MasterChef Season 10 episode 16 review- Fine dining at the race track


In this review of MasterChef, the top ten home cooks must demonstrate speed and accuracy in a team challenge. Which team will race to the finish line first?

This MasterChef episode opens with our remaining cooks arriving at the Irwindale Speedway, temporarily rebranded as the MasterChef Speedway. They watch as three race cars vie for supremacy on the track.

Supposedly, these are expertly driven by none other than our three judges, and of course, Gordon wins. I’m always amused at all the things our judges can apparently do well. They are all either Nancy Drew or James Bond, clearly.

Once out of their race cars, the judges ask everyone to self-divide into two teams of five. Initially everyone knots together, most seeming to surround Jamie. They eventually divide out into a team of Noah, Nick, Fred, Bri and Shari versus a team of Micah, Dorian, Subha, Jamie and Sarah.

When asked why they divided this way, Nick points out that he, Bri, and Noah have never been in the bottom of a team challenge (famous last words). Sarah, on the other team, says she found Dorian and Jamie to be a big attraction for her. She goes on to explain that Micah’s made a lot of improvement and Subha’s…well, he’s just hungry for a win.

Each team has a short time to discuss and elect a team captain. I am hard-pressed to believe the captains were not chosen by production. On Micah’s team, he lobbies to be captain and I hear no dissent.

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Micah in the all-new “NASCAR – Finish Line Feed” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, Aug. 7 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2019 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

I just can’t believe, this late in the game with nowhere to hide, that the strong personalities and cooks that are on this team would quietly let the youngest member lead. Dorian has repeatedly told us she likes to be in charge of her own destiny and she hates team challenges, so surely she would have requested to lead.

On the other team, Noah voices his vote for Shari. He says it is her time to shine and that he has complete faith in her. This is very sweet and not out of character for him, but I still think that production stepped in and said they needed to see more of Micah and Shari.

MASTERCHEF: The blue team in the all-new “NASCAR – Finish Line Feed” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, Aug. 7 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2019 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

Gordon asks for the captains and Shari’s team states that they have unanimously chosen her for her ability to remain calm under pressure and her composure. Micah then announces that he is team captain because he has worked in restaurants before and understands how things should work. Gordon tells him, “I love the confidence. You’re a pot washer in a restaurant.”

Wow. Micah might need the medics to come over after that burn. Micah replies that he is a pot washer right now but he has worked in other restaurants. So, is he saying he held better positions in other places and has actually stepped into a lower position? That’s not a real confidence booster.

Gordon introduces their special guest, Bobby Labonte, Nascar champion. The challenge is to cook for one hundred people- drivers and pit crew. They will have seventy-five minutes to prep and then must be ready to serve all one hundred folks.

MASTERCHEF: L-R: Contestant Nick, judge Aarón Sánchez, judge Joe Bastianich and contestant Bri in the all-new “NASCAR – Finish Line Feed” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, Aug. 7 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2019 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

The teams hurry off to select a menu. Micah’s team will serve chicken and sides. He designates Jamie and Sarah to cook chicken, Dorian to cook carrots, and Subha to make polenta. Micah will create a citrus glaze for the chicken. Again, I am shocked that Dorian is happy to take what to me seems a trivial role.

On Shari’s team, she decides they will do crispy skin salmon. She puts Nick and Noah on salmon as well as prepping their potato side. Bri will work on a beurre blanc and Fred will make haricot vert. Both teams will need to present a plate to the judges for critique partway through their time.

MASTERCHEF: The red team in the all-new “NASCAR – Finish Line Feed” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, Aug. 7 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2019 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

Over on Micah’s team, it looks to me like Jamie steps in as the true, though quiet, leader. First we see him watching Subha like a hawk as he gets ready to make polenta. Jamie tells Subha he has to let the water boil before dumping in his polenta and watches as Subha hovers over the pot with polenta in hand.  He tells him in a gentle voice you would reserve for a child, “Subha, listen to me. Leave that alone. It’s gotta boil, OK?”

Subha continues to stir his pot which is driving Jamie crazy. He tells Subha to stop stirring as it is lowering the water temperature and insists that Subha come over to help him prep rosemary for their potatoes. Jamie shows him how to remove the leaves from the stem and then tells us he plans to keep Subha busy with herbs and away from the polenta.

The teams are all cooking in outdoor, uncovered kitchens. Soon into their prep time, rain clouds roll in. Joe unhelpfully points out to the cooks that it is now raining, and Gordon tells them this does not stop the clock. They do at least bring out large tents to cover their cook space.

MASTERCHEF: L-R: Contestants Bri and Fred in the all-new “NASCAR – Finish Line Feed” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, Aug. 7 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2019 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

Before you know it, it is time for the judges to sample a complete dish from each team. Shari’s team presents crispy skin salmon with haricot vert, citrus beurre blanc and rosemary dusted fingerling potatoes. Their salmon is perfect, but the judges worry about their ability to pull of one hundred portions with crispy skin.

