Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Living in MasterChef Cooking: The Agony of Triumph & Relief of Defeat - COMPLETED


Well, we finished watching last night's MasterChef, and while I had liked Krissi and admire her cooking ability (she'd surely laugh at me as all my friends who cook do, since I can make hot water for tea and that is the sum total of my cooking ability), I was not happy to hear - by her own admission - that she was a bully in high school. I was bullied very badly in school, and I don't respect anyone who did/does that to people under any circumstances. To hear her say this (as if it were admirable, no less), has severely lowered my opinion of her.

She has what I privately refer to as either "fat woman's attitude" or (alternatively) "short woman's attitude". In Krissi's case, it is the former. Now, don't give ME a hard time for nailing that sort of "C'mon, let's fight" attitude that both overweight and diminutive women (and some men - although for men the stature one is the most common - overweight men seem to care less about being fat feeling the need to overshadow that with attitude issues) carry around with a vengeance.


Anyway, the first bit, right after the recap of the previous episode, the contestants remaining (I think it is eleven, now) are standing at their stations, looking at the bloomin' huge mystery box in the front - they each have a small, normal sized box in front of each - as usual - but the box in the front, looks to be... I don't know... maybe 6' tall. That's a bloody big box. I'm not sure how tall Chef Graham is, but he's probably a bit over 6', and the box might have been an inch shorter than he. The contestants are making guesses - is it a whole cow? some sort of giant animal? Hmmmm.

The box begins to go up, and the first thing we see are high heels - yes, with feet in 'em - and sexy legs, and here is Eva Longoria. I asked Luis what an actress was doing under the box and he shrugs. Turns out she has not one but several restaurants. Okay, that explains a lot. And she has hand-picked the ingredients in everyone's mystery box, so this should be an interesting twist. For the record, Eva is Mexican, and said that cooking was a big thing in her family. I don't know her history, nor do I really know much about her, as I don't watch anything she's been in, but I suspect she did not come from the abject poverty that too many Mexicans experience. Not if all this food was a part of her growing up.

Before you accuse me of saying something unkind, here is the ingredient list. Tell me if this sounds like the average Mexican's diet. You decide: pork tenderloin, shrimp, avocado, mangos, Mexican hot chocolate (which I have had - it is exceptionally rich), corn, hot sauce, dried something-or-other peppers, jalapeño, corn-mushrooms (canned), and two huge honking tomatoes, onion, garlic, uh, a couple of other items that are in Mexican-Spanish, so I don't know them.

Everyone has 60 minutes and they all start racing. All of the ingredients work well together, although she admits that the pork is an "unforgiving" meat, too easy to overcook. We'll see, but usually this means that someone will do exactly that. They're asking the different contestants what they are making, but these dishes are too much for me to try to list, and half the time, I'm unfamiliar with the dish (now you can laugh!). Bri made something with shrimp, which as usual, I find interesting. She doesn't taste what she makes when there is any - and I do mean any - kind of animal protein in it. That is dangerous - they're always drilling into people to taste your food before serving it or finishing it - but she doesn't. I don't believe that she is a Vegan, which is too much for me to wrap my mind around, as we do need some source of proteins, but definitely she does not eat any meat.

So now, the three judges, Chef Gordon Ramsey, Chef Graham Elliott, and Chef Joe... uh, Joe... I've forgotten his last name, wander about and picked out three dishes to taste. The first one was Bri's (!) which as Gordon mentioned drives him crazy that she doesn't taste the main protein in her dish. But they love it and fawn over it.

Graham (the most likable chef in my mind) starts saying the second dish used the pork beautifully, please step up Eddie - the big guy who was a football player. The dish looks interesting, with the pork cooked beautifully, and they all love it, too. The best cooked pork, with a kick and light. (I don't know how one makes prok "light".

Joe starts saying that this one loves Mexican foods and knows it. They love the plating, which admittedly is exceptional. The rub on the meat is wonderful, the corn delicious, nicely spicy. She also wins them over. Savannah brought this dish to light, and she hasn't stood out in anything at all. I suspect she will not win.

One amusing note: during all this, while the different chefs are announcing this or that dish as being worth a look, one person cannot make even the feeblest attempt at trying to look happy for anyone else. Who else but our old friend Natasha, the most egotistical, bitchy woman to alight on this show. Now, every season gets at least one complete and utter idiot who thinks his or her cooking is the only cooking worth tasting. And this season's scoundrel is Natasha. She always looks so pissed off and ragingly jealous of the others whose dishes get selected. She can't muster a kind word for anyone. She is just the pits. And a very poor sport. The others all have their private opinions but they all clap and smile and cheer for those fortunate enough to present a winning dish. Not her! 


