MasterChef Season 10 episode 8 review: Joe takes a risk


In this recap of MasterChef, the top sixteen face a team challenge with an Italian twist. Can the cooks live up to the exacting standards of Joe Bastianich?

The cooks, who are standing in a group, are quickly divided down the middle to form two teams of eight. Joe’s “big risk” is to allow the team captains into his restaurant, Osteria Mozza, to learn three dishes.

This seems a very minimal risk for Joe. I assumed the risk would be to allow the cooks to run the restaurant for a night but the captains will return to the MasterChef kitchen where the cooking will happen solely for the judges to consume.

Gordon asks for a show of hands for who would like to be a captain. Most, but not all, raise their hands with some, like Noah, raising two. To help the judges select captains, each cook with a hand up must state why they would be the best choice.

Joe asks Subha why he did not raise his hand. Subha tells him, “leadership is all about leading when needed and following when needed to be.” This earns him Joe’s approval and applause from everyone, which I do not understand.

Leadership certainly should involve some humility and willingness to learn but it is still, at the end of the day, about leading. Subha having no interest in the chance to lead does not bode well for his longevity in the competition.

For the blue team, Joe selects Michael as captain. Michael’s pitch is that he runs a business. He states that he has more employees than team members and knows how to lead.

For the red team, Joe picks young Nick. Nick’s argument is that he is Italian (Joe’s restaurant is Italian so this will lend him familiarity with the techniques). Also, he points out that he has not yet lost a challenge on MasterChef and that he has worked in several professional kitchens.

These captains are quite different. Michael has more age and experience on his side, being thirty-one with a successful business. He tells us that his plan going into this is to take control.

Nick, a twenty-two-year old student, plans to take notes instead of control. As a student, I suspect his ability to take notes and return with details about the dishes will be superior, and that may be the edge needed in the competition.

As Michael notes, this is basically a game of telephone, so one of the biggest challenges is to convey the smallest details to the team so they can replicate dishes they have never seen.

MASTERCHEF: L-R: Contestant Michael and host/judge Gordon Ramsay in the “Joe Takes a Risk” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, July 10 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

Joe drives Michael and Nick to his restaurant for a tutorial on three dishes. Once complete, he asks them who are the weakest links on their teams. Michael states that no one concerns him because he is confident that he has picked a role for each person that they can handle. Nick tells Joe, “if I am a good leader, I don’t think I should have any weak points.”

Each team will have one hour to recreate the three dishes. For each dish, there must be three plates, one for each judge. The judges are looking for technique and flavor, but more importantly, consistency and replication of the restaurant’s style.

Michael brings his team together and assigns them roles. Sarah and Shari will create the ricotta and egg raviolo with browned butter and sage. This dish requires delicate work to keep the egg yolk whole inside the raviolo, and I think he believes the women can handle this work best.

Noah, who has proven skillful with meat, and Liz will work on the lamb rack with tahini and dried Persian lime marinade. Michael believes the fish dish will be the most complicated so selects three people.

Dorian will lead, Sam will cook the fish, and Subha will cook the lentils for the pan-seared sea trout with Umbrian lentils and red cabbage sottaceto. Dorian tells us that she hates team challenges because she likes to be in control and does not want her fate in anyone else’s hands, so hopefully being lead on the dish will help her shine.

MASTERCHEF: The blue team in the “Joe Takes a Risk” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, July 10 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

On Nick’s team, he wisely puts Jamie, the fisherman, on fish with Bri for her plating skills. He puts Keturah and Fred on lamb with Micah cooking the lentils. He selects Wutah and Renee for the pasta dish.

In the last team challenge, Keturah masterfully fried chicken so it makes sense to trust her with another protein. Wutah, being a vegetarian, is on a dish without a cooked meat so that seems like a good fit too. I do worry about Renee though, as she says she can make pasta that “might not be perfect” but should be good enough.

On Nick’s team, the main issue does seem to be with the pasta station. Renee clearly struggles with her pasta, first forgetting to have any water to cook and then when rolling her pasta out. Nick ends up spending most of his time on her station so that other stations get little input along the way.

