Masterchef 4 Quick Recap: Finale (S4E25)

Finally, after what seems like forever, I click on the last episode of MasterChef on Hulu. This may honestly have been one of the most difficult episodes for me to watch. I will try to keep this brief.

The finale starts off, and we notice some things that are different this time compared to last year. There are large, stadium style TV screens mounted high up. And there are two risers filled with audience members. The initial thought was that it was the top 18, but there are way too many of them and the top 18 is later revealed to be in the balcony. Then there was the thought that it was the top 100, but A) there isn’t enough of them, B) there are no familiar faces, and no quotes/lines/comments from all of those colorful personalities, and C) I remember reading a comment on Facebook saying that it wasn’t the top 100, and that they were brought in. Seeing as how it’s HIGHLY unlikely that they brought in legitimate fans from the street (and even if they did, how the heck would they know what to do without watching the previous episodes/following the storylines), I would probably guess that they hired seat fillers (commonplace in other TV shows where they want it to appear like there is a large and engaging audience) to play the role of background cheerleaders. IF that’s the case (and I have no proof), then all I can say is this: LAME.

Then comes the big family reveal. It was a very sweet moment, but marred in my mind for one reason. Take a look at this comment from Adriana Crnjac (Natasha’s Mom):

This message is from your mom.

It has been extremely difficult but I have restrained myself from posting any comments on any social media up to now.
Over the duration of MC4, I have read many kind and encouraging comments from your fans and supporters and would like to take this opportunity to extend my appreciation to all of them.
In total disbelief, I have also read some of the comments from haters who do not know the real you nor the scripting and editing on MC4 that contestants have alluded to through postings on the social media.

I am disclosing below what may come as a surprise to you, it has been bottling up in my chest since the 2-day duration taping of the finale back in April. I can not hold it any longer, I have to let go of it.

I was informed by a casting manager 2 days in advance of the taping of the finale that the producers, for financial reasons, had declined to fly your oldest brother in from France.
It felt like a stab with a dagger deep in my heart when I heard Gordon Ramsay during the taping announce, and to add insult to injury by special introduction, that Masterchef flew in 2 members of Luca’s family in from Italy for the finale. Yet, they deprived you of the same courtesy for just 1 family member.
Your brother Alen was present for the taping of the finale but what you may not know is that he flew into LA on his own accord.

The above described occurrence and evident favoritism led me to immediately suspect that MC4 may be rigged and that your performance in the finale may prove to be futile. I realized the distinct possibility that Luca was pre-determined to win.

Furthermore, I witnessed numerous occurrences during the course of the 2-day duration taping of the finale which strongly reinforces my suspicion. It is not appropriate nor will I disclose the details in this posting but I trust the right time and place will present itself in the near future for a full disclosure of my own personal experience with MC4 and the finale.

It is my understanding that all contestants signed stringent contracts and you probably can not nor do I expect any response on the above from you.

I know first-hand how seriously you took MC4, the preparation effort and the sacrificing choice to tear yourself from Robert and Diego. Robert was and continues to be an incredibly supportive husband making it all possible.

According to the elimination table on Wikipedia it appears you were the most consistent contestant on MC4. I congratulate you for your determination, perseverance and amazing journey. You have every reason to hold your head high and though you were declared the runner-up, you may have been the more deserving winner. Many others share the same sentiment.

Personally I hold no grudge against Luca. To the contrary I sincerely wish him the best of luck and may the Masterchef trophy open avenues to him in the future. I can not fault him for the possible misdeeds of others.

You have demonstrated on MC4 that you are a home cook with an incredible culinary talent and I wish you all the best in your future culinary endeavors. Good luck with a cookbook in the future too.

With lots of love, your mom.

These are powerful, heartfelt words. I would be LIVID after that incident where MC refused to fly out her brother and then flaunted the fact that they flew out TWO of Luca’s family members from Italy. Take a moment and ponder those words before you attack Natasha (or for that matter, ANYBODY). This is just a small but telling glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes.

As they announce the family members that they have flown in, I am surprised that they didn’t fly in Luca’s mother, who played such a touching role in his audition during Season 3.

The format for the finale this year is a little bit different. Apparently they will get one hour each to make a “stunning” appetizer, entree, and dessert. This is FAR simpler than the finale last year, where Josh and Christine had only two hours TOTAL to execute the three course meal. The amount of multitasking and organization required to work on three dishes at once is definitely challenge, and I can’t help but feel that the finalists have it easy this time around. Honestly, one hour for each course is a tremendous amount of time.

For those of you that are thinking that Natasha and Luca are coming up with their dishes on the spot as they spend their 10 minutes in the pantry, come on! You should know better. The contestants plan their menus extensively in the days before the finale, and even meet with Sandee the culinary manager to ensure that the ingredients they would like to use are present in the pantry (including foie gras, I mean, “duck liver”).

Let’s just go into the actual dishes. Both dishes sound a little bizarre to me. Natasha’s scallop with seaweed, couscous, and cauliflower puree just sounds like a bizarre combination. It’s a huge risk, and it doesn’t sound like there is much of a payoff. In my mind, I’m picturing those flavors and textures together and they go together “okay” at best. But then again I put cheddar cheese and apples together so what do I know???

