Tag Archives: food truck

A MasterChef Reunion in Houston

A perfect storm of events happened last weekend that resulted in my need to be in Houston for a few days.  (Mostly to visit a dear college friend who was having much of her liver out.)  Houston takes 2nd place to Austin as the best foodie city in Texas, though I don’t like to admit it.  Dallas runs 3rd, but soon we’ll be taking the top spot if things continue to go as they have been.  (I mean, with restaurants like FRANK, how can you be any other that the top?!?  Ha ha ha…)  So it’s not much of a surprise that so many MasterChef contestants live there, including the season 3 winner, Christine Ha, and my own MasterChef roomie, the culinary genius Alvin SchultzMichael Chen, who now lives in Dallas, was going down to arrange paperwork for a visit to China.  Also living there is Jason McConniel, or “JayMac” from season 2, and while he wasn’t featured heavily on the show, he’s a pretty interesting guy.  (He collaborates with Alvin on a regular basis, and he’s pioneering the urban farming scene in Houston.)  And season 4 Texan James Nelson also lives there.  So I was excited about a cross-generational MasterChef reunion.

I first arrived at Alvin’s place, and I’m embarrassed to say that, as often as Alvin has visited me in Dallas, this was my first visit to his home.  If you follow Alvin, you know that he’s a “freak-genius” (the term Gordon applied to him on season 2), and splits his culinary love affair between Modernist cuisine (which some people call “molecular gastronomy”) and the complete opposite end of the food spectrum…authentic “peasant food,” street food, the food of the people.

It shouldn’t have surprised me to see that his kitchen looks more like a science lab than a kitchen.  Here he is pulling off a carafe of liquid nitrogen to do an instant-freeze on ice cream in the Kitchenaid.  Look at that device to his right.  That’s a rotary evaporator, which he uses to make pure extracts and distillations.  Next to it, off camera to the right, is a cryovac…a high powered vacuum chamber that can be used for a variety of purposes, from instantly hydrating pasta dough, to sealing meat for cooking en sous vide, to pressure crushing vegetables and fruits to change their texture, or saturate their cells with a marinade or liquor.

It was “Sunday fish dinner” at Alvin’s place, where several of his foodie friends get together for a potluck consisting of dishes FAR more sophisticated than anything you’ll ever find on MasterChef.  Despite arriving very late, I was fed very well.  And put to bed.  And awakened to breakfast in bed.  Cold pizza.  But “Cold Pizza…Alvin Schultz style!”

As you know, Alvin loves to explore Modernist cuisine…the use of contemporary technology to transform ingredients into something new and extraordinary.  The star of this dish is an heirloom tomato sorbet…nothing but the juices of heirloom tomatoes, perfectly seasoned, and flash frozen with liquid nitrogen into the smoothest texture you can imagine.  Below it is dehydrated pepperoni “sand,” pizza crust “dust,” basil flowers, a foam of fresh mozzarella, and the rendered oil from the pepperoni.  It may not look like pizza, but it tastes like the freshest pizza you can imagine.  And yeah…he made that for me for breakfast.

Pho was for lunch, and that evening we met up with Michael, Alvin, and Jason in Houston’s bustling Chinatown for a sumptuous Chinese feast at Confucius Seafood, a family-style traditional Chinese restaurant.  And, of course, joining us was the woman, the legend, Christine Ha, along with her amazing hubby John.  Confucius is a neat place.  The tables are massive and seat 12-14, with a huge lazy susan turntable in the middle of the table, so that family-style plates can be brought from the kitchen and be easily accessed by all the diners.  We basically ordered “Feast #2” which was a sampling of the kitchen’s favorites, including Peking duck, chicken and jellyfish salad, Dungeness crab fried rice, crispy pork, whole roasted haddock, squid and scallop with cabbage…one by one, the plates arrived, and by the 10th or 15th, even Alvin’s eyes were registering disbelief and astonishment, as there seemed to be no end in sight.  12 of us stuffed ourselves silly and probably only got through 2/3rd of the food.

“You guys are ready for dessert, right?” Christine asked, cheerily.

