Thirteen cooks survived last week's epic team challenge in the competition to become "MasterChef," but judge Gordon Ramsay cautions them that there are still many hurdles to overcome. He introduces the next Mystery Box Challenge, in which the contestants will prepare a dish with only the ingredients supplied in the wooden crate. This time it's all about the vegetables.
Judge Joe Bastianich instructs them to prepare a solid, well-conceived vegetarian entrée — not a salad or a side dish. The contestants are given purple potatoes, green tomatoes, beets, Japanese eggplant, paprika, Moroccan spices, and curry powder. As usual, the judges will taste only the three best-looking dishes, and the winner will gain an advantage in the elimination challenge.
As the competition heats up, the contestants are getting on one another's nerves more and more. Christine wishes that Suzy would "shut the hell up," and she calls Esther "stupid." Christian calls Jennifer a "bitch"; Jennifer, in turn, says that she just wants to prove to the others that she's not the "silly blonde."
The judges pow-wow and admit that this is the most difficult Mystery Box Challenge to date. Joe says, "We're asking them to perform and think like a restaurant chef." Judge Graham Elliot describes what he would make with the ingredients: a beggar's purse of phyllo filled with goat cheese, tomato, and eggplant with an herb pesto.
The judges take into account the concept, execution, and presentation of the dishes before selecting the three they will taste. They choose Christian, who presented ratatouille stuffed tomatoes, as the person who did not fare well in the challenge. Chef Ramsay says that Christian's entrée "wasn't cohesive . . . and the whole style of the dish was strange."
When Joe agrees with the negative assessment, saying that the dish was "subpar," Christian fights back, arguing, "I think you're wrong." His attitude does not sit well with the other cooks — or with Chef Ramsay. "We're trying to give you constructive criticism," he says. "If you were a man, you'd take it on the chin . . . Your talent is not matching your arrogance."
Next, the judges choose the three dishes they would like to taste. First up is Jennifer's vegetable terrine with eggplant wrap and tomato sauce. Although her eggplant is slightly undercooked, the judges like it. According to Joe, "It exemplifies what we were looking for."
Their second choice for tasting is Adrien's green gazpacho prepared the way his grandmother used to make it. Graham says, "It's one of the best things I've had in a while," while Gordon says, "God bless your grandma!"
Alejandra is the last cook to present an entrée to the judges. Joe calls her vegetable korma "an inspired triumph of flavors." Despite her undercooked eggplant, Gordon says that she did a "good job." Of the top contestants, Jennifer is named the winner, and she's taken to the pantry with the judges to find out her advantage in the elimination challenge.
They introduce her to the first "MasterChef," Whitney Miller, and explain that for this challenge the home cooks will be re-creating a dish from Whitney's book, "Modern Hospitality: Simple Recipes with Southern Charm." But they will only be able to taste and look at the sample entrée that has been already prepared; they will not be given a recipe. Jennifer gets to pick one of three dishes that will be the one that everyone, including herself, has to duplicate. She picks the crispy catfish with purple slaw and sweet potato fries.
Jennifer also receives a second big advantage: a basket filled with the ingredients that Whitney uses in her recipe. The rest of the cooks must try to figure out on their own what makes up the dish as they attempt to prepare an exact replica of the original.
Jennifer admits that she chose the catfish because she assumed many competitors would not be able to decipher the veggies used in the slaw. In her basket she has the carrots, Brussels sprouts, purple cabbage, apple, jalapeño, and pecans needed to make the side dish. Some chefs are confidant they can figure it out, while others lament Jennifer's choice.
When time runs out, the contestants present their catfish to the judges. First up is Jennifer, who had a big leg up over the others. Graham tells her, "I'm not sure it's in the top, but it's definitely far away from the bottom."
Christian now gets to put his money where his mouth is and redeem himself for his bad attitude in the Mystery Box Challenge. Gordon says that his entrée is "absolutely spot-on." Graham remarks that Esther's catfish has "great taste and great texture," while Giuseppe also gets a "very good" from Joe.
Alejandra is chastised for her use of raw garlic in the tartar, a big technical error. Gordon says that it's her "weakest performance so far . . . and maybe your last." Graham criticizes Derrick's heavy coating, calling it "a pretty bad dish." And Adrien did not plate the dish the way Whitney presented hers, a big no-no in this challenge. Joe is so annoyed that Adrien refused to follow directions that he re-plates the dish himself in seconds as the embarrassed cook looks on.
After the judges call Jennie's dish "disgusting," Ben steps up and gets every single ingredient correct. Joe screams at him, "Why don't you cook like this all the time?!" His is declared the best reproduction, along with Christian's version. They will be team captains in the next challenge.
Adrien, Jennie, and Alejandra are named the bottom three and are up for elimination. Adrien and Alejandra are spared for another day, as Jennie, the only chef not in the top tier for the earlier Mystery Box challenge, is asked to leave. With just 12 competitors left, Gordon urges them all to pull themselves together before they face the next team challenge.
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