pork chops in. A very European thing to do. Southern….perhaps not so much. However, there’s nothing WRONG with that technique, and the product may very well turn out to be delicious. He’s making a sweet potato puree by boiling the sweet potato in what looks like flavored milk, which may be a mistake. Milk shouldn’t really ever be boiled, since you risk curdling it (you can see some small clumps already as he stirs it). This applies to most dairy, except heavy cream, which has enough fat to stabilize it. The judges overlook that, however, for the time being. Lastly, he is also serving brussels sprouts with bacon (YUM!).

Natasha is still working on her catfish and coleslaw. Her second side is still a mystery for the time being.

Krissi is doing ENOURMOUS, gorgeous, steak-like fried green tomatoes. If executed properly, it could serve as a unique base for her dish. Classic ingredient, classic technique. It looks like she will serve them with her citrus marinated shrimp and some collard greens. Lime zest aside, looks like a classic and delicious combination.

Jessie is frying her alligator tails and serving it with Andouille sausage mac and cheese (drooooooool), and sauteed green beans. Another classic Southern combination of flavors and ingredients.

Everybody seems to think that James is going to do well, which instinctively makes me think that he will flunk this challenge. A lesson in the predictability of reality TV: whenever somebody is EXPECTED to do well, they will MOST likely fail.

James is doing a grilled bourbon barbecue-sauce glazed chicken, and immediately I’m a little concerned. Cooking chicken through on the grill takes a LONG time, and you do not want Gordon to catch a raw chicken breast (or an overcooked one either, for that matter). Furthermore, glazing something on the grill with a sugary sauce can cause the sauce to burn and the meat to stick. Lastly, most of the diners are probably expecting a delicious, old fashioned fried chicken, which is pretty darn hard to beat in the mind of a southerner, so if you are going to barbecue chicken instead of fry it, it’d better be some seriously tasty chicken. He’s serving it with some delicious looking black eyed peas and honey glazed carrots. Another classic combination, but I’m not sold on the barbecued chicken idea.

And of course, James all of a sudden is worried that his chicken isn’t going to cook in time. In a surprising twist, Natasha is actually grilling her catfish (???). Grilling fish with any marinade is extremely tricky, even with a well oiled grill, because the wet marinade tends to caramelize and stick, even buttermilk. The best way to grill a fish filet is to pat it extremely dry, season with salt and pepper, oil it generously, and place it onto a hot grill (or use a cedar plank). Putting a piece of fish with marinade onto a grill is a recipe for disaster, and it’s the second time it’s happened this season.

James continues to have trouble nailing the temperatures on the chicken. The time is called to serve.

Jessie serves her plate. The food all looks tasty, but the plate/portions seem a bit small. Luca serves his plates, and I’m curious as to how many of the words coming out of his mouth that the diners actually understood. His presentation is a little bit sloppy, but the plate looks tasty. I wonder what that sauce on the pork is? And the pork chop doesn’t actually look like it’s pounded out very much at all, so he must not have pounded it as hard as I had originally thought (get your mind out of the gutter!). Krissi’s plate is classic, presented well, but once again I feel like perhaps the portions are a bit small for a full meal, especially for southerners who are known to eat a lot. Natasha’s second side is potatoes au gratin, but on the sample plate there is only one round of (delicious looking) potato instead of the casserole that one might expect. The plate as a whole looks a bit boring and plain. Keep in mind that I’m passing judgements on these dishes by appearance only, since I can’t taste them. Take my opinions with a grain of salt, haha :).

I’m going to pause and do a very Ben-Starr-esque thing. The correct pronounciation for Andouille is anDUee, not andouLEE. Similar to rouille (ru-EE, a mayonnaise like sauce). Similar to Spanish when which the “ll” has a soft “y” sound.

James presents his dish, and to me it looks the least appetizing due to the weird shape of the chicken breasts and the complete lack of green on the plate. Even a simple sprinkle of parsley over the top would dramatically enhance the visual appeal of his plate in my opinion. Another thing to note is that his plate lacks textural contrast (everything can probably be characterized as “soft”). A great plate of food to me has 3 essential aspects: contrasting flavors (sweet balanced with salty, richness balanced with acidity, etc), contrasting colors, and contrasting textures. James is missing on 2 of the 3, but we will see what kind of feedback the diners give.

