The MasterChef kitchen seemed to heat up in more ways than one in this double episode. In “Tag Team,” David lets his temper get the best of him during the elimination challenge while Nathan gets overwhelmed while cooking with Shaun. In “Pop-Up Restaurant,” the remaining six get overwhelmed in the restaurant kitchen, but do manage to pull it together. But which team heads into possibly one of the toughest pressure tests yet?

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Heating Up the Cast Iron Skillet

With just seven chefs remaining, guest judge Kevin Sbraga returns for another mystery box challenge. The challenge has a twist, as the boxes are filled with equipment rather than ingredients. That equipment consists of a cast iron skillet, a wooden spoon and a paring knife. The contestants must cook elegant, high-end, restaurant-quality dishes with any ingredients they want, but they can use just those three items to cook with. And cooking alongside the chefs is Gordon!

Most of the chefs are distracted by Gordon cooking in the kitchen with them, and I don’t blame them. He whips up a tarte tatin with cardamom, vanilla and star anise as well as a seared rib eye with spinach, baby carrots and parsnips. Of course, Christina and Kevin love the dishes. But MasterChef isn’t about Gordon!

The top three dishes are Tanorria’s crispy chicken thighs with green beans and mushrooms, which both Christina and Kevin really enjoy, Brandi’s togarashi spiced rib eye with mango slaw and mushroom turnovers and David’s bacon-wrapped stuffed shrimp with tomato salad and anchovy sauce. Though Kevin says that David and Shaun are very close as impressive dishes.

Brandi comes out on top with the advantage in the elimination challenge. And quite frankly, I think she deserves it as her dish was simple, yet elegant for just using a cast iron skillet.

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Too Much Heat In the Kitchen

Not only does Brandi not have to cook in the elimination challenge, she also gets to pair up her teammates into three teams. She pairs Shaun with Nathan, Tanorria with Dan and Katie with David, in the hope that she sends her biggest threat, Shaun, home. The challenge is a tag team challenge, where one person on the team cooks, while the other offers support and advice and then they switch several times during the 60 minutes.

The teams have a tough challenge to put together several items for a picnic platter, including beef sliders, lobster rolls, scotch eggs, handmade potato chips, heart-shaped cookies and tuxedo chocolate-covered strawberries. Quite a picnic and tough to cook everything in just one hour, but the teams dive right in. Shaun and Nathan struggle right off the bat, which is what Brandi wanted. Dan and Tanorria work well together once Dan asks Tanorria to stop yelling at him. David and Katie seem to get frustrated with each other, but manage to keep it together.

About halfway through the challenge though, Nathan starts to hyper-ventilate when trying to give Shaun instructions. Gordon gives him water to calm him down. However, when Shaun tells Nathan they won’t have scotch eggs on their platter, he freaks out and collapses. Gordon, once again, tries to calm him down, but Nathan gets upset with himself. After he collapses, he starts to take better direction from Shaun, but it’s not really enough to redeem the team.

Just as the buzzer sounds, David gets so flustered that he can’t open the bottle of champagne in time, and throws it across the kitchen. As he and Katie bring their platter to the judges, Christina expresses her concern over David’s outburst and warns him to keep his cool. He apologizes and it’s a good thing, as despite not having champagne, they manage to have all of the dishes on their platter, and they actually taste good.

Dan and Tanorria also manage to get everything out, but things aren’t perfect, with slightly under-cooked sliders and runny eggs. But Nathan and Shaun just fail at the whole challenge. They are missing the eggs, the lobster rolls are under-cooked and the sliders are raw. Gordon is not pleased, especially when Shaun throws Nathan under the bus.

In the end, Katie and David win the challenge and go on to be team captains for the next challenge, while Nathan hangs up his apron and heads home.

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Resurrecting a Classic

The remaining six head over to the Park Plaza Hotel (which is no longer a running hotel)  for what they think is a party. However, the tables are turned when the judges explain they will be hosting a pop-up restaurant inside the hotel for a roaring 20s party.

The teams are split into three chefs each, with David choosing first. He picks Brandi, and Katie picks Shaun. David then picks Tanorria, leaving Dan to join Katie’s Red Team. The teams will prepare two appetizers and two entrees, which Gordon demonstrates how to prepare. Those dishes are:

Pan seared scallops with quail eggs, parsnip puree and caviar
Oysters Rockefeller with spinach and hollandaise sauce
Butter poached lobster tail with tagliatelle and sautéed asparagus
Filet mignon with mashed potatoes and root vegetables

In the end, the judges will take the feedback from those at the party and make the decision about the winning team.

Immediately, Dan gets flustered on the Red Team, while Katie has issues plating the appetizers. So much so that Christina steps in to guide the team along. Meanwhile, on the Blue Team, there’s a brief communication breakdown, so Gordon has to give David a pep talk to make sure he incorporates Tanorria in the decisions and tasks. Throughout the appetizer course, the feedback is sub par, and I don’t blame them, as some of the dishes that go out are just not restaurant quality.

During the entrée service, the Red Team struggles throughout the whole time, with Shaun and Dan blaming Katie’s poor leadership skills. But they do manage to get all of the plates out after Gordon rips into them for raw steaks. Meanwhile on the blue team, David uses his poker number skills to field the rapid fire orders from Gordon to maintain a smooth service, even with the hiccup of Tanorria’s slightly under-cooked lobster.

The Blue Team wins the challenge, while the Red Team heads to the pressure test.

Chocolate Hell

Don’t get me wrong, chocolate is my favorite, but this pressure test was not and it is quite obvious that it wasn’t Katie, Shaun or Dan’s favorite either. Each chef has 60 minutes to make three chocolate dishes that the judges pick. Christina picks a milk chocolate cheesecake, Kevin picks a white chocolate éclair, and Gordon picks a dark chocolate molten lava cake. Each of the dishes have garnish and a few twists, but Christina explains that she’s really just looking for flavor and presentation, and not so much the extras, since it’s a tough challenge.

Dan struggles a lot throughout the hour, while Shaun has a mini-freakout. In the end, all three do manage to get their dishes to the front of the room in time, but unfortunately some are under-cooked and just look inedible.

Christina tries the cheesecake first. Katie’s is flat, Shaun’s is under-cooked and Dan’s was just weird because he didn’t use a water bath. Christina explains his is over-baked on the outside and under-baked on the inside. Kevin tastes the eclairs and not one really stands out. He does think he can taste all of the ingredients in Dan’s though. And two of the three lava cakes are not cooked all the way through. Gordon does get to taste Shaun’s, which is cooked beautifully and delicious.

The Top Five

In the end, Katie hangs up her apron. In this challenge, it was clear she just couldn’t get it all done in the 60 minutes, but all three of them tried their hardest.

At this point, I honestly don’t know who will win. Katie thinks it will be Shaun, but I could see Tanorria or Brandi really shining through. I thought for sure Terry would take the cake on MasterChef, but that is obviously not happening, unfortunately.

I think that the remaining five have really stepped up their game as far as creativity and growth. Shaun has always managed to come out on top, even when the odds are against him. It was unfortunate he was paired with Nathan in the tag team challenge, but I liked how he tried to calm Nathan down instead of getting annoyed at him. Perhaps Katie is right. Perhaps it’s Shaun’s finesse and skills in the kitchen that will make him the next MasterChef.

MasterChef airs Wednesdays at 8pm on FOX.

(Image courtesy of FOX)


Contributing Writer, BuddyTV