MasterChef 4 recap: Family Food and Sushi (S4E17)

(PLEASE NOTE: The content that follows is entirely from the depraved mind of a MasterChef season 2 survivor.  It should be treated, not as fact, but as opinion, only…and probably not a very sound opinion, at that!)

We’re down to 7 for MasterChef season 4.  At this point in my season, Christine Corley and Derrick Prince had just been eliminated on the grilled cheese and tomato soup challenge, dropping the number from 8 to 6 in one fell swoop.

Another giant mystery box is sitting up behind the judges, but before it’s raised, Gordon announces that the winner will be publishing their own cookbook.  This hadn’t yet been mentioned as a prize thus far in the season…only the cash prize and the “coveted” MasterChef trophy.  To me, this indicates that the producers have now decided who is going to win the show.  Because they’re not going to publish a cookbook with a winner who they don’t believe can sell a bunch of cookbooks.  I remember chatting with the producers after my season aired (in which there was NO cookbook deal for the winner) and they told me what a nightmare it had been to publish the season 1 winner’s cookbook…Whitney Miller’s Modern Hospitality: Simple Recipes with Southern Charm, and that they had no plans of publishing another cookbook unless the winner was incredibly marketable.  We all know that Christine Ha, the winner of Season 3, would publish an incredibly marketable cookbook, so the cookbook returned for her season after skipping my season.  (And it’s a good cookbook, I love it.  Recipes From My Home Kitchen: Asian and American Comfort Food.)  Yet there was no announcement of a cookbook in the beginning of this season (at least not that my IPA-soaked brain remembers), so I believe at this point they’ve come to a decision on the probable winner and they believe that person will be able to sell a cookbook.  It will be interesting to watch the editing at this point forward.

The box is slowly lifted, and we first see lots and lots of feet.  And the box is filled with family members.  And the tears are flowing.  (All over my keyboard, in fact.)  Husbands, wives, children, and parents flock to the contestants’ stations and I can’t tell you what a joy it is to get this gift.  After merely 1 week of being without my loved ones during the signature dish challenge, I bawled my eyes out when my partner, my neighbor Sharon, and my old college roomie and partner in crime Monty showed up to cheer me on.  The subsequent 7 weeks without any loved ones around was complete and utter hell.

Yet Krissi is in the very back, having witnessed loved ones rushing to the sides of her fellow competitors…but the box is empty and there’s no one for her.  Some folks watching the show were probably thinking cruel thoughts at that moment.  But Ramsay carries an iPad back to her station where her son has recorded a special message for her.  (He couldn’t make the trip out due to standardized testing, and thank GOD the studio didn’t press him to skip that test.  Though I have NO love for standardized testing!)  Remember, Krissi’s son idolizes Gordon Ramsay and wants to be a chef when he grows up.  He sits on the couch with a MASSIVE dog on his lap and assures his mom that the house is still intact, nothing caught fire, and nobody died…he misses her food and he says he’ll see her in the finale.  And Krissi is bawling and laughing with that bittersweet mix of emotion that we experience so rarely in adult life.  Even Joe is tearing up.  I feel like he really admires Krissi and identifies with her…he probably sees something of himself in her son, and something of his mother in Krissi.

The theme of the mystery box is amazing…cook a dish inspired by your loved ones…inspired by home.  They can bring up to 15 items back from the MasterChef kitchen and have 1 hour to cook a dish that reminds them of home.

What I would cook depends entirely on who was under that box for me.  If it was my partner, there’s no question what it would be.  Christian’s Big Chocolate-O.  Chocolate ladyfingers, toasted hazelnuts coated in doce de leite (cream caramel…a treat from his childhood in Brazil), espresso chocolate mousse, and shaved dark chocolate.  Chocolate is the way to his heart, and I invented this dessert for him on his birthday many years ago.  (We celebrate 11 years a week from today.)

My family at my house for Thanksgiving, me on the ground with the nieces and nephews, like always

If my parents were under that box, I’d make beans and cornbread…the staple that my parents raised me on.  We were poor, there’s no two ways about it.  And beans and cornbread is about the cheapest wholesome meal you can serve your family.  We had it several times a week.  But to this day, it’s a meal that feeds my soul when I make it, because it reminds me of my childhood and how hard my parents worked to provide their 4 kids with everything they needed to become good humans.  Simple, to be sure.  Would the judges despise something so simple?  Probably.  But it would be made with more love in my heart than probably anything else I’ve ever made, and I wouldn’t dare make anything else to pay tribute to the best parents anyone could ever possibly have.