I’m never ready for dessert, unless it’s what Christine described.  “Vietnamese ice.  They freeze blocks of green tea and stuff like that, and then shave it off in thin layers.  It’s really good.”  Frozen green tea sounded light enough to be the perfect nightcap, so we headed to Nu Cafe for this “thousand layer ice.”  The presentation was pretty impressive and definitely unforgettable.  And the texture was totally different than I expected…far firmer and more solid than normal shave ice.  It almost has the texture of lightly sauteed baby spinach, except that it melts on your tongue.  They serve it smothered in the sauce of your choice (sweetened condensed milk is the most popular) with any number of sides (here, mango and grass jelly).  That made it too desserty for me, I’d have preferred just the plate of ice.  But I’m a weirdo.

Is this what they call cross-generation love?

We wrapped for the evening, as Michael and his boyfriend Stephen and I had a MasterChef-early time call for the morning: 430am.  Michael was taking us to fish for blue crabs, a ritual his family has enjoyed since he was a baby.  Neither Stephen nor I had fished for crabs before, and Michael insisted we needed to be there shortly after sunrise to catch the most crabs.  Personally, NO amount of crab is worth getting up at 430am for.  But friendships are, so I begrudgingly set my alarm.

We were on the Galveston/Bolivar ferry just after sunrise and I enjoyed teasing the seagulls on the short trip over to the Bolivar peninsula, to the Chen ancestral crabbing grounds, which we found surprisingly close to the ferry dock.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any pics of the crab fishing, because it was too much fun, and you don’t keep your phone in your pocket when you’re knee deep in coastal waters.  But here’s what you do:

You take a chicken leg, preferably a fairly pungent one that’s been sitting in a hot trunk for a few days, and tie a string very tightly around one end.  In your other hand, you hold a net.  You toss the chicken leg out into the water and you wait until you feel tugging on the end.  Then you gently drag the chicken leg toward your submerged net, which is lying on the sandy bottom.  Once you have the crab lured onto the net, you quickly lift the net, and the wiley crab is caught.  You transfer him to a cooler with the other angry crabs, and you lather, rinse, repeat.  It’s very easy and incredibly addictive…especially when you don’t get that massive blue crab just in the center of the net before you lift it, and you see your prize-winning monster crab teetering on the rim of the net and then plummeting back into the water.  (I tried to catch him again the rest of the day, but he was too cautious.)

We had a fairly decent haul, about 25 blue crabs of varying sizes, and we headed back to Christine’s house to watch Michael cook them up the traditional Chen way.  The smaller crabs were broken down, cleaned, and cooked with ginger and garlic and you basically just sucked their juices and nibbled the larger bits of meat.  The bigger crabs were steamed whole and enjoyed that way.  It was a veritable feast, and Christine can crack a crab with the best of them.  (Many jokes about the Flavor Elevator assigning her whole crab during her season thinking it would trip her up.)

We finished eating about 9pm, and were lounging on her floor watching MasterChef when Christine mentioned something to her hubby John about “kimchee fries.”  My ears perked up.

“Kimchee fries?  What’s THAT?!?”

She looked dumbfounded.  “Ben, you’ve never had kimchee fries?  It’s french fries topped with sauteed kimchee, pork belly, scallions, and a spicy cream sauce.”

And even though I had gorged myself on crab a few minutes before, I have a separate stomach for things like kimchee fries.

“Where do you get them?”

“Well, there are several food trucks that have them, but the best are from Chilantro.”


“Yeah, their name is like a mashup of kimchee and cilantro.  John, where are they tonight?  Look up their schedule.”

John jumped on the net and on Twitter, but it appeared that Chilantro is closed on a Tuesday night.  So Christine sends out a tweet to them saying that they had made MasterChefs who wanted kimchee fries sad because they were closed.  And they tweet back saying they are on their way to her house for a private tasting, all they need is the address.


So around 11, a full fledged food truck pulls up in front of Christine’s house:

They invite us on board for a tour, and let me tell you, this kitchen is as spotless as any I’ve seen.  Lots of folks seems dubious about the cleanliness of food trucks, but you can actually SEE the kitchen when you buy from a food truck, and you can’t do that at most restaurants.  And these days, the contemporary food trucks are run by this generation of rabidly-passionate young chefs, perhaps too “green” or too “artistic” to qualify for the massive financing required to start a brick-and-mortar restaurant with a full staff.  Food trucks are providing them with an affordable way to launch their careers and create experimental cuisine and take it directly to the people, rather than having to have the people come to them.  But it’s no walk in the park.  The chefs told me they’ve measured the temperature inside the truck kitchen at 160 degrees during the peak of Houston’s summer, and working an 8 hour shift in that will nearly kill you.  Chilantro is furthering the new Korean/Mexican fusion rage, which began in LA and has spread like wildfire across the country.  Their menu:

And specifically, the reason they had come:

And that may SOUND good…but when it comes out, hot and steaming, under your nose:

Image courtesy of John Suh

And then you actually put it into your mouth hole, and you look like this:

Ignore the open fly...apparently I REALLY love food.