Luca’s Seared Foie Gras (I’m just going to call it what it is) with toasted brioche and caramelized peaches sounds really simple. I’m really not convinced that the technique on display is all that impressive, considering that he has an HOUR to do…what exactly? Toast some bread? Caramelize some peaches? Sear some foie? Make a chutney? The only somewhat tricky thing is searing the foie, because you want it to be cooked through and melt-in-your-mouth luscious, but overcooking it will render it down to almost nothing since it is predominant fat. Still, it’s a fairly straightforward task that any cook with a moderate attention to detail can do, and certainly not something that I would expect Luca or Natasha to struggle with. I also question his use of Asian pear in the chutney. Asian pear has two distinct characteristics: its crispness and delicate sweetness, almost reminiscent of watermelon. I would NEVER eat Asian pear anyway but raw, or maybe in a sorbet (mmmmmmm, that sounds super refreshing). I’m not saying that it’s a cardinal sin to put it in a chutney, but there are way better fruits, and even other pears that would hold up much better in a chutney. ESPECIALLY if he was trying to make a tart, acidic chutney (like what he told Joe it was). It’s just an odd choice.

The judges love both of the dishes (they kinda have to at this point anyways). Luca’s appetizer is certainly rich, and with the tweak of one or two components it could be a KILLER dessert (dress up the brioche into french toast maybe, and turn the chutney into a fruit compote?). Foie is one of those incredible ingredients that can tie sweet to savory exceptionally well. The judges all love it, even though Gordon said that the foie should have been cooked a little bit more. The judges all love Natasha’s dish as well. Her scallops are cooked beautifully, and they seem to like the combination of components. On paper, it looks like Natasha has the advantage for this round.

We move on to the entrees, and Luca is doing short ribs in the pressure cooker with a tamarind glaze, served with mushrooms, truffle-sunchoke (potato-like starchy root) puree. The judges question his ability to get the meat done in time, but since I work with pressure cookers regularly, I know that the meat will be done in approximately 35 minutes so as long as he gets the meat in early, he should be fine. It sounds delicious. Natasha is doing monkfish (a protein that admittedly I have never tasted before). She rubs it with five spice, and wraps it in caul fat to sear it. Definitely a smart move. Graham tries to gross the audience out by holding up the sheet of caul fat and pointing out the fact that it’s stomach lining, but Natasha is unfazed. He says that this is something that nobody does, but I can already think of two separate instances where I have seen this EXACT same technique used with monkfish on cooking shows. She is serving the monkfish with mango infused rice with a coconut curry sauce. It sounds phenomenal as well.

Everything proceeds along with no major mishaps. They both finish the plates, and they both look beautiful.  Natasha’s portion perhaps looks a little small for an entree, and Graham criticized the monkfish for being too hot and spicy. Which is completely weird because five spice isn’t a particular spicy (in a peppery sort of way). It’s more sweet, with the cinnamon and star anise, than anything else. Perhaps he is talking about the curry sauce? Gordon says that the curry sauce needs coconut milk, even though I’m pretty certain that Natasha did in fact put coconut milk in the curry sauce (she did say it was a coconut curry after all). Perhaps he meant to say that there should have been more.

The feedback for Luca’s dish is really weird. Ramsay starts off by lamenting about how rich it is and how it can give somebody a heart attack, but then pulls it back into the positive on how it would be his last meal. My suspicion is that the dish was indeed very rich, and Ramsay started off in that area, before the production voices in his earpiece steered him back more towards the positive spectrum, since otherwise Natasha would have had a clear advantage. I don’t know how much butter or cream he put in the sunchoke truffle puree, but I can see why that could be a problem. It’s still an amazing dish though. I LOVE short ribs (they are favorite cut of meat). Give me those over a filet mignon ANY day of the week.

Dessert round time, and BOTH of the contestants are making panna cottas. Kind of a weird choice, since you don’t have much time to make and chill them in an hour (unless they used that blast chiller). Luca is making an incredibly odd sounding caprese panna cotta dessert, with basil panna cotta, tomato jam (caramelized in brown sugar), mascarpone cream, and….granulated sugar? (He later calls it “granulated basil”. This is definitely the WEIRDEST thing I’ve ever seen Luca make on the show, and I wonder if he chose to make this dish on his own or if the producers encouraged him to do something incredibly outside of the box. There are a few ingredients in this world that I do not think belong in desserts: mushrooms, any meat besides bacon or its equivalent, soy sauce/fish sauce, garlic/onions/alliums in general, basically anything that is intensely savory. Tomato probably falls close to that category, and unless it’s a SUPER sweet tomato, I can’t really picture myself conceptualizing a dessert and thinking to myself “I know just what that dessert needs! Some tomato!!” haha.

Natasha is making a yogurt panna cotta (sounds awfully like Graham’s dessert that one challenge) duo with coconut and lime, along with assorted garnishes including a passion fruit puree. This sounds really similar to Christine’s dessert last year, with many of the same flavors. In fact, the menus of Natasha and Luca have very similar characteristics to the menus of Christine and Josh. Christine had a lighter, more balanced menu, with lots of Asian flavors (same with Natasha). Josh had heavier, more classic dishes and while each dish may have been good on its own, putting the three of them into a menu progression may be excessive (similar to comments about Luca’s dishes so far, minus the dessert). It’s just an interesting thing to notice.

