MasterChef Season 10 episode 21 review: It’s about the family


In this review of MasterChef, the top seven enjoy visits from loved ones and one cook writes a ticket home in a tricky replication challenge.

We dive right into this MasterChef episode  with Gordon introducing our special guests. Sarah’s husband Michael is first out of the misty doorway, much to her delight. He is followed by Noah’s mom, Nick’s dad, and everyone else’s spouse.

If you recall, Micah’s backstory is that his family does not support his food dream. After everyone else is in the arms of a loved one, Gordon tells Micah, “unfortunately, mum and dad can’t be here but tonight you’re not alone, okay? You’re with us. You’re with the MasterChef family.” I appreciate the sentiment but assume this is cold comfort when you are watching everyone else with their family members. Dorian, a mother herself, springs into mom mode and hugs Micah.

The challenge is to make a dish inspired by home that will impress their family members and the judges. They have one hour and three will earn immunity. I wonder how it feels to cook in front of your family. Does it add pressure, knowing they are watching you? Does it energize you to have that support? Is it distracting or does it give you renewed focus?

Time starts and they rush to the pantry. Soon they are all back out except for Subha. Subha’s wife VJ asks, “where’s Subha?” She then falls right in line with what everyone does around Subha and starts telling him to hurry up.

Gordon goes up to the balcony to talk to family members. He has a particularly cute exchange with Dorian’s husband. When Gordon asks him if he knew she was this good, he says with complete confidence that he always knew, but she didn’t believe in herself. He then asks Gordon, “did she tell you about her crush about you?” Gordon is flustered and says no, and then wonders why she was discussing a crush on another man with her husband. After a hearty handshake, Gordon returns to the other judges.

MASTERCHEF: L-R: Contestant Dorian and host/judge Gordon Ramsay in the “Family Reunion” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, Aug. 28 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.© FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

Once there, he worries about Micah. “I do feel for Micah, okay? We’ve never had no family member turn up in the history of this competition in ten years. That’s a tough blow for any nineteen-year-old.” Meanwhile, Micah tearfully tells us his mom inspired him to cook and he really wishes she were here. He wipes his tears and tells us he wants to make her proud.

Gordon goes to console him. “Micah, tough night. I’ve been in your situation at nineteen. I’ve been ignored by my father many times. But I know you can bounce back. I believe in you more than you’ll ever, ever know. You may not have any immediate family here but I consider you family, okay?”

As time marches on, Subha’s wife continues to tell him to watch the clock, to hurry, and to finish up. It’s funny how quickly she has fallen in line with the typical peanut gallery comments to Subha. At one point, she is shown holding a red rose. I have no idea where it came from, but it is a sweet call to their story. Remember, Subha keeps using rose flavor because it reminds him of VJ. He buys her roses for every birthday and anniversary.

Another cute moment happens between Shari and Subha near the end. Subha needs lemon zest. Shari overhears and asks if he needs lemon. He tells her no, he has it and calls her a darling. Later, Shari needs a spoon and Subha gives her one from his station. It’s nice to see competitors helping each other, a rarity in American-style competitions.

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Nick in the “Family Reunion” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, Aug. 28 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.© FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

The family members get to stay for judging and the judges don’t hold back. Nick comes up first with his butter-poached lobster with tamale brushed fondant potato, uni and lobster emulsion, and blood orange braised fennel. It all sounds yummy but Aaron tells him the dish lacks clarity. He wishes that Nick would have taken some elements off the plate. Gordon concurs and asks for half the ingredients. We will see this as a bit of a theme. I think some people were trying so hard to impress their family that they went overboard on technique, flavors, and ingredients.

Noah brings up his crispy skinned sea bass with morel mushroom fregola and blistered tomato vinaigrette. Joe and Gordon oppose the tomatoes on the plate. Gordon tells him you never put morels and tomatoes together, something I’ve never heard before. This seems to be another case of a dish that needed editing.

Sarah has made fish too- Cajun style salmon with succotash and fried green tomato. Joe had been worried that the dish would not be elegant or sophisticated but he feels he was wrong. The fish is cooked beautifully and they love the succotash.

Subha is up next. He has made Moroccan style chicken with couscous and cauliflower puree. His wife’s mother, who passed away two years ago, taught him this dish so it is a tribute to her. Gordon is impressed that he has veered away from Indian and Cajun. The chicken is cooked well and, as usual, they like the spice. However, like many other contestants, he is told he needed to edit the dish.

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Shari in the “Family Reunion” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, Aug. 28 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.© FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

Shari’s husband loves seafood so she has made a bouillabaisse with saffron and Calabrian pepper aioli. To do this, she has had to pull off a stew that typically takes hours in just one and she has had to perfectly cook five different proteins. The judges love it.