But what if it was my best buds?  J-P and Jacques….brothers who I’ve known since I was a kid?  Who’ve traveled the world and the oceans with me.  (J-P and I once visited all 7 continents together in the span of less than a year.)  That’s a no-brainer, too.  Benny Breakfast.  I’m not sure why they love it so much.  It’s simple.  But it’s what they ask for on every hangout, regardless of what time it is.  Buttermilk pancakes.  Eggs scrambled with veggies from the garden.  Crispy home fries.  And little espresso macchiatos dusted with cinnamon, or “mini Bennies” as they call them.  Again…very simple.  But it’s the food that connects us as dear friends.

Which of us presents sophisticated restaurant cuisine to our loved ones each night?  Food with soul and heart comes from the family dinner table and the humble kitchen, not the bustling, frantic room in the back of a restaurant.  Family meals come from recipes handed down through the generations, or recipes conceived yourself based on a loved one’s favorite ingredients.  I have NEVER been a fan of “sophisticated” cuisine, because it is soulless.  I’m in love with the food served at family tables and from street carts and small family cafes around the world, because this is the food that we identify ourselves and our cultures by.  It is the food we prepare and eat to celebrate life with the people we love.  A fine dining restaurant can put a flawless plate of  food in front of you that looks too pretty to eat, and is perfectly seasoned and expertly prepared…but is it the meal you’ll remember on your death bed?  Never.  Because food prepared by a chef is, at most, an art form.  And you can admire it, and discuss it, and it can blow your mind.  But it will never feed your soul.  Food prepared with love for someone whom the cook truly cares for transcends mere sustenance or art.  It is an act of love, as powerful as sacrifice, as powerful as empathy, even as powerful as the act that creates life itself.  That’s why no plate prepared by Thomas Keller or Gordon Ramsay or Grant Achatz or Jose Andres will EVER mean more to you than something your mother or grandmother or spouse or child will cook for you.  If we saw more of this on MasterChef, it would truly be a show worth watching.

Time is called and judging begins.  This is really a challenge where EVERY dish should be tasted, and the story behind it told, and I’m upset with the producers for not making that logical exception.

Natasha is the first of the 3 selected for tasting.  She has prepared a dish heavily influenced by southeast Asian cuisine…a vegetarian dish of coconut rice, roasted corn with shrimp paste, garlic and ginger, and green curry sauce.  Joe is impressed with the flavor, and the other judges love it.

Jessie is next, with a gorgeous plate of seared duck breast with blackberry red wine sauce, roasted Brussels sprouts with pancetta, and pecans.  The judges are very impressed.

Luca’s is the final dish to be judged, and he has prepared pan-seared halibut wrapped in caul fat, with white asparagus risotto.  Caul fat is a thin layer of fatty membrane that encases the internal organs of animals.  (Most of the caul fat used in kitchens is from pigs.)  It is used to wrap otherwise lean means to keep them moist and flavorful while cooking, and Luca’s use of it with fish is pretty darn brilliant, as it will hold the halibut fillet together and keep it plump and firm.  White asparagus is just normal asparagus that is grow in the absence of light, so that its natural pigments don’t develop.  In that absence of light, though, the skin on the spears tends to grow very thick and woody, so unlike green asparagus (which should NOT be peeled, despite what the MasterChef judges may tell you), white asparagus should have the woody part of the lower spear peeled, or just use the tops in your dish, and save the bottoms for veggie stock or soup.  The judges are very impressed.

The winner is Luca, and his beautiful wife couldn’t look any prouder.  Luca heads back to the pantry and discovers that, in the next challenge, everyone will be cooking Japanese food: shrimp and vegetable tempura, a California sushi roll with Alaskan king crab, a variety of sashimi including shrimp, uni (sea urchin roe), ahi, salmon roe, and mackerel.