Luca starts to panic because he didn’t strain his panna cotta base. He starts to panic and insists that he needs to start over again. I am dumbfounded. Am I missing something? Why couldn’t he have, I dunno, STRAINED THE PANNA COTTA BASE right then and there instead of starting all over? Granted, I don’t make many panna cottas but I can’t think of a single reason that something as simple as that wouldn’t have solved the problem. Help me out guys? I mean even if he had dissolved the gelatin in it already or whatever, assuming the base wasn’t cold yet I feel like it would have been completely fine to just strain it out then and there. Maybe I’m just a complete fool that doesn’t know anything about panna cotta (which really is not much more than glorified creamy jello), but it seems like starting over from scratch would have been a waste.

Natasha’s lime panna cotta sets WAY too firm, so she decides not to use them (smart) and uses two of the coconut panna cotta portions instead.

The desserts are served, and while Natasha’s plate looks beautiful again (her presentations during the finale have been phenomenal), the panna cotta did look kinda small on the plate as a central component. Gordon points that out, wishing there were more.

Luca’s dessert is served, and it’s another awkward period of judging where I can’t tell if the judges ACTUALLY like it or not. Gordon again starts of with a bizarre statment that the dish is really more savory than sweet. For a dessert? Okay… Joe’s reaction is also peculiar, and honestly his advice to layer the stuff really doesn’t make much if any sense. It really isn’t very difficult to get a little bit of everything in one bite, Joe. You have this thing called a spoon. And if the basil panna cotta were on top, the presentation would be awful. All peculiarities aside, they claim that it works, and that they are impressed.

There really isn’t much else to say. Luca wins, and we are reminded of why he won in the first place. You just can’t dislike the guy. He’s too endearing of a figure. Similar to Christine last season, almost nobody has the heart to root against him, and so having him win was the perfect way to finish the season from a PR standpoint, because while there are certainly some disappointed Natasha fans, nobody is legitimately angry or upset. Contrast that with how crazy people would get is Krissi won. Now you see why she never had a chance to win, especially after being cast as the villain.

Natasha maintains her composure well in the aftermath after discovering that all of her sacrifice and hard work were for nothing, at least on paper. Perhaps she could sense that the victory was firmly in Luca’s grasp before the judging even started. I’ve gained a lot of respect for Natasha. especially after reading her mom’s heartfelt comments. It must be awful for a family member to see their loved ones get mistreated, not only by the producers but by the viewers via social media. She to me is clearly THE most talented cook in the competition, possibly ever. The food that she cooks is exotic, beautiful, creative, and I’m absolutely DYING to taste some of her food someday. Then again, she could fetch such high prices for it (especially if she opens shop out in California someday) that I probably couldn’t even afford it anyways :P.

As for Luca, he is also a phenomenal guy and great chef. A genuinely nice guy, and filled with so much enthusiasm. When I was planning my brunch with him, his texts were filled with enough exclamation marks to caption my reaction to watching a horror movie. He’s a tremendously likable guy, and I wish him all the best as the winner of the MasterChef crown. NOW is when your MasterChef journey truly begins. I LOVE classic Italian food, and can’t wait to try some of his too someday :).

And so ends my MasterChef journey. From this point out in the future, I will no longer keep up with the show on a regular basis. Not only has watching it become unenjoyable (who wastes their time watching a TV show they don’t like??), but it has become downright painful. I pushed through to the end because I wanted to have some closure on this season’s blogs. But honestly, aside from catching glimpses of stuff related to the show on social media and whatnot, I have no intention of following the show at all next season, ESPECIALLY if the rumor that the contestants will be housed in dorms with cameras (a la Hell’s Kitchen) pans out for added backstabbing and drama. I just can’t.

Some of you guys have been upset at me, saying the blog has become a place for show-bashing and that it makes you feel stupid for liking the show, and calling me and Ben hypocrites for benefiting so much from the show and now condemning it. And to respond to that, I simply point you to this comment from a fan.  (Small changes in brackets, because stating that nothing is real in this world is perhaps a slight exaggeration haha)

I have to honestly admit when I started out reading these comments and this blog, I was ready to bash Ben and you, Michael, about bashing Masterchef, but yet reaping the benefits of your popularity because of the show. I no longer feel like doing that. After what I read from Natasha’s mom, Masterchef deserves to be bashed, and I am almost in tears in regards to the cruelty of the world in regards to the almighty dollar. Why would they do that to Natasha’s brother? I don’t understand. Why would they take people’s dreams and reduce them to dollars? I don’t understand. Why would they continue to think the public is so stupid? I don’t understand. I don’t understand anything in [the reality tv] world anymore, and I think my days of being an avid reality tv fan are over. Nothing is real in [the reality tv] world

I will probably check out MC Juniors just out of sheer curiosity, but if it ends up being anything like regular MC then that won’t last long either. Future Season Fivers, feel free to contact me if you have any questions :)

Thank you all for coming along for the ride! It was a wild one, wasn’t it? I will continue to write blogs periodically to try and keep you guys entertained on other, less depressing subjects. I’m going to do my best to publish one a week: keep me accountable and pester me if I forget, please! :).

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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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65 Responses to Masterchef 4 Quick Recap: Finale (S4E25)

  1. Minnesota Commenter says:

    Wow, Luca won, I’m totally surprised!

