MasterChef Episode Recaps

Top 8 Compete Again

Top 8 Compete Again

Aired: 8/2/11

The eight remaining cooks enter the "MasterChef" kitchen and are greeted by judges Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot, and Joe Bastianich. The chefs announce the next Mystery Box Challenge: the contestants must use the ingredients inside the wooden crates to make spectacular food. The judges will taste only the top three of the eight dishes, and a winner will be chosen from those presentations.

The players open their boxes to reveal the makings of a surf-and-turf meal: jumbo shrimp, Alaskan king crab, live crawfish, buffalo ribeye, dry-aged porterhouse steak, and short ribs. They now have 45 minutes to make their culinary delights. Joe comments, "We've given them the grounds to be successful before they even began cooking, so they have to take it to the next level to really impress us." The judges want to see the contestants create a modern twist on the classic surf and turf.

When time is up, the judges make their first pick for the top three, choosing Adrien's beer-braised short ribs and crab salad. This marks the third time Adrien is in the top group for a Mystery Box Challenge. Gordon says, "It is a very modern take - you are back with a vengeance!" Joe remarks that it was brave to use short ribs and tells Adrien that he knocked it out of the park.

The second chef in the top three is Suzy, with her prawn bisque and bison. Gordon is surprised to hear that "Miss Smarty Knickers is going simple." He congratulates her, saying, "When you cook and let the ingredients shine, you're unstoppable." Joe adds, "If you keep on cooking like this, your stay with us here may continue to extend."

The final cook selected as a winner is Jennifer, who brings her risotto with short ribs and crab to the judges. Graham calls the dish "incredible." Gordon notes that she made the perfect risotto. He summons Christian to the judge's table, because Christian made bland mashed potatoes and he could learn something from Jennifer.

Gordon then names Jennifer as the three-time Mystery Box winner and gives her a huge advantage for the upcoming challenge. The judges take her into the pantry and explain that the next task revolves around memories of the chefs' childhoods.

Joe reveals that his favorite dish as a kid was his grandmother's homemade pizza. Graham preferred mac and cheese, while Gordon recalls the wonderful feeling he got eating grilled cheese and tomato soup. The task is to cook a gourmet version of one chef's cherished, boyhood food memories.

Jennifer picks Gordon's favorite, tomato soup and grilled cheese, and now all the cooks will have 45 minutes to prepare the most stunning version they can. When time is up, the cooks begin presenting their dishes to the judges.

They start with Suzy, who managed to finish hers despite having cut her hand with only 15 minutes left. She makes a "3-G" grilled cheese sandwich with goat cheese, smoked gouda, and gruyere. Graham enjoys it and proclaims, "You should be psyched." Joe is excited that he can taste the bourbon flavor. Gordon is pleased she decided not to serve the soup inside an heirloom tomato but instead kept it simple.

Adrien is next with his creamy tomato soup and grilled cheese with foie gras and honey. Gordon doesn't approve, saying that it's too rich and over-the-top.

Christian then presents a lobster tomato soup and grilled cheese with foie gras and prosciutto. Graham thinks that the soup needs more seasoning but notes that the flavors are good.

Ben is afraid to take his soup for inspection because he knows it's "disgusting." He contemplates tripping on the way to the judge's table so he can forgo the presentation. When Gordon tastes his roasted tomato soup and grilled cheese with bacon, he criticizes, "That is one of your worst performances on 'MasterChef.' " Joe explains, "It's the kind of acidity you have in unripe grapes."

Tracy presents her Mediterranean-style tomato soup with pancetta and fontina grilled cheese. Gordon says that the flavors explode. "You got it right!"

Jennifer's roasted tomato soup with lobster grilled cheese causes Joe to comment that "It is a very nice exercise in richness versus base and heat."

Derrick is next with a creamy tomato and bacon gorgonzola soup with tomato-and-bacon grilled cheese. "It's like tomato and cream and bacon all hanging out at the school yard, and then this big gorgonzola bully comes along and beats the crap out of them," Graham says.

Christine is the last chef to face the judges. She has made a roasted green heirloom tomato soup with a provolone and goat cheese grilled sandwich. Gordon thinks that it's all too acidic. Graham says that it's "baby food-esque," and Joe says the cream and vinegar together is a big technical error.

The judges select Tracy and Suzy as having the two best dishes. And then they name Christine, Derrick, and Ben as the cooks who made the worst attempts at a gourmet grilled cheese and tomato soup. Gordon concedes that this is a difficult decision for them because all three contestants have given them joy in previous challenges.

The judges ask Christine to turn in her "MasterChef" apron. But Gordon encourages her, "You have been a breath of fresh air . . . and you're going to walk out that door with your head held high . . . You've done bloody well but don't stop. Keep cooking!"

They also send home Derrick home. But before he leaves, Joe invites him to stop by his restaurant and "talk about his very fine career in the culinary arts."

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