Man.  I’ve had a few impressive spins on topped fries.  Of course, for years I’ve been a fan of traditional Quebecois “poutine” which is fries with melted squeaky cheese curds and brown gravy.  Then I discovered “carne asada fries” at Peace Burger in Grapevine, TX, fries topped with grilled beef, queso, guacamole, and jalapenos.  And then, even though it’s not on the menu, I force the poor kitchen staff at Rooster’s Roadhouse in Denton, TX to regularly make me fries topped with smoked brisket and queso and onions.  But this…this is something entirely new.  And as crazy as I am for kimchee (it’s one of my FAVORITE things), it just took this whole concept of topped fries so far over the top, I don’t think I’ll ever come down from it.

Chilantro makes other things, of course.  Amazing tacos.  A pork burger with a sunny-side-up egg on top.  (ANY burger is better with a fried egg!  Shoot, a fried egg on the kimchee fries would be even MORE epic!)  So you lucky sods in Houston and Austin can find their trucks around town.  Follow their Austin Twitter or Austin Facebook or Houston Twitter or Houston Facebook to get their schedule, or check out their website.  Go support these AMAZINGLY creative chefs.  You’ll curse me after you taste those kimchee fries, because you’ll be craving them at 2am every night.  (Luck for you, they’re usually open until 3am on weekends.)

Seriously, THANK YOU to Chilantro Houston for packing up the truck in the middle of the night to deliver a private tasting to us measly little MasterChef survivors.  Fans were saying it must have been super cool for you guys to meet us, particularly Christine.  For the record, I am flabbergasted that you would think so highly of us to bust out the truck in the middle of the night and chug way out to the burbs, and you made us feel like LEGITIMATE celebrities:

Image Courtesy of John Suh

We staggered upstairs, stuffed out of our minds, feeling like rockstars that such a bad-ss food truck would come in the middle of the night at Christine’s beckoning, and we laughed until our sides hurt.

And, for an instant, I waxed poetic about the fact that none of us would know each other had our lives not been star-crossed by MasterChef.  What a miracle.

Thank you, Alvin, Michael, Jason, and Christine and John for an amazing weekend.  We ALMOST got to see James from Season 4, but he had a wedding and a big catering event that week.  Next time, James!

MasterChef 3: Food Trucks and Tortellini

All throughout my season, we kept waiting for the food truck challenge.  Food trucks were all the rage throughout the country last year, and we just KNEW we’d have a food truck challenge.  But they saved it for this season.

A few short years ago, most American’s wouldn’t be caught dead eating at a food truck.  (Unless, perhaps, you lived in Manhattan, where sidewalk food carts provide lunch to probably half of New Yorkers.)  Then, a “gourmet” food truck scene started to emerge in cities like Austin, Portland, Seattle, and Chicago.

Now, food trucks have become super trendy, alongside the meteoric rise of the “street taco,” which has become so ubiquitous that even fast food restaurant chains and luxe Mexican restaurants have “street tacos” on their menu.  There are food truck roundups in every major city in the country.  There are TV shows about racing food trucks.  Food trucks line up outside museums and parks for special events.  Some take credit cards, sell their own branded merchandise, and at some, you might find yourself spending $15-$20 for dinner, just like in a sit down restaurant with full service.

Fresh off her dessert challenge triumph, Stacey is the only specified team leader for the challenge, and she gets to hand-pick her team, as well as the 2  teams she’ll be competing against.  (Another interesting twist for this season.)  For her dream team, she picks Tali first, which surprises the judges, and probably  most of us.  However, I have this sneaking suspicion that Tali is being spun as an underdog in the beginning, and he’ll “catch his stride” later and go perhaps all the way to the final 4.  The fact that Stacey chooses him first means she knows he can cook.  (That, and she says that if they lose and go to the pressure test, she knows she can beat him.  Crafty!)  She rounds out her team with Frank and Becky, who seem to be top-dogs in the contest now.