    Also, wow, the sun rose in the east this morning! That was unexpected!

    I’m not bashing Luca – he seems like a great guy and I think his dishes looked better than Natasha’s. It’s just that the show was so damn over produced that it was pathetic. At least in Season 2 you could sort of pretend that it wasn’t all predetermined. However, in seasons 3 and 4 you could tell the producers said:

    Season 3: “The cute blind Asian is going to win this year.”

    Season 4: “Okay, the amiable second-chance foreigner is going to win now.”

    My wife and I are almost certainly going to take a pass on season 5. However, we might just buy Luca’s cookbook.

    • Michael Chen says:

      Wait….I thought sometimes the sun rose from the west! Oh nevermind, that’s just when I get up from the wrong side of the bed.

      Indeed, Luca is a great guy that doesn’t deserve any hate. His style of simple but elegant home cooking is in line with the cooking styles of EVERY single previous winner.

      • Minnesota Commenter says:

        The sun can also “rise” in the west if you get up at the crack of noon (ah, college, how I miss it).

        I also want to note that the above “producer quotes” don’t mirror my own outlook on either Luca or Christine, but are more of a cynical look into the minds of the producers – or, at least, how I believe they think.

        I thought Luca was very likable. Christine, too. They also both seem like genuinely great cooks.

        Damn it, now I want food.

  2. Nice recap! I don’t think I will be watching any more Masterchef. I will check updates on Wikipedia. If I have to watch Masterchef, it will be to support the contestants. I wish Natasha, Luca, Krissi, Jessie, and all the other past and future Masterchef contestants the best of luck in whatever career they intend to pursue. That being said, I hope that Masterchef Junior is less like Masterchef. I hope that the kids are not mistreated in any way. Not that anyone deserves to be mistreated. By the way, did Christine ever do anything funny during the show or when you were hanging out with her after the show aired?

  3. Jason says:

    …What rumor about there being cameras in dorms next season? I must be frank. What kind of bullshit is this? Ugh…

  4. I’m torn on whether or not I want to watch season five. I feel like I will always want to come back to it as long as it’s on because I’ve been watching it since season one. It’s like having an attachment to something you shouldn’t have, but you can’t help it, haha.

  5. Andrea says:

    I’m skipping future seasons for the sake of what little sanity I have left. And I am very thankful for your insight of this drama-ridden season. If you ask me, it’s high time you got away from the MC chaos and take a well-needed break from it.

    To be honest, I think MC Junior’s going to be even worse in the drama department than the adult version, for the simple reason that kids can be crueler than adults. I’ll just focus on getting a job and let it pass.

    Once again, thank you for these excellent recaps, Michael. You’re not only a very talented cook and a guy with an awesome heart, but you can also add very talented writer to your list of good features! ;)

    • Michael Chen says:

      I sure hope MC Junior is a little bit nicer, just because kids are so vulnerable and can be really emotionally fragile (I was tremendously so at that age), and manipulating them too much can cause emotional/psychological damage that may follow them for the rest of their lives.

      Aww, well thanks. I actually really love to write, so long as it’s on a subject that I care about and have opinions on, and I have an audience to share what I wrote with.

      • Andrea says:

        Emotional fragility can be a factor (at least regarding the judges), but bullying is always an usual occurrence anywhere, and unless it’s properly dealed with, I fear for the kids that may be more sensitive.

  6. Leslie says:

    Unfortunately I thought MasterChef was real. Your and Ben’s blogs on this show have opened my eyes that it is not. Natasha’s performance throughout the whole season was amazing.The only time she was at the bottom was her eggs benedict. I was a Natasha fan and still am. I am with Natasha’s mom I thoroughly believe from the start the producers knew they were going to have Luca win. It also makes Joe’s comment to him at the beginning of the season even more telling.

  7. MaryAnn says:

    Michael thank you very much for continuing until the end of the season. You and Ben both gave me a much deeper understanding of the show and I appreciate it. I can’t wait to see where the love of food that you and Ben share, in addition to the overall kindness and wonderful attitudes you both have, will take you in the future!

  8. Christina says:

    It wasn’t that hard to guess the winner of this season. I’ll admit I haven’t watched the first 2 seasons of MC, but even before and then after reading Ben’s blog post about MC having all those interviews in between each take and psychologists analyzing the contestants (really?), I could just tell this was just another scripted show being easily manipulated by the producers. Of course they want the foreigner with a second chance to win, America is the land of making dreams come true, right?

    Don’t get me wrong, I was cheering Luca on this season, along with a couple of others, but when it became apparent how UNreal everything was… watching him getting crowned, personally as a viewer, it was unsatisfying. Even I thought Natasha was probably more deserving as I know she’s been the most consistent and iron-fisted out of all the contestants. After reading that comment from her mom, that only confirms, in my mind, that MC is rigged now (so if you don’t have a good/heartwarming story for TV, don’t even try).

    I also noticed that the producers toned down Natasha a LOT, probably after they realized she could make it all the way to the end. I mean, nobody wants to buy a cookbook from an obnoxious winner (or the terrible bully, as the show has cruelly made Krissi out to be).

