MasterChef Season 10 episode 7 review: Gordon Takes on a Tarte


In this review of MasterChef, dessert takes on epic proportions involving fire, tears and tension. Whose dessert is a not so sweet end of their MasterChef journey?

We open the MasterChef episode where we left off. Shari, Nick and Wuta have cooked their way to the balcony and everyone else will face elimination. The challenge is a tarte tatin, a classic French pastry. Dorian frets that she was hoping for a crème brulee or a soufflé and that she has “never seen something so technical.” Granted, the judges are looking for perfection but I have made tarte tatin and it is not nearly so fussy as crème brulee or soufflé.

Gordon will demonstrate the techniques which is a relief for most. Keturah doesn’t eat or make desserts. Dorian, Noah, Jamie and others have never made a tarte tatin before.

Gordon begins with a short crust. He then puts butter in a pan and mashes it down with his fingers to form a layer. On this layer, he puts sugar, a cinnamon stick, star anise and vanilla seeds. He then takes halved pears and presses them into the butter in a pretty arrangement. This gets cooked on the stovetop to form a caramel.

Once formed, he takes the pan off the heat and applies his rolled dough to the top, carefully tucking in the corners. After venting the dough for steam, he pops it in the oven for eighteen minutes to cook the dough. He makes a crème anglaise while waiting for it to bake. Once baked, the tarte comes out and gets flipped out of the pan so the dough is now on the bottom. Finally, he puts cognac in his pan and flambees it, pouring the still flaming liquor on top of his tarte.

The cooks will have sixty minutes to make their tarte and anglaise, but the judges are looking for their own twists on both.

Right away, we see Keturah is stressed. She is not comfortable with desserts and goes into the competition panicked. On top of that, she hopes for peaches but by the time she gets in the pantry, all the peaches are gone. She ends up with pineapple. Gordon comes to check on her as she is clearly upset.

He warns her that pineapple is a really difficult fruit to use, being watery and fibrous. She immediately begins to tear up and though she is on the verge of crying, he tells her this could send her home. Having nearly given her a breakdown, he lifts her up again and encourages her to get past the pressure.

Evan has the opposite response. He admits that he knows nothing about tartes but says he is feeling really confident. He goes on to explain that he has the “deepest knowledge base,” has travelled the world and knows a ton of ingredients so he will be able to cook anything they give him.

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Evan in the “Gordon Takes on a Tarte” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Thursday, June 27 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Michael Becker/ FOX.

Joe and Aaron stop by Evan’s station for yet another tense and awkward interaction. Joe starts by asking Evan if he is a big dessert baker. Admitting that he is not, Joe comes back with, “you have to be the complete package.” Evan makes a joke about having “plenty of package” and you can hear the crickets as Aaron and Joe simply stare at him.

As the judges continue to talk with Evan, he cuts Joe off and continues to assert that he will be fine. Aaron finally steps into the pissing match between Joe and Evan to ask what he is going to make.

The judges are looking for interesting flavors and Evan has just explained to us that he “knows a ton of ingredients” so this should be good. Instead, Evan answers that he is making apple tarte tatin, which is traditional. Aaron then asks if he will do anything unique with his crème anglaise to which Evan says he plans to “fly by the seat of my pants.”

After some awkward staring all around, Aaron and Joe leave. Evan tells us “I’m not worried in the least. I’m gonna blow right through this thing. I don’t need Gordon’s step-by-step instructions. I can knock out awesome dishes with what I’ve got up here.”

With thirty minutes left, Keturah is still in a tailspin but she finally calms herself and thinks about what goes with pineapple in savory dishes. This is a real key to any cooking competition with mystery ingredients.

If you know the ingredient but not the dish, consider other applications of the ingredient that you can apply here. If you don’t know the ingredient, consider what it is similar to that you do know and make a riff on that dish. Keturah settles on ginger and cayenne flavors.

Micah’s dream is to open a bakery so this should be in his wheelhouse. He starts off feeling comfortable but when he goes to get his dough from the fridge, his caramel burns. He immediately starts to melt down and spends a little time with his head in his hands at his station. He then picks himself up and pulls the pan off the heat. He takes his peaches out of the burned caramel and creates a new butter and sugar base. I worry when he puts his blackened peaches back in the butter, but I guess he doesn’t have time to cut up new fruit.

Sarah seems to be having the same issue with burned caramel. Her solution is to just add more butter and sugar to “try to save it.” I can tell you from experience that you can’t save burned caramel. On top of that, she still has to bake it so it will continue to cook.