Stacey picks team 2, which consists of Monti, who Stacey believes is her strongest competitor, and pairs her with David, because she knows they don’t get along and will be at odds.  Again…clever.  To these polar opposites she adds Anna and Tonya.  This team nominates Anna to be the team leader, and Anna is chomping at the bit for her moment to shine.

This leaves Christine, Felix, Josh, and Cowboy Mike as the remaining team (and a strong one, at that!), and Josh takes his second position as team leader for the season.

Stacey has to choose one of the 3 colored trucks for her team, not knowing which cuisine is attached to which color.  She picks Red, which means her team will be cooking Mexican food.  (My favorite, and DEFINITELY the one I’d want to be on!  However, California’s idea of Mexican food is a far cry from our Texas interpretations.  Don’t get me wrong, I do love seafood tacos, but TexMex will knock CalMex outta the water any day of the week!)  To Anna’s team she assigns Yellow, which ends up being American cuisine.  This leaves Blue to Josh’s team, which is Indian food.  Apparently this is one of Josh’s strengths.  (The judges go so far as to say that no one on the show knows Indian food the way Josh does, flagrantly ignoring the fact that Tanya is the curry queen and has Indian roots.)

The teams have 90 minutes to prep and cook, and 90 minutes to serve their food, and this challenge is about volume.  Their plates are set at $7 each, and whichever teams ends up with the most money wins.  (Delightfully, all the proceeds are being donated to Save the Children, and Boys and Girls Clubs of America.  Bravo, producers!  Let’s see more of this in future seasons.  In fact, I don’t see any reason why EVERY MasterChef challenge shouldn’t benefit a charity!)

Already, 2 of the teams have an advantage.  The average Californian on the beach in Venice is probably accustomed to getting American food (burgers, hot  dogs, etc) and Mexican food (tacos) from food trucks.  But not necessarily Indian.  So the Indian team has their work cut out for them.

Stacey suggests the Mexican menu should be a choice of a grilled veggie quesadilla, and carne asada tacos.  Personally, I think that’s a REALLY solid choice.  This is California, and if there’s one thing I learned while cooking there on MasterChef, it’s that PLENTY of people will spring for a light, vegetarian option.  Becky and Tali usurp the quesadilla and suggest 2 tacos with a scoop of guacamole, but Stacey still insists (wisely) on the vegetarian option.  This starts a huge argument about complexity vs flexibility and customer appeal…a battle all 3 teams will have to confront.  Ramsay criticizes her for giving her team twice as much work with the vegetarian taco.  I’d have TOTALLY IGNORED him.  A vegetarian taco doesn’t take that much time to prep, and I think it’s CRITICAL to have a vegetarian choice on the beach in California.  To stir up dissent on the team, Rasmay calls on Becky for her opinion, and Becky says she’d only do the carne asada taco if it was her team.  Frank also sides with Becky, and Stacey gives in.  Maybe their team was running out of time.  But I think it was a mistake.

Anna suggest a slider trio with fries on the side for the American team.  I confess, I don’t get sliders.  If I’m in the mood for a burger, I want a burger.  Not a miniature copy of a burger.  And certainly not 3 miniature copies.  That’s too much bun and not enough meat.  GIVE ME A BURGER.  Apologies to all of you who love sliders.  (When I landed on the MasterChef set last year, I had never even heard of sliders.)  Her teammates argue her down to 2 sliders in favor of simplicity and efficiency, and then David and Monti begin fighting over whether the side should be French fries or potato chips.  I’d have sided with Monti on that one…you prep the fries by frying them at 325FF until they’re limp and cooked through, and then those fries can sit around all day until a quick 2 minute fry at 375F just before serving.  I know from first-hand experience that making potato chips in bulk, while they don’t take long to fry, can be a nightmare and end up chewy and limp and greasy and disgusting…and really need to be double fried anyway, just like French fries, for optimum crispness.  I would NOT attempt to churn out buckets of homemade potato chips for a crowd.  But Anna chooses David’s chips.  Gordon bounces over to stir up trouble, and chastises the team for offering 2 different types of sliders and says they should go for one.  (Again, how hard is it to prep 2 different sets of toppings to give your customers something unique and diverse?)  But he successfully convinces them to dumb down their menu, as well, to 2 Texas-style sliders, both exactly the same.  (Hey, I have a great idea…how about serving a BURGER instead?!?)