The diners enjoy Jessie’s gator and Krissi’s shrimp, and one diner raves about her perfectly executed green tomato. Luca’s plate is also well received, with one diner going as far as rating it a 11 out of 10. Ramsay finds an undercooked piece of chicken on James’s table, and I brace for inevitable “It’s RAWWWWWWR” tirade, which thankfully doesn’t come. It’s a huge setback though, which all but guarantees James’s place in the bottom 3. Natasha’s fish is also undercooked, and you can tell by how it doesn’t flake very easily when the diner prods at it. It’s not as much of a “deadly” mistake, so no dramatic return to the grill for Natasha, but it also cements her place in the bottom 3 of this challenge. It will be interesting to see who joins her and James, since the other 3 all seemed to be received so well.

The judges sit at the round rectangular table, and Joe knocks James for serving such a large piece of chicken. I scoff at that reasoning, since it’s not like James had a pic on the product he was working with. He had no choice but to serve the chicken that was given to him, but he should have cooked it properly. They say Natasha’s catfish should have been fried, and based on the prep steps she took I would tend to agree. So the top two are down to Krissi, Jessie, and Luca, and based on appearance alone I would have chosen Krissi and Jessie. Of course I’m wrong, and Paula chooses Luca and Jessie. Two quick notes: I’m AMAZED that they didn’t try to do a cliffhanger over a commercial break, and I think the producers chose them to piss Krissi off and see what kind of reaction they can get out of her.

Krissi is surprisingly quiet after the decision, but you hear a quick quip from James “based on what I’m up against, I’m not too worried.” You can easily see how if the producers had wanted to cast James in a bad light, they could just take sound bites like that and feature it. One of these days, maybe I will try and demonstrate this by doing an interview with Ben and having it edited two different ways and seeing what y’all’s reactions are to each video. *makes mental note*.

Pressure test time, and for the first time ever, the top two contestants get to play a role in determining what the test is. It’s basically an elimination challenge at this point. Jessie and Luca must assign a dish to each of the contestants. The first dish is a seared scallop salad, with confit potatoes and truffles. He claims that the dish would cost $150, which even with the truffles seems to be a bit of a stretch. Some quick research turns up a similar dish on the flagship restaurant’s a la carte menu, which charges 95 GBP (approx $150) for THREE courses. The dish on the menu doesn’t mention truffle, but I highly doubt a few slices of truffle would command TRIPLE the price of the standard dish. Regardless, being able to sell any “appetizer” for $50 is already incredibly impressive, so kudos to Ramsay I guess.

The second dish is a Filet Rossini, which is a filet steak on top of a truffle polenta cake, foie gras, and Asian pear (?!?!). Bizarre choice for somebody that values tradition in Italian cuisine so much. I can just imagine a contestant putting Asian pear on a dish like that and Joe just going BERSERK, spit flying out of his mouth, eyes bulging, so furious that the insults can’t come out fast enough. Hahahaha.

Graham’s dish is from his flagship, Graham Elliot, and features a greek yogurt panna cotta (which for lack of a better description, is like creamy jello), with stewed rhubarb and “variations” on honey (probably some crystallized honey, honeycomb, and various assorted floral honeys.

….Wow. Definitely an intense challenge. Joe and Gordon’s dishes are RELATIVELY easy to execute, with the main challenge being the cook on the proteins and a judicious hand with the truffle to avoid overpowering the rest of the dish. Graham’s dessert is whimsical, “modernist”, and deceptively simple, although there are a lot of specific techniques involved with the execution and presentation that will definitely catch a home cook out of his or her comfort zone.

Natasha gets Gordon’s scallop dish, which is weird to me if she is the primary target. I still fail to see what is so difficult or tricky about this dish. Help me out? Krissi gets the Filet Rossini, which is probably the easiest for her to execute (steak and polenta she should be comfortable with, and searing the foie is really not very difficult). James gets the sno-globe, and instantly I think he’s in trouble. That to me is the dish I would have given to whomever I wanted to send home.

Everybody seems to be getting off to a good start. Natasha is focused, and Krissi and James are both doing the right things/taking the right steps towards executing their dishes properly. James however puts the panna cotta in the fridge, while Luca laments that he should have put it in the blast chiller. Now this confuses me a little bit, because in my season we did not have a blast chiller (I specifically asked). So either Luca is talking about the freezer, which would have been risky for James (if the outside of the panna cotta starts to freeze, the texture is ruined), or they somehow got a blast chiller this season, lucky bastards. For those of you unfamiliar, a blast chiller is like a fridge that constantly blasts the contents inside with cold air, which cools the food much quicker (think about standing in freezing weather with no wind vs howling wind and you get the idea).