Of course, they go to commercial before dropping the bomb, but we have TiVO, nyah, nyah!

So we come back to the show, they do maybe 60 seconds of recapping what happened prior to the commercial... do we as the audience appear so clueless and forgetful in the 4 minutes of adverts that they need to do that? They do it every time. It gets old fast. Who needs this? Oops, wandering off topic... Anyway, they announce that Bri is the winner!

The fact that Bri won the first hour's pressure test was impressive. The fact that she scraped through the second hour - as a vegetarian cooking chicken (she is not a vegetarian that forgives and eats fowl, as some do) - cooking three chicken breasts: fried, sautéed, and stuffed. She has the sautéed kind of okay, the fried not well cooked and the stuffed one was raw - as in kill you dead raw. Yikes, indeed.

But I get ahead of myself.

So now, they thank Eva, and the next step is to have Bri go into the back with the three chefs to find out her "big advantage" for the next part of the competition. She first finds out that she's off the hook to cook tonight, but everyone else is stuck for it.

The next fun part is that there are ten baskets for the remaining cooking contestants tonight. One has one set of ingredients, the other nine have something else. The idea, naturally, is to pick someone you are sure (or heavily suspect) cannot handle that one unique basket as a way to get rid of a truly threatening competitor. The others, well, you hope that some at least will trip over one of their baskets cooking-wise and make some huge gaff that puts them on the chopping block. I've noticed, however, that more often than not, this sort of thing backfires. The person Bri selects to get the unique basket will likely kick all their asses... and the rest will muddle through to varying degrees.

The first nine baskets have strawberries, bananas, whole milk, one lemon, three eggs, sugar, flour, strawberry gelatin, baking powder, and butter. The contestants get one full hour. Joe tells her that this is great way to kill off someone who is not good making desserts. Dum, Dum, DUMMMM... You can see the look on her face... who should I pick? Who can I kill off with this delicious basket? (Not for nothing, but everything in that particular basket sounds just heavenly! And I would dearly love to taste anything that comes of it, assuming the cook does it well.)

The next unique basket has been set up with these ingredients: Sweet potatoes, collard greens, cauliflower, vintage ripe tomatoes, tri-coloured mini Bell peppers, and also a 14 ounce choice rib-eye steak (what do you bet she's weak-kneed with relief that she won't need to mess with the rib-eye, what the rest of the pack would love to eat!) And the person who gets this basket only gets 30 minutes to do whatever he or she will do. Yikes...

Bri, by the way, is the first of the top ten chefs in this show. People clapped and Gordon said, "Natasha, are your hands hurting?" because she couldn't muster the kindness to clap. So they ask Bri who gets the "poison" basket of vegetable goodies and Bri says, strongly, "Natasha". And how do you think that goes over? Well, for Natasha - she said, "I don't care, she should have been home a while ago, so I'm good with it."

The chefs immediately notice that Natasha is just standing there glaring up at Bri glaring at her, rather than examining her ingredients and planning and plotting her moves for when the first thirty minutes elapse and she can begin to cook. But no, bitch that she is, she just stands there and stews. What a stupid woman.

Sadly, Natasha generally does poorly under pressure. And she is a strong dessert cook, so picking the veggie/steak basket may - just may - have been a good decision. But then, she starts going and she is zipping through cutting carrots, making cauliflower, rubbing the meat, etc.

Before you know it, the music swells and gets exciting, the chefs - well, one of them, will begin counting down the last ten seconds, and then everyone has to throw their hands in the air.

First up is Luca, a very likable Itialian guy who tried out last season and did not make it in, but this seson did. He made a banana cake and was just completely not confident, totally worried, and unsure if it cooked correctly or not. Now, a side note: both Luis and Ray, cooks at heart, have told me time and again that they'd never survive a baking challenge, for the simple reason that baking, unlike other types of cooking, is an exact science, not something you can muck about with aimlessly. Well, this show has proven that theory; okay, statement; time and again. It seems that this is indeed the case. And these guys mostly come in to this competition understanding dinner and lunch cooking but not dessert making. Very often people are weeded out in this arena. Especially, I hate to admit it (it sounds too stereotypical), the men. They more often get the axe on desserts than anything else; well, breakfast can do them in as well.