Dorian has decided to go very Southern with her herb crusted pork chop with collard greens and cranberry chutney. Joe says, “It’s you on a plate but here’s the problem. I want you to be more like me. This is a step back conceptually. Maybe Charles (her husband) is taking you back to home cooking but we had an evolution here trying to bring it to a real restaurant level.” Gordon disagrees and thinks it is delicious.

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Dorian in the “Family Reunion” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, Aug. 28 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.© FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

Micah is last to present his pistachio crusted lamb chop with charred Romanesco and labneh. I’m immediately concerned about his lamb, as is Joe. It features a red bullseye, a sure sign of undercooking. They taste it and decide it is not as underdone as expected and tastes better than it looks, but it’s still not a ringing endorsement.

It’s time for the families to say goodbye. As everyone else gets told I love you and I’m proud of you, Micah stands alone. Dorian hugs him and tells him it’s going to be okay.

MASTERCHEF: Contestants in the “Family Reunion” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, Aug. 28 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.© FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

Shari, Dorian and Sarah win immunity. This means that the men will face elimination. The challenge is an interesting one. Gordon will make a Michelin star dish. The men must cook along with him, keeping pace and perfecting each step. Once Gordon finishes his plate, they will have sixty seconds to finish as well so they can’t be more than a minute behind. I am immediately stressed for Subha.

The dish is a potato-crusted seabass with minestrone and clams. Gordon begins by turning on his burner and steeling his knife. Already Subha is a moment behind, steeling a few seconds after everyone else and looking confused as he does so. He remains behind throughout the challenge.

At one point, Gordon flambees wine but the cooks’ pans aren’t hot enough so most lag a bit at this step, trying to get the wine to light. Subha is of course last to do it and insists on holding his flaming pan near his face. “Put the pan down,” screams Gordon. “It’s on fire, you donut.”

MASTERCHEF: Host/judge Gordon Ramsay in the “Family Reunion” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, Aug. 28 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.© FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

Gordon uses a mandoline to thinly slice potatoes. The goal is to lay them over the fish in an overlapping pattern to create scales. Noah runs up to Gordon’s station to get a closer look and promptly wipes out when he gets back to his station. He gets back up quickly but it surely has thrown him off his game to fall so hard. Soon after, Micah cuts himself on the mandoline and loses time as the medic patches him up.

Gordon instructs everyone on how to carefully place their fish scales-down in the pan. When ready, they must flip it over without losing scales and then butter-baste the scales. Subha flips his fish and scales fall off. The balcony also notices his butter looks too brown, even burnt.

MASTERCHEF: Contestants in the “Family Reunion” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, Aug. 28 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.© FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

Due to Micah’s cut, his fish is not ready to flip when it is time to flip. Dorian, seeing he wants to flip anyway, yells to him not to do it. He does anyway and the potatoes are clearly raw. Dorian tells him, “come on Micah. Calm down!”

Gordon is plating and Micah’s fish still does not look cooked. Gordon finishes and announces their sixty seconds to finish. Subha is behind in plating and it looks a mess. Meanwhile, everyone is yelling at Micah to get his fish on the plate. When time is called, Noah and Nick are happy but Micah and Subha are worried.

Nick is up first. His plate looks very close to Gordon’s presentation. The judges wish for more broth in the minestrone but give him at least a ninety percent in terms of replication. Noah has a similar result. He too needs more broth and his vegetables are a little too crunchy but he has otherwise done a great job. After Nick and Noah, Micah is clearly feeling low and I laugh when Dorian tells him to stop pouting.

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Subha in the “Family Reunion” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, Aug. 28 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.© FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

Subha is next to be judged and his presentation is a mess. Gordon compares his plate to Subha’s and calls them beauty and the beast. Not only that, but Subha forgot to remove the basil leaves from his minestrone, so a big wad of wet leaves sit on the plate. Furthermore, his puree is way too thick and Gordon thinks he forgot the stock for the minestone altogether. On the plus side, his fish is cooked well and his seasoning is good.

Finally, Micah is up. Dorian, mom to the end, tells him to keep his head up. Micah’s minestrone is very good, the best of the night. But his fish is raw. Raw protein is a surefire way to go home.

Nick and Noah are obviously safe, leaving Subha and Micah at the bottom. Despite all his flaws, Subha has cooked the protein correctly and that saves him. Micah is out. As I expected, Gordon offers him a meeting to help guide him in his food dream. Micah tells us he has learned to be his own cheerleader and feels happy to have found people who believe in him.

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Next time, things really ramp up when the top six go to London and cook in Gordon’s restaurant. No pressure. I wonder if Subha can keep up on the line.