The time whizzes by, and the judges are concerned about Krissi’s filet being overcooked and James’s panna cotta not being set. James seems to be happy with his panna cotta, deflecting Graham’s questions with confidence and is focusing on his plating. Natasha still seems focused and composed. Krissi’s polenta cake doesn’t look very well seared, and James’s looks like it’s lacking some garnishes.

Natasha is first up, and her plate looks beautiful (aside from a few missing sauce dots). The judges love everything.

Krissi goes up, and her plate looks almost identical (where did that magical sear on the polenta come from???). The big question is whether the steak is properly cooked, and it’s definitely more cooked on one side than the other. Gordon actually flat out disagreed with Joe (who said that at least one side of the steak was medium rare) and called it out for actually being closer to medium well (which I would tend to agree more with). Perhaps Ben’s speculation that Joe has a soft spot for Krissi is true after all. Still, rarely do you see the judges openly disagree with each other. I would LOVE to see the judges get in a real legitimate fight sometime over the merits/flaws of a dish, hahaha.

James is up last, and here I have a problem. What usually happens is this. After the completion of a challenge, the contestants usually leave set for a lunch break. Beauty shots are taken, and any dishes that need to be chilled or frozen are usually put back in the freezer/fridge (i.e., Christine’s coconut lime sorbet in the finale). I’m ASSUMING that’s what happened with James’s dish. However, since his dish was tasted last, then it still must have been sitting out for 10-15 minutes under the hot spotlights on set. Even a properly set panna cotta would have started to loosen up and melt by then. You can see James stand by his dish and start to protest when Graham criticizes the texture, but ultimately he is wise to save his breath, and probably knows in his head what the end result is going to be anyways. Hearing the judges complain about how the panna cotta tastes and is garnished perfectly but isn’t set properly makes my blood pressure spike. James is a talented cook, and there is no question in my mind that when James took the panna cotta out of the fridge and proclaimed his satisfaction that he knew it was set. The judges are supposed to take into consideration how long food has been sitting out when they taste it (i.e. not criticize bread for being stale if it’s been sitting out for 4 hours waiting to be tasted), but that clearly wasn’t the case with James’s panna cotta, and he is helpless to say or do anything to stop it. The look of resignation on his face tells him that he knows exactly what I already know, that the producers are ready to send him home, and there’s nothing he can do about it.

I’m glad the elimination was relatively quick and not all drawn out. Honestly, the fact that he was eliminated is not at all surprising to me. The show needs the villain (Krissi) to stay around for a few more episodes to make things interesting, and of the 3 remaining, James is probably the least marketable and connects with the smallest portion of the audience.

That doesn’t take anything away from him though. James leaves with dignity and respect of all of his fellow contestants who recognize what a strong competitor and incredible person he is. I almost had the privilege of meeting him the last time I was in Houston (it was actually HIM that played an integral role in getting the ChilantroHTX food truck to literally drive up to Christine’s door!). Unfortunately, he ended up being busy that night, but I look forward to seeing him and congratulating him the next time I’m in Houston. He has started his own Houston-based hot sauce company called Bravado Spice, and regularly does pop-ups/cooking classes via his spin-off, Brave Kitchen. Be sure to follow him on Facebook and Twitter! Can’t wait to see what this talented guy does next.

As always, let me know your thoughts down below. I’d love to hear what you have to say.

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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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83 Responses to Masterchef 4 Recap: Paula Deen 2.0 and Fancy foods (S4E22)

  1. Ugh, this show has gotten worse. Since the last episode. How is that even possible? Thanks for the fun recap, though! You totally caught me with my mind in the gutter

  2. I wondered the same thing about the panna cotta. I wondered if they had given him enough time to realistically make the dish or had they influenced the setting of the dish because he seemed to use flawless technique. I knew there had to be something else. Great summary!

  3. Jo West says:

    I never even considered that about the panna cotta! Even if it wasn’t set I still would have taken it over Krissi’s dish since I would think flavour should be more important than appearance. I was very surprised that Luca gave that dish to his ‘friend’.
    I suppose it’s not surprising given the way the shows tendency to like building up people to knock them down. I remember a few occaisions last series where they would win the mystery box then be eliminated same episode. I know it was definitely the case for Ben so I bet they were loving the whole saving James in one episode then kicking him off the next.
    It just really annoys me when even the stranger on the street could tell you that James is a better chef than Krissi that she is still in there for the drama. I don’t give two poops about if she’s good or evil. She’s not that great a cook. I mean she would have been out weeks ago if not for Natasha, right?

