On the season 6 finale of MasterChef, Claudia, Derrick and Stephen compete in a two-part semi-final round, the finalists face off and America’s MasterChef is crowned.

The heat is on. It’s down to the final three, and all are hungry for that MasterChef trophy, the big cash payout, and their very own cookbook.

A VIP Challenge

Getting into the finals is going to be no easy feat. Luckily, they all are going to get a little help. Each chef gets former competitor as a sous-chef. Hetal, Tommy and Katrina are back and are paired randomly with the three hopefuls.The teams are Stephen with Tommy, Katrina with Claudia and Derrick with Hetal.

Claudia, Derrick and Stephen have 75 minutes to concoct an entree that truly represents their individual culinary styles.

Claudia, Derrick and Stephen have to blow the undies off 30 VIPs. Each of the judges has hand picked 10 people who have helped them achieve their goals: sous-chefs, executive chefs and co-workers.

Stephen prepares pan-seared scallops that are dusted with smoked paprika and nutmeg and served with a walnut and almond sauce. He also threw in some rutabaga, truffles and beets, garnished with edible flowers.

Claudia serves grilled octopus with a frisee salad and oregano potatoes.

Derrick’s dish is a miso black cod served over a diakon puree with sauteed bok choy, oyster mushrooms topped with bonito flakes.

Two Chefs Enter, One Chef Leaves

The diners’ votes are tallied, and Derrick makes it into the finale. Now Claudia and Stephen have to go head-to-head for the remaining spot in the finale. The biggest pressure test of the season, by far. Make that three pressure tests, because these home cooks have to prepare an appetizer, entree and dessert.

They have to prepare a Gruyere cheese souffle, a savory version of one of Christine’s favorite desserts. The entree, Graham’s choice, is steak frites, a fancy name for steak and fries. And for dessert, Gordon has picked a panna cotta with a raspberry coulis center. The three-course meal has to be completed in 60 minutes.

The home cooks are told they will get a little something to help calm their nerves, which I assume would be a Xanax. It turns out they get to Skype with their nearest and dearest. Nothing like some blatant emotional manipulation to help boost the ratings.

Claudia’s souffle is superior to Stephen’s in terms of presentation. But when Christine confers with the other two judges, she notes that Stephen’s souffle trumps Claudi’s when it comes to taste.

Graham judges the steak dishes. He feels they both cooked the meat well, and while Stephen’s fries are nice and crispy, Claudia’s are less crispy, but well seasoned.

Last up is the panna cotta, which is judged by Gordon Ramsay. It’s important to note that neither Claudia or Stephen are receiving any feedback. The judges ask questions about preparation, but unlike in most challenges, they aren’t getting immediate critiques or reactions.

Back to the panna cotta, which looks to be the “make it or break it” dish for both remaining semi-finalists. Again, visually, Claudia has the advantage. Gordon is impressed by the flavors of both, but Stephen failed to keep his coulis filling from seeping out the bottom of his panna cotta.

Stephen just wasn’t on point when it came to execution, which is why Claudia is chosen to join Derrick in the finale.

The Big Finale

Claudia and Derrick compete in front of a live audience that includes family, friends and all of the season’s eliminated chefs. After all the hugs, kisses and tears, it’s time to get to work.

Claudia and Derrick are tasked with creating a three-course culinary “masterpiece”: in the forma of an appetizer, entree and dessert.

For his appetizer, Derrick makes spiced pork belly and watermelon prepared three ways. Claudia prepares a tamale, some other stuff I can’t pronounce or spell, cactus salsa, and avocado crema. It’s modern Mexican cuisine versus contemporary American.

The judges have concerns about both dishes. Can Derrick braise a pork belly in an hour, and can Claudia elevate a tamale into fine dining?

Both apps earn rave reviews, despite Gordon’s doubts regarding Claudia’s judgement in choosing a tamale, a food you can buy for three bucks from a food truck, as finale-worthy. Christine feels Derek’s dish edged out Claudia’s tamale, but Graham argues that Claudia is “cooking la vida loca.” He says no one, in all the years of doing the show, has come out “guns blazing and doing something with a cactus.”

For his main course, Derrick cooks pan-seared venison with root vegetables and huckleberry sauce, garnished with a puff pastry cage. Claudia sticks to her roots, making a grilled swordfish, Mexican squash, and chickpeas two ways.

The judges are blown away by Derrick’s showmanship, and Claudia’s biggest fear, that her swordfish is improperly cooked, is quickly laid to rest after Gordon’s first bite. He tells her it’s the most accomplished dish she’s cooked in the competition so far. Graham praises Claudia for not only finding her own voice but “singing from the rooftops.”

Last up, is my favorite part of any meal, dessert. Derek prepares a lemon mousse with a dark chocolate shell, a lemon curd, a matcha (green tea) sponge cake and a raspberry sauce. Claudia goes with a hibiscus poached pear with a key lime flan and a pepita brittle.

Both Claudia and Derrick run into some obstacles. Derrick outsmarts himself by trying some cutting-edge way to prepare the sponge cake but runs into technical difficulties. Claudia’s first batch of flan won’t set, so she has to start all over again.

Both desserts are beautifully plated, and according the the judges, they taste just as good as they look.

During deliberations, Graham appears to be “Team Claudia” all the way. To him, a chef is defined by what they can do with everyday ingredients and make it delicious, and in Graham’s mind, nobody does that better than Claudia. Christine can’t praise Derrick’s artistry enough. Gordon is mum, making him the mystery tiebreaker.

The big moment arrives, and after lots of dramatic music and meaningful pauses, Claudia is crowned the winner.

(Image courtesy of FOX)

Jennifer Lind-Westbrook

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV

Jennifer has worked as a freelance writer in the entertainment field since 2012. In addition to currently writing feature articles for Screen Rant, Jennifer has contributed content ranging from recaps to listicles to reviews for BuddyTV, PopMatters, TVRage, TVOvermind, and Tell-Tale TV. Links to some of Jennifer’s reviews can be found on Rotten Tomatoes.