Shari says if the skin isn’t perfect, they will pull it off. Aaron tells her this will ruin the product. Shari sticks to her guns. The judges tell her the plates need more beurre blanc, the green beans are bland, and the potatoes need better rosemary distribution.

Micah’s team presents herb chicken with citrus glaze, roasted carrots and goat cheese polenta. The carrots are undercooked, the polenta needs more cheese and butter, and the chicken needs more seasoning. Both teams correct course based on their critiques and move on. As they cook, the drivers take to the track. Gordon calls out number of laps left in place of a normal countdown.

It is time to start plating, and Micah takes Sarah off the grill to have her assist. Jamie, again acting as the real leader here, disagrees. Sarah has been cooking the chicken the whole time. She is in a rhythm, knows where everything is, and is cooking everything perfectly. Now is not the time to take her off the grill. Micah moves her anyway. That is, until Gordon comes along and tells him she should remain on the grill. Jamie is now on plating.

Shari’s team is about to plate but Gordon finds their potatoes to be an issue. I think the plan had been to fry them, but they are instead soft and oily. So now their plate has a fatty beurre blanc, a fatty fish, and oily potatoes. Shari hands the potatoes off to Noah to fry them again.

MASTERCHEF: L-R: Contestants Nick and Shari in the all-new “NASCAR – Finish Line Feed” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, Aug. 7 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2019 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

In doing so, she messes with the flow of the salmon station. Nick has been searing he salmon in a pan to crisp the skin and then Noah has been finishing the salmon in the oven. Now that he is on potatoes, no one is cooking the salmon through.

Out with the diners, Joe finds a raw salmon. When he returns it, Gordon tests some of the salmon ready for plating and it is raw too. This is simply a fundamental breakdown of communication. As team lead, Shari should have been aware of how the salmon station was being run and should have foreseen the issue with taking Noah off the station. But Nick and Noah know their system and they don’t say anything either.

Shari’s response, surprisingly, is to scrap the crispy skin idea. She insists they remove the skin from all the fish going forward, even if it has already been rendered crispy. I don’t see how this solves the raw salmon issue, but it is her decision. So they started serving salmon with skin and now are serving salmon without.

Both teams have lines of waiting diners at this point. Micah says he is having flashbacks of when he worked in fast food. So, are those his other restaurant experiences? Again, this does not instill confidence. Shari goes looking for more cooked salmon and finds ones with crispy skin still on, cooked through. She decides to serve it as-is. Gordon asks her if the skin is back on now for all plates? The skin is back on.

MASTERCHEF: L-R: judges Aarón Sánchez and Joe Bastianich with contestants Noah and Nick in the all-new “NASCAR – Finish Line Feed” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, Aug. 7 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2019 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

Shari continues to plate but at one point calls Gordon over, apparently unsure if a salmon is cooked through. It is not. Gordon calls a team meeting and Shari again says they will do the salmon without skin.

Gordon is fed up and restructures the salmon station. He tells Noah and Nick to both cook salmon. Each will cook at his own station and will cook their salmon all the way through in the pan. Once Gordon takes control, the team seems to find its groove, but this can’t bode well for them that Gordon had to take the reins.

Over on Micah’s team, everyone but Dorian seems to have something to say about Subha. Sarah says “working with Subha is like having my three kids in the kitchen trying to help.”

At one point, Subha appears to grab a squeeze bottle of olive oil, thinking it is their sauce. Micah catches it before he squeezes oil all over their plates.

Another time, they are waiting on chicken so Subha puts some in the oven under the broiler. He burns them so they are unusable. Sarah says “Subha’s not even cooking chicken and he managed to burn it. I don’t know how that’s even possible.”

Later, Subha is going the opposite way of everyone else as they plate, like someone walking against the flow at a buffet. At no time do we see Dorian frustrated or even interacting with Subha. Given their history, I continue to think they are giving her a winner’s edit.

As the final dishes are served, with Shari voicing endless apologies to the diners for delays, a rainbow arches across the sky. To announce the winning team, Bobby Labonte hops into a race car and starts doing donuts. Eventually, red smoke billows out, signaling that Micah’s team has won.

This is Sarah and Dorian’s first team win. I truly believe the team would not be in this position without Jamie’s quiet leadership. He was definitely MVP along with Sarah’s excellent chicken cookery.

Shari’s team is berated for their inconsistency, their indecision about skin on or off, their raw food, and their fragmented teamwork. Noah, who supposedly nominated Shari as team lead, is clearly pissed off.

When the rest of the team tells Shari to not beat herself up and that they win or lose as a team, Noah says, “they didn’t beat us. We beat ourselves. By God, I’m bringing hell with me tomorrow.”

The teams return to the MasterChef kitchen where Gordon tells everyone they should never feel safe. Micah will need to pick someone from his winning team to compete in the challenge.

Related Story. Gordon Ramsay Uncharted, Majestic Morocco is steeped in tradition. light

Will he pick a strong cook like Sarah, Dorian or Jamie to try to take them out? Or will he pick Subha for his seeming lack of contribution to the team win? What would you do?