    • Michael Chen says:

      Yes, that happens ALL the time. I think that Krissi is a very strong home cook, but just doesn’t have the finesse and the eye for detail that some of the other chefs have. But then again, her plate for this challenge looked incredible, so who knows?

  4. Anony Mouse says:

    That judging was just weird.

    Natasha is missing a few sauce drops that have nothing to do with the dish, and they hype it up like it’s a major problem.

    Krissi has a two-tone steak (medium my foot, that one half looked straight up well-done) but it’s deemed okay becuase it looked right? Who would eat a half-and-half steak like that?

    And then James gets told that “sometimes taste isn’t enough”? Really? That was actually said with a straight face? I thought they were cooking food not making a sculpture.

    I swear, I just don’t understand “gormet” food.

    • Michael Chen says:

      I think Joe was the only one that made a big deal out of it. I have no idea why (maybe to make Natasha doubt herself, but with such a strong dish I think everybody knew she was safe).

      It’s not so much “gourmet food” as it is “reality TV judging standards”. Haha

  5. Melanie says:

    For someone who initially hadn’t considered how much manipulation goes into virtually every aspect of shooting the show, I appreciate your candidness! I have seen the light! I am at a loss to why legitimate chefs would play a part in these con games. What is your take on why 3 well-established chefs would lend their reputations to such a farce?

    I, too, hate those dagnabbit (I’m sure Elmer would agree!) recaps!! But then, I also love them because I know that I can ignore part of the show because inevitably, they will repeat it over and over again. :) Thanks also for pointing out the things that I would not have considered. For instance, when you described how the judges criticized James’ selection of the meat, when it’s not like he had a choice in the matter. The show is made to appear as if they have the luxury of choice and time, when in fact, they are working under very difficult circumstances.

    I see you have blast-chiller envy! lol!! Thanks again Michael! Gobbled every word up!

    • Michael Chen says:

      Thanks, Melanie! Gordon has already sold his soul to the entertainment industry so that isn’t much of a surprise. I suspect that Graham and Joe could both use the publicity (I’m willing to bet that the popularity of their restaurants has EXPLODED), and the vast majority of America who just watches the show and doesn’t think twice about the credibility questions probably think VERY highly of them.

  6. Andrea says:

    A lovely, well-written recap as always, Michael.

    However, there’s something that I would like to clear up. You said: ‘As in Spanish, the “ll” is not pronounced.’ In Spanish, we do pronounce the ll. Depending on the word, it may be softer, almost like pronouncing the vocal with an I at the beginning (Like the word ‘llanta’ which is tire), or harder, almost in between a Spanish Y and an English J (as in ‘llevar’ which means ‘to bring’ or ‘to take somewhere’). However, the pronunciation will depend also on the speaker’s country of origin. I gave my explanation based on my Colombian Spanish (which is widely considered as one of the most neutral accents), but some countries in South America (Argentina and Uruguay), have a different way to pronounce it. More like a shushing sound. Sorry if I’m a nagging, annoying party pooper! I can’t help it!

    Out of the three dishes in the pressure test, I would’ve liked to try the Filet Rossini. That looks like a killer dish, and has a good deal of beef (although I prefer mine less aged than the usual in the USA). Graham’s panna cotta, I’d probably have only one spoonful of it. As usual, I’d give you the scallops, Michael. You know the deal ;).

    And now that Luca’s ‘blessed among women’ (the only guy left in the competition!), my guess is that Krissi’s leaving next. Unlike a lot of people out there, I never bought the idea of her being a bully. She’s just a tough-as-nails person who has had to fight her way through life, something I can sort of relate to because she reminds me of my mother (she had to raise me on her own. Single mothers are real tigers).

    I’ll stop rambling now. Please don’t hate me for correcting you! :(

  7. Gregory Wright says:

    I hadn’t considered the setting of the panna cotta issue, regarding how long it REALLY was in the fridge and when they tasted it. Same goes for when the lemon merengue pie as made. Bime’s should have set more before it was served if it was “tasted”. James got hosed big time. He won a mystery box, only to have the BS no elimination, rendering his win nothing. Then, he is told (according to his tweets) that he cannot cut the large chicken from the bone or halve it. It must be served whole. Makes me wonder if Natasha was told not to fry the catfish. I really liked James this year. I liked his flavors and creativity. Plus he’s really funny.

  8. Gregory Wright says:

    And I am really upset that you neglected to mention the most important thing about the episode. Which of course is my 1/3 second of screen time in the ad for the cook-a-longs. Plus I had to sign the same agreement you did for that.

