It's down to the semi-final. Only four contestants remain. Who will become America's first MasterChef?
Will it be Lee, the bartender from L.A.? Sheetal, the teacher from Chicago? David, the software engineer from Boston? Or Whitney, the 22-year-old student?
Tonight's challenge will be the toughest one yet, as the contestants compete to win a quarter of a million dollars, write their own cookbook, and win the coveted "MasterChef" title. Each will have to prepare three dishes in two hours, competing directly against one other contestant. Gordon draws names out of a bowl . . . it will be David vs. Sheetal and Lee vs. Whitney.
"I'm afraid of her!," Lee says of Whitney, while David says he "fished his wish."
Gordon also has a big surprise: He's invited everyone's friends and family for the occasion.
After a tearful reunion, the judges decide on David and Sheetal's three dishes. Joe would like them to prepare veal Milanese. Graham wants a slice of apple pie, Americana at its finest. And Gordon calls for a bowl of clam chowder, giving David, a New Englander, an advantage.
Sheetal's not too thrilled about the veal and the chowder, but she's very confident about the apple pie. David has never made apple pie before, and he's extra nervous to do it in front of his mother. He's falling behind, so he decides to make an individual-sized pie instead.
As for the veal, David takes a huge risk by cooking his in the oven. Graham thinks Sheetal might win it. Could the girl whose parents are from India beat the New England boy?
Finally, the judges are ready to taste. Gordon says Sheetal's clam chowder is "really good indeed." David's is thinner, but his clams are cooked absolutely perfectly. The winner of the clam chowder face-off is David.
Next up is Sheetal's flaky apple pie. Graham says it's beautiful in its simplicity. However, the crust on David's individual apple pie is a little too thick. Sheetal takes the round.
On to the veal. David's thick cut Milanese is cooked almost perfectly, but it's not as traditional as Sheetal's. The contestant who best combined tradition with technique and innovation is . . . David! He's won two of three rounds, so Sheetal is going home.
"Sheetal, you've been amazing. You had my vote since you first walked through the door," Gordon says. "You must continue that journey."
Now it's time for Lee and Whitney to face off. Lee is thrilled to see his girlfriend, his best friend, and his mom, the latter of whom has traveled all the way from Israel.
Whitney, who at age 22 has earned the nickname "the pastry princess" for her brilliant desserts, is also delighted to see her family.
The judges decide on the menu. Joe requests chicken Parmesan. Graham wants to taste a perfect eggs Benedict dish. And Gordon would like a delicious cheesecake.
Whitney takes a risk by choosing to prepare a no-bake cheesecake. Lee is adding bacon to his chicken Parmesan, and Joe's not so sure he's making the right decision. Lee is also doing his Benedict over a latke rather than an English muffin, while Whitney does hers over a grit cake.
Three minutes left . . . time's up! Graham says that he'd be psyched to order Lee's egg dish in a restaurant. Whitney's is also beautiful, but her grit cake is so big, it looks like it belongs at a truck stop. Lee wins the round.
On to the chicken. Lee's rolled chicken Parmesan was risky, but it works. Whitney's stuffed chicken Parm looks "rogue," but in the end, hers is better.
Final course. It's Lee's New York-style cheesecake with rhubarb compote vs. Whitney's no-bake cheesecake. They're both "superb," but Whitney takes it. Her modern interpretation was a huge risk, but it worked. Gordon reassures Lee that he has a future in the food industry, but Lee says that he's just happy his mother got to try his cooking.
"I came out a winner today because I had the opportunity to cook for my mom," Lee says while fighting back tears. "That to me more than anything tells me I'm doing the right thing with my life."
Stay tuned as David and Whitney compete in the finale.
It's the moment we've all been waiting for. David and Whitney will face off in the "MasterChef" season finale, and only one will be named America's first MasterChef.
Will Whitney, a 22-year-old Southern "pastry princess," take the title? Or will it be 29-year-old David, a software engineer from Boston?
We're just an hour away from finding out who will win a quarter of a million dollars, write their own cookbook, and earn the coveted "MasterChef" title.
Tonight, the contestants will prepare their three best dishes: a mouthwatering appetizer, a stunning entrée, and a delicious dessert.
Whitney decides on a crispy corn cake, country fried chicken, and a bread pudding for dessert. David is making scallops ceviche, beef Wellington, and nectarine crepes. And all of the season's finalists are back to watch them.
David and Whitney have two hours to make three dishes. And they're off!
Gordon isn't happy to see David chatting with the former contestants, or as he puts it, "playing to the audience." He warns David to get it together. Whitney seems more focused, but will her home-style cooking win out over David's restaurant-style cuisine?
Whitney seems to be changing her game plan, as her bread pudding looks more like a soufflé. Will the pastry princess be taken down by her dessert?
David also surprises the judges by putting expensive, delicious chanterelle mushrooms in the food processor, where they'll lose flavor. Like soufflé, Wellington is also easy to mess up.
David predicts that Whitney's time management skills might take her down, and with 10 minutes left, his prediction looks to be coming true. Whitney drops her chicken, and must make the dish all over again! After panicking for a minute or two, Whitney gets the dish cooking again with seven minutes to spare.
Finally, time's up. Inside the "MasterChef" restaurant, the contestants will be presenting their three courses one dish at a time. The contestant with the best overall meal will win the competition.
For the first course, David presents his sea scallop ceviche with cream of fresh pea soup. The ceviche and the soup are meant to contrast with each other, but the judges start coughing - the ceviche is too spicy.
Whitney's sweet shrimp with crispy corncake and turnip green pesto is "a little unorthodox," and the shrimp appear to be undercooked.
Privately, the judges decide both dishes have highs and lows.
Next up: the entrees. David presents his beef Wellington with foie gras mousse and mushroom duxelle. Gordon says that it's not bad, but it's not perfect. He thinks that the dish was too difficult to attempt on finale night.
Whitney presents her buttermilk chicken and creamed collard greens. The big question is, will Whitney's chicken be raw? She only had seven minutes to cook it, which is "virtually impossible" to do. It must be Whitney's lucky night - the chicken is cooked perfectly! The judges also like the way she elevated inexpensive ingredients.
Time for dessert. David serves up his nectarine crepes Suzette. The judges think that the dish is "very good." Whitney presents her bread pudding with raspberry coulis and white chocolate sauce. Gordon is nervous; he says you never turn a soufflé out of its mold the way Whitney did. But Whitney says it's a cross between a soufflé and a bread pudding.
Time for the final decision. David's appetizer was more "cheffy," but Whitney "nailed it" with her entrée. Gordon gives Whitney an incredible amount of credit for attempting a soufflé on finale night while making it better and more modern.
In the end, Gordon says that both contestants cooked like professionals. It was a very tough decision, but America's first-ever MasterChef is ... Whitney!
Runner-up David says that he's "beyond proud" of himself.
"Even having the opportunity to cook for these guys shows that I do have what it takes, but wow, next to that one, she puts me to shame," he says of Whitney. "I know she's going to build that catering business that she always wanted."
As for Whitney, she can't even find the words to explain how happy she is. But here's one Whitney recipe you can look forward to.
"I'm definitely going to have my seven-minute chicken in the cookbook," she promises.
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