MasterChef Season 10 episode 3 review: Gordon’s Mystery Box


In this review of MasterChef, the top twenty face their first challenges in the kitchen. Their speed, precision, skill and finesse are all put to the test.

After reminding everyone of the MasterChef massive prize they are vying for- training at the judges’ restaurants as well as 250,000 dollars- Gordon prepares them for their first test. Standing behind massive piles of ingredients, he explains that the secret to any great dish is preparation. Also known as mise en place, this means not just setting out all your ingredients before cooking, but also preparing them correctly so they are the correct size, shape, or measurement that you need.

Gordon demonstrates six skills he feels any chef should master- dicing an onion, slicing bell peppers, making grapefruit supremes, chiffonading basil, filleting fish, and separating eggs.

While showing everyone how to hold an onion for dicing, I swear he tells them to have four fingers in front, two behind but I’m pretty sure he does not have six fingers per hand, despite how quickly he moves through the tasks.

Of all of these, filleting the fish is the hardest, in my opinion. It’s one skill I have not yet mastered, and I think a lot of it comes down to confidence. You really need to slice with confidence when filleting a fish as hesitation can lead to jagged cuts.

Gordon completes all six tasks in four minutes and fifty-five seconds, but he will “go easy” on everyone for their first challenge. They will have ten minutes to dice three onions, fillet a fish, and separate two dozen eggs. Those who do well will win immunity from elimination for the week.

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Evan in the “Gordon’s Mystery Box” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Tuesday, June 12 (8:00-9:00PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2019 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne / FOX.

Right away, you can see some strong contenders that will probably do well in the competition long term. For most people, the challenge really seems to boil down to being able to remain calm and unflustered, and to being able to fillet their fish.

Once time is called, the judges review each station. Ten cooks earn the right to head to the balcony- Noah, Jamie (a professional fisherman who had the filleting on lock), Renee (who had time to clean her station during her ten minutes), Subha, Nick, Sarah, Michael, Keturah, and Sam.

The judges approach Fred. You’ll remember him as the guy who got Gordon Ramsay to lick a plate clean. He spent the preparation round looking scared out of his mind, and he is very tightly wound by the time the judges arrive.

Aaron notes that he seems very frazzled, but his fish is well cut, his onions are uniform, and he has separated all his eggs. Unlike the rest of the balcony who maintained composure, Fred makes it through despite freaking himself out. He tells us that he is relieved but knows he was panicked and disorganized. Renee greets him on the balcony saying, “I’m gonna have to teach you to get out of your head!” If he can remain calm, he is clearly one to watch.

With ten cooks on the balcony, ten will face elimination. For the first time, they don their black aprons, and they also face their first mystery box. This mystery box is a weird one. Once they lift the covers to find rack of lamb, a pork chop, and scallops, Aaron tells them we are celebrating ten seasons of Gordon Ramsay. Gordon explains, “tonight we want one of my three favorite proteins to be the real star of your dish. Most importantly, tonight’s dish should be inspired by me and my personality.”

Joe suggests that means the dish should be tough. Aaron suggests sour, but Gordon recommends soft on the inside and rich. The cooks will have one hour, access to the full pantry, plus access to some British ingredients. I note treacle, crumpets, cheddar, peas, and beans.

I find the whole idea of a dish to represent Gordon to be odd, but I suspect they will do this for all the judges this season. I also think that you could make literally anything and spin it to sound connected to Gordon.

Want to make something international? Talk about Gordon being world-renowned and with restaurants on different continents. You could make something light and talk about Gordon being fresh and fit. You could make comfort food and tie it back to traditional British dishes. I’m just waiting for someone to make something and call it sexy.

As cooking begins, Gordon notes that he would rather be down in the kitchen cooking than up in the balcony looking on. Joe agrees, “the more opportunities you get to cook in the MasterChef kitchen, the stronger of a cook you are.”

It’s an interesting consideration. The more you cook, the more you gain a comfort level with the kitchen and cooking with people, judges and cameras staring at you. You also benefit from direct critique from the judges. However, each time you cook is a chance to go home. A strong cook can make one mistake and go home, though they may have done brilliantly the next week.

The judges check on each cook as they work. Shari, a thirty-four-year-old from Minnesota, married an Indian man and is on a quest to prove herself to his family. She tells us she is making a curry, the first dish that she learned to make. Joe tells her, if she screws this up, “both your husband and Gordon will have your head.” “Mostly my mother-in-law,” she counters.

MASTERCHEF: L-R: Contestant Shari with judges Aarón Sánchez and Joe Bastianich in the “Gordon’s Mystery Box” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Tuesday, June 12 (8:00-9:00PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2019 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne / FOX.

Wuta, a thirty-year-old English teacher from the Bronx, has decided to make a pork chop and scallops so he can pick his favorite to present. Though he is a vegetarian, he will taste both to decide which to plate, but he plans to spit the meat out once he gets a taste.

Kenny, a forty-six-year-old carpenter from Massachusetts, idolizes Joe, but Joe shows him no love. Upon seeing that Kenny is cooking all his scallops at once, he berates him for not cooking one and tasting it to be sure the cook and seasoning are right. “Now you have all your eggs in that basket. What is the matter with you? It’s either gonna come out good or bad and you’re making stupid mistakes and I’m losing my patience.” As Joe storms off, Aaron makes an embarrassed, awkward face and recommends he sample a scallop before serving.

Time is up and the judges review each dish. Micah’s herb and Dijon crusted pork chop with braised cabbage and apples as well as an English pea puree is deemed worthy and he moves to the balcony. Kimberly has presented herb-crusted lamb with roasted spiced potatoes and is safe. Shari does not seem satisfied with her curry, but she moves to the balcony.

