MasterChef recap S9E7: This mystery box drives some cooks nuts!


This MasterChef recap features a tricky elimination challenge, a surprise guest, and the judges’ legs! Will a strong chef go home today?

MasterChef episode seven starts with a mystery box challenge. Gordon warns everyone to keep their fingers out of the holes in their boxes because “they move quickly.” Amusingly, most people choose to lift their boxes awkwardly from the top. As they lift, hundreds of walnuts spill out onto their work benches and the floor.

The cooks are told they have 45 minutes to make a dish featuring walnuts. The winner is due to win “the biggest advantage in the competition so far.”

The judges are excited that walnuts can be used in sweet or savory dishes, and we do see a nice mix of both from the cooks. However, there are also possible pitfalls. The walnuts need to be a truly integrated part of the dish and should play a starring role. The cooks need to manage the bitterness of the walnut skins. Walnuts can turn mealy and destroy the texture of your dish.

MASTERCHEF: Contestants in the ÒWorld Cup DishesÓ episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, June 27 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2018 FOX Broadcasting.

While watching the cooks, Aaron brags that he still has all eight of his cooks in the competition. Gordon still has five and Joe has six. They remind Aaron that it’s not how you start but how you finish. All three judges still have a chance of seeing their cook crowned MasterChef.

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I worried about Bowen because he seemed lost in how to incorporate walnuts into a Chinese dish. But when time is called, Bowen is the first dish called up for tasting. He has made pork, shrimp, and candied walnut dumplings, all in a miso broth. He tells the judges that dumplings symbolize luck and walnuts represent long life so this dish is lucky.

His hand-made dumpling dough and flavors do impress the judges, though the wish his miso broth was thinner and they find the pile of candied walnuts on the side of his plate to be “irrelevant.”

Samantha is called next with her gnocchi and walnut pesto dish. The judges are really impressed that she has created light, fluffy gnocchi in the time limit. Her only downfall is that she has simply spooned them into the center of a large white plate, and her pile of gnocchi is lacking visual appeal.

Cesar is the final cook called forward. He has made banana walnut pan dulce (sweet bread) with citrus basil crème fraiche underneath and caramel sauce over the top. In place of sour cream in his batter, he has grated corn and used the corn milk.

The judges are impressed by his corn milk innovation, the representation of his culinary viewpoint (Mexican heritage, American upbringing), and the beauty of his presentation. Cesar has managed to create a dish that perfectly integrates walnuts, is cooked to perfection, and looks great on the plate, so he is declared the winner.

MASTERCHEF: L-R: Host / chef Gordon Ramsay, judge Aaron Sanchez and judge Joe Bastianich in the ÒWorld Cup DishesÓ episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, June 27 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2018 FOX Broadcasting.

Cesar waits in the pantry for his advantage and is greeted by Joe in a full blue Italian national soccer team kit. It even has “Bastianich” and the number 1 on the back. Aaron arrives in the green Mexican kit with the number 14, and Gordon enters last in a blue Scottish kit with number 8. Given that Ramsay originally planned a career in soccer, he looks most fitting in his kit.

The judges approach a table with three cloches. Cesar’s advantages are a direct ticket to the balcony, plus he gets to pick what everyone else will cook in the elimination challenge. The choices are favored street foods enjoyed by the judges at a soccer match.

Joe offers him pizza frita- fried pizza. It looks like a hand pie filled with pizza toppings. Aaron presents churros with chocolate sauce. Gordon, to my disappointment, offers a burger. I had hoped for something that seemed more Scottish but perhaps burgers are big in Scotland.

We return to the rest of the chefs, anxiously awaiting their elimination challenge. They are informed that Cesar is safe and has chosen their challenge dish. The dish is to be presented by Alexi Lalas who just happens to have followed his soccer career by becoming an analyst for Fox Sports. Alexi reminds everyone of the Fox coverage of the world cup and then reveals Cesar’s choice- churros.

Cesar explains that churros are not as easy as they appear. I think he also enjoys watching others struggle to make a dish so familiar to his heritage. He further explains that he specifically is targeting Bowen. He sees Bowen as a threat but feels that pushing him away from Chinese cuisine is a good way to send him home.