  9. Maggie says:

    I am begining to think that it was realllly a blessing a blessing I did not get cast in MCjr!

  10. Constance says:

    Michael, thank you again for taking up the writing of the recaps in Ben’s absence.

    The ranch and diners in the Paula Deen portion were from the Los Angeles area rather than Southern. The portions were probably quite sufficient for them. As for me, as a lover of shrimp and most seafood, I’d have preferred a double helping of Krissi’s shrimp. But five shrimp is a normal serving in most restaurants.

    I was very surprised at James’ elimination. I was convinced he he would be the winner. Guess it’ll be Luca since I can’t see them choosing another woman. The protests would be ear splitting.

    • Michael Chen says:

      Perhaps in SoCal, where everybody eats dainty portions. And while 5 shrimp is a normal serving in most restaurants, a “meal” would typically include an appetizer plus a dessert, neither of which were served as far as I could tell (unless Sandee worked some more magic off screen).

      James doesn’t have the mass appeal that Luca and Jessie, or even Natasha have. As much as I like him, he was never going to win, unfortunately.

  11. Wade Wasserman says:

    What upsets me is that you know they want to pick the most marketable person for the book—not who can cook better. Take it too the bank, Lucas will go soon. They want a female because she will sell more copies of the book, which is thier ultimate goal. Remember what they did to that poor guy from New England who James kind of reminds me of. I can not remember at this moment that I am writing this post, the details, but they basically made him look like the bad guy when in fact he was the only one who was not aware of all the facts and back stories. I wish they used a better system to pick the best chefs and not worry about book sales.

    • Kelly says:

      I think you have Christian in mind?

    • Michael Chen says:

      It’s not even just the book, it’s all the media, press, front page photos and headlines, and such that come with being a winner. That’s why it was so heartbreaking one night when Christine was sobbing and lamenting about how she wanted to be taken seriously for her cooking skill, not just her story.

      I already have some (albeit questionable) inside knowledge on who wins, so I will not spoil it for you. But I will say that while if you put both Jessie and Luca’s face on the cover of a cookbook and by appearance alone, who would sell more, Jessie would win, but keep in mind that a pretty young woman has won EVERY season of MasterChef, and another pretty lady winning would seriously undermine the already shaky credibility of the show.

      • Motty says:

        See I actually think James would have been the most interesting choice in that respect. None of the “meat men” has a won yet, so you haven’t really gotten a book from a true grill master. Plus, James has been portrayed as having a lot of knowledge about Asian food, but in a different style than Christine, so that could be a nice aspect to the book as well.

      • 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.

      • Gregory Wright says:

        Clearly I am in the minority. I want a cookbook that teaches me something or gets me thinking in a whole new direction. I don’t care who’s on the cover or what their story is.

      • Michael Chen says:

        Greg, was it EVER in the doubt that you are in the minority of Americans based on the way you think? lol

      • Gregory Wright says:

        Sadly no, but I am continually naively optimistic that everyone else will come around.

  12. GingerSnap says:

    I don’t think it mattered what James did. The script calls for Luca to face either one of the 3 remaining girls and they are promising us a real cat fight next week betweeen Krissi and Jessie. Jessie, who will probably bite the dust so they can keep Krissi around for one more episode.

    • Motty says:

      I picked Jessie to win weeks ago… Well, to be fair, I said that of the top 8 or 9 (this was the show before Brie got eliminated the first time) that Jessie was the most formulaic winner and Eddie was the best change of pace. I figured Eddie was good looking, a minority, a man, and had the NFL background for extra publicity – but they cut him even earlier than I expected.

      Jessie and Natasha are the formula winners. Young, pretty and controllable spokespeople. But two things put Jessie on top. (1) Jessie is the southern belle, and southern accents are famously good sellers in this country; (2) Natasha has been portrayed here and there as a villain – most noticeably in the beginning of the season when they had her say like 3 times that she’s “not just another pretty face.” I have to believe that Jessie’s lack of a husband or kids also is a plus as she can be more committed to her duties as a spokesperson.

      So Luca will face Jessie in the final and lose. Next week, I suspect Krissi goes home. Natasha will finish 3rd.

      • Michael Chen says:

        I agree that Eddie would have fit the bill, but he lacks charisma that really causes people to pay attention to and connect with him. A nice enough guy for sure, but I don’t think many people had many emotions (positive or negative) towards his character on the show, and that’s why he ended up getting cut.