Sushi is something I haven’t fully explored, simply because living in Dallas, the price I have to pay for sushi-grade fish is prohibitive.  I typically only indulge in sushi when I’m in a seaside town, it’s very rare that I eat it in Dallas.  This does not mean I don’t like it…it’s easily one of my favorite foods.  But while the idea of going out for “cheap tacos” makes my stomach growl, the concept of “cheap sushi” makes me a little green.  Sushi is something you spend money on.  And it’s REALLY easy to spend a bundle on it.  For the record, the best sushi I’ve had was NOT in Japan, but in Seattle…at Nijo.  Though if you’d like a kick in the pants and you have Netflix streaming, check out the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, about an ancient sushi master in Japan whose sons are struggling to follow in their father’s foosteps.

Luca’s advantage is that he gets to split the 6 other contestants into teams of 2 who will work together to replicate the sushi plates in tag-team fashion, with one contestant working at a time.  (They did this EXACT same challenge in season 3, didn’t they?)  Luca pairs up James and Jordan, Natasha and Krissi, and Eddie and Jessie.

Christian Collins climbs down into a blowhole in Hawaii to fetch me a sea urchin

Sushi is primarily about knife skills, as the way you cut the fish will determine its flavor and, more importantly, texture and mouth feel.  Though with other sushi items that aren’t filleted, like roe (fish eggs), other things must be taken into account.  Uni, or sea urchin roe, comes in dainty orange strips called “corals.”  They are incredibly delicate, and Ramsay chastises Jordan for pulling them out of the urchin’s shell with his fingers, rather than the handle of a spoon, and then he sticks them under running water, effectively rinsing away the flavor.  Uni is an acquired taste…it’s very astringent and a bit reminiscent of lysol…but in a good sorta way?  It’s very hard to describe.  I have many fond memories of eating it fresh in Hawaii, caught by the sea-loving Christian Collins who braved blow holes and sharp spines to give me my first taste of just-caught uni.

Another trick for sushi is the preparation of the rice…a short grain rice that must be sticky enough to hold together, but seasoned perfectly with salt and sweetened rice vinegar.

It’s hard to watch this challenge because it’s so chaotic, with so much screaming, so who knows what really happened, but the results are that Natasha and Krissi put up a great plate at the very last minute; James and Jordan are missing components, have under-seasoned tempura, have a beautiful California roll but which is also underseasoned, and haven’t nailed the ebi (shrimp) sushi; and Eddie and Jessie’s uni is not properly cleaned, the fish isn’t cut properly, and the rice has too much vinegar.

Natasha and Krissi are the obvious winners, and will be team captains next week.  James and Jordan squeak by on the merits of their fish butchery, leaving Jessie and Jordan on the chopping block.  And the judges decide that the weakest link on the team was Eddie, so he gets the axe.

Eddie…the meat man…former NFL player turned accomplished chef.  Originally from Texas, so even though he no longer lives here, I still claim him for the Lone Star State.  Look at his Wikipedia page to see his impressive list of athletic achievements, which aren’t just limited to football.  (He still holds the national college freshman record for track and field high hurdles.)  Eddie’s food dream is to open a gastropub, and I can’t wait to eat there.  Follow Eddie on Facebook and Twitter, and wish him well in his food future!

Feel free to comment below, especially if you have a particularly precious food memory with loves ones.  What would YOU have cooked for the mystery box?

62 Responses to MasterChef 4 recap: Family Food and Sushi (S4E17)

  1. This challenge made me a little happier than most eps do now. I love Luca dearly and was very happy to see him shine after flying under the radar the past few weeks. He’s the little ‘ole teddy bear we all want to hug!

  2. For the mystery box, I definitely would’ve cooked chicken breasts with cream of mushroom soup, parmesan cheese, and breadcrumbs. It’s a Campbell’s soup-label recipe, but it was something my mom used to make that I absolutely loved; even as a vegetarian I miss it sometimes. The fact that Eddie went home, even though Jessie was advising him when she had little idea of what she herself was doing, makes me think they’re aiming to either put her in the finale or have her win.

  3. Oh, the producers knew who was going to win from day one, as did most of the rest of us! I think it’s an interesting point about the cookbook – I was wondering why they were bringing it up all of a sudden, when it had been pointedly absent from the big prize presentation at the beginning.