Next is Lynn (a guy), who comes up with a horror of a dessert. It looks like road kill. Okay, so he comes up to the stand, and Gordon looks down and says, "Oh, wow." Then he turns, beckons to the other two and says, "Do you have a second?" Graham says, "Incredible." Joe, 
ever the politician, says, "Are you serious? Did you run over this?" It is awful. There are two funny shaped things with grey and yellow bits swimming in something red (I'm guessing the strawberry gelatin), with these bizarre outlines. Goodness me. Everyone is shocked. Luis and I judged him to be done in. Like I said, this gets too many casualties.

Jessie, a very good chef, presents a lemon meringue pie that blows them away. Then James brings up something he describes as pudding, although I wouldn't eat any pudding the weird brownish-greyish colour that this was. Krissi brought up a couple of super-dense, heavy cupcakes that she put the strawberry gelatin in - a ghastly error.

Finally, Natasha comes up with the steak rubbed in a little brown sugar, spice, salt and pepper; then there were carrot fries and three different dips for the steak. She had something done with cauliflower. Bri failed to bring Natasha down, mores the pity. Luis laughed at me because when Natasha started walking up to the stand, I began muttering, "Trip and fall, trip and fall, trip and fall." I can't help myself. People like that bring out the worst in me. I mean, don't you just get seized by the desire to see their egos severely punctured? I do!

The judges all made solemn faces and Gordon announces, "One dish stood head and shoulders above the rest. Jessie, congratulations!" I don't think I have really said anything about Jessie. She is unique among the contestants in that she is not an egotistical, throw-everyone-under-the-bus, two-sided person, butsssssz really genuinely happy for the others when they win and very unassuming. She's also young, statuesque, and attractive but doesn't flaunt it or even seem to be aware of it. (Unlike Natasha, who tries too hard and wears clothing not too unlike Kim Kardashian, the tackiest dresser alive. She also shouldn't wear skin-tight clothing, as anyone with a less than perfect shape should not do.) Jessie is a stewardess on a ship and is very savvy when it comes to cooking fish and whatnot, but she seems to be able to handle any kind of food.

(Goodness me. This issue aired on Wednesday, 10 July. We watched it on Monday, 15 July. Here it is 28 July and I have not yet finished this endless review. Next time, I will review one show at a time, not a full two-hour show like this.)

The judges then call up Krissi, Lynn and James to justify why they should remain in
MasterChef, which admittedly is not worth repeating. They all say the same thins in different ways, so why hash over the same thing.

These people all look fairly done in.

On to Part 2 of this episode...

Well. As if all of that wasn't enough, they then get hit with the next team effort. The unfortunate thing is that too often teams implode due to the egos, infighting, and lack of communication. And then there is the lying to cover the losses up. I started out feeling good about Krissy but over time she has proven herself to be underhanded, lying, and a completely incapable team player. Am I a good team player? No, but then I know this about myself. On this show, everyone confesses to be wonderful and flawless, which is clearly not the case. But I am, once again, getting ahead of myself.

So. The ten remaining people are assembled on a very nice looking beach, which could only be southern California. It has big waves, a good surfing beach. I've seen people surf in New Jersey, but it is a mystery how they manage it, as we really don't have that kind of beach. Here, there is a long low continental shelf so that the only time you might get surfing waves is at high tide, and even then, not really. But in California, there is very little shelf and the water is deep very shortly after entering the water. This makes for great waves, although Hawaii actually has the best waves in the Northern Hemisphere. (The sad thing is - and this is true - that too many surfers are disappointed here by the lack of waves and so too often surfers hit the beach when there is an impending doom - namely hurricanes - on the way. They almost always end up getting killed due to the unpredictable and dangerous undertow of the waves. Never turn your back on the ocean. Never. And don't assume you know the waves and especially in the path of a major storm. Whatever you know counts for nothing.)


The contestants are standing on the sand, wondering where the chefs are, when out to see two small specks become two jet skiers heading in to the beach. As they get closer we see it's Joe and Gordon, but no sign of Graham. (Which, as much as I like him, I'm not sure he is not over the weight maximum for one of those toys.)

As everyone is stirring, wondering what happened to Graham, we see a figure in the surf, rising out of a wave. He initially looks as though he has on just a Speedo - BBBR-R-R-R-R-R-R! - but then we see it is his wet suit - it looks like a nude chest and stomach with ripped muscles and a tiny speedo. The man has a hell of a sense of humour!

Everyone's laughing.

Here they are on Huntingdon Beach, aka Surf City U.S.A.

Anyway, the challenge is that they need to form two teams, and they will need to feed 101 surfers after they frolic in the ocean. Ever swim? Sure you have. Know how you come out of the water? With the appetite of a hippopotamus. Exactly. That's how we all come out. 