    I’m glad Christine won, I’m glad Luca won, but I am undeniably disappointed in how the MC producers have gone about it, especially this season. (And I’m totally convinced the judges ALWAYS shop at Walmart, har har.) My friends are excited about MCjrs, but I personally am burnt out from MC. At this point, I think I’d rather stick pins in my eyes before watching another MC episode (which I could probably fastforward 4x and finish in 15 minutes too). I am done with MasterChef.

  9. Jenny says:

    Thank you Michael…I appreciate your willingness to watch and recap the show. I must admit I would rather have a roof canal without anesthetic than watch MC again. Unfortunately, I kinda figured that Luca would win–and as nice as he seems, I was disappointed to see that happen. As irritating and haughty as they made Natasha in the beginning, Luca definitely seemed to only skate through the middle of the pack. Natasha made bold choices, and had some very big victories. It seemed like she was much more deserving of a win, if the winner was to be judged based solely on what we’ve seen thus far, she would have won by a long shot.

    Thank you for publishing Natasha’s mom’s comments. I hope we get to see the whole story from her, as well as more from you and Ben as to what really happened behind the scenes of MC. People get caught up in the drama of reality tv and forget those are real people being exploited for a profit, and your experience has helped to illuminate that in the biggest way possible. Best wishes to you and all the others that have been wronged by that junk show.

  10. Gregory Wright says:

    I liked Luca’s menu better in this particular challenge. Natasha certainly did same amazing cooking and will undoubtably go on to do some great things.

  11. Thanks for the blogging. What a horrible show. I am so ashamed of Gordon Ramsay. I expect better from him. His British shows are all so much more genuine (at least they seem that way) and he seems like such a truly decent person. Sad he’s allowed himself to be part of this hateful crap.

    • Michael Chen says:

      Gordon ramsay has little to do with the actual production decisions of the show. He’s a consultant at best. Then again, he COULD refuse to do the show, but money speaks quite loudly this day and age. I’m sure he’s getting well into the seven figures for his time on MasterChef.

  12. Melina says:

    Please correct me if I’m wrong:
    At the beginning of this season, I didn’t think they mentioned the cookbook as one of the prizes (just the $$ and trophy). However, in the last few episodes, they were certainly talking about the cookbook, even having one with a mock cover of the top 3.
    Is this something they decided on halfway through the season? Did they wait until they got viewer numbers and realized that Luca had enough fans that would make a cookbook worthwhile?
    Or, was the cookbook mentioned this season right from the start (like MC3) and I totally missed it!?! (which is a strong possibility). :D

    • Michael Chen says:

      I thought that was the case too! In fact, I just rewatched the initial audition, and the judges presented the money…the trophy….and the apron. I wonder when the contestants themselves were informed of the book though. None of them looked surprised when the book was first mentioned casually in an earlier episode (I forget which one).

      • bobby927 says:

        If memory serves me, I believe Ben Starr touched upon the book not being originally in the mix; then being added along the way. I also believe he mentioned something about the marketability of the contestants being a reason for a yes/no decision.

  13. Gene MD says:

    I am very impressed with your blogs and follow up with Ben’s eariler posts on MC4. I though that this years top 10 were all excellent chiefs in their own right, and do follow their FB/MC4 posts as well. Most seem to be doing well and will follow thier careers in cooking and many have started cooking blogs like yours. This is where the true cooking aspects come to light so that others can learn from the best, not just one winner.

    Like many, I find the staging by the producers to gain ratings to be the failing of this show. Other forgien MC formats like OZ/NZ/Israel/India are much more structured to talent and skill, vice drama for the American market. I would rather buy the books of these winners on Amazon and skip the drama and ratings all together.

    I see you touched on the obvious pre-loading and preperation of the final menus for the last two. It just looked too staged and the food looked too perfect for a competition on the fly. I know it all looked and tasted excellent. But this is not home cooking, but more along the lines of a professional resturant cook off. Very few can do this at home or even afford this type of meal, except on ocassion. Why does it have to be 5-Star presentation? I have eat at many 5-Star places in the world and still felt that something was lacking. I would rather have that personal touch from a small couples resturant that seats 4 tables only once a night. The food is absolutly perfect and this is a very common venue in Europe. The key is to make a meal from less, not from everything in the cabinet.

    Also, with the three excellent judges, their is no way to get past their pre-judgements. Other MC countries rotate out the judges with different expertise cooking styles. Gordon should anchor MC/USA, but their are other 5-Star chiefs.

    I hope you publish your cooking book,, as I follow your blogs/FB, and your approach is vey good.

    Gene MD

    • Michael Chen says:

      Thanks Gene! The main problem with me writing a cookbook is that I hardly ever write down or use exact recipes. I almost always take what’s available and go by feel and instinct, rather than exact measurements and careful steps, to put out a finished product. That kind of cooking style is difficult to convey in a cookbook! But it’s definitely possible that I might write a book in the future.

  14. Maria says:

    Thank you and Ben for such great and insightful recaps. I enjoyed them b/c they made me step back and not get caught up with the drama and reafirm what I’ve always thought since season 2 – It’s all rigged. Which reminds me, didn’t Adrian get reprimanded for using a pressure cooker during season 2′s finale. When the judges said nothing about Luca using the pressure cooker, it confirmed what I knew all along – Luca would be the next Masterchef (actually I knew when he beat Kathy b/c my husband and I both thought that she had the better dish).