    You could be right though. I think the editing is shifting, gearing up for the end.

    • I wondered about the cookbook too. Christine Ha’s book sells well on Amazon and has good reviews. Whitney’s isn’t a best seller and the reviews are very mixed. But then, with the sheer number of cookbooks published each year, few become best sellers.

  4. I would’ve done the creamy beef stew I made up for my dad while I was living in Houston. Very simple dish, but very nostalgic for me.

    I was shocked when I learned Eddie had been eliminated. I honestly thought he’d be part of the final four! But as Michelle says, Jessie is the producer’s protegé this year.

    About the Chocolate O, and the accompanying picture… That has so much love in it I can feel it oozing from my screen, and you guys make the most adorable couple ever! EVER!!!!!!!!!!! I think I’ll make a drawing out of it, and I’ll make sure to post it once it’s done <3. As we say in my piece of South America: Mucho amor. Mucho amor.

    Thanks for the recap, and we know you how much it takes you to do this. That's why your effort's so admirable.

    Hugs from Colombia (in a rush because I have a job interview! Yikes!)


  5. Gregory Wright

    I grew up with lousy overcooked food. I had to learn to cook to get better food. The vert first dish I mastered was lasagne! So that is a dish I would have made for my family because I have made it many many times for them, to their delight. And my current lasagne is way better these days with fresh made pasta, sausage and cheese.

  6. I always admired Eddie’s plating: big guy, fabulous at grilling meat, I didn’t expect that beautiful and delicate artistry with the colors and balance so it seemed satisfying just by looking at it. The food sounded incredibly delicious, but I can’t tell that through my computer screen.

  7. Had really thought Eddie might take this, but obviously I was wrong. However I would LOVE to go to any gastropub he might ever have. If you ever have a few spare hundred dollars you might check out Keiichi in Denton for sushi. I have eaten there with people from LA, all up and down the east coast and Florida and all said it is the best sushi they have ever had anywhere. But pricey.

  8. Certainly appears Jessie is the one they are aiming to have win, but I would not be totally surprised, given the addition of the cookbook that this is heading to a win by Krissi and a cookbook of “simple home-cooked” recipes for families taking advantage of Krissi’s being a single-mother and Philly attitude.

    • I’d be extremely surprised if Krissi won. I expect now that it’ll be Luca. Maybe Jessie if they go for another woman, but I think that’s unlikely.

  9. Thanks for the usual insightful & thoughtful recap, Ben.
    The “Chocolate O” sounds O-mazing and is on my list of desserts to make. The list is growing longer as I have just bought myself Thomas Keller’s “Bouchon Bakery” cookbook. (That Amazon One-Click Ordering is a dangerous thing!)

    • Oh, Susan, I know exactly what you mean about the one-click. My cookbook collection has soared out of control because of late night one-clicks.

  10. Ben, could you expound more on Luca’s caul fat technique for cooking the halibut? His halibut looked so well-cooked, lightly browned and firm.

    • Susan, here is a picture of caul fat:

      Caul fat

      As you can see, it’s a membrane…sorta like plastic wrap. You wrap ANYTHING…fish fillet, steak, potato cake, sausage…tightly in caul fat and it acts as a binder that also moistens and flavors. It’s particularly useful when you are stuffing or rolling meals, like in a roulade, because it holds the rolled up meat tightly, keeping the stuffing inside. It does not change the way you cook…you’ll still pan sear or roast as normal. But the fat content in the caul fat will result in a lovely browning that you wouldn’t get with the surface fat on the fish, as well as holding it together firmly.

  11. Sounds terrible when I say it but I really thought Eddie had “the look” the producers would have picked to win it this year. I saw his initial audition video on Vimeo back in November and immediately thought he would be in the top 10. I’m sure Eddie and every contestant who has that look probably still works as hard or harder than the rest of us average folk, it’s just common knowledge they kind of get a head start though when it comes to tv. I certainly love his philosophy and wish him the best. Eating and working out are easily my 2 favorite habits–take a guess as to which one I’m better at!

  12. Awesome documentary on sushi.

  13. Hmmm….for my mother, I’d make chicken enchiladas full of New Mexican flavors (especially Hatch green chili peppers). For my guy, probably treacle tart with crème fraîche and raspberry preserves.
    I’m really hungry reading everyone’s comments!