Something about water... anyhoo, they had to make a fish taco, with a choice of Cod, Mahi Mahi, tuna and catfish. Each needs to pick one the of fish, make a great taco with a sauce.

Jessie was the winner, so she gets to hand-pick all four people that she specifically wants. She also gets to determine who will be the team captain for the opposite team. She made a brief comment, grinning, "I am holding all the cards, and I love it!" She's very funny.

She picked James first, then Eddie, then Becky and finally, Natasha (ugh). Now for the remaining five she has to pick a captain. She first nixed Krissi and Jordan as they'd been captains already. She mused through the remaining three and their weaknesses, such as Lucas not knowing Tacos, etc. and finally, walked over to Savannah and handed her the rolled up red TEAM CAPT. smock. Savannah took it and then said, "Jessie doesn't know what she's done. I'm from southern California and so I understand the food culture here."

To be honest, I'd have picked Savannah as well. She is wussy and a huge push-over. She also has Krissi, which will hurt their team. Savannah immediately starts by picking the fish after a brief discussion, where they all agreed that cod was the "most forgiving" of the fish. If you know what that actually means, please tell me as I haven't the faintest idea. However, they did choose the cod, where I would have gone straight for the Mahi Mahi or (second choice) Tuna.

Then Savannah divvied out the jobs to do: Jordan to do sauce, Luca presses the fish, and Bri to work on the spice, and Krissi makes the batter. So far it all sounds good, because everyone selected a job they liked. If they all do their jobs well, they might give Jessie a run for her money.

Over to Jessie's team, they all immediately agree to go with the Mahi Mahi, a choice I agree with utterly. Now, the sauce: James spies some pineapples and suggests those for the sauce - a roasted pineapple and habanero hot sauce with a little heat but a sweetness, too.

The red and blue teams begin to zip around to get ready and fall to their tasks. However, Savannah's team is not happy that Savannah is making the slaw topping without some kind of spicing or flavouring.

On the other hand, the three chefs wander over to see what the blue team is doing and taste James' sauce. It is much too hot for the average American (which isn't saying much) and he needs to tone it down. Yikes... I guess he could try making the existing sauce sweeter but how?

Both teams have an hour to do this.

The blue team's sauce is just TOO hot, and will overpower the fish taco. On the red team, Jordan has finished his cilantro lime-flavoured topping, but Krissi has made a deep fried version of the fish and no one likes it. Krissi is reassigned to heat the tortillas with the strict instructions - Savannah said it twice - make the tortillas almost burnt. Krissi, is so busy being pissed off about the fish, which is now being grilled, and the heating of the tortillas, the only task remaining.

Suddenly, there is a roar accompanied by whistling, yelling, catcalling of the 101 surfers swarming toward them. The red team somehow is getting everything out despite the change of fish cooking style; but the blue team is floundering suddenly - not enough fish at the ready, not enough sauce. What the hell happened to these guys?!

The judges are going around talking to the various surfers to see what different people are thinking. The Blue team is suddenly back in business; the Red team is now in trouble, because they miscalculated how much fish to have, and they are now falling behind.

But they both finish there orders and it is time for the surfers to cast their vote by standing on a large surf board, then jump onto the lower blue one on one side or the red on the other. At first, everyone is voting for the red team and they get up to 22 votes while the blue team has zip. Finally, one jumps onto the blue and suddenly that is all there are - blue votes! They need 51 votes to win, and it's suddenly 48 blue to 23 red. One more vote needed for the blue team, and WOOHOO, there it is! The red team is crushed, more so than any other time because it really did look as though they'd win.

Krissi is being interviewed as they do with each of the candidates throughout the show, and she is griping about how she has never been on a winning team for a challenge. Now, let's think about this. If you have not managed once to be on a winning team wouldn't you, at some point, think to yourself that maybe, just maybe, some of the problem may be with you? If Krissi has this thought at all she's hiding it well. And yet, it is clear that she is at least a large part of the issue if not entirely the issue.

Back to the MasterChef kitchen for the next pressure test. Jessie's team won, so they need not go into the pressure test. They also each got a hometown baseball team shirt, for the all-star baseball game next Tuesday (well, the Tuesday after the 10th) in New York City. The other team is crushed all over again, and Krissi doesn't wanna do another pressure test.

Gordon asked the team who they thought was the weakest link and they all answered Krissi.

Remember I mentioned how Savannah told Krissi to make the tortillas almost burnt twice? This now comes into play. Apparently, Krissi did NOT make the tortillas as instructed, and now she is getting verbally whipped for it. And her response? Krissi answered, "No, you said don't burn them or we won't be able to [words drowned out as others chimed in]. So these guys, who were supposed to pick a person to be safe spent 4 and a half of the five minutes allotted arguing. Finally, in a rare display of agreement, they picked Jordan to be safe. That was the right decision.