Fred, who won his apron on his plate-licking-good dessert, should be comfortable and he is, initially. His tarte is first in the oven. But as time winds down, his dough remains uncooked. He realizes he rolled it too thickly and it doesn’t help that he keeps nervously removing it from the oven to check it.

Sam is the other cook using pineapple and where Keturah created thin slices, he has used large chunks. Because of the juice released by the chunks, his caramel won’t darken. It’s just too diluted. Meanwhile, Evan notices that his fruit is sitting in a bath of caramel. It’s very wet and soupy, so he decides to pour some off. He confidently says he knows what he’s doing. Once he removes the tarte from the oven, he notes it is very dry. Gordon asks where his drained caramel is but he has thrown it away.

It’s time for the dramatic flambee. Subha wooshes up a wall of fire and sets his oven glove, which he is wearing, on fire. Gordon leaps in to rescue him. Pouring the flambee over the dessert effectively puts out the fire.

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Subha in the “Gordon Takes on a Tarte” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Thursday, June 27 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Michael Becker/ FOX.

Time is up and the judges sample each dessert. They declare Michael’s the best of the night and Bri, Dorian (who put pecans in her dough), Liz (who made a banana tarte), Renee, Noah, Jamie, and Micah (whose restarted caramel saved him) all head to the balcony too. Everyone else will get a closer look.

Keturah brings up her spiced pineapple tarte tatin with star anise and a pineapple crème  anglaise. Her thin slices of pineapple are crunchy and buttery and she has managed to create a tasty dish despite her fears.

Sam brings up his pineapple tarte tatin with a coconut and lime crème anglaise. His chunks of pineapple are his undoing. He heard Gordon recommend one inch slices of banana and did not consider the differences in the fruits, so he went with big pieces of pineapple. His tarte is dripping with juice and his chunks did not caramelize.

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Sam in the “Gordon Takes on a Tarte” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Thursday, June 27 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Michael Becker/ FOX.

Sarah, who did not restart her burned caramel, brings up her blackened peach tarte tatin with ginger and vanilla crème anglaise. Her peaches have managed to cook properly but everyone complains of the burnt flavor, with Joe likening it to cough syrup.

Subha presents a pear and apple tarte tatin with rosewater and cardamom crème anglaise. His pears and placed upside down and his apples have disintegrated. Having two fruits in his tarte has done him no favors. However, his flavors are great- unique and balanced.

Evan delivers his apple tarte tatin with thyme crème angalise. His tarte is not only dry, lacking a caramel, but it is weirdly flat. The judges ask him if he cut the apples further than half, which is what Gordon had shown them to do. “No,” Evan answers, “I cored and quartered the apple.” Someone might want to tell Evan that a quarter is less than a half.

When asked about his bake time, he answers twenty-two minutes. So now his apples are half the size and his bake time is longer than Gordon’s eighteen minutes. Evan tells the judges that he didn’t set a timer for his bake, confident he could tell when it was done.

The judges tell Evan his crust is good and it isn’t a bad apple dessert, but it is not tarte tatin. There is no caramel and the apples are overcooked. Regardless, Evan tells us that “going home would literally be shocking.”

Fred is last judged. His ginger, vanilla and cinnamon apple tarte tatin with brown butter and cardamom crème anglaise is unevenly cooked. Some parts of his dough are browned and some are raw. Joe makes a comment that he has made apple sauce. Gordon likes his flavors but not the look of the dish.

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Bri in the “Gordon Takes on a Tarte” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Thursday, June 27 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Michael Becker/ FOX.

Sarah, Keturah and Subha earn a trip to the balcony. This leaves Fred’s undercooked pastry, Sam’s soaking wet pineapple chunks, and Evan’s not-a-tarte on the chopping block. Evan is sent home.

Fred tells us, “I am trying to learn which I think is probably the one reason why they saved me over Evan,” and I couldn’t agree more. Gordon continues the theme saying, “Evan, to become America’s next MasterChef, we need an incredible pupil. There’s times across this competition that you have been so difficult about taking advice.”

Evan, cocky to the last, says, “in the end, it doesn’t matter. I still feel like my experience and my knowledge base means I was the best chef in this competition.” Really endearing way to leave, insulting the other competitors. Confidence is great but arrogance is a bad look.

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As I said last time, anyone now willing to listen will not last long in this competition. Evan painted a target on his back and the arrow found its home tonight.