    I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the concept of using people for your own monetary gain. Some of the things being said to these contestants (especially Krissi and Natasha) are so horrible! These are human beings for heaven’s sake!!! They’re not made up characters (that I know of ;))! Reading the constant attacks on Krissi and Natasha’s twitter, reading your comment about how Ryan from your season doesn’t instagram his food (I think that’s what you said) and Josh’s psychological breakdown (I’m sure Masterchef wasn’t the direct cause, but I’m it helped trigger it) really hurts my heart. At the end of the day these people have to get back to their lives. I’m sure it’s brought successes to some, but imagine what it must feel like to read daily death threats on your Twitter and Facebook page.

    Like countless others have stated on your blog, this will be the last time I watch this show. I can’t watch a show that makes money by taking advantage of people for entertainment. I will, however, continue to follow you and Ben b/c you are both such awesome people :D!

    • MaryAnn says:

      Maria I couldn’t agree more with what you said about these are people having to return to their “real” lives. They don’t deserve the hate that was heaped on them via Twitter and Facebook.

      This sort of thing really worries me, the hate shown to MC contestants via social media because our youngest daughter is an excellent home cook and has wanted to try out now for 2 years. I tried to hook her on these blogs so she could read for herself, but it didn’t work. While we’d love to see he succeed, I don’t think MC is the way to do it. For those that could handle it I say more power to you, but it seems a terrible price to pay. I just wish people had some idea what they were getting into beforehand.

      • Michael Chen says:

        If your daughter really wants to try out, you can direct her to me so that I can help answer any questions she might have. Whether that helps or hurts her chances though, I can’t guarantee :).

      • MaryAnn says:

        Thank you for your extremely kind offer Michael! If the day comes when she is ready to take the plunge, I will ask her to contact you!

    • Maria says:

      Oooops! One more thought. The psychologists who take part in this show should be ashamed of themselves. Psychologists are supposed to help people not put them in situations that could cause psychological harm! Sorry, just had to put that last thought out there ;)

    • Michael Chen says:

      Thanks Maria! That hurt you feel in your heart is the pain I feel when I watch MasterChef, which is why I don’t want to subject myself to it any longer. I have a lot of empathy for people, even people I don’t like, and I don’t like seeing ANYBODY suffer.

  15. Razercook says:

    Bye bye Michael and Ben, thanks for all the updates. You guys are amazing.

    I think Graham’s vote was for Natasha, I especially liked his description of her appetizer (oceanscape), in fact they should have gone for a draw, if it was that close to call. Even though I was happy for Luca, seeing how manufactured it all was made me sad that the producers have such a low opinion of our ability as an audience to watch an honest to goodness genuine competition and appreciate the winner.

    • Michael Chen says:

      Well, people that watch the show in the manner than you, I, Ben, and most of the readers of the blog do are in the minority of audience members. Most people watch the show for mindless entertainment, and take whatever is presented to them as fact. Few people watch the show and actually engage their minds to THINK.

      • bobby927 says:

        The key word here is “watch.” Even if you watch the show as a hater in order to criticize all that goes on, you are contributing to positive ratings. In order to hurt these shows, DON’T WATCH THEM and send letters to the sponsors expressing your displeasure. There is no other way. The bottom line is ratings and ratings = $$.

  16. Beatrice says:

    Hi Michael! You might wanna watch Masterchef China(trust me on this one). It’s the same minus all the bitching and backstabbing. Plus it’s heartwarming to see the contestants cheer each other on, much more than you see in the US version. It’s way way better:) I think I MIGHT do a complete switch if Gordon Ramsay hosted it though;)

    • Michael Chen says:

      There’s a MasterChef China?!?!?! LOL. How can I watch it? And are there english subtitles? I don’t know a lot of food terms in Chinese, haha.

      • Beatrice says:

        Hahaha yupp there is! I watched it on channel u( I’m Singaporean btw;) ) but there aren’t subs on the channel, so I just try to understand the food items from what’s shown. Maybe you could find it from where you watched the US version?:)

      • Beatrice says:


  17. Tom says:

    to be fair, these kind of shows can lead to a lot of things:
    you can become a figure of public interest
    you can meet people who really might be helpful
    you might win money, cars, book deals
    it can potentially change your life (while I have heard it too often this is the one sentence I totally believe in; “the life changing experience”…for good or for worse obviously)
    it might show you some kinds of answers…
    I am not sure if some of the contestants who are able to earn their money in the industry now would have been without the show…
    The question is at what cost?? On the other hand I have been struggling with an university degree and have suffered a lot with strange “decisions” and the whole system…might not have been worth all the anger and punishment either.

    • Michael Chen says:

      Exactly, you can definitely benefit but at what cost? Historically for MOST of the contestants, the cost far outweighs the benefit.. Ben and I, and a few other contestants like Tracy Kontos (S2), Sharone Hakman (S1), Monti Carlo (S3), etc have benefited, but there are definitely many others that have not. Even for people like me, that have benefited, the culture of reality TV production is still pretty repulsive to me.

  18. Thank you for finishing the updates for this season. I, like you, became frustrated with the story of the show this year and I could not bring myself to watch the last few episodes, so thank you for saving me the trouble of doing so. It makes me sad that this is what the show has become. Instead of a platform for celebrating culinary creativity, it has delved into yet another show to expose the worst in its contestants. I watched an episode from the first season recently and counted the number of dishes that were featured on the show and compared it the number of dishes that were featured this season. Even the amount of actual cooking that is shown has greatly diminished. I am glad that so many contestants like yourself have benefitted from participating and I still enjoy the re-watching the episodes from the old seasons. Best of luck in your new career.

