This season’s MasterChef, on Monday and Tuesday nights on Fox, featured two local heroes: Jennie Kelley, a singer with Polyphonic Spree, and travel writer Ben Starr. Kelley was bumped off last week. Now we’re down to Ben. Intrepid intern, Harrison Smith, is all over the show like hot on fries. Here’s his recap of last night’s show.
Gordon Ramsay is starting to grow on me. Maybe this is because after ten episodes of MasterChef I’ve become anesthetized to his shouts and rants. Maybe it’s the happy, cheerful work environment here at <i>D Magazine</i> that’s influencing my opinion of him. I don’t know what it is, but the Scottish chef just doesn’t annoy me like he used to.
Last night’s episode began with a team competition at Ramsay’s restaurant at The London West Hollywood, one of three of his restaurants in the U.S. Two teams of contestants, one led by Dallas’ own Ben Starr and the other by Gloucester fisherman Christian Collins, were given 90 minutes to make hors d’oeuvres for a Hollywood party of 300 people. Both teams were required to cook three courses: vegetable, beef, and dessert. Strangely enough both teams decided to cook just about the same thing. Ben’s team turned out a chilled tomato-mint gazpacho for their vegetable entry, beef Wellington, and chocolate profiteroles (a French way of saying “chocolate cream puffs”).
Jump for real.
Oddly, Christian’s team also created a gazpacho for their vegetable item. They called theirs a gazpacho duo because they incorporated two layers of flavor and color. Their meat entry was a blowtorched meat tartar, followed by a berry and mascarpone tart. The 300 glamorous guests acted as judges for this competition. Obviously they liked the visual on Team Christian’s gazpacho duo—they picked it as the winner. However, Team Ben (at the risk of sounding like a Twilight fanatic) blew away Team Christian’s blowtorched meat tartar—their beef Welly received 100% of the vote. As to why they decided to serve <i>blowtorched</i> tartar to 300 Hollywood guests I have no idea, but Team Christian’s rallied back with a victory in the dessert round. Their berry and mascarpone tart narrowly defeated Team Ben’s dessert dish of…fruit with whipped cream.
Both teams initially wanted to make profiteroles, but Giuseppe—who took care of dessert for Team Christian—decided to switch to fruit tarts early on when his first batch of profiteroles turned out badly. Esther, who handled desserts for Team Ben, kept trying to make the fancy cream puffs until there was only five minutes left. The dough took three tries to get right, and then the chocolate mousse filling “broke.” The solution? Fruit shots. Well played, Ben, well played, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Giuseppe’s tarts.
As the losers, Ben and his team were sent to the Pressure Test (a fast-paced, not-at-all-fun-filled elimination challenge) featuring (finally) cake.
On a personal note, I’ve got a thing for cakes. Cakes without carrots; cakes without nuts. Cakes. It’s not that I don’t like nuts, I’m willing to admit that pecans, like Tex-Mex, catfish, gerrymandering, and gunslinging are essential Texasisms. I just can’t say that I like them on or in my cake.
The contestants were given two hours to make a sponge cake with at least six layers. Ben excelled in this competition by baking a pumpkin carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and candied hazelnuts. Now as I’ve said before, I love cakes, sans carrots and sans nuts. And this pumpkin carrot cake with candied hazelnuts was, of course, a pumpkin <i>carrot</i> cake with candied hazel<i>nuts</i>. This cake, though. This cake looked delicious. This pumpkin carrot cake was like the “PumpKing” of cake, even taking into consideration the fact he could have made a chocolate cake, or a cuatro leches cake, or an ice cream cake.
The PumpKing, of course, made it to the top three. Esther followed her previous profiterole disaster with a too-sweet and “panicked-looking” lemon raspberry cake and, for that, she was booted off the show. Not that there’s any shame in losing a six-layer cake challenge, though.
Now I just wonder what they did with all those cakes.—<i>Harrison Smith</i>