At long last, the time has come for MasterChef
to decide its season 3 champion. The two remaining finalists are a hulking army contractor who fought his way back onto the show after elimination, and a small, blind creative writing grad student who kept cooking through her loss of vision: Josh Marks and Christine Ha. Tonight, their only task is to cook the perfect three course meal in two hours.
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Three More Courses
Josh continues to take bold risks, planning a butter poached lobster appetizer, a curry-spiced rack of lamb, and a bacon crusted pecan pie. Christine, on the other hand, plays to her strengths, leading with a Thai salad, following with braised pork belly, and finishing with a braised coconut lime sorbet.
Without any gimmicks to propel the finale's action, the bulk of the episode's cooking segment is structured around the judges' rather pedestrian commentary: typical observations include reiterating Christine's inability to see, and the revelation that pecan pie, when cooked right, is delicious.
Hour of Judgment
The show's most compelling moments, however, have rarely occurred during the cooking process: this series is all about milking the judges' remarks for drama. Josh starts with his lobster appetizer, drawing strong praise for everything but the lobster itself: unfortunately, his meat is only half cooked.
Christine fares a little better with her light Thai salad, though she does take some criticism for failing to match Josh's ambition. The appetizer round proves divisive for the judges as Gordon and Graham favor Josh's creativity, while Joe maintains that he failed to deliver.
For his entree, Josh presents a masterful rack of lamb, drawing on a number of seasonal flavors. Though the dish is lightly chastised by Gordon for its unusual combination of flavors, Joe dubs his lamb an "orchestral composition of mythical proportion," offering comparisons to the Baroque composer Vivaldi.
Christine's braised pork belly doesn't strive for or elicit such lofty proclamations, but she executes her relatively simple premise to perfection. Her dish sparks further debate amongst the judges: while Graham praises the dish as something on which he'd like to "mow down all day," Joe privileges Josh's finesse.
Josh finishes with a desert of pecan pie and homemade ice cream. The pie's riskiest component is the presence of bacon in the crust, but that seemingly bold choice only fails in the sense that it's undetectable to the judges. They love the ice cream, but they only like the pie. Christine finishes with a coconut lime sorbet and a ginger tuile, drawing strong if not ecstatic praise.
The New MasterChef
After a few more minutes of non-specific debate -- they make it clear that meal cohesion and quality are top priority -- the judges begin the drawn out process of announcing a winner. First they swap places with the finalists, then they run through the honors at stake, and at last they announce the winner: Christine Ha. Her victory is commemorated in an explosion of confetti, champagne and tears.
It's hard to deny that Christine's victory feels good: she's had a lot of tough breaks in life, but she's managed to remain resilient and genuinely likable. All the best to her in her culinary career and planned memoir--she's earned this.
(Image courtesy of FOX)