        I 100% agree that Jessie is the PERFECT poster child for Masterchef, if it wasn’t for the fact that the past 3 seasons somebody very similar has won. If MasterChef wants to keep ANY semblance of credibility going forward, they cannot let another pretty, likeable, young woman win again. But then again, this IS MasterChef. Sigh….

      • Constance says:

        I don’t know if they can allow Jessie to win. The first winner, Whitney, published her cookbook on Southern food and it’s not such a hot seller. Jessie seems a bit one dimensional in her cooking. Most of her dishes have had a Southern slant.

        Of the remaining four, though I’m rooting for my home town girl Krissi, I think Natasha is the best cook in terms of scope. She does Latin and Asian well.

      • Michael Chen says:

        Unfortunately, there is NO WAY that Krissi will actually win, and I have my doubts about Natasha as well.

    • Michael Chen says:

      Exactly. I think Krissi will go home next week, and Natasha and Luca will face off in the final perhaps. But then again, what do I know??

  13. thelungsofourcity says:

    Michael, we also couldn’t see why Gordon’s appetizer was so challenging (nothing against Natasha, who is obviously a fabulous cook). It’s not difficult to identify the ingredients in the salad and just toss them, and surely at their level it’s not that difficult to cook a potato slice or scallop. And the truffles were just slices plunked on top, right? Unless maybe they didn’t get a recipe to work from and thus she had to figure out the vinaigrette by herself?

    But hey, this is coming from someone who is a miserably bad cook – Boyfriend recently told me that most my cooking problems could be solved by a) not turning the heat up to high, and b) not wandering away while it cooks. At least I’m not picky, I’ll eat whatever I cook! :p

    • Michael Chen says:

      I know right??? And yes, the truffle slices were just plunked on top. And I’m 99.9% sure that the contestants either had recipes hidden in the drawers of each station (we had those during pressure tests), or that they had a lesson on each of those dishes ahead of time (which also happened), or both!

      It sounds like your problem is with burning food! haha. In which case, yes, both of those suggestions would probably be helpful :)

      • Christine says:

        Thank you! I have always wondered about the contestants having access to recipes. No matter how amazing of a cook someone is, I can’t imagine just automatically knowing how to make some of these complicated dishes.

      • Gregory Wright says:

        WHAT? I refuse to believe that contestants don’t have complex recipes and techniques memorized before they even audition. Everyone knows how to make perfect soufflés. Everyone. You just stop spreading false information.

  14. Christine says:

    Like a few others have mentioned, I also thought it was strange that Luca & Jessie gave Graham’s dessert to James and what, to me, looked like the easiest dish to Natasha. It made me wonder if the producers influence those decisions, too.

    • Michael Chen says:

      I am not sure about that. I’m sure the producers can influence the INFORMATION presented to the challenge winners to help them make the decision (i.e. they may have WAY overhyped the difficulty of Gordon’s appetizer and told them that the Panna Cotta was super easy and should be given to somebody they like, knowing that they would have picked James). But the actual decision making still sits with the challenge winners themselves, I think.

    • Constance says:

      James was the weakest in sweet/dessert making. Luca and Jessie probably thought he was their biggest remaining threat because they seem to underestimate Natasha and Krissi. They hit their target.

  15. Silver says:

    I’m wondering if Masterchef season 5 is going to be more overly-dramatic than this season. By the way, are you considering doing recaps for season 5? Honestly, I do think Krissi is going to leave, probably because the audience wants her to go. I really hate how some people don’t realize the editing in this show and just say horrible things to people they don’t know. Who I believe would be the final 2 is Luca and Jessie. Although, Jessie is portrayed as the “perfect” and “innocent” on the show, I feel like Luca is going to win. Because he tried out last year but didn’t make it, and his audition for season 4 was..well, seemed more inspiring than the others? It’d be like, “If you want to want something, than you keep on trying” kind of thing and it’d be a tear-jerking moment or something. Plus, that would mean that a male won which some of the audience has wanted. But I feel like if they choose Jessie for the winner, it feels more fake. She seems nice and all but I haven’t really connected to her unlike Luca who has adorable and hilarious screen time. But perhaps, it’d be Jessie vs Nastasha or Luca vs Natasha because they might need a villain to fill Krissi’s place.

  16. Isla says:

    I can see why they thought Li’l Ramsay harassing Jessie was cute, but ICK! on multiple levels. (His attempting to pick good ingredients, while Li’l Elliot just went after the candy aisle? THAT was adorable.) I didn’t notice the unusually objectifying shots of her, but must have seen them – I remember thinking “damn, has she been standing on a cement floor in those shoes all day?”

