Do not watch MasterChef if you’re hungry. I made that mistake. It’s in the same mistake category as going grocery shopping when you’re starving or to Target with the idea of buying just a couple of things. If your appetite isn’t peaked by the (for the most part) delicious dishes that the contestants are whipping up, you certainly get enough British eye candy by having Chef Gordon Ramsey on screen for most of the time. Along with Restauranteur Joe Bastianich and Chef Graham Elliot, the trio cuts through the wannabe contestants a la every other reality competition show during the MasterChef auditions. Some contestants have emotional backstories, some contestants are over-the-top and some contestants have blonde hair and big boobs. Hey, yah gotta go with what works. But, I will say this. Even the pretty girls and the handsome chaps can’t make it in this competition with mediocre culinary skills albeit fabulous good looks. Uh uh. If you think Gordon Ramsey would be the hard nut to crack, you should see Joe Bastianich Simon Cowell the crap outta some contestants - sending them back to their “but my kids love my cooking” hometown kitchen. It’s brutal, but brutally honest and necessary. Which is why I like this chef show. Admittedly, I watch Hells Kitchen for the drama and the ridiculous punishments that Gordon Ramsey bestows upon the losers (like I watch Survivor for the reward challenges – cause nothing says entertainment like watching people fight over an Oreo). MasterChef is going to bring the real talent and more-than-just-a-pretty-face blood, sweat and tears from people who really want to make it in the chef kingdom. I’ve already picked my favorites.
The producers have scowered the country and held auditions for the next MasterChef. Those contestants that were chosen to appear in front of the trio of judges get one hour to make their signature dish and five minutes to plate it under the scrutiny of said judges. And boy is there scrutiny. Those chefs deemed good enough to proceed will earn an apron and a spot in the competition. Those who don’t make the cut will have to kick rocks. The winner of MasterChef gets moolah and a trophy. Of course, the contestants will range in age and skill and there will be sappy backstories accompanying some people. But that’s cool. Cause that doesn’t mean that just because they have a sorrowful tale that the judges will promote them to bone-afide MasterChef contestants. Unlike the unsuspenseful tactics of American Idol, you really don’t know who will make it through elimination and who won’t, based on their lead up story. It really is all about the food. You’ll see what I mean.
First contestant is Natasha. She’s a SAHM who enjoys cooking and looking good. Cause frankly, she does. Natasha makes empanadas and they look pretty delicious. She gets the apron okay to move forward. But, the judges keep their cards close until after everyone’s had their chance to taste. Then they let the contestants have it, good or bad. Next is a 19-year-old girl who wants to wow the judges with her Korean duck lettuce wraps dish. As Gordon Ramsey picks the raw fat off the duck, you already know this isn’t gonna end well. And she gets a biiiiiiig NO. Then we go into the weird food segment. There’s rabbit, there’s cockroaches, there’s bear and there’s even a live ostrich that makes an appearance (to use their eggs). But mostly, there’s a whole lotta NOs from the judges. Back to the contestants. Bryan is a SAHD who really likes beaver and all of the double entendres that go with it. He makes beaver tail and beaver meat and beaver jokes and gets the YES from Graham Elliot, the tie-breaker. It should be noted here that Joe Bastianich is no joke. He will tell you how it is, tell the other chefs how it is and even try to convince the other chefs that they are making a mistake if he says no and they say yes. Ballsy. Carrying on…
Jordan is a young chef who is inspired by his now-deceased Mother. He makes a ancho chile tostada that, at first, I thought the judges were going to deem too simple and too generic a sob story to continue. But, low and behold, a 180 is pulled and the judges proclaim this dish the best opening dish in MasterChef history. Go Jordan go go go Jordan. Following Jordan is what I like to call, the spit-out segment. Yup, the chefs quite literally spit out these contestants concoctions in the conveniently located sink in their work station. And who could blame them? We’re talking about breast milk, raw ramen (debatable, by the way), a chocolate and lettuce dish and a statement, “how did you make it this far”. Atrocious. Aaaaaand we’re back to the contestants. Adriana is a petite Mexican gal who wants to keep true to her roots and make some tasty prickly pear cactus soup with shrimp croutons. OK! She gets the apron nod, though the judges do mention their worry that she may not have the personality to make it to the end. Apparently, you gotta be tough. After a YES montage, we meet George who is passionate about cooking and not proposing to his girlfriend. George makes a mediocre Greek Wedding Soup that gives him the big N-O but allows him to make a spectacle of proposing to his girlfriend right then and there, getting the big Y-E-S. Well done Gordon Ramsey, you ol’ cupid, you. We end round one with Kristy, a single Mom from Philly, who makes a stuffed meatloaf. Stuffed. Meatloaf. She gets a YES because, duh.
ROUND TWO! A Puerto Rican Father of three girls who goes by the name of Beme is next. Get it? Cause the next MasterChef will…Be…me. It’s clever. He almost gets the boot, but instead gets the YES and moves on with his apron. Jessie is a self-described southern belle who also really likes seafood. She makes a sea bass en croute and at this point my stomach was literally eating itself (I haven’t gone grocery shopping in awhile, ok?!). Even though Gordon Ramsey thinks the dish is antiquated (seriously?) he really puts Jessie to the test when he surprises her with a fish filet challenge. Girlfriend nails it…no sweat. She moves on. There’s a circus segment now, as in tractors, fire, magic shows, pogo sticks and even a robot. And yah, we’re still on the cooking show. But after that, we meet James who is from Texas. He’s beardy and alternative and has had a hard knock life and just wants to cook some good food. James makes, what I call, sure-fire pork belly…cause have you had it? The judges waiver a bit, but send him through. Then, my heroine emerges in the form of Sasha Fox. She’s a sassy lady with a leopard skirt and an awesome fried cornish hen dish to boot. Quite enjoyable. She gets three solid YESses and gives me my new mantra…”I look good, I cook good and I smell good”. True story.
We wrap up the episode with a former NFL player (a former sexy NFL player) named Eddie, who just wants to cook, now. He also makes meatloaf and wins my heart doubly cause…meatloaf. The judges like his original recipe and send him through. Rudy‘s backstory is one of personal triumph. He survived the 2003 San Diego fires and is for reals, a hero. Unfortunately, he dishes out a sub-par Fry Bread dish and gets a NO from the judges. And lastly, a repeat contestant who couldn’t make the cut last year shows up again to exact his culinary revenge via taste buddery winning. It’s Luca. He’s an Italian New Yorker who wants to start his own restaurant. Cause there’s so few of those guys in this world. But he’s super enjoyable because he’s cute and he can cook. He makes broccoli rabe ravioli with cream sauce…which happens to sound amazing…and look it, too. Even though the judges give him a bit of a hard time, he makes it through, apron in hand, this time and we can’t wait to see how he’ll fare in the MasterChef game. I guess, in the end, a consolation hug from Gordon Ramsey isn’t the worst. I can’t wait for the drama and fireworks and surprise challenges.