MasterChef S9E15: Tag Team


The MasterChef cooks face a dreaded tag team challenge and drama is on the menu in MasterChef S9E15.

As MasterChef S9E15 begins, the top nine enter the MasterChef kitchen to find nine mystery boxes. Everyone picks a box at random and finds an American ingredient under their box. Everyone will make a dish featuring their ingredient, but first they will enjoy a pep talk from their mentor.

Joe is down to two mentees- Gerron and Shanika. Gordon has four- Ashley, Bowen, Taylor, and Samantha. Aaron has three- Julia, Farhan, and Cesar. Each judge gives their team an inspiring talk and some advice, and everyone approaches their mystery box excited to prove their place in the top nine.

Now they all have forty-five minutes to make their American ingredient shine. Julia has potatoes and is making a cream of potato soup, a safe if uninspired choice. Samantha from Iowa has little neck clams, which she has never cooked or eaten. She is making clam linguini. Shanika has corn and is making corn salad, corn fritters, and corn and mango puree, which sounds ambitious and delicious.

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Farhan in the “Sky’s the Limit/Tag Team” two-hour time period premiere episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, Aug. 22 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2018 FOX Broadcasting.

Bowen has tomatoes. We never see what he creates. Farhan gets lobster. As a college student, he has never cooked lobster before but he really goes for it with lobster three ways. Taylor is excited to get venison and will be serving that pan-seared with purple cauliflower puree.

Ashley has cranberries and she is making duck to take advantage of the classic pairing of duck and fruit. Gerron is using his peaches to make his granny’s peach bread pudding. Cesar is using his butternut squash to flavor homemade tortillas which he will fill with bacon, shallots, and garlic and that sounds like a great addition to my Thanksgiving table.

When time is up, Ashley earns the first top spot. She presents duck breast with a cranberry relish, granola, and Romanesco. She’s used her cranberries as a glaze for the duck, in her relish, and in the cranberry and walnut granola. Gordon tells her this is her best performance so far.

Gerron is thrilled to be called next. This is his first time being in the mystery box top three. His peach bread pudding with candied pecans, whipped cream, and bourbon glaze sounds amazing. Joe tells him he can taste home in the dish.

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  • Last but not least, Farhan presents his ambitious lobster three ways- saffron lobster bisque, ghee poached lobster claw, and tandoori tail. It is beautifully plated and the lobster is cooked perfectly. Aaron does tell him to stop relying so much on coconut milk. I personally wonder about the ghee poached claw. To me, ghee has no butter flavor so I wonder if it didn’t taste more like an oil-poached lobster which sounds less delicious to me. Milk solids add so much flavor to butter. I only use ghee for its higher temperature tolerance and not for its flavor.

    Gerron wins the round! The rest of the cooks will have to cook in a tag team challenge, and Gerron gets the distinct pleasure of making the teams. The judges ask who he wants to see go home and he immediately says Cesar (for being a strong contender). He pairs Cesar with Bowen. Bowen has a bit of a language barrier and Cesar can be soft-spoken, so Gerron hopes they have a communication breakdown.

    Next, he would like to see Samantha go home, again for her strength in the competition. He pairs her with a “person who is very strong…minded but may not be as successful in this challenge depending on how she works in a team.” To no one’s surprise, he means Shanika. He is hoping their personalities will clash.

    With just four cooks left, his next match will make the final pairs. He pairs Julia and Taylor. He knows Julia has a forceful personality while Taylor can get frazzled under pressure. This leaves Farhan and Ashley as a team.

    The challenge is to create a smorgasbord of Mediterranean food- spanakopita, chicken skewers, hummus with grilled pita, falafel with tahini sauce, lamb kofta with yogurt and cucumber sauce. Samantha is excited as her entire extended family is Greek so these are familiar dishes. They will have just sixty minutes to pull off this diverse platter.