Josh’s Indian team decides to go with Christine’s recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala, which is roasted or sauteed chicken in a rich, spicy tomato sauce. Cowboy Mike laments, “I don’t really know what we’re cooking, some kind of chicken tiki taki or taki maki, or something.”  But we all know how brilliant Christine is with flavors, so even though I project that Indian food will be a harder sell for them than burgers or tacos, they’ve got a chance to present some explosive flavor that could easily overshadow the competition.

The hungry crowds begin to gather, and the American team doesn’t have ANY burger patties on the grill yet.  Luckily, tiny slider patties cook more quickly than a single burger patty.  However, they end up taking up MORE space on the grill than a burger patty.  So each serving requires more real estate.  Not a good situation when you’re moments from serving and nothing’s on the grill yet.  I’d have gotten patties on the grill during the very first 5 minutes of prep time, cooked up ALL the patties, and then had them ready for a final high-temp sear for a few seconds just before serving.  Gordon thinks it’s a great idea to sit there at the truck window and yell at them…because that’s OBVIOUSLY going to help matters.  (Like they don’t know they need to get their burgers on the grill, like, an hour ago!)

Before serving time, we get another lovely reminder that Walmart is the official grocer for MasterChef, and another poorly-made commercial about a crowd thinking they’re being served ultra-premium steaks, only to discover that they are, in fact, Walmart steaks.  In tiny letters below a man flashing “2 thumbs up” we see, “Real customers are chosen and compensated for their time and participation,” meaning these are already people who shop at Walmart and they got paid to say what they said.  (However, as I’ve said before, I DO shop at Walmart and they DO, in fact, have the best beef of any grocery store in my immediate area.  I’m just not sure that Walmart projects the kind of elite image that MasterChef is trying to brand for itself.)

The crowds are let loose on the trucks, and everyone who goes to the American truck for sliders is told they’ll have to wait.  (I’m certain many of them bailed for tacos or tikka masala.)  David, as the grill master, is responsible for getting patties out as quickly as possible, and Gordon quickly discovers that he’s churning them out TOO fast.  At least one is raw.  (But where one is raw…and I mean ice cold raw in the middle…there are probably others.)  David deflects responsibility and says that the real problem is that the girls can’t assemble burgers as fast as he can cook them.  (Which doesn’t make that much sense to me.)  Still, I know that pressure…being so far behind, he’s eager to get those babies off the grill as soon as possible so they can serve their customers.

The line for tacos dwindles, probably because Stacey’s team is serving so efficiently that the line gets processed quickly.  They’re so on top of things that Stacey has time to go out and recruit people from the nearby skate park and direct them to their line-less taco truck.

Time is called, and the tills are tallied.  And the winner is…(commercial break).

The winner, having sold $798 worth of food, or 114 meals, is, unsurprisingly…Stacey’s taco team.  It’s really, really hard to beat the reputation and demand for street tacos.  In second place, with 108 meals served, is Josh’s tikka masala team.  Anna’s slider team only served  86 meals.  That could have been because they got off to a late start and because the patties weren’t coming off the grill fast enough.  Or it could have been because people didn’t wanna eat 2 miniature burgers and chips, when on either side of them they had tacos and spicy Indian food to choose from.  While they start fighting over who’s fault it is, Anna proves herself a leader by stating, “It was my responsibility, as the leader, to get you [probably David] going sooner.  Bottom line, I’m responsible. I’m the team captain.”

Ultimately, though $2156 gets donated to charity.  Which is WAY more important than anything else.  And if MasterChef could generate that kind of money with each group challenge, they could be donating well over $20k each year.  TAKE NOTE, Fox and producers!  That’s a big chance to give back.

Joe reveals that the next pressure test is about tortellini.  And for the first time in MasterChef, Joe cooks.  Sort of.  He shows us how to assemble the perfect tortellini.  (Though I’m dead certain everything was prepped for him by someone else.)  And we don’t actually see his final ravioli after he forms it.  Interesting.

It should be noted here that NO ONE…and I mean NO ONE…makes their tortellini by hand.  Each tortellini is a single bite of food.  To prep enough tortellini by hand for an entire restaurant’s nightly service would take weeks.  All tortellini is machine-formed these days.  However, that doesn’t mean it’s not a good exercise to learn to make it by hand!

