America's best home cooks move from the MasterChef
kitchen to the school yard this week, whipping up healthy, nutritious meals for a sea of picky eaters. Of course, the students become the teachers when the adults serve under-cooked green beans along with otherwise kid-friendly foods like pasta and meat sauce. The kids are easy critics compared to the judges, though. Back in the kitchen of dreams, Gordon shows up the home cooks during the mystery box challenge, and Joe slams a plate of "raw" fish into a trashcan, solidifying his position as the meanest judge of the season.Playground Showdown
The evening starts off on a sunny note with the cooks riding yellow buses to a local school yard, marching past basketball hoops and tether-ball poles on the way to their cooking stations. Some are eager to design lunches for school children, while others are weirdly intimidated. "This is my nightmare. This is the day I die," James tells us dramatically. "Our fate's in their little, tiny, creepy hands."
The chefs are divided into two teams, chosen kickball-style by captains Jessie and Jordan. Each team designs a healthy meal using meat, fruit, vegetables and starch. Both teams try to keep it simple and kid-friendly, but with mixed results. Jessie's chefs get the sides right with rice and corn, but their chicken teriyaki is more suited for adult taste buds until Gordon offers a helpful hint: keep the sauce sweet. Jordan's pasta with meatballs sounds like a surefire hit, but the meatballs take too long to make for 301 hungry kids, so they go for a meat sauce instead. It's a smart switch. Too bad their green beans are slightly under-cooked and, well, green beans
. Kids don't want green veggies! The students vote for Jessie's team, and Jordan's cooks head to the pressure test.MasterChef: Howard's Food Tasting>>>
Team leader Jordan is given the opportunity to save three members of his team, so he chooses Howard, James and (because this is a competition) himself. His team thinks the captain should go down with his ship, but hey, Jordan's gotta take care of himself! The remaining cooks make cheesecake, balancing flavor with texture in an effort to save themselves (and make America very hungry for cheesecake). They all look great to me -- even Krissi's oddly decorated raspberry bomb cake that looks like a Chicago-style deep dish pizza -- but the judges find a few weak cakes in the batch. Jonny and Savannah have too much crust and not enough cake, but it's Adriana who goes home for using canned guava paste on her tropical cheesecake.
Gordon Shows Off
Next, the cooks are challenged with the mystery box, and they get another surprise to boot: Gordon Ramsay will be joining the challenge! He schools the cooks in culinary finesse, but mostly he's just there to psych them out, using half of his sixty minutes to offer critical commentary and sip tea in the kitchen library. When he finally digs into his Asian fusion ingredients, he makes a seared cod that's the envy over every chef in the room -- judges included.
Of the competitors, Luca shines the brightest with his pan-seared cod and winning sauce. Howard's dish is labeled "appalling" and thrown in the garbage. James is a serious contender, but ultimately, it's Luca who gets to choose the food for the next elimination challenge.
The cooks must master "the art of desserts" by making either cookies, cupcakes or a classic layer cake. Luca opts for cupcakes and is excused from the test. Then he's offered one more perk, which the judges announce with devious glints in their eyes. Luca can take the electric mixer away from one cook, making the competition doubly difficult for that person. Luca thinks it's only fair that Jordan -- who saved himself rather than a teammate after the school lunch challenge -- should lose his mixer.
Jordan calls the move "well played" and makes the best of it, mixing twice as hard to keep up with the competition. The mixer mishap keeps Jordan from the top prize -- that goes to Bethy's amazing trio of bananas foster, raspberry limeade and almond chocolate cupcakes -- but he still makes a damn good vanilla bean cupcake that Luca tastes and loves. The judges are impressed that Jordan bounced back with a vengeance when Luca threw him a challenge. Personally, I'm impressed that Luca was so willing to acknowledge Jordan's skills. When the judges ask Luca if Jordan's cupcakes will make or break him, Luca announces that Jordan's "100% safe. Good job, man!" I like good sportsmanship like that.
Jordan's cupcakes were good, but Bime's were better, and (as stated) Bethy's were the best. Sadly, the same wasn't true for Jessie's dry, undersized "whack-a-mole" cakes and Malcolm's "gross," "eggy" desserts. Ultimately, Malcolm is sent packing at the end of the episode. After all, you can't make gross baked goods and win MasterChef
(Image courtesy of FOX)