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Tonight, we’re treated to MasterChef’s first mystery box challenge. All 22 contestants stand at their stations, eyeing their crates excitedly, as Gordon Ramsay, Christina Tosi, and Graham Elliot announce that the contents must be repurposed to show “who the home cooks are,” noting a hefty advantage for the winner. With that, the boxes are yanked away to reveal…different ingredients for every contestant. Hmm. But these ingredients aren’t a mystery to the contestants for one simple reason.
“You all have a station of ingredients that each of you left behind in your home kitchen,” says Gordon. Sure enough, we hear, “This is my refrigerator!” from one shocked hopeful, which makes me think of the poor production assistants who must’ve had to interview all these people about exactly what was in each of their refrigerators at home and then go out and buy it all. Many cooks are excited by this turn of events, but not Veronica, a 56-year-old beauty consultant who prefers a heavy hand when applying her blue eye shadow. “I’m such an eclectic cook at home,” she says, explaining her box ‘o intrigue may have too many mismatched items to pull off a cohesive dish.
The hour begins. Hetal’s whipping up a coconut curry soup, sans protein, which shocks Gordon. Hetal explains the region of India she hails from doesn’t eat meat, prompting Gordon to inquire how she’ll handle future challenges that do involve meat. The answer: “I’m nervous. I haven’t been around it much.” Derrick, the drummer who swapped his sticks for knives, managed to locate a whole shirt this week! Derrick and his whole shirt are getting started on a pan-seared black cod with purple cauliflower puree and roasted Brussels sprouts, which, according to Derrick, are going to create “the most beautiful plate any rocker has ever put on a dish.” Admittedly, that’s a pretty low bar, considering most rockers are happy to call a bottle of booze “dinner.”
Next we meet Dan, since we montaged over him last week. Dan’s an engineer and a model, which is an odd combination of professions to hold. DEREK ZOOLANDER Dan is making a savory éclair, which sounds “interesting” to Christina. Katrina, who couldn’t remember what made it to her plate last week, is cooking a pork schnitzel, which Gordon samples and declares delicious. This proclamation surprises Katrina, who admits she didn’t have the confidence to apply to this show earlier. “I’m glad you’re here,” says Gordon. “Especially cooking cabbage like that.”
After time is called, the judges take a final look to see which dishes stand out. Katrina is selected first and giggles as everyone claps. “I didn’t expect to have Gordon say my name,” she gushes. “I’m so grateful. I’m floating up to heaven.” Also selected are Dan and Hatal, with the first major victory going to Dan and his savory éclairs.
His first prize is skipping the elimination challenge, which is up next. Dan’s pulled into a secret room, containing the judges and every bakery product Christina Tosi’s marvelous Momofuku Milk Bar offers. But the challenge won’t be to recreate one of her signature desserts. (Shame.) Instead, it’s to serve up the perfect slice of the baker’s benchmark: apple pie. As she says this, she kindly holds up a slice of apple pie for viewers who aren’t familiar with apple pie.
Dan’s second advantage is to select a bunch of apples, which seems more like grocery shopping than a prize. The judges and Dan file back into the studio and the elimination challenge is revealed, along with the shocker that two losers will be headed home tonight. Dan’s then instructed to give out his selected fruit to fellow contestants he wants to spare from the challenge. Giddy at this sliver of power, Dan prances around the room, placing some apples down with a great flourish while trying to be cavalier about tossing them to others, and generally hamming this up. He nearly bestows an apple on Steven, the intense/possibly crazy urban gardener, but Steven barks at Dan like a crazed mutt, scaring Dan off.
Nine contestants are left in the elimination challenge and they’re off and baking. Veronica tells us her grandkids “love my apple pie. I’ve made a kazillion apple pies.” Derrick and his whole shirt are going to add some “rock ‘n roll flair” to his pie with a bourbon whipped cream, and I’m starting to wonder if he’s going to make a crappy rock ‘n roll reference every time he speaks. Steven’s throwing in caramel, walnuts, and raisins, telling us, “if the judges don’t like it, they have to check their medication.” …Right.
NEXT: A couple rotten apples…