MasterChef S9E17: Waste Not, Want Not


MasterChef takes on a hot food topic. The top seven must turn trash to treasure in a mystery box challenge, and a strong contender is sent home!

The home cooks enter the kitchen for a mystery box challenge. Imagine their confusion when they lift their boxes to reveal…someone’s compost! The judges explain that 1.3 billion tons of food ends up in the trash each year, an appalling amount, especially when so many go hungry. The cooks will need to make a restaurant-quality meal with things that are typically discarded. They have carrot and beet tops, chicken livers, beef trimmings and fat, fish roe, Hamachi collar, a chicken carcass, juice pulp (the stuff left over from juicing things), and stems of cauliflower and broccoli. They can only supplement this with the small MasterChef staple box.

They have forty-five minutes to cook and Gordon will be joining them. I am so pleased to see the judges do this. I was just watching another show and feeling frustrated that the judges were nit-picking over small details and asking for more. In each case, the contestants said they just ran out of time. I kept thinking, I would like to see the judges try to do more than the contestants, and here I get to see the judges do just that! I have a lot of respect for them in doing that, except for Joe who just messed around a lot when he was in a challenge.

A lot of the cooks seem to have been inspired by the last pressure test and are making pasta. Farhan is making pappardelle. Gerron is making a pasta stuffed with fish cheeks, and Bowen wants to redeem himself so he is making a pasta with a mushroom cream sauce.

Julia is making dough but for chicken pot pie. Samantha is making a soup. Ashley is part of the pasta club, making agnolotti, and Cesar is making liver skewers.

MASTERCHEF: L-R: Host / judge Gordon Ramsay and judge Joe Bastianich in the “American Heroes/Waste Not Want Not” two-hour episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, Aug. 29 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2018 FOX

Time is up and Gordon has somehow made three dishes. His appetizer is a chicken liver mousse parfait with chive blinis. His entrée is braised Hamachi collar with carrot top chimichurri and a broccoli-cauliflower stem salad. His dessert is a salted caramel beetroot stem with vanilla shortbread and lemon whipped cream. He could easily serve these scraps for a hefty fee at one of his restaurants, a real lesson on effective cost control.

Interestingly, each of the top dishes come with a personal story about avoiding food waste. Samantha is up first and explains that, as a college student, she has to stretch every ingredient. She has made a chicken bone broth with juice pulp, cauliflower stems, and crispy chicken skin. It must be good because Gordon lifts up the bowl and drinks it clean.

Ashley then brings up her juice pulp herb agnolotti with chicken livers, mushroom brown butter sauce, and crispy chicken skin. She says that, as a personal grocery shopper, she likes to teach her clients how to stretch every dollar and use every aspect of an ingredient. I still don’t understand how that is a job, but it pays off for her as the judges love her dish.

Cesar is called up last with his chicken liver skewers with beet tops, mushroom stems, and pickled broccoli and cauliflower stems. He tells a moving story about how his father, in coming to this country, found it difficult to get work and would dumpster dive to survive. Cesar ultimately comes out on top and is sent to the balcony with the promise of an advantage that will be revealed later.

The pressure test features the same ingredients they had for the mystery box, but in their whole, pristine form. They are still limited to the MasterChef staple box. Ashley points out that it is harder to elevate such nice ingredients. The bar is already high with quality ingredients, so it is harder to exceed expectations. Julia points out that the options seem endless with this bounty, whereas the previous box felt more limited.

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  • The judges go around checking on everyone’s progress as usual, but as they do, they ask who will go home. Person after person names Bowen. Gordon goes to speak with Bowen and asks him if he thinks he’s getting stronger. Bowen’s encouraging reply is “um….” Gordon tells him everybody else thinks he is done and Bowen loses it. He tells Gordon that he needs MasterChef to change his life. He is in tears, explaining that no one believes in him including his mom and dad. Clearly his parents do not support his dreams of becoming a chef.

    Having given the poor guy a breakdown, Gordon comforts him and tells him “I think you can do it.” Bowen really needs to pull it together, and in general, he needs to get his emotions under control.

    Meanwhile, Julia seems lost. She is unsure of her dish when the judges visit and just seems uninspired and unfocused.

    The cooks finish the challenge and Cesar is at last offered his advantage. He can save one cook from being judged. He says, “I’m going to save this home cook because we have common goals. We have the same mission when it comes to our food and our cultures and I think that would be an ideal battle at the end.” I fully expect him to say Farhan as both he and Farhan want to bring their heritage to the American plate. Instead, he says Gerron. Cut to Farhan, looking surprised.

    Bowen goes up for judging first. He has made a pan-seared Hamachi with sweet and sour kale salad and cauliflower puree. It must be good because Aaron reaches out and shakes his hand.

    I can tell Julia is in trouble as she presents her plate. It looks bland and colorless except for this lumpy pink mass on the side of the plate which honestly looks like cat barf to me. As they go in for a close-up, it reds more vividly red and less barfy, but it is still unappetizing. She has made a roast chicken breast with cauliflower couscous and a beet-carrot puree. I can’t figure out why she has chosen the most bland, flavorless ingredients offered.

    MASTERCHEF: Contestant Farhan in the “American Heroes/Waste Not Want Not” two-hour episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, Aug. 29 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2018 FOX

    Sadly, her chicken is “like on an airline,” her couscous is watery, and her puree is coarse and chunky. Joe takes her to task on the puree and insists that by definition, a puree is smooth and silky. She fumbles and says, “so it’s a mash?” Recall that just last episode, Joe announced Cesar’s mushy peas, a rough and chunky mash, as a mint pea puree, so this seems unnecessarily harsh. Regardless, I must admit that her beet-carrot concoction does look really unappealing and sticks out like a sore thumb among her other all-white ingredients.

    Ashley presents a pan-seared Hamachi with roasted beets and cauliflower puree, lemon swiss chard and mushrooms. Her fish is perfectly cooked and her plate shows great finesse, including a silky puree. Farhan also has a pan-seared Hamachi with a beet puree, kale fritter, and sautéed mushrooms. Like Julia, he has made the mistake of the beet puree. His is muddy and fibrous. Also, his Hamachi is overcooked.

    Sam has elected to make a pan-seared ribeye with mushroom cream sauce and carrot vinaigrette. Her ribeye is cooked to a perfect medium rare and the judges find her dish delicious.

    As suspected, Julia and Farhan are up for elimination. Both have been strong competitors throughout and I thought both would be in the competition for longer. Julia, after winning five team challenges, is sent home.

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    And just like that, we are down to the top six. Gordon leads the pack with three remaining cooks, followed by Aaron with two and Joe with one. Next week another two episodes will air back-to-back. It looks like the cooks will have to tackle cooking hearts of all kinds, and that they will have a fine dining restaurant to serve. Who will make it into the top four?