Tonight featured the last of the Master Chef auditions and as the search for America's next great Master Chef continues, the hopefuls know its now or never as they put it all onto the line...
First in before the judges was 29 year old recovering alcoholic Stacey from Apple Valley California who credited her love of food and cooking with her sobriety and put together an Espresso Coriander New York Steak with a Chimichurri Sauce and a side of roasted vegetables.
As beautiful as her steak looked, the judges felt her plate was a little too busy and though she received a yes from Graham she got a no from Ramsay, and another no from Joe Bastianich who said "I cannot reward ambition."
But while she walked out, Graham went to bat for her and asked the judges to re-taste the dish. In a surprise move, Bastianich returned to the contestant room and said: "For the first time ever I re-tasted it, I'm changing my mind."
Next up was Rami, a smooth talking car dealer from Dallas who made a trio of Scallops Florentine. Joe Bastianich didn't want to get sold a lemon and passed, but Graham saw something, as did Ramsay who, in a burst of altruism, gave him the nod to go on.
Many more chefs tried and failed and though they didn't make it any further, I was impressed by the level of skill and passion in the home cooks represented.
Our final cook auditioning this season was 22 year old David Martinez. A Mexican American from the South side of Chicago, Martinez spends every minute of every day trying to better himself as a chef with a dream to someday go to cooking school. On a very personal level, I related to him. He learned to cook so that he and his wife could experience the good life at home because they couldn't afford to do so in restaurants. Being that this lies at the heart of why I became passionate about food and cooking, I am declaring him one of my early favourite contestants for the season - not only for his food, which looks amazing, but for his story.
So with the auditions over, we moved into the first stage of the competition - a ground beef cook off - with the top 36 contestants ready to rumble because in the next segment, at least half would be going home!
They had 60 minutes to take 2 pounds of ground beef and turn it into a stunning entree and as the three judges wait, Bastianich asks "What would you make?"
Ramsay would do something Asian - a delicious savoury spiced meatball, while Graham would do a Salisbury Steak with Roasted Mushrooms.
During the challenge I was once again impressed with Christine, who despite a lack of vision, managed to create a beautiful dish with the aid of a guide who could more easily help her find things.
The husband and wife team, Anna and AJ, also had my attention and I was curious to see if either or both would move on.
After cooking the chefs were divided into three groups - those who the judges were already certain would move on, those who were out of their depths, and those who would be given the chance to fight for their lives.
After the first two cooks were given the pass to move on, our husband and wife team was next and it was Anna and her Tarragon Beef Stuffed Onion with Horseradish Creme that got the nod.
The same went for Monti, the tough talking single mom who kind of reminds me of Christine Corley from last season, Christine - the first visually impaired person to cook on Master Chef, and David - my favourite - who, thank God, made it!!
Stay tuned tomorrow for my next review. Until then, here's a favourite Weekday Wednesday Kitchen Witch ground beef dish ;)
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