    I guess I’m not really the target audience, but I liked James. It looked like he pulled his hair back to cook whenever he got the chance (even though he had to take it down all the time for the cameras). Hardly anyone does that, and nobody seems stupid, so I’m guessing that’s a battle most people don’t want to wage/risk screen time over. Is that a good enough reason? Personality is edited practically out of existence except some mostly-regional stereotype (with the east coast being the obvious choice for “jerk” and west for “vain”) so there’s not that much to go on.

    • thelungsofourcity says:

      Ha, as a female I thought about the shoes too. Some of Natasha’s super high heels look downright painful as well – I’d hate to have to stand around in them for hours! (And they look like they slow you down in getting to the pantry as well… when every second counts, or so we’re led to believe ;) )

      Boyfriend thinks he thought he saw Natasha in different shoes during the actual cooking process, though. Maybe the ladies only put them on for “presentation time” to go with whatever character the producers want them to present.

    • Michael Chen says:

      OMG I died when Little Elliot just was mesmerized by the candy. SO FREAKING ADORABLE hahahahaha.

    • Leah says:

      I noticed to shoes, too. I remember watching Natasha hobble around the pantry in four-inch heels. I am 100% certain she did NOT pick those shoes for herself.

    • Deborah says:

      I’ve noticed Jessie and some of the other women with hair pulled back when they’re in the background: I’m sure production makes them take it down for every chat with Graham 20 seconds.

      As for shoes, in the Deen challenge you can see Natasha has flats on for the actual cooking and serving, but heels for the intro and ending shots. In the ep that just aired, Jessie is in spikes for the first time in the kitchen, and tosses them (actually on camera!) to cook.

      • Michael Chen says:

        Interesting, I didn’t even notice that. Thanks for pointing that out!

      • Amy says:

        I had noticed the shoe thing too. I myself prefer to dress for comfort, not fashion, and I can wear heels for about 12 seconds before I want to kick them off. After reading Ben’s, and now Michael’s, recaps, and coming to understand how completely produced the show is, I wonder how much of how people are dressed is engineered. Natasha and Jessie are both pretty girls, but if I am headed into a kitchen to cook in a competition, I’m not going to dress up like I’m going out for a nice dinner date. Do they choose their clothing, or is their appearance “influenced” by production? Is it that important to make them “glam” enough for TV? I was actually surprised to see Jessie rushing around barefoot as she was cooking after tossing the heels. Definitely more comfy, but safer? I’ll bet if you work in one of Ramsay’s kitchens, he’d put your head on a skewer if you ditched your shoes halfway through service.

      • Michael Chen says:

        Appearances are definitely “influenced” by production, but the final decision rests on the contestants. Of course, if you are being difficult and refuse to follow any of the producer’s recommendations, then you will probably be eliminated very soon. I don’t think it’s ever gotten to that point tho. My outfit in the initial audition (sweatervest and polo? ick!) was requested by the producers, and though it’s not really my sense of style, I just ended up going with it and not making a big deal out of it.

  17. Lauren Wilson says:

    Kia Ora, I work at a pizza joint in Wellington, New Zealand (I watch Masterchef on youtube and the USA version is hilarious to watch compared to the NZ or Aus version especially giving the USA stereotypes used that NZ is subjected to only through television and news) and we always use green parsley on our meat pizzas. We have a pizza with lambshank and pumpkin – no greens at all but we always garnish. James dish needed something green – totally agree. Your blog is amazing and I love reading it, especially from someone who is in the know (and also who I thought was amazing in season 3) Thanks so much =D

    • Michael Chen says:

      Hello Lauren! Thanks for commenting! I’m excited to hear from a New Zealander and appreciate your kind words. Wish you the best!

      • Lauren Wilson says:

        Well after the season two of “stunning rack of NZ lamb” I continued to watch Masterchef (LOL not really that episode cracked me up seeing as they said stunning). Hope everything is going well for you! You are an inspiration!

  18. Minnesotan Commenter says:

    First, you’re doing wonderful job with these blogs!

    As for the show:

    1. As soon as James was eliminated, I said to my wife: “Well, looks like Luca wins this season.”

    A little jaded, I guess?

    2. As for James’s problems with the chicken, I couldn’t help but speculate if the producers occasionally deliberately sabotage the contestants. While it’s entirely possible that he genuinely undercooked the chicken, I couldn’t help but think that when setting up the mobile kitchen that the producers rigged his oven/range. I wouldn’t put it past them at this point to have the dial say 425, but the real temp is closer to 375.

