MasterChef Episode Recaps

Audition #1

Audition #1

Aired: 6/6/11

Season 2 of "MasterChef" begins with a booming voiceover from internally acclaimed chef and head judge Gordon Ramsay asking, "Is there anyone here who thinks they are the MasterChef?"

Michelin-starred chef Gordon Ramsay and his fellow judges - Graham Elliot, the youngest four-star chef in America, and restaurateur and wine maker Joe Bastianich - are about to embark on the latest nationwide search for the country's best home cooks. The hopefuls are all hungry for the coveted title of "MasterChef" and the $250,000 cash prize.

The judges enter a large room filled with eager contestants awaiting the opportunity to prepare one dish good enough to earn the "MasterChef" apron that symbolizes a spot in the next round. "Wanting it is not enough," Gordon warns them. "You've got to do more. You have to become culinary perfection."

Joe Bastianich, owner of some of the premier restaurants in the world, explains, "If we say your food is good or bad, we're right." Then Graham Elliot holds up one of the coveted aprons and declares, "You don't get one just for trying." He says that their dishes must be "equal parts delicious, creative, and have a lot of skill."

The 100 home cooks assembled have been chosen from thousands of applicants. They are given just one hour to prepare their signature dish, and then they have five minutes to plate it in front of the judges. If they get two out of three "yes" votes from the panel, they earn an apron and move forward to the next stage of the competition.

Jennifer, a former beauty queen and current real estate agent from Wilmington, Delaware, is up first. She serves a coconut curry lentil soup with carrots garnished with spicy shrimp. Gordon questions her choice of carrots, but Graham loves the shrimp and gives her a "yes" vote. But Joe remarks, "The consistency of the dish was a failure." It's a "no" from him. Gordon's vote breaks the tie, and he hands her an apron.

A series of failed dishes, from stuffed salmon to tuna tartare to grits, receives remarks ranging from "disgusting" to "I need a water." The judges even subject one competitor to a sprint around the set and a string of push-ups before handing down their "no" verdict.

Next to the plate is trucker Albert from Kiln, Mississippi. The self-proclaimed redneck admits to eating an assortment of unusual foods, including 'coon, rattlesnake, and bobcat, but he says that he draws the line at cooking possum. After giving the judges a glimpse of the devil tattoo on his backside, he presents his signature dish: a sausage and alligator jambalaya. All three judges are pleasantly surprised, and Albert is in.

Another group of disastrous dishes follows, earning such critiques as "hideous," "dry, overcooked, and inedible," and "a dehydrated dog turd." After these unfortunate attempts, a firefighter named Mike from Milton, Massachusetts, hopes to smoke the competition. He serves the judges a pan-seared, crusted halibut on mushroom risotto with a lobster Newburg sauce. Ironically, his fish is a bit burned, and he is sent back to Boston without an apron. But Gordon guarantees him a spot for Season 3 if he promises to continue cooking and return in 12 months.

Next up is classical pianist Monica Chung's culinary performance. She presents a traditional Korean dish of vegetables, rice, and fried eggs. She wins three resounding "yes" votes for her unique flavors and cooking skills. Other apron-winning dishes include Aaron's grilled eggplant with chorizo and goat cheese, Kayla's shrimp and grilled polenta, and Elin's lamb and pumpkin stew.

After the steady stream of winners, the pressure is on for Tracy, a sales consultant from Coral Springs, Florida. The judges watch in horror as she drowns her crispy wild mushroom risotto cake in white truffle oil. Sadly, while they enjoy most of the food she prepares, the truffle overpowers the more pleasant flavors. And while Gordon votes "no," the other two judges hope that she learns from her mistake and send her through.

As Tracy celebrates her second chance, no amount of rapping or serenading can save the next two contestants, who both sing while preparing their dishes. But next up, Angel's begging and tears help earn her a spot in the next stage of the competition. Still Gordon cautions her to "focus."

Event planner Christian from Las Vegas then makes a bold move. He presents sushi displayed on a naked woman's body. But the raw fish does not cut it in the cooking competition. He receives three "no" votes. The next series of contenders follow suit and disappoint the judges. All four leave without an apron.

Does the same fate await Pauline, a Scottish real estate agent living in Calabasas, California? Her salmon and haggis en croute makes Gordon long for home in the U.K. While Joe can't get behind the haggis, Graham agrees with Gordon and sends Pauline through to the next round.

The final contestant of Day 1 is Christian Collins, a stay-at-home dad from Gloucester, Massachusetts. When he presents his Shipwreck Sea Stew with lobster, shrimp, and assorted shellfish, Joe jokes that he hopes the dish is "not your culinary 'Titanic.' " But after tasting it, the judge declares, "That's the type of dish that wins competitions like this one." Graham and Gordon agree and award Christian the last apron of the day.

Next up is the second day of the audition round, when the rest of the eager contestants square off for the remaining spots on "MasterChef" Season 2.

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