MasterChef Season 10 episode 13 review: Who was toast?


In this review of MasterChef, ten cooks face an unusual mystery box challenge. Who will be sliced from the competition and who will rise to the top?

After many comments about how this mystery box will top all others, the cooks nervously lift their boxes to find…bread. Everyone has a single sourdough bread loaf on their board.

The judges explain that they need to make two bread dishes, an entrée and a dessert, in one hour. Initially I think they must make both dishes out of their one given loaf but they are offered lots of extra bread choices in the pantry.

This is such a weird challenge. How does one make a “bread dish?” Aaron sums up my concerns by asking, “how do you re-purpose bread in a creative way that equals flavor in an elevated dish?”

Approaching this in a ‘Chopped’ mindset, I assume this means that bread must be the focus of the dish. All I can think of are panzanella, bread pudding, and French toast. On ‘Chopped,’ those would all be frowned upon as being too obvious and easy.

Here, the cooks don’t seem to feel that their dishes need to be bread-centric. Instead, they seem to make whatever they want but add bread.

Renee decides that she tried to be too fancy in the last challenge in making pasta, so she will go a comfort food route. In my mind, homemade pasta isn’t overly fancy and I am disappointed to see she is making meatloaf. She is using bread soaked in milk in her meatloaf, so bread is an ingredient but I would not call this a bread dish.

Noah, Sam and Jamie are all making breadcrumbs to use in their dish. Wuta, Bri and Subha are making soup and putting it in a bread bowl. To me, these are all really disappointing uses of bread and do not constitute a bread dish, but I’m hard pressed to come up with something I would make.

MASTERCHEF: L-R: Contestant Jamie with host/chef Gordon Ramsay in the “Someone’s Toast” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Thursday, July 25 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.© FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

Dorian is making a bread stuffing which is at least a side dish rather than an ingredient or a serving dish. Most ambitious are Nick and Sarah who are making potato and bread gnocchi. Neither of them have made gnocchi before, but we spend the most time with Nick.

Nick has never been in an elimination challenge and it shows. He decides to not only experiment with a completely new technique but to make a complicated entrée during a timed, elimination challenge. If you are going to take a big risk, you probably want to do that during an immunity challenge so that a mistake can’t automatically send you home.

Nick asks Gordon for advice on making gnocchi. Gordon tells him, “it’s all about that billow and fluffing that pillow up but not too stodgy, not too gummy.” Gee, thanks for the recipe, Gordon. Compare this to Joe’s help on the previous episode where he literally rolls out Renee’s pasta and even tells her when it is done cooking.

Joe does offer some help to Nick. As Nick attempts to work with his gnocchi dough, Joe yells across the room to tell him it should just be bread and potatoes. He warns him that flour will make the gnocchi hard, but everyone watches in distress as Nick puts more flour on the dough.

With just a few minutes left, Nick hasn’t even started his dessert dish. He has to make something quick and simple and he appears to be in a bit of a panic. Meanwhile, Noah and Dorian collide with each other at a full run, and chaos rules in the kitchen in the final seconds.

Nick is up first for judging. He has made bread and potato gnocchi with uni butter and smoked egg yolk. He has also made what he is calling brioche strawberry shortcake with basil butter. The judges find his gnocchi dense but they love the flavor of the sauce. Gordon is really impressed by his ambition and creativity.

His dessert is far less successful. It appears to be a slab of bread that I think has been cooked in butter, with strawberry slices on top. Nick tells the judges that he thinks his dessert is “sort of MasterChef Junior,” and they agree. However, Gordon does appreciate that he readily admitted the faults in his dish and recognized that he did not put forth a good effort on that dessert.

Dorian has decided to honor her Southern roots with her pan-fried pork chop with baguette stuffing and honey-glazed carrots. In fact, it seems bread has brought a lot of the cooks back to their roots or childhood, which is interesting. Dorian is beside herself with nerves about her pork chop but she has cooked it perfectly- moist inside and crispy out.

For dessert, she has created a chocolate turtle bread pudding with sweet cream. Gordon’s response is O.M.G. The judges love it. Gordon tells her, “if you make it to this year’s finale, put that dessert on there,” which sounds like bad advice to me. If she really did that, I fear they would mark her down for repeating a dish. Joe drops his spoon for her, high praise indeed.

Wuta is excited to present his creamy Cajun tomato soup in a bread bowl because it is a fully vegetarian dish. For dessert, he has made a tarte tatin with bread and bananas. The judges love the seasoning in his soup and enjoy his dessert. My complaint is that Wuta has just made whatever he wanted and added a little bread. I don’t even understand what a tarte tatin with bread is. Did he just…put some bread on it?

MASTERCHEF: L-R: Contestant Noah with Judges Aarón Sánchez and Joe Bastianich in the “Someone’s Toast” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Thursday, July 25 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.© FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

Noah presents his dish. When first interviewed, he says he is making a stuffed chicken wing. He presents chicken piccata with roasted pepper grits. He has made the breadcrumbs which coat his chicken. Gordon simply tells him it is not his best dish. For dessert he serves cherry bread pudding with walnuts and raspberry anglaise. The judges like the robust flavors and at least it is a true bread dish.

Jamie has also gone the breadcrumb route. His pecan and breadcrumb encrusted red snapper with spinach and caper sauce goes over better. The judges love his breadcrumb and tell him he could have just served that on a gratin and they would be happy. His French toast with caramelized bananas and pecans is praised as spectacular.

Gordon takes a pause to tell everyone, “The finesse that we’ve seen so far has been incredible. I just hope that there’s more.” I can practically hear the doomsday music play as the camera pans over the happy, hopeful faces of those left to be judged.

