MasterChef Episode Recaps

Audition #3

Audition #3

Aired: 6/13/11

It's Day 3 of auditions and the final chance for the home cooks to make a good impression on judges Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot, and Joe Bastianich. Once again, the challengers have one hour in the prep kitchen and five minutes in front of the judges to complete their dishes. With a minimum of two "yes" votes from the judges, they'll earn a "MasterChef" apron and advance in the competition.

First up is neural engineer Suzy, a first generation South Asian who calls cooking her "happy place." Her conservative parents are, however, not overjoyed with her choice to pursue a culinary career. But Suzy pleases the chefs at the judges' table, who give her Tandoori sea bass en papillote "three definite 'yeses.' "

The day may be off to a sweet start, but the judges quickly sour on the next batch of contestants. Gordon says that one dish featuring a Creole crab and crawdad cake is a "nine and a half out of a hundred." Graham is no kinder to another aspiring chef; he says that she mishandled her halibut, adding, "Every time somebody uses tongs on a delicate piece of fish, God kills a puppy."

The judges have more aprons to hand out when "MasterChef's" youngest-ever competitor enters the judge's circle. Max Kramer, 18, was raised on the finer things in life. He hopes to impress the judges by serving them fried Kumamoto oyster with steak tataki. But Joe points out that the privileged youth is trying to impress them by using luxury ingredients, adding, "I don't know if you have a lot technique." But when a "no" from Graham and a "yes" from Gordon force Joe to be the tie-breaker, he sends Max through. Gordon, however, wonders, "Is he a MasterChef or is he a trust fund baby?"

The group that follows tries to appeal to Joe's Italian roots with an Italian stew, homemade gnocchi, and cioppino. But too little knowledge, too much salt, and an overall inability to hit the high "MasterChef" mark, prove fatal to the three competitors, and none of them advance to the next round.

A real Italian transplant's success comes on the heels of these culinary missteps. Thirty-eight-year-old granite salesman Giuseppe says, "There's so much love in my blood that if you cut my vein, tomato sauce is going to come out!" The judges are impressed with his straightforward, rustic cooking style, which Giuseppe cleverly characterizes by saying, "There is no fusion; there is no confusion." After tasting his stuffed mussels with marinara sauce made from scratch, the judges call the Italian-born chef's wife and son into the room, and Gordon tells Giuseppe's boy, Jake, to give his dad an apron.

Next up is a 27-year-old grade school teacher from Tampa, Florida, who presents her sweet meatballs topped with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano and basil. But her secret ingredient of pound cake is too sweet for the judges. And despite a "very surprising but big 'yes' " from Joe, she's sent home.

Another group of cooks hits it just right and are awarded aprons before Edgardo makes his way to the judges' table. But the 46-year-old teacher from Burbank, California, prepares a dish that's just too simple for Graham and Gordon's liking. Even though Joe praises the live Dungeness crab with mango cucumber salad as "amazing," Edgardo is eliminated. Joe chastises his fellow judges, telling them that he thinks they "made a mistake on that one."

The judges votes swing in the other direction for 28-year-old Adrien. The restaurant server is so passionate about cooking that he's offered to work in kitchens for free. He comes to the "MasterChef" kitchen with his grandmother by his side. She's been praying for him to get a chance to pursue his dream, and she feels that the show is God's answer to her appeals. While Joe feels that Adrien's surf and turf with homemade achiote spices is lacking salt, Gordon and Graham think Adrien's dish is heavenly, and he moves on in the competition.

Gordon shuts down the next group of hopefuls with such comments as "It goes from greasy to dry to bizarre," "My biggest problem is the oil slick on the plate," and "Are you allergic to flavor?" And with that, more contenders are cut.

But a good-old boy from down South catches the judges' attention with an emotional story and cooking ingenuity. Joe, a 45-year-old construction foreman from Saint Cloud, Florida, learned to cook when his wife was badly injured in a construction accident. But as Graham comments to Joe, "You found your soul in food." With his wife, Connie, by his side, the judges weigh in on Joe's "Swiss Alligator" with steamed white rice. While Joe Bastianich likes the couple, he's not a fan of the food. But Graham enjoys the flavors and gives the chef a "yes" vote. Gordon calls Connie over and hands her an apron to give to her husband.

Having tasted 99 dishes, the judges are ready to sample the cooking of the final competitor. Ben Starr dons a homemade pumpkin-covered apron and hat and serves up his self-proclaimed "world famous, life-altering fish tacos." Even though he forgets to include his signature ingredient, crispy fried pumpkin, the judges love the Dallas travel writer's fare.

The "ultimate food geek" rounds out the class of 38 contestants who've been chosen to move on to the next level of "MasterChef" competition. The final group includes a classical pianist, a commercial truck driver, a former attorney, a musician, a single mom, a stay-at-home dad, and an architect. Now the ultimate kitchen battle begins, as the home cooks will compete for $250,000 and the title of "MasterChef."

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