  14. My mother wasn’t an exceptional cook but her chicken noodle soup was the absolute best. It was full of chicken with carrots, celery and onion in a scrumptious home made broth. Her roast beef, cooked for special Sunday dinners, was wonderful too. She used an eye roast and laid a slab of suet over it for roasting to keep it moist and juicy. Unfortunately neither dish could be cooked in an hour.

    Andrea, best of luck in your interview.

  15. I know they wouldn’t have the right equipment in the Masterchef kitchen, but I’d have been sorely tempted to make my family’s krumkake recipe (for those who don’t know, krumkake are little crispy cones made of batter cooked on a patterned griddle). My family is Norwegian, though they’ve been in the Texas Panhandle for years; my mom even remembers that some members of the community still spoke Norwegian when she was growing up! I missed out on most of that culture, but not the krumkake. My mom makes it every single holiday season; in fact, it was our preferred dessert for Thanksgiving dinner! She even converted my dad’s very Southern family into loving it. (Sadly, my krumkake iron seems to have gotten lost in my last move, something that absolutely breaks my heart. It was an old iron one, not one of the new electric ones. SIGH.)

    People always try to tell my mom that her krumkake could be “jazzed up” by adding chocolate coating, whipped cream, etc, but she’s stood firm with their simple crispiness. Good for her! They’re perfect the way they are.

  16. Next time you’re in Seattle, sushi is on me!

    While I think it’s important to hold Krissi accountable for her racism and self admitted tendency towards bullying, I also truly felt bad for her when no one was under the box. I suspect that her life story was encapsulated in that moment and I hurt for her.

    I will point out that I think there’s room in this world for all food experiences. I can recall meals from very fine restaurants that I will keep close to my heart forever. The people I was with certainly influenced things but I also remember the artistry; in my mind truly great chefs produce empathy with all of their plates. They’re thinking of each guest like family. I’m a person that loves both, cooking for people in a peasant fashion and cooking on the line at a restaurant.

    I love your recaps. Please keep them coming!

    • Tiger, some of my fans are closely following Krissi’s social media, and all the comments that people were “up in arms” about regarding being racist were just quotes from rap songs she was listening to…she quotes lyrics all the time. And with regards to her comment that was interpreted as bullying, it was taken completely out of context. Krissi was bullied brutally in school, primarily by smart, trendy, wealthy girls. (Apparently similar to Bri.) Krissi’s only recourse was to defend herself often…which she did. So her comment was actually in reference to BEING bullied…not to being a bully. It’s very, very dangerous to draw judgements on people we don’t know. I think virtually everyone watching MasterChef has a completely wrong image of Krissi. A few of her family and friends have chimed in on my blog, and they universally say that she is warm, loving, fiercely devoted as a friend and mother, and the best friend you can possibly have.

  17. I would want to make my mom’s Italianate version of noodle kugel with wild blueberries instead of raisins, rotitni instead of egg noodles, and ricotta instead of farmer cheese (she grew up Ashkenazic in Cranston, RI in the 1960′s), but that takes 90 minutes, so likely blintzes, which were the first thing I learned to cook.

  18. Greek Chicken Soup … avgolemono … I grew up eating it, I cook it once a month. I am a vegetarian except for this soup. It cannot be denied!!

  19. If I were cooking for my father, I’d hope it wasn’t an elimination challenge. My father loves all meats, but he loves them overcooked. Doesn’t matter how fancy the restaurant, he asks for his steak well done, then tells the waiter “when you think its well done, leave it on for another couple of minutes.” Then, when it comes back slightly overdone, he sends it back “needs another 5 minutes.” Then, served with the dry remains of what once may have been a $100 steak, he smiles and asks for a bottle of ketchup.

    As I sit here thinking though, I can’t think of one dish I could make that reminds me of family that wouldn’t be “too simple” or take multiple hours to slowly cook. As Ben said, people just don’t cook that way.