Dorian, who has made a potato crisp and herb-crusted pork chop that has “layers and beautiful colors” like Gordon, is also safe. Like Wuta, she made two proteins but she decided to plate her pork in the end, and it was a good decision. We don’t see much detail on Bri’s scallop dish, but she is our final safe cook.

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Micah in the “Gordon’s Mystery Box” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Tuesday, June 12 (8:00-9:00PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2019 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne / FOX.

That leaves five cooks standing. I can’t say I am shocked by those left as they all flew red flags during the cook.

Deanna, a forty-five-year-old vocal coach from California, has made pan-seared scallops with blood orange jus, fennel salad, and rosemary mashed potatoes. When she is describing her dish to Gordon and gets to the potatoes, I hear a record scratch in my head. She is creating this light, fresh dish and then putting earthy rosemary potatoes on the side?

Gordon asks her where he is on her plate and she tells him it is lean, sexy and refined like him, and there is my predicted “sexy.” The compliment doesn’t help. Joe asks her when she has ever seen salad and mashed potatoes on the same dish and I yell “exactly” to anyone within earshot. The only time you would see that is at a buffet or Thanksgiving dinner. Though her scallops are well-cooked, the judges feel the flavors are bizarre and Joe calls the composition of her dish senseless.

Liz, a fifty-three-year-old events coordinator from Michigan, has made herb-crusted lamb with caramel potatoes and a mint pea pesto. When Gordon visits her during her cook, she mentions her potatoes and I write them down with a question mark. Does she mean caramelized as in brown? I looked them up and they in fact are cooked in caramel made of butter and sugar. The judges find her plating to be confident and her lamb to be cooked perfectly, but they feel the potatoes derail the whole dish.

Evan, a thirty-six-year-old sales coordinator from New York, has had a tough day. During the review of his prep in the first challenge, he questions the judges just a bit. Later he tells us the first round was a fluke. He clearly feels he is better than what the judges see. He presents a harissa-rubbed pork chop with smashed fingerling potatoes and Cipollini onions. It all sounds really good but his plate does not look great. The entire thing is brown and looks rather dry. I’m confused because at the initial tasting, Joe asks him if he tasted his sauce, but I see no sauce on the plate.

Evan indicates that the fiery heat in his rub is his tribute to Gordon. The judges enjoy his pork and tell him that his potatoes taste better than they look. However, they feel the whole dish is “aesthetically off-putting,” is missing a fresh element, and just needs more.

Kenny worried me throughout. First, he explains he is making mushy peas. While a classic English dish, I worry this lacks finesse. He should probably plate them differently and call them something else. Then he gets yelled at by Joe for making all his scallops at once.

When he presents his pan-seared scallops on a bed of spinach and mushrooms with roasted potatoes and mushy peas, he has plated in the worst way possible. He has five scallops on the dish, all sitting in a circle on top of his spinach and mushrooms. Pointed between each scallop is a potato, and then heaps of bright green mushy peas sit beside each potato. It looks for all the world like an odd flower.

MASTERCHEF: L-R: Contestant Kenny with host/judge Gordon Ramsay in the “Gordon’s Mystery Box” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Tuesday, June 12 (8:00-9:00PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2019 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne / FOX.

Joe tells him it is one of the ugliest dishes he has ever seen. He doesn’t see a flower. He sees a fungal infection. He grabs elements of the dish and makes a neat stack to show Kenny a better way to plate. The judges like his scallops and peas but feel the wine in his sauce is not cooked out and they all hate the plating.

Wuta made his pork chop and his scallops and, as he planned, he tasted both and spit them out. He loves his pork but worries it might be under-done so he presents his scallops, but then immediately regrets it. The judges taste his pork and they regret it too. His final dish consists of pan-seared scallops with fondant potatoes, pea puree and sautéed mushrooms.

All his sides sound to me like they would go better with his pork chop. Also, his fondant potatoes are huge and dwarf his scallops so the proportions are off with the scallops. Wuta explains that he struggles with anxiety and it seems to have gotten the better of him. The judges don’t love his plating, feel the dish doesn’t gel as a whole, and berate him for not putting his best protein on the plate.

MASTERCHEF: L-R: Contestant Wuta with judges Aarón Sánchez and Joe Bastianich in the “Gordon’s Mystery Box” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Tuesday, June 12 (8:00-9:00PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2019 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne / FOX.

The judges tell us they will eliminate two cooks and call forward Wuta and Liz. They tell Wuta that he didn’t plate; he just put a bunch of ingredients on a platter. They tell Liz that the caramelized potatoes were nonsensical. As Wuta and Liz brace for their goodbye, Gordon tells them, “but there were worse dishes. You’re not going home.”

They then call Evan forward. They are disappointed that he has not shown his experience today but “your time in the MasterChef Kitchen has not come to an end.” Now that they have given three people heart attacks, the only ones left standing are Kenny and Deanna, who have been eliminated. They can’t forgive Deanna for pairing mashed potatoes with salad, and they commend Kenny on his cooking but tell him presentation is unteachable. That seems rather unfair and untrue, but I have to assume that the judges just didn’t see enough from Kenny to keep him.

Related Story. Best Baker in America gets playful with Toy Story 4 inspired cakes. light

So in the end, we saw Gordon described as tough but gentle, sour, rich, multi-layered, lean, sexy, refined, and fiery. What dish would you make to represent Gordon, and what adjectives would you use to describe it?