MasterChef Canada Recap: Double Elimination

After the last episode of MasterChef we’re down to the final two cooks, who will compete head-to-head in the finale.

But I’m getting ahead of myself! I didn’t write-up last week’s episode. Moving took its toll and I couldn’t muster any free time for writing. I was sad to see Mike go home – he lost in a Pressure Test where the challenge was steak frites and Bearnaise sauce.

This week we learn that two chefs will be eliminated. One during the Mystery Box Challenge, and one during the Elimination Challenge. There’s a huge Mystery box at the front of the kitchen which is lifted to reveal Joe Bastianach, from MasterChef US. As a special guest judge, Joe picked all the ingredients for the challenge. They get all kinds of delicious Italian ingredients – prosciutto, veal, calamari, Grana Padano, buratta, pork sausage, tomatoes, basil. Each cook has a good idea of what they want to do. Tamarra wants to tackle the veal since she’s comfortable with meat. Kaila, as usual, is taking risks with stuffed veal. Marida wants to bring some Caribbean flavours to the Italian ingredients. Eric is determined not to complicated things and makes a simple (but hopefully perfectly executed) homemade pasta dish.

While the cooks are doing their thing, Joe walks around to ask questions, give his best side-eye, and make them all feel uncomfortable and question every decision they had made. Because that’s what good mentors do.

When time is up, Marida’s stew with calamari and roti is judged first. The judges are happy with the dish. It’s fresh, tasty and honours the Italian ingredients while bringing some of Marida’s background into it with the roti. Next is Eric’s pasta with tomato sauce and sausage. It looks like a simple dish and like Eric met his goal of not over complicating things. The judges think his pasta is spot on. Kaila’s stuffed veal loin comes out as a perfect medium and is well seasoned. Last up is Tamarra, who made veal with spaezle  and a tomato salad. Though her veal gets complimented, she gets criticized for not presenting a cohesive dish.

The judges deliberate and declare Kaila the winner of the challenge. They also announce that Marida is safe. Of Eric and Tamarra, the judges liked Tamarra’s dish the least and she is sent home. At this point it’s sad to see anyone go, they’re all very talented. Tamarra had really started coming into her own in the last few weeks and I thought she’d be in the finale.

The elimination challenge is a “shell game” featuring three different kinds of shell-fish – Dungeness crab, razor clams and scallops. As the winner of the mystery box, Kaila gets the advantage of choosing which ingredient she’d like to cook with. Kaila chooses scallops. As the runner-up, Marida gets to pick next. Her choice is surprising – she takes the razor clams, something she had never cooked before. This leaves Eric with the crab, a result he is thrilled with.

Everyone knows what they’d like to make and get right to work when the timer starts. The biggest hurdle seems to be cleaning and removing the proteins (especially the scallops) from their shells.

Time is up quickly and the cooks present their dishes. Eric presents a green Thai curry crab over coconut rice. The presentation is lovely and the judges are all compliments – except for Bonacini, who questions the amount of lime Eric put in the dish. Marida presents razor clams with mango, peppers and a Trinidadian kick. The judges love the flavours, but wish there was more clam in the dish. Kaila is up last, with seared scallops and confit potatoes. The dish is deemed flavourful and well-balanced, but the scallops were just barely overcooked.

The judges deliberate. Eric is named the winner of this challenge, and the first in the finale. I like Eric but I can’t help but laugh every time he mentions wanting to escape his (undoubtedly awful) future as an engineer so he can cook. The second cook in the finale is Marida. That extra 10-15 seconds Kaila seared her scallops for marks her end in the competition. Kaila is understandably upset, but tells the judges she things Marida will win overall.

So we’re down to two – Eric and Marida. This week I learned I am terrible at guessing who will go home. I was sure we’d see Kaila and Tamarra in the final challenge, but I was wrong on both counts. I’m looking forward to the finale next week.

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