    Maybe I’d make pasta multiple ways. You can make one batch of dough and then crank out signature pastas for as many members of your family as time allows. A stuffed ravioli for the adventurous kid, a simple mac and cheese for the picky one, maybe plain noodles for the baby and something a bit more refined for your spouse or parents. That might go over…

  20. The more I think about it, I definitely think Luca is going to win now. He’s a marketable male with a heart of gold, a good personality and a good story behind him. “Villains” like Natasha are coming after him, and despite being in the bottom often, he’s still there and being saved.

    • Shawna, I think Luca is totally adorable, and I’m kind of surprised he’s not being shown more often. You’d think the producers would WANT us to connect positively to at least someone, rather than highlighting conflict all the time.

  21. Krissi doesn’t have a self admitted tendency towards bullying. She’s said on Twitter that her comment about how she “used to beat up girls like Bri in high school” was referring to her defending herself when bullied, not being the bully. As for being racist…haven’t almost all, if not all, of her “racist comments” on Twitter been shown to be her quoting either a rapper or a comedian?

    If this post gets messed up, it was intended to be a reply to Tiger Gray.

  22. I actually talked about this episode a bit yesterday on my blog. While I was sad that Krissi had to go without a visit, I was happy about the good that came out of it. Krissi got to show a side of herself that we rarely see; the loving mother who considers her son to be her world. I’m hoping that the crack in Krissi’s normally tough exterior will result in the audience cutting her a little slack.
    I was sad to see Eddie go, but at this point it’s going to be hard to say goodbye to any one of the contestants!
    The preview for next episode was exciting and I hope that Bri gets a second shot :-)
    Thanks again for the blog, Ben!

    • Jamie, Krissi posted a comment that MC only gave a one day lead when they asked family to visit for this episode (which meant a 3 day commitment). Her son, who I think attends the school for academically gifted students, had required standardized tests. Her other family couldn’t request the time off at such short notice.

  23. Hi Ben, I just wanted to comment as an avid fan who was cheering for you as my favorite during season 2, and loves reading your blog posts and recaps. You always make me pause and think twice about making snap judgements based on what we see on the show versus what might be the real “reality” behind it all. Having been to a MC casting call last season (yes, I’m enough of a fan that I’m stupid enough to dream of being a contestant myself) I certainly got even then a sense of how much manipulation must go on just during that one day’s experience.

    If I had to face this challenge and my mother was there (likely the case as she is my only close blood relative at this point) there is no doubt in my mind I would make her favorite: linguini with white clam sauce. She loves the dish the way I make it, but hates to have to steam the clams live. So I always try to assuage her guilt by steaming the clams in copious white wine so that at least they meet their end in a true happy, boozy state.

  24. Ben, you’ve mentioned in the past that contestants are not allowed to tell their employers where they’re going, only that they need leave for an unspecified amount of time. Do the families know from the start? I’m curious because I remember watching another reality show where late in the season the MC announced “even his wife doesn’t know where he is!” but surely the families must have some idea, since they presumably know that their loved one tried out?

    We were intrigued too, to hear about the cookbook that hadn’t been mentioned earlier in the season. Given that there was no cookbook for season 2 and then reappeared for season 3, it kind of makes me wonder if the producers hadn’t picked out Christine to win from the start, since she did mention somewhere that she was sought out by the producers, but she clearly could cook with the best. Hm…

    • Sydney, the producers tell you that, technically, you cannot tell ANYONE where you are going. But they realize that you can’t really leave your spouse and kids with no information, so they ask you to dramatically limit the information you tell anyone. They don’t want you to tell ANYONE the name of the show you’re going to be on. (Realistically EVERY contestant tells their spouse/partner/sig.other and/or parents.)

      Regarding the results of last season…even the winner harbors beliefs that she was picked to win from the beginning. It’s a natural assumption. You can be sure that the producers have selected at least a handful of people as potential winners, and they are vetted more carefully than the other contestants. I doubt, for every season, they know from the beginning who is going to win. I don’t believe they knew on my season. But for seasons 3 and 4, they probably did know.

      • you can sometimes see quite clearly who is in favour and who is not by the time the contestants appear on the screen. There were some people I truly haven’t noticed they were even on the show. Clearly they want to highlight their favourites. For Season 2 I think Jenny flew under the radar a bit but couldbe mistaken.

  25. IIRC, in previous seasons where they’ve brought contestants back, it was from those just eliminated. This time it just seems like a random selection. Bime was eliminated ages ago.