  19. David says:

    Masterchef Australia is the one to watch if you’re a Masterchef fan. None of this backstabbing business, none of this “zomg so and so is the villian and a bitch to boot”, it’s all happy days and everyone helps each other.
    Videos are streamed online on the Masterchef Australia website,, but from what I’ve heard, and inherently can’t confirm, from people outside Australia, it’s available to Australian IP address’ only.

  20. Melanie says:

    Thanks for hanging in there Michael!! I appreciate the openness you and Ben have shared. It speaks volumes for not just the production drama for the show, but for the media, and popular opinion, in general. The tactics used by the producers are tactics that are used in the media and by governments to sway public opinion one way or another. It’s all propaganda. So I am thankful for your bringing clarity to the manipulative psychology behind the show. Although your writing was about the show, in a larger context, I believe it was more of life recaps and reminders. How many times have we made decisions, not based on our own personal knowledge of a thing or a person, but relying on popular opinion? And then, how many times have we found out later that what we were told was actually quite different from reality? For me it was a reminder to step outside of the prevailing “noise” and take back my ability to decide for myself who I should like or dislike.

    I have watched the Australian versions of both the adults and the children’s Master Chef. The shows were as a lot less manufactured, a lot less polished and a lot less drama. I can’t watch the American version anymore. For once I was blind, but now I see! :)

  21. Naomi says:

    Hi Michael – thanks to you and Ben for your commentary and opening up our eyes to what goes on behind the cameras. Masterchef Canada recently held auditions across the country and is starting in the new year. There is no Ramsay involved up here, but I wonder how much fixing there will be given I know which company is funding the production. It’s disheartening because I know so many great home cooks who could do well if they were given such an opportunity, but I suppose that’s television for you. I can’t wait to see what you and Ben do next. I’ll still be stopping by your sites to “borrow” recipes, though. Thanks! PS – have you ever thought of being a television critic on the side? ;)

  22. CC says:

    First time poster, nice recap, Michael, and I am really curious about this whole editing process far more than I am about the food, since there are never any tutorials on the show. Sorry you and Ben won’t be covering that part all that much, because it was actually my favourite part.

    Re: tomato in deserts

    Tomato jam is incredibly popular where I come from and a lot of people serve it with cottage cheese (although pumpkin jam is more popular for that, but happens to be the same concept: you sweeten a “fruit” that really has no sweetness in it). You just have to make sure you use extremely ripe tomatoes, and the varieties where you can easily scald their peel off in hot water. Salad tomatoes simply won’t do.

  23. Deborah says:

    Luca cooked fish wrapped in caul fat for the family visit dishes. It was inspired by his first date with his wife. So one of the shows you’ve seen that technique on was this one.

  24. Jo says:

    On the subject of MC flying Luca’s family members and not Natasha’s brother, I’ve always believed there are two sides of the coin. Like how MC will edit shows to portray certain contestants in a specific way, it’s hard to give judgement over a situation especially in showbiz. Looking at the finale, it looks like Natasha’s family is pretty much local except for her oldest brother who was in France while Luca had only his wife who brought along their friends. Flying in his sister and father, meant he had at least two family members with him. But like you said, it’s odd why his mother wasn’t there though maybe MC was only able to extend the “generosity” in limited amounts. In that case, who knows, maybe MC flew in Natasha’s other family members from across the country and hence didn’t have any budget left for her brother in France? There are definitely a lot of possibilities and it’s hard to pass judgement based on the post by Natasha’s mother. Favouritism or rigging could’ve been involved or maybe not.

    Also, I’ve just recalled, but I believe they flew in someone else’s mother from Israel in the earlier seasons and he didn’t win the contest.

    Now, I’m not defending MC but rather just saying to take a look at this from another perspective. I do somewhat understand how Reality TV works (I’ve been in one before, too) and it’s definitely not
    as straightforward as people believe it to be. Forgive me if I’ve stepped on anyone’s toes or offend anyone, but just wanted to add a couple of cents of my own. =)

    But putting all that aside, thanks for the recaps, Michael. Have thoroughly enjoyed them by you and Ben!

    • Melanie says:

      Excellent point Jo!

    • Rachel says:

      In an interview, Luca said his mother couldn’t come because she had to take care of his grandmother.

    • Michael Chen says:

      Thanks! That is definitely true and something to consider, but it doesn’t change the fact that Natasha’s mother must have felt awful after having to fork over thousands of dollars to fly in her brother and have the fact that MC flew in Luca’s family members (multiple!) from Italy paraded in front of her. Since Natasha’s family is mostly local, I am pretty certain that the travel budget for Luca’s family was FAR greater than what was spent to get Natasha’s family on set. Of course, I can’t say for sure. But had I been in Natasha’s camp, I would have been pretty upset.

    • Adriana Crnjac says:

      For your information.

      MC4 flew in 5 members of Natasha’s family from Arizona and 1 friend from California (which is not exactly from across the country). Natasha’s husband drove from San Diego with the baby. They declined to fly in her brother from France.