    • Michael Chen says:

      That is also VERY possible. Like I said, the saddest thing about this show is that I don’t trust ANYTHING that it tries to pass as “reality” anymore.

    • Georgia says:

      Very good perspective. If you ever followed Hells Kitchen, there’s an episode where a young man called a “farmer” (note: not sous-chef or executive chef, but FARMER) walks out, because he got yelled at by Ramsay for not cooking mashed potatoes correctly. He runs a very successful restaurant in my hometown called The Fire Pit and recounted the story to my father when they visited. Apparently they will routinely turn down/off the heat on several of the units. He says that the heat on his unit kept turning off and I believe him.

  19. Trevor says:

    I was rooting for James out of the remaining because he has a relatability and likability factor, plus, he showed time and time again that he can cook. Alot of people on message boards were up in arms about him being explicitly told he was going into the top 4 and then they don’t eliminate anybody in the first half and in the second half they eliminate him. Krissi seemed way to elated about him leaving, but then again, I don’t know how they edit the show, so I can assume there is some MAJOR editing manipulation going on here. The reason I don’t think she will win is strictly because of business. I don’t like her personality, again probably because of editing. But she’s proven time and again she has the chops. But, unfortunately, people only know what they see on the show and from that alone, her book would be dead in the water. She has some fans, but not enough to sell the amount of books it would take to make a profit. As of right now, my money is either on Luca or Natasha

    • Michael Chen says:

      Precisely. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

    • Constance says:

      Sabotage by the producers? Perish the thought!
      The elation shown by Krissi over the elimination of James came off, to me at least, as totally phony. She is shown hating everyone when in reality she is friendly with many of the contestants including James and his wife. I’ve also noticed the same clips being shown over and over, in particular the clip of Krissi in tears. It’s been shown countless times in the coming attractions.

      • Leah says:

        I have come to believe that every.single.time she is shows cackling it is inserted from elsewhere in the shooting. The way she interacts with contestants during “down time” while the judges are talking makes it obvious that she isn’t as hateful as they make her out to be. She’s had friendly, tender moments with James, Natasha, Brie – pretty much everyone she’s complained about. I’m always happy when those moments show through.

        After reading Ben’s and Michael’s blogs and getting the inside knowledge on all the editing that goes on, I am rooting for Krissie to win. She is a solid home cook (which is what the contest is about – finding the best home cook in America) and she’s doing it all for the love of her son. But I know she won’t win. I just hope that something good comes out of it for her and her boy.

      • Michael Chen says:

        I think she will do well post-masterchef. You can’t keep a strong woman like her down :)

      • Christine says:

        I thought it was really telling when it came down to Krissi and Natasha and they made it look like Natasha was leaving. Krissi hugged her and said something like, “Give (can’t remember Natasha’s son’s name) a kiss for me.” You don’t say that to someone you hate.

  20. buzmeg says:

    So Michael, with three episodes to go (a double tonight and the finale next week) who do you predict will be the final two and the ultimate winner.

    • Michael Chen says:

      I already have a somewhat credible source that tells me who the winner is, so it would not be fair for me to divulge that information. All I would know for sure, even if I didn’t have this inside information, is that Krissi is most certainly NOT going to win, and it’s highly likely that she would be eliminated tonight.

  21. MaryAnn says:

    Oh my Michael, I am watching MC tonight and I do NOT envy you writing the recap of this episode! I’m at the part where I thought a physical fight was going to break out. Wow. I do think that if Krissi could learn to hold her temper she could be a valuable addition to a restaurant’s kitchen staff, but she can’t have that type of attitude. I hope she gets a good job from the exposure she’s been given as she can cook. Good luck with your recap and thanks in advance!

    • Constance says:

      Krissi said she has no interest in working in a restaurant kitchen. The tension, stress, fast pace, it’s not for everyone. But she has big plans and wants to work for herself. She seems to be doing well with the cupcake/cheesecake business.

      • Michael Chen says:

        All power to her. Ben is the same way. He would NEVER EVER want to be a restaurant chef. I drag him kicking and screaming to come work for me every time I need his help with an event!

  22. Georgia says:

    James was so setup it is maddening. I turned to my husband and said that there’s no way James is lasting past the next episode when they clearly backed out on eliminating someone from the challenge he had selected. It got screwed plain and simple. I signed off mentally at that point.

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