    • Steve, the more I’m hearing about it, the more bizarre this upcoming episode is. I won’t comment further until after it has aired, though, because I know the outcome.

  26. Hi Ben, love your post, but I have to say, since my mom only cooked frozen veg and junk like Hamburger Helper I do need to disagree slightly, at least about my mom’s cooking. I would think having a dish made by Chef Morimoto would be heaven and soulful too, certainly compared to her cooking in the sixties. However, I do agree that simple heartfelt dishes are best. I have friend who makes the best paella ever (he goes to Spain a lot) we had a bunch of friends over and he cooked the paella, some people had never had it, and the group was in such a state of happiness and amazement at how delicious and wonderful it was. Other than that, my own home cooking is next, the best being homemade duck pasta, with garden grown tomatoes sauteed, with home grown, zucchini, garlic, mushrooms and fresh basil (also from the garden). The garden too makes a world of difference. Thanks for the episode reviews!!

  27. Oops, make that homemade duck EGG pasta, don’t eat my girls, they are sweethearts.

  28. Nice recap Ben!
    Fortunately I have now proof that I am not the only one who sheds a tear in front of TV from time to time. And this definitely was an episode for it. It was good to see that Krissi and Natasha were portrayed in a different way for once. The again you can clearly see how powerful the images are that the media design for us.
    My childhood memories are those of a small eater, truth to be told I wasn’t fond of food for many, many years…but I always like an Austrian classic – Kaiserschmarrn – it is like a giant fluffy pancake which is torn apart and carmalized with sugar, rum and raisins. If I am correct professional chefs could not enter this format (just the masterchef profs.) and having had a decent culinaric training I couldn’t go there. But have just worked for 3 years as a chef. Now at the age of 40 I somehow miss it.

  29. “…a vegetarian dish of coconut rice, roasted corn with shrimp paste…”

    Honest question: is that an oversight, or is shrimp paste considered vegetarian? I would not expect a dish made with shrimp paste, or even fish sauce, advertised as vegetarian.

    • Gipson, the answer to this question varies regionally. In Thailand, Vietnam, India, etc. where vegetarianism is common, fish sauces and pastes are used in most dishes and are still considered to be vegetarian. If you are a vegetarian traveling in one of these countries, it’s even common to find separate vegetarian menus…but the meals will STILL invariably include fish sauce or dried fish or shrimp. It may also be made with beef, pork, or chicken stock, as well. “Vegetarian” in most parts of the world means “no chunk of meat on the plate.”

      Here in the US, in a restaurant that caters SPECIFICALLY to vegetarians and vegans, you won’t find animal products or meat in the food. But if you do to a Thai restaurant and order a vegetarian dish, it will have fish sauce in it. When I cook for vegetarians (particularly at Burning Man every year), I am almost always told, “No meat, but fish sauce is okay.”

  30. Hi Ben,

    I remember your season very fondly and was so sad to see you go. I loved watching MasterChef, but it definitely seems very different and a lot more dramatic than previous seasons. I remember it being more about the food and less about shock-jock tactics…so I (being the prime target demographic – mom in 35-45 – key household decision maker) had to take a break from the show. However, I turned on the TV tonight for a repeat of this episode that I’m shocked you never mentioned the worst moment in this episode…Gordon’s pants.

    Seriously, I’ve never seen jeans that green and that tight on anyone over the age of seven. I think for a moment I could count the change in his pocket. For someone so famous and wealthy, I’m surprised no one has helped him to purchase a pair of pants that fit.

    Anyway, I had to say something and I think you of all the contestants, would appreciate it…now back to food!

    • HAHAHAHAHAHA! I actually didn’t notice his clothes at all. (I never notice clothes, and I wish the concept of “fashion” didn’t exist, I think it’s a complete waste of resources.)

      For the record, the judges are dressed by the costume department. They don’t get to decide what they wear. And when you hit the top 4, the contestants are also dressed by the costume department.

  31. Δημητρης

    In my opinion the producers of MC chose Whitney to win in season 1.I mean come on she received special treatment during the show and beat the two rightful
    Finalists Lee and sharone in dessert challenges based on critics like “it is undercooked”.Base on that I’d say the producers select the winner right off the bat in every season