This challenge also brings back fond memories of Christmas dinners with my partner Christian and his Brasilian/Italian family.  Their family tradition derives from a common northern Italian Christmas tradition…which is to eat cappelletti in a light chicken broth.  Cappelletti is the same thing as tortellini, for all intents and purposes, but the filling is generally chicken with cheese, whereas tortellini is usually either beef or pork and cheese, or sometimes just cheese.  Christian’s mom and grandma would make a light but explosively flavored broth with chicken and nutmeg, they would gently simmer the cappelletti in the broth for a minute or two, and then we’d eat it with GOBS of parmigiano cheese on top.

The first step is, of course, to make the pasta dough.  The judges attack David Martinez for having “fat fingers” and kneading his pasta directly on the stainless steel surface.  Joe says David knows nothing about pasta because “Pasta needs to be in a warm and gentle environment.”  Traditionally, pasta IS made on a wooden board.  (Because there were no stainless steel boards until the last half of the 20th century.)  But what Joe is neglecting to tell you is that psta dough MUST rest in a cool (NOT warm) place to allow the gluten to relax, or the dough will tear while rolling.    There is nothing wrong with kneading pasta on a stainless steel surface and it may, in fact, lower your relaxation time, thus allowing you to roll it out more quickly.

The judges, particularly Joe, attack Anna for making her pasta dough in the food processor.  I wonder what Joe would say to his mother, Lidia Bastianich, one of the most famous Italian celebrity chefs in the country, born and raised in Italy, who taught American-born Joe everything he knows about Italian food, and WHO TAUGHT THE COUNTRY THAT THE BEST WAY TO MAKE PASTA IS IN THE FOOD PROCESSOR.  It’s on her website.  In her cookbooks.  More sensationalist gossip from the judges with NO foundation in truth!  It’s perfectly acceptable to make pasta dough in the food processor.  YES, the vigorous mixing tightens the gluten.  But it lets you get your dough finished and relaxing in the fridge quickly while you worry about your filling.  It was actually a smart move for Anna to do that.

Personally, I make my pasta dough in my Kitchenaid stand mixer.  If I’m rolling it, I finish the kneading by hand for a few minutes (as you also do after making it in the food processor).  If I’m extruding it, I never knead the stuff by hand at all.

Now the contestants are forming their tortellini and we get a shot of David’s pasta sheet being rolled out and it’s absolutely GORGEOUS.  (Kudos, David.)  And since his self proclaimed “sausage fingers” aren’t dainty enough to handle the forming delicately, he’s using the plastic thermometer cover to ensure that the filling is wrapped neatly by the pasta and that all the air is pressed out.  VERY clever and resourceful, David.

Graham asks Tanya a barrage of questions and she starts to lose it.  She proclaims that she’s ready to give up, but Graham comforts her in a way that neither of the other judges can and gets her to believe in herself.  He says that Tanya has more heart than ANY of the contestants, and that cooking with love is SO much more important than cooking with skill.  I couldn’t agree more, Graham.  That’s probably the ONLY reason I did as well as I did last season.

At Anna’s station, there’s crisis.  She has pricked through the pasta layer to press out all the air from her filling, which basically creates a hole for the water to flood and dilute the filling.  Then the burner under her broth isn’t lit, and with only moments to go, she realizes that her tortellini aren’t cooking.

Tasting begins, and Bastianich follows tradition by removing tortellini from the broth, dumping it out onto the table and cutting it in half first to look at the filling.  …  (That was a joke, people.)  Not surprisingly, Anna’s pasta isn’t cooked all the way through because her burner wasn’t on.  Tanya’s tortellini aren’t formed beautifully enough.  Monti’s aren’t pretty, either, but they apparently taste good.  David’s are gorgeous, and taste just as good.

So Monti and David are safe, and Tanya and Anna are on the chopping block.  And my heart’s thumping 800 miles an hour, because Tanya is a good friend of mine, and my other friend on the show, Michael Chen, was eliminated a couple of weeks ago, and I’m scared I’m going to lose Tanya now.  But Anna is so sweet, I don’t want to lose her, either.

And after the commercial break, where we catch of glimpse of my darling Tracy from last season, the decision is…Anna.  In a rich MasterChef tradition, the team leader gets the boot during the ensuing pressure test.  One of these days I’m going to calculate how often this happens…or maybe Wikipedia has already done it for me.  But they LOVE to eliminate fallen team leaders, and contestants who’ve just won challenges.

Anna is a peach.  Her blog is The Brave Apron and she want to start a catering company with her husband, AJ, who she competed against for an apron back during the auditions.  Follow her on Facebook and Twitter, because she’s got big things coming!