MasterChef Episode Recaps

Audition #2

Audition #2

Aired: 6/7/11

Day 2 of the "MasterChef" auditions kick off, and again the contestants have one hour in the prep kitchen and five minutes in front of the judges to complete their signature dishes. If they earn a "yes" vote from at least two of the three judges, they'll win a "MasterChef" apron and advance in the competition.

First up is Dustin, a pool boy from Orlando, Florida. He gets a touching surprise when his mom, who taught him how to cook and was diagnosed with breast cancer, surprises him in the show's prep kitchen. His English-style sausage roll with an Italian twist is a big hit with Gordon Ramsay, who devours the saucy addition to a U.K. classic. After foraging for scraps, judge Graham Elliot agrees that the dish is "yummy." Even though judge Joe Bastianich doesn't have the emotional connection that Gordon does to the sausage roll and seems slightly less impressed, he still gives Dustin a "yes." And with that, the first home cook of the day wins an apron.

However, the judges don't have positive reactions to the next five aspiring chefs. They send home the creator of a honey apple-smoked risotto with an egg yolk, and they tell a tiara-wearing competitor that her food is "lacking flavor."

Next in the hot seat is Christine, a single mom who steadies her nerves in the "MasterChef" kitchen with her "secret weapon" - a glass of white wine. While she admittedly grew up on "crap," such as toast with ground beef and white gravy, she's developed more refined culinary tastes as an adult. She prepares soft shell crab, creamy polenta, and cole slaw. Joe thinks that everything combined might make a good sandwich, but as presented falls short of the show's high standards. Graham gives her a "yes," confessing that he thinks few things are as "sensuous as a soft shell crab." Gordon sees her deep connection with high quality food, despite her being dealt a "dysfunctional card" growing up. He calls her crab "phenomenal," giving her a resounding "yes" and an apron.

Hydraulic tech Jason provides his own confetti-fueled celebration as he comes to the judges' table. But his offering - bacon and strawberries with a garlic horseradish-and-fruit reduction - leaves Gordon asking, "What were you smoking when you put that dish together?" He is one of many who fail to impress the judges, including one contestant who butchers the French language, much to Chef Ramsay's dismay.

The panel is not pleased with the next group of hopefuls either. Joe refuses to even taste one competitor's meal. "It's conceptually wrong," he explains. "It's executed poorly. It smells bad." And a presentation that's supposedly often the top request of friends leads Gordon to inquire, "Are they still alive?"

Halfway through the day, only two contestants have been awarded aprons. So Joe decides to give the next round a little tough-love pep talk. He tells them, "This dish that you present is a reflection of what you think of us. So if you put down something that's over-cooked, under-seasoned, over-seasoned, you're saying that we don't really give a damn about what's going on here."

Luckily for everyone, the next contestant lives up to the panel's high standards. Web designer and death metal musician Derrick takes a major risk by making his own chorizo - and he impresses the judges by doing so. All three give him a resounding vote of approval, and Gordon tells Derrick that "he's the one to beat."

He's followed by Farmer Bob from Lowell, Massachusetts. Although he devotes his life to organic farming, Bob doesn't bring any of his own produce from home; he cooks ahi tuna and chicken instead. His reverse surf and turf isn't good enough for the judges. Gordon gives him an "e-i-e-i-no," and Bob gracefully exits for the farm.

But the next contestant gets hot under the collar when Gordon and Joe reject his redneck sushi dish of chicken breast in a mayonnaise-based barbecue sauce. Joe jokingly calls for security after the martial arts instructor storms out of the kitchen in a rage.

Home cook Esther is also emotional about her cooking, having quit her job as an attorney to pursue a more soul-fulfilling career in food. Her Korean spicy braised cod with daikon radish appeals more to Gordon's sense of sight than to his taste buds. Graham and Joe, however, appreciate her passion and send her on to the next round.

Retail manager Alvin brings a different approach to the kitchen. The molecular gastronomy practitioner comes to the show with a homemade immersion circulator in his arsenal. With it, he cooks a flawless egg that's the centerpiece of his braised beef short rib and sticky rice dish. Graham tells him that he wishes he had "two mouths to eat this." Gordon and Joe approve as well, and Alvin earns an apron.

The next two contestants are a mother and son, Denise and Kyle. They both profess to be the better cook. But at the end of the day mom's spicy green bean side dish doesn't measure up, and it's the son's daring chicken paprikash that wins the family throwdown.

The panel also rewards Midwestern truck driver Tony for his perfectly pan-seared mahi mahi. And with that, the self-proclaimed cooking addict is one step closer to his dream of bringing "culture food" to his small hometown.

Several more cooks earn aprons before the final contestant gets her turn to wow the judges. Venezuelan-born Alejandra was an architect before losing her job two years ago. The chefs love her interpretation of Peruvian sautéed shrimp. Joe thinks that it tells her story on a plate, calling it "really one of the best things we've eaten so far."

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