Sarah presents her bread and herb crusted halibut with breadcrumb gnocchi and her brioche bread pudding with lavender infused raspberry jam. Gordon sighs heavily as she puts down her plates. Her entrée consists of a slab of fish and a handful of gnocchi. There’s no color, no technique to the plating, no sauce. She made  a brown butter and sage sauce that sounds awesome but she waited too late to plate it. Luckily, her gnocchi is deemed light and sweet and her dessert is sumptuous. I am dying to learn how to make breadcrumb gnocchi.

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Sarah in the “Someone’s Toast” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Thursday, July 25 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.© FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

Bri is next with her French onion soup with gruyere cheese in a sourdough bread bowl. She has also made a blackberry clafoutis with brioche and pistachio crumble. Bri has been inspired by working as hostess in a fine French restaurant.

When the judges visit her early on, Joe complains that French onion is the ugliest dish of all time. Excuse me, Joe, but French onion is a fine-dining dish and it is super delicious. I am more concerned about timing. How can she make a good French onion in an hour? When I’ve made it at home it has taken so long just to cut and caramelize the onions! I am also personally concerned when she announces that she is making a clafoutis as I can’t figure out how that incorporates bread.

Well, apparently Bri couldn’t really figure that out either. Gordon says, “the challenge was bread. You can’t come up with a crisp at the end and stick it on top.” The way Bri has used bread for her dessert is to make a bread chip for the top and to also have a crumble of bread and nuts on the side.

Aaron questions how she spent her time and that seems very unfair as both her entrée and dessert are time consuming. As Bri begins to cry, they sample her soup. Gordon compliments her on the brownness of her onions but Joe says, “here’s the problem. There’s no soup in your soup.” He dramatically upends her bread bowl in his hand and no liquid escapes, nor does the bread even seem soggy. A bread bowl will absorb some broth but where did the rest go? Maybe she should have served the broth on the side for a tableside pour to avoid sogginess as well as a lack of moisture.

Gordon then tells her that her dessert is an insult to France. This is before he even tastes it. He seems to be terribly offended that she scooped out a dollop and put it on her plate. The judges taste it and like the flavor but Gordon says, “its just what you’ve done to it!”

To me, this all seems like produced drama. The complaint about her lack of bread incorporation could be said about many others. The horror about how she served the clafoutis seems ridiculous and couldn’t Wuta’s banana and bread tarte tatin also be considered “an insult to France”? I mean, who in France puts bananas and bread in that dish?  I am wondering what the show has in store for Bri that they have made this big show of kicking her down.

Sam is up next with his dill crusted snapper with butter sauce and romesco potatoes. He also has a cardamom spiced bread pudding. The judges tell him the fish is overcooked and so breaded as to be unrecognizable. His pudding is overpowered by the flavor of honey.

Subha brings up his chicken mulligatawny soup in a bread bowl with rose and saffron bread pudding. Gordon’s comments after trying the soup take me on a roller coaster of uncertainty. He says, “guess what I’m doing tonight? I’m calling my mum.”

Here I am thinking that the soup reminds him of home, so that’s good! “And I’m going to tell her, in a couple of months time when I get home, I want a bowl of mulligatawny made with chicken.” Now I’m worried he’s going to say something like, “to remind me of what good mulligatawny tastes like because I hated yours.” But instead, he tells Subha the soup is delicious. Joe tells Subha that he is the teacher now, introducing Joe to nuances of spice and flavor.

I know he can be slow in challenges, but I am a Subha fan so I’m so happy for him. I eagerly await the response to his dessert. He has used rose flavoring because he has given his wife roses for every birthday and anniversary for twenty five years, even while at MasterChef. He’s never been away from her so long so he made the dessert for her.

Joe tells him it is the worst looking dessert he has ever seen. Aaron tastes it and then watches Gordon’s face as he tastes it. All Aaron says is “Bro” and then they both get the giggles. Gordon laughs, “it’s so spicy!” As the other judges sputter and wipe their faces, Gordon continues, “why does the dessert have to be that spicy? How do you do that to us? Have you been sent by Mars on a special mission?” Soon all the contestants are laughing too. Subha takes the criticism in stride and promises to dial things back.

Renee presents last. She tells us she is one hundred percent confident in her dish. She’s made meatloaf with rosemary potatoes and green beans as well as strawberry shortcake. Joe has already expressed a concern about the simplicity of her dish so it needs to be perfectly cooked and elevated.

But when they cut into the loaf, it looks completely bizarre. Sitting in the slice is a round, white polka dot of meat, surrounded by red meat. She has used pork and beef and it looks for all the world like a sausage sitting inside her meatloaf. Gordon comments that it doesn’t look like the pork has been ground.

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Renee in the “Someone’s Toast” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Thursday, July 25 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.© FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

Though it does sound intriguing to embed rich, fatty, garlicky sausages inside a meatloaf, that doesn’t seem to be what happened. Somehow the meat was just not well mixed. They find the consistency to be tight, likening it to mortar.

The self-proclaimed meat master (who has yet to prove herself on meat dishes beyond her apron winner) simply replies with a very tight “thank you for your feedback.” Even Subha, who was being laughed at, took his criticism with more grace.

Aaron tells her you can find her dish anywhere; it’s not special. Gordon feels like it is very “two months ago.” The judges like the dessert but feel it is too simple too. It’s “just bread with strawberries and cream, a little basic.”

Bri has received the most damning critique but as the judges deliberate, they clearly say they are looking at who has the potential to learn and seem to imply they feel Bri does. All the same, Bri is on the bottom with Sam and Renee. Dorian has won the day.

In the end, they decide that Sam’s dish was lacking and they also mention that he has been on the bottom too many times to overlook. Sam is out, but I wonder if Renee isn’t soon to follow.

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Next week looks to be desserts, which could really shake up the status quo and put top contenders on the bottom.