    In each pair, only one person can cook at a time. The other half stands and talks (or shouts) at the person cooking. They can say helpful things like reminders to check on something cooking or suggestions for seasoning, or they can shout mostly unhelpful things like hurry up. Or, like Bowen, they can basically say little to nothing, even when asked.

    MASTERCHEF: L-R: Contestants Bowen and Cesar and host / judge Gordon Ramsay in the “Sky’s the Limit/Tag Team” two-hour time period premiere episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, Aug. 22 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2018 FOX Broadcasting.

    In the Cesar/Bowen team, things are rocky. Cesar gets them started but when they switch, Bowen is flustered, indecisive, and not accomplishing much. When Cesar is cooking, Bowen typically just watches and offers little commentary.

    The Samantha/Shanika team is even worse. Most of their communication consists of yelling at each other to hurry up, and they bicker throughout the challenge. Taylor and Julia struggle as well. Taylor defers to Julia’s personality, even going so far as to apologize for offering a suggestion. Taylor also gets frazzled and slows the team down so much that their lamb isn’t even ready to cook with time nearly up.

    Meanwhile, Ashley and Farhan’s team is calm and supportive. They could have filmed them cooking in a meadow with classical music playing, then cut back to the other teams cooking in a kitchen on fire while yelling, and the contrast would have been only a little exaggerated.

    It is time for final plating. There is a lot of frustrated yelling from the sidelines. Samantha tells Shanika she is freaking out and in classic Shanika style, she distances herself from their errors, blaming Samantha for their problems even as she is trying to finish plating.

    Bowen and Cesar present first. Bowen, who was too quiet during the challenge, lets it all out in judging. He says Cesar is too controlling and cocky. When asked if he trusted Cesar to perform Bowen says, “yes, I trust him even though I don’t like him.” He then goes on to tell Cesar he is too opinionated and again says, “I just don’t like you.”

    Despite their problems, their platter is good. Everything is cooked and seasoned well. As they return to their station, Cesar’s voiceover says, “Bowen, I love you, man. Let’s hug it out.” Bowen leans over and whispers to Cesar, “I don’t like you.” Reader, I laughed, rewound, and watched that again.

    MASTERCHEF: L-R: Contestants Julia and Taylor in the “Sky’s the Limit/Tag Team” two-hour time period premiere episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, Aug. 22 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2018 FOX Broadcasting.

    Julia and Taylor present next. Gordon points out that their platter is unappetizing and their teamwork a disaster. He notes that Taylor panicked and Julia had to carry the team. Holding their kofta aloft, he says it looks “like something my bulldog left under the sofa discretely.” Staying on the dog-themed insults, he offers them a “dog biscuit,” their falafel. Almost all components on their platter are poorly made.

    In contrast, Ashley and Farhan present their nearly perfect platter. It is colorful and beautifully laid out. Their falafel is dry and crumbly, but all other components are well-presented. They are praised for their “mutual respect, calmness, and communication” and for being “a stellar example of what a tag team should look like.”

    Finally, Shanika and Samantha present. Their bickering extends to judging as they both throw each other under the bus. Shanika is quick to say she did all the work. Samantha retaliates by pointing out all the work she did. She also faults Shanika for her negative “coaching.” As they discover their lamb is overcooked and their chicken is pink, they argue over who is at fault.

    Gordon, getting frustrated, says “America’s next MasterChef is thick-skinned, strong, confident. They don’t disintegrate.” Not taking the hint, Shanika tries again to tell him that she had to do the work in the team. He cuts her off. “I’m done. Thank you.”

    Cesar and Bowen are safe, even though Bowen doesn’t like Cesar. If you forgot Bowen doesn’t like Cesar, I’m sure he will happily tell you. Also safe are Farhan and Ashley. Though left to worry for a moment, Shanika and Samantha are deemed safe too and share an awkward hug. Gordon, telling her that Julia did 85 percent of the work, sends home Taylor.

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    So now we are down to the final eight. Gordon and Aaron each have three mentees left, and Joe has just two. Next week is another two-hour supersized episode. Won’t anyone think of the recappers?