MasterChef S9E21 recap: The Semi Final


On this MasterChef S9E21 recap, the remaining cooks will need to impress culinary legends and we will end with our final three for next week’s finale.

The MasterChef S9E21 recap has the final four entering the kitchen for the MasterChef semi-finals. Aaron has one remaining mentee- Cesar. Joe has only Gerron in the fight. Gordon has two mentees, Ashley and Samantha.

The cooks will complete the first challenge in two teams of two. Cesar, with the most mystery box challenge wins, gets to pick his partner and effectively, pick the teams. The winning team earns their place in the finale, but the losing team will go head-to-head in a second challenge.

Cesar selects Ashley, which means that Gerron and Samantha will also be a team. He feels that Ashley is on a hot streak right now and that she can help him get to the finale. She is excited to blend her Caribbean vibe with Cesar’s Mexican flavors.

MASTERCHEF: L-R: Contestants Cesar and Ashley in the “Battle of the Beef/Semi-Final” two-hour episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, Sept. 12 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2018 FOX

The surprise tonight is that the cooks will be judged, not by their mentors, but by their mentor’s mentors. As Samantha states, if their mentors are culinary gods, they will be cooking tonight for culinary titans.

Aaron’s mentor is beloved California cuisine pioneer and beacon of American cooking, Jonathan Waxman. Not surprisingly, Joe’s mentor is his mom, Lidia Bastianich. I described her to my husband as the Italian Julia Child. I remember watching “Lidia’s Italian Table” years ago. Gordon’s mentor is the legendary Daniel Boulud, a master French chef who established a Michelin star restaurant in New York City.

Because they want to see the cooks at their best, they are able to make anything they want. They will have sixty minutes to make three identical plates. Both team members need to be represented on the plate.

The teams plan on the fly in the pantry and are cooking within about five minutes. While Cesar and Ashley are working calmly and communicating well, Gerron and Samantha seem to have problems early on. Samantha, as usual, is crumbling under pressure. The judges express concern over her lack of control just as she bashes her knee hard, giving her a limp for the rest of the challenge.

In the end, both teams present beautiful plates. Cesar and Ashley have prepared a grilled pork chop with swiss chard, corn-mango salsa, and tostones. Overall, it is well-received, though they recommend a more flavorful brine.

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Ashley in the “Battle of the Beef/Semi-Final” two-hour episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, Sept. 12 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2018 FOX

Samantha and Gerron present a lamb chop with rhubarb and blood orange glaze, ratatouille, and swiss chard. Their ratatouille sparks an age-old controversy- Italian vs French as masters of cuisine. Daniel tells them their ratatouille makes him feel like he is in the south of France. Jonathan responds, “listen. He’s French so he doesn’t really understand that this is more of an American version of ratatouille.” Lidia tells them both, “let me clear one thing right away. Forget about French or American. That’s an Italian vegetable tortino.” Daniel, with a smile, laughingly says, “Ah! You see, the French learn everything from the Italians.” Before a full-blown fist fight breaks out, they return to judging the dish.

Everyone is pleasantly surprised by the rhubarb glaze which they fully expected to be too sweet. They are really excited by the creativity of the dish. Despite that, Cesar and Ashley are tapped as the winners and move directly to the finale.

At this point, my husband turns to me and says, “can I be a cynic?” I knew what he would say. Cesar’s mentor is Aaron. Ashley’s mentor is Gordon. Gerron, Joe’s final mentee, and Samantha, another Gordon mentee, will battle for the final spot. How convenient if Gerron moves on as that would give one mentee to each mentor for the finale.

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  • The challenge is to make a three course dinner where they must replicate an appetizer, entrée, and dessert. The appetizer is a spring risotto with fresh pea puree, white and green asparagus, and Grano Padano. Joe has selected this for the tricky timing and attention to detail required. The entrée is a pan-seared salmon with beet confit, parsnip puree, and citrus vinaigrette. Aaron selected this dish as it requires multiple techniques, refined plating, and the ability to multitask. Dessert is Gordon’s signature sticky toffee pudding with mascarpone mousse. The cooks have just ninety minutes to perfect all three courses.

    Overall, both cooks do very well. Samantha forgets her gelatin for her mousse so she must unmold it, mix in the gelatin and put it back into the mold. Gerron’s big mistake is that he burns his pickled beets.

    For judging, they start with apps. Gerron has never made risotto before but his is well-cooked and his presentation is much closer than Samantha’s. Like the original dish, his green and white asparagus tips are neatly tied up with a green onion and sit erect in the middle of the dish, surrounded by a pool of pea puree. Samantha’s risotto is missing the pea puree and is not presented as well. Gerron takes this round.

    For the entrée, Samantha’s salmon features crisp skin and a pink interior. She wins over Gerron’s overcooked salmon and lack of beet garnish. The dessert round swings back in Gerron’s favor. Samantha’s effort to add the gelatin to her mousse has not worked and it sits in a pool on her plate. Her pudding should have had a caramel sauce drizzled over the top but instead, she has achieved a hard caramel that has formed a shell. Gerron’s dessert isn’t perfect as his mousse is a bit melty and his sponge is not as good as Samantha’s but he has still won this round.

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    With his better prepared appetizer and dessert, Gerron is safe and moves on to the finale. Samantha does not leave empty-handed, though, as Gordon generously pledges to pay her culinary school tuition.

    As expected, each judge has one mentee in the finale. Tune in next week to find out who is your next MasterChef!