MASTERCHEF: L-R: Contestant Nick with judge Joe Bastianich in the “Joe Takes a Risk” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, July 10 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

Keturah on lamb keeps trying to get his attention but gets little of his time. Near the end, she asks him how the lamb looks. He tells her that some pieces look under and to only select the more cooked slices, but she insists that the lamb is not undercooked so I’m not sure why she asked his opinion in the first place. He simply says OK and moves back to the pasta station, leaving her to plate.

Over on blue, Sam tests a piece of fish in his pan and the skin, meant to stay attached and to get very crispy, falls right off. He considers this a bad omen, and it is.

Before you know it, he is running out of fish to cook. He insists on using a stainless steel pan to cook but it doesn’t seem to be getting hot enough or retaining heat enough to crisp the skin.

Dorian and Michael both demand that he use a cast iron but he refuses, so they both grab fish pieces to cook in cast iron. So now you have three people cooking fish in three pans, two cast iron and one steel, trying to get three identical pieces of fish.

While Michael works at the fish station, the pasta station struggles with their browned butter. Shari asks Michael over and over if she should start the butter and he keeps telling her to wait, so by the time she starts it, it is too late to get it browned. Not only that, but the sage that should fry in the brown butter does not have the heat to crisp up so it just sits in their melted butter.

At last, it is time for judging. The judges call for the raviolo from Nick’s team. Their butter is nicely brown, their sage is crispy, the yolk runs perfectly. The judges love the dish though they think there is too much nutmeg in the filling.

By comparison, Michael’s team has botched the dish. Instead of a brown butter sauce, they present a raviolo sitting in melted butter with soggy sage. They also have forgotten the grated Grana Padano cheese at the end. Furthermore, their egg yolk, which should be gently cooked but runny, is still raw, and it has some egg white in it. Clearly Nick’s team has won this round. It is also the dish he spent the most time on, so it remains to be seen how the other dishes pan out.

Next up is the red team’s lamb dish. Nick admits he spent the least time on this station, and it shows. Keturah has accidentally plated the lamb wrong side up (according to Joe, the cut side should face up). The judges find the marinade to be thick and pungent. As it is not only on the lamb but also on the plate a sauce, this poses a problem. Furthermore, some of the lamb is indeed undercooked.

MASTERCHEF: L-R: Contestants Nick and Ketura in the “Joe Takes a Risk” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, July 10 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

Michael’s team presents their lamb, hoping for a point against the red team. The judges love their plating, find their sauce consistency much better, and love the cook on the lamb. They declare the dish to be nearly a duplicate of the restaurant version, so the teams are now tied. Nick’s team won the raviolo dish and Michael’s team won the lamb dish.

It all comes down to the fish. Jamie was in charge of cooking the fish for Nick’s team and he cooked five pieces of fish in two cast iron pans simultaneously. This technique has led to three identical dishes. Joe tells the team it is hard to distinguish from the original dish. Aaron feels the dish is beyond reproach. Gordon loves it except that one side of his fish has been too heavily peppered.

MASTERCHEF: L-R: Contestants Michael, Subha and Sam in the “Joe Takes a Risk” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, July 10 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

Michael’s team now has a huge mountain to overcome given this glowing review. Sadly, with three people cooking fish in two different types of pan, their fish just can’t compare. Not only that, but the dish has far too many lentils and Subha has overcooked them. Joe calls them ruined. One fish is missing half the skin and some of the fish is overcooked to the point of looking “like canned salmon.”

Clearly, Nick’s team has won the day. They have immunity from the elimination challenge. Nick will also get to make some sort of decision on elimination day. Elimination will feature the dreaded tag team challenge.

Related Story. Gordon Ramsay Uncharted is the culinary adventure foodies crave. light

Will Nick get the chance to save a blue team member in exchange for his weakest team member? Will he decide who starts and ends the cooking for each team?

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s episode to see!