      By comparison MC4 flew in 8 members of Luca’s family (yes family on his wife’s side and a cousin) from New York and the East Coast (which really is from across the country) + 2 family members from Italy (which is across the globe).

      Let’s not forget the special introduction of Luca’s father and sister by Gordon Ramsay in the finale.

      I beg to differ but this demonstrates blatant favoritism.

      • Matteo Flamigni says:

        I don’t think this is because they wanted to favor Luca. Reality TV producers don’t care at all about Natasha’s or Luca’s feelings or anyone’s, from what I understand, if they wanted him to win that didn’t mean he had to see his dad. Probably they thought they could build a more emotional moment with Luca’s dad that with Natasha’s brother, as horrible as that sounds they felt one was a better investment.

        I personally cheered Luca and liked his menu better, I felt he deserved the win. But I am european (italian, like him) and his menu was very european too, honestly I had the impression that at least Ramsay or Elliot would have liked Natasha’s -honestly fantastic- menu better, because in term of quality and perfectionism your daughter was nowhere below Luca at all. So it mostly boiled down to personal tastes. I can’t tell for sure, I just hope his win was as clean as it could be and I wish your fenomenal daughter a bright future.

      • Michael Chen says:

        “Probably they thought they could build a more emotional moment with Luca’s dad that with Natasha’s brother, as horrible as that sounds they felt one was a better investment.”

        How do you define favoritism? That very statement seems like favoritism to me.

  25. Gene MD says:

    Michael and Ben,

    Someone just sent me this on FB and I hought you would like to read it.

    Gene MD

  26. Matteo Flamigni says:

    hi Michael Chen,

    I am a masterchef fan and a working cook. Here in Italy they didn’t broadcast season 4 yet, but I watched them online because I was rooting for Luca a lot.

    (yeah I know, the show feels forced and probably is, but it still entertains me)

    So, I can answer to your question “why didn’t he just strain the pannacotta later?” I was looking for a basil dessert for the bistro I work at and tried Luca’s a few times. Well, more or less, you gotta mix the jelly in after you removed the mixed basil leaves. If you don’t, there is a minimal risk that you remove some of the jelly in the filtering (as the basil leaves “trap” the jelly particles) or that the leaf contribute in forming small balls of jelly. Same thing used to happen when I was making mint&choc pannacottas a year ago. It really is a low, low risk, but the paranoia-inducing thing about it is that you have no way to see if problems occurred if not when it’s too late – when the customer is eating a cream soup or is spitting jelly balls (gross). In short, is just way safer to remove the leaf before adding the jelly.

    Against an opponent of Natasha’s caliber, who would very likely pull of a perfect execution, I would panic just as Luca at the thought that my pannacotta could not set, or worse, coagulate jelly.

    So yeah, it made sense to remake it again.

    • Michael Chen says:

      Hello Matteo,

      Good point! What if Luca just reheated the panna cotta to the point that the gelatin would dissolve (say 160F) and then strained it? Wouldn’t that solve the problem?

      • Matteo Flamigni says:

        It probably would work.

        I did this once (cannot remember if it was a basil or mint pannacotta) and as a result the leaves are removed and the possibility that it forms lumps again after the filtering is very low. Point is, there are many possible solutions and all of them are pretty solid, but it’s never 100% granted that it would work because jelly can sometime behave in unexpected manners, especially if heated (like, not setting well).

        I usually proceed to just strain it after adding the jelly, but I still have the option of not giving the panna cotta to the customers and cutting it from the chalkboard menu, in the highly unlikely case a problem occurs. In the MC finale you don’t have that option so I think Luca got insecure and said to himself that he needed to do it all again by-the-book.

      • Michael Chen says:

        Personally, I think that starting the panna cotta over from scratch was a far riskier maneuver (with so little time, how was he bad enough time to get it to set is anyone’s guess). That’s the complicating factor, the one hour time limit. It’s a balance of risk and reward, and Luca made his decision that ended up working :).

  27. Matteo Flamigni says:

    About the “favoritism” thing… the point is, I don’t think that they flying Luca’s father to USA “proves” they wanted Luca to win no matter what. I think they just did what they felt worked better for the audience – the “far away father from contestant’s homeland” moment is probably more unique than a scene where Natasha notices that her brother is there among the others family members.

    Incidentally, I DO think there’s a chance they just predetermined this season’s (and the past one’s) victor, I just don’t think the two things are linked, logically speaking.

    Let it be clear, I’m not wrinting this in Luca’s defense, I liked his menu better and that wouldn’t be different even if he lost to Natasha. I think Natasha was an extraordinary cook as well, even if her style isn’t my favorite one, and I don’t think the loss diminishes her worth one bit. Even if we find out the whole competition was rigged since the start I’d still think these two people rocked.

    • Michael Chen says:

      Fair enough. It’s possible that they flew in Luca’s father just for the story, but keep in mind that in reality TV, “story” is virtually equivalent to “success”. People with great stories always do well. So essentially, BECAUSE Luca had a more compelling story than Natasha’s, that’s how I knew he was going to win. And because the whole travel thing is tied to Luca’s story, that’s how I relate that to Luca’s win.

      • Matteo Flamigni says:

        Well, this does make sense.

        We don’t have much of a culture about reality TV in Italy so you probably know these narrative trends and theatrical strategies better than I do.

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