So now for the pressure test.

Gordon presents a sautéed chicken breast - sauté the skin crisp, basted in butter, and incredibly moist in the center. They have 40 minutes to cook this. Luca makes a comment about what kind of pressure test this is... how easy is it to do this? Come on! Heh, heh, heh... just wait.

Graham steps up to the middle and says, "One second, Gordon," and pulls out another silver topped plate. "When I think of chicken, I think of something completely different. Southern fried chicken. Crisp on the outside, perfectly seasoned; moist, juicy on the inside. Tonight, I want Southern fried chicken."

Joe comes up and with his usual semi-sneer, says, "Sautéed chicken? Fried chicken? Both these guys are wrong. I like my chicken..." --picks up the bell cover-- "stuffed. Dripping with beautiful mozzarella,  and delicious prosciutto de parma."

They've all got 40 minutes to pull this off. All three kinds of chicken breasts.

Krissi can cook chicken hands down, so bitter as she is, it is incredibly unlikely that she'll get the axe for this test. Luca? Same thing, one should think, although he admitted to never having made fried chicken. Bri is a vegetarian and she will have too much trouble, not being able to taste her food. That leaves Savannah, who really is a nothing cook.

Fifteen seconds to go.

Savannah is up first, and Gordon finds the chicken to be poorly done. He had a lot of complaints. Graham comes up and asks where the crunchy exterior is. She didn't know how to make the outside. He cuts it open and said it's raw, and then found an edible portion and mentioned that it has no seasoning. Two down... Joe comes up. He cuts it and says the chicken is well-cooked, stuffing is good, but the sauce is too goopy and buttery.

Krissi is next. Gordon likes her sutéed chicken. Graham loves the crunch and inside of the crispy fried chicken. Joe feels she should have been more generous with the stuffing and sauce, but... it is still good. He is by far the hardest one to please.

3 August 2013

...but what? I'm in St. Clare's, not up at the NYRF. And there is, well, there is probably a way to watch this particular episode of MasterChef, because my tablet has Hulu, but do I want to try to coordinate all that while doing this?! Unlikely. Very unlikely. Just sitting up and typing this is draining. And the I.V. does't help. It's -- I digress. And at some point, probably next week, when I am out of the hospital and recuperating at home, I will finish this.

28 August 2013

Onward ho with the rest of this and then I will be on to the next episode. Thank you for being so patient.

Luca is next - Gordon found his to be very dry visually and upon tasting it, the sautéed chicken was in fact, overcooked and dry. Graham felt it was slightly undercooked, but it was a valiant effort. Joe came up, as scary as could be, and as if there wasn't enough pressure, made a comment about his should be the "one" (because Luca is Italian). He cut the stuffed chicken open and while doing so, conversationally asked Luca who will be going home from this event. Luca answered that it will be Savannah, as she is made raw chicken. Joe cut it and said, "This is a little raw, too. How am I supposed to eat this?"

Ouch.

Joe went on, "On top of being raw, it was unseasoned and stringy." Ouch some more.

Gordon went to Bri and asked her how she knew it was done, as she is a vegetarian and won't taste the chicken. She answered that she used a thermometer. (Now, that is brave. Serving anyone chicken without tasting it seems to utterly ridiculous.) He liked it, though, despite it being slightly undercooked. Graham cut his open and again, like Savannah, it was raw. Joe was worried his would be undercooked, but it was not. She was relieved.

The judges stepped out and discussed that three of the four made raw chicken somewhere. Krissi, they decided, did the best of the three, and was excused to go upstairs. The rest were disappointed and had hoped she'd go, although this is crazy - Krissi is too accomplished a cook to get the axe on chicken. Sure enough, however, she lived up to her physical and uneducated side, stating that she was not going unless it was by her fault, and she would "go down swinging". What a dolt.

Luca was given the second break and went upstairs, while suddenly "anticipatory" music played in the background... who would be third and finally forgiven? Or sent home? My personal bet was on Savannah, who is not much of a cook under any circumstances, not on Bri, who although vegetarian (or is she Vegan? I never can recall), has a knock for landing on her feet with the protein, whatever it may be.

Bri was forgiven and that left Savannah, who was all weepy and tried to look strong. Krissi looked like someone set her ass on fire, as she was hoping against all hope that Bri would get the axe. Sigh. Another week will come and we'll see who ends up homeward bound.

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