Josh Marks, shown here with chef Gordon Ramsay, has cooked his way back into… (Fox )
Two men enter. One man leaves. And the last one standing Monday night on the "Culinary Thunderdome" edition of "MasterChef" is Josh Marks. Goodbye "Flavor Elevator," don't let the closing doors hit you on the way out to the parking lot!
What did you think of giving Josh, and the other seven past nominees, a shot to cook their way back into the kitchen? It's done all the time on other TV shows, but not on "MasterChef." Do you think it was fair? Josh has been the (tall) front-runner since Day One; is this manipulating the game so he can return? Chef Gordon Ramsay explained the curveball by saying that no one should be judged (and eliminated) based on their single worst performance. But. Um. Isn't that the game?
The returning competitors had to make up the competiton's "mystery box" by each selecting one single ingredient for everyone to use. They were torn between wanting to select an ingredient they were familiar with, and one that would trip up the other competitors. That's how they ended up with the likes of pork alongside condensed milk.
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From the perch at home, it seemed like Stacey Amagrande might have it, but top honors went to Josh (whose dish looks like a gross blob of chocolate on a plate, but apparently it tasted delish) and everyone's favorite competitor to hate, Ryan Umane. The self-proclaimed "Flavor Elevator" insisted that he's be the winner, and the two had to face off in a great fruit-tart-making challenge.
That challenge, on the face of it, seemed kinda funny. Neither dude comes across as having the subtle finesse needed to prepare a dessert that is all about beauty, colorful arrangement, knife cuts and the perfect short crust. But that's why stereotypes are nonsense. Both turned in gorgeous tarts.
The next brilliant curveball? Their fellow competitors were the judges. And they'd decide based on a blind taste test -- they were sent off to another room and placed in the seemingly most awkward arrangement ever in a restaurant (all at single tables, all facing one direction.) They were given a slice of each tart, and asked to decide.
The decision was unanimous: Six to one, they chose Josh's dish. Which was a good thing for Josh, but not a good thing for everyone else. A contender is back in the race.
Random note: To date, I had referred to Stacey of Apple Valley and Felix Fang of Hollywood as the hometown favorites to cheer for in this competition. Turns out that Monti Carlo (I chuckle at that name every time) is also from Los Angeles. So for those who like to keep victory within the family, we now have two competitors to root for in the final seven.
Meanwhile, over on "Hell's Kitchen"...it was a Southern showdown. The challenge was ushered in on the voices of angels -- the Southern Voices of Victory Choir. The gospel choir helped choose traditional Southern dishes for a reinvention by the two teams.
Kimmie Willis, a Southern belle, seemingly had the edge coming out of the initial competition. "You make grits glamorous," chef told her. That helped her delivery for the red team. Their reward? Getting gussied up for a photo shoot. They blue team, meanwhile, had to ... make butter. Not fun.
But come dinner service? Kimmie could not deliver catfish that wasn't burnt, or raw. "I could cry," chef said, "I could just cry!" And then he threw them all out of the kitchen, and announced that he would complete dinner service with Andi Van Willigan and Scott Leibfried. Why didn't we get to see that?
In the end, Kimmie went home. "Young lady, you're not ready for Gordon Ramsay Steak," chef said. (Did you agree that Kimmie had a point? How is it that Barbie Marshall is still there, and Robyn Almodovar? Oh, right. The drama.)
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