Bowen seems disappointed to be targeted, but he also says, “I’m not a chicken. I’m ready for it. Let’s compete!”

Cesar then receives a shock. Alexi tells him to select ten cooks to bring to the balcony. Cesar first picks cooks who excel in baking. He figures they would have done well regardless, so it wastes his advantage. He selects Chelsea, Ashley, and Emily for this reason. Next, he picks cooks that he views as good team players- SJ, Ralph, Farhan, and Gerron. Finally, he selects cooks that he sees as strong, hoping to win favors that he can cash in later. He selects Ryan, Lindsay, and Mark as his final three to save.

This leaves eight cooks to compete, greatly increasing each one’s chance of going home. The cooks competing are Taylor, Bowen, Shanika, Julia, Juni, Matt, Alecia, and Samantha. They have thirty minutes to execute churros as well as a chocolate sauce.

Taylor and Bowen seem to be in trouble early on. Taylor’s chocolate sauce has seized, turning thick and lumpy. She has no more chocolate to start again and she is panicking. Julia kindly offers her some of her chocolate.

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Bowen in the ÒWorld Cup DishesÓ episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, June 27 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2018 FOX Broadcasting.

Bowen is not familiar with churros so he considers what he has seen that is similar. He settles on fried salt dough, a dish usually eaten at breakfast.

As they continue to cook, Samantha worries me as she mixes her eggs into her choux dough by hand. This could make her dough heavy and could lead to inconsistent distribution of egg. Alecia seemed to be doing very well having made churros right before coming on the show. But then she tosses her churros in cinnamon sugar in an aggressive manner. She flips them high, catching them in her bowl, much to Aaron’s horror.

Time is called and Taylor is the first to be judged. Despite her struggles, her churros are well cooked and she has a chocolate sauce. They do feel that her sauce is not perfect, having been melted over too much heat.

Bowen approaches and Gordon simply asks him, “what happened?” Bowen explains that he tried to use the technique of fried salt dough, but that meant he double fried his churros. His churros look burnt. Luckily, Gordon finds that they taste better than they look, and his sauce is good. All the same, they tell him this is his worst performance to date. It seems Cesar may be right. Bowen’s Achilles heel may be cooking outside his Chinese cuisine.

Shanika has mixed peanut butter into her chocolate sauce, which seems to have worked out for her. But, her churros are raw inside.

Julia gets praise for her sides of espresso chocolate sauce and raspberry whipped cream. Juni’s churros are small but well made, and his ancho chili chocolate sauce is a nice twist.  Matt also does well, though his chocolate ganache is too thick for dipping.

Alecia gets highly criticized for her sugar coating. Aaron tells her that her tossing method was “disrespectful” and “showboating,” and he points out that she had broken her delicate churros. Her aggressive tossing has led her churros to have far too much sugar.

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Alecia in the ÒWorld Cup DishesÓ episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, June 27 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2018 FOX Broadcasting.

Samantha is last to be judged. When asked about what she has given up to compete, she explains that the one-year anniversary of her father’s death is coming up, and she regrets not being with her family for that emotional time. She is disappointed in her own performance but vows that she is ready to fight for the whole competition.

Her churros all look different. Her method of hand-mixing her eggs into her choux has not helped their consistency. Gordon appreciates her determination to stay, but tells her that her lack of experience is starting to show.

Matt is deemed to have the best churros, and he is sent to the balcony with Taylor, Julia and Samantha. This left Shanika, Bowen, Alecia, and Samantha as the bottom four. Shanika and Samantha are sent up next, leaving just Bowen and Alecia.

In the end, Bowen just escapes Cesar’s trap. He goes to the balcony and, surprising to me, he cries in Shanika’s arms. She soothes him, “you’re still here!” Alecia also cries, heartbroken to be sent home. She is told her churros were so sugary, they were “virtually inedible.” I assume her overconfidence and “show boating” played a part too as the judges appreciate humble cooks who are ready to admit they have a lot to learn. And that means Aaron has lost his first cook.

Next: Food Network Star serves up delicious summer bites

It looks like season seven’s Shaun O’Neale will be on our next episode along with a wedding with Gordon Ramsay as officiant! Another team challenge is on the horizon!