The top 18 cooks take their place in the "MasterChef" kitchen. Head judge Gordon Ramsay greets them. "This place will make or break you," he says. "And for one of you, it's where you'll graduate from a home cook to become a 'MasterChef.' " The winner will also walk away with $250,000.
Judge Graham Elliot announces that they are going to test the contestants' creativity with the first Mystery Box challenge. The cooks must prepare a stunning dish using only the ingredients hidden inside the wooden crate. The judges will select the top three dishes based on presentation, and the person with the best-tasting dish of the trio will get an advantage in the Elimination Challenge.
The contestants open their Mystery Boxes to reveal salmon, strawberries, fennel, white asparagus, ricotta cheese, potatoes, pistachios, balsamic vinegar, fresh dill, and puff pastry. They now have 60 minutes to make a dish that will impress the judges, who move from station to station, inspecting the contestants as they cook. Angel tells Gordon that she's creating salmon patties with a mustard ricotta sauce, which appears to shock him.
Suzy explains to judges Graham Elliot and Joe Bastianich that she's making a trio of salmon preparations. Max overhears her telling the judges that she has many techniques that she wants to show them, but he's not impressed by the high opinion she has of herself.
Joe questions the small chunks of fish that Jennie uses in her savory tart, while Tony burns his pot handle as Gordon approaches his station. Tony says, "It's like the teacher catching you when you don't have your homework done."
Based on what the judges have seen as they walk around and on the quality of the presentations, they select the top three dishes. But before they name their favorites, they call out Ben as the cook who deserves last place. Although the judges thought he was a serious contender, his "hideous" strawberry balsamic and undercooked salmon let them down.
Next comes the good news. The first of the top three is Suzy. Chef Ramsay calls her trio of salmon "daring" and "bold." Graham, however, is not happy with the balsamic version, while Joe thinks her makeshift smoking technique is more like "smoke and mirrors."
Next up is Christian. Joe says that his pistachio-crusted salmon "would win the award for being the most restaurant-ready." Gordon comments that the combination of flavors is "absolutely on the money."
The last to make the top three is Jennie, with her savory salmon tart, which Graham sums up as "really, really delicious." Joe tells her that the twist on a pizza "is super-smart and super-impressive."
The judges choose Christian's dish as the winner, and for his prize he is taken into the "MasterChef" pantry. There, he gets to choose the style of food that everyone will cook for the Elimination Challenge. The theme is the cuisine of Europe, and he gets to pick from Spain, France, and Britain.
They return to the "MasterChef" kitchen, where Gordon announces Christian's decision: it's going to be French cuisine. Graham also gives Christian another huge advantage. He's safe from elimination and gets to sit back, sip Champagne, and observe the others from the gallery. The rest of the contestants have one hour to make their best French dish.
When time runs out, the 17 contestants present their creations to the judges, who will taste every dish, choose a bottom three, and eliminate at least one person.
Max is up first with his poached cod in cream sauce. Joe comments that the cod is cooked well and is flaky and translucent, while Graham says that the sauce is "delicious." Gordon remarks that the dish proves, "You really do know how to cook."
Giuseppe steps up to the plate with his profiteroles with lemon vanilla cream, which Joe declares a success. Suzy presents a duo of tarts: chocolate ganache and lemon curd. Graham dubs her the "overachiever."
While Alejandra's seared cod with steamed clams is cooked to perfection, Jennie's trio of soups is a disappointment after her strong showing in the previous challenge. Mark follows her with a peppercorn-crusted filet with a béarnaise sauce, and he makes a critical mistake by putting raw flour in his potatoes.
Derrick comes to the table with a French cheese puff stuffed with poached egg, which Gordon proclaims is "fantastic." Angel is not so lucky with her use of the pastry, which does not make it to the plate for her fruit tart. Christine's seared pork chop in creamy Dijon sauce also fails to impress the judges, and Erryn misses the mark with his non-French beef carpaccio.
After tasting all 17 dishes, the judges decide who falls into the bottom three, and they also announce the dishes that most impressed them. Derrick's cheese puff and Max's cod are chosen as the winners. As their prize, they will be team captains for the next challenge.
Gordon announces that Angel's fruit tart is "executed horrendously and an embarrassment to France." Joe explains that Mark "committed a cardinal sin" by putting uncooked flour in his potatoes. Graham states that Erryn's carpaccio was ill-conceived.
The judges break the news to Angel that she is leaving the competition after just one day in the "MasterChef" kitchen. But she's not the only one to go. Mark is also sent home, while Erryn narrowly escapes elimination. Gordon warns the remaining 16 cooks that the pressure is about to get more intense, and the stakes will be even higher as the competition continues.
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Episodes unlock 8 days after airdate.