I’ve never watched an episode of “Hell’s Kitchen“, “Top Chef“, “The Next Food Network Star” or any type of cooking reality show ever. The idea of not being able to taste the food and just take Gordon Ramsay’s or whatever judge’s opinion as gospel was lost on me. At least with “American Idol“, “Project Runway“, “SYTYCD” or “ANTM“, whether you agree with the elimination or not, you are able to formulate your own opinion on the contestant’s work. There in lies the one fatal flaw of cooking competitions. All they end up doing is making me hungry, without being able to sample the product.
So color me surprised when I caught the first five minutes of MasterChef last night and became instantly hooked. Brian and I had just finished dinner, and turned on the TV and saw 30 hopefuls dicing and slicing onions like madmen. The judges went through each MasterChef hopeful’s bowl and meticulously judged their skills on onion cutting. Who knew watching people cut themselves and sweating profusely while chopping up onions, in some instances for 90 minutes, would be so entertaining. Having colorful personalities and a couple of hotties thrown in didn’t hurt either.
MasterChef conducted a nationwide search for the best home cooks in America and after completing two challenges (onion and egg dish challenge), the 30 aspiring chefs were whittled down to 14. These remaining hopefuls will undergo a series of individual and high-pressure team challenges to crown America’s first-ever MasterChef. Along with bragging rights, the winner will also receive $250,000 and an opportunity to publish his or her own cookbook. Judges Gordon Ramsay, Joe Bastianich and Graham Elliot, will eliminate chefs weekly until they find the one contestant who possesses the right blend of skill, passion and creativity.
Occupation: Financial Advisor
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Signature Dish: Fusion Lobster Roll with Roasted Corn Chutney and Cilantro Chimichurri
Speaking of tasty dishes, Sharone can be the “lobster roll” in my “corn chutney” anytime. He’s one of three hotties currently competing for my sole devotion. Sadly out of the three, he’ll probably be the first to go. Besides his sexy smile, I couldn’t recall anything about his cooking.
Hometown: Poplarville, MS
Signature Dish: Blackened Catfish Taco with Mango Chutney and Cilantro Black Beans
She’s cute and has a good sense of spices. Her egg dish during the second half of last night’s elimination impressed Gordon Ramsay. I say she’ll last long and make it deep into the competition.
Hometown: Atlanta, GA
Signature Dish: Smothered Chicken with Bacon Brussels Sprouts
Being from Atlanta, expect a lot of her dishes to be rich and southern-inspired. With a medical background, hopefully she’ll create healthier light options than what her style of cuisine normally dictates. She was the only one who created a desert during the egg challenge. If her risks continue to pay off, Tracy is in this for the long haul.
Hometown: Boston, MA
Signature Dish: Veal Saltimbocca with Oven-Roasted Roma Tomatoes
He has that Kris Allen thing going on from American Idol. Being one of the more colorful personalities and eye-pleasing contestants, Tony should be around for a bit. If his culinary skills can match his looks and personality, this one is a contender.
Occupation: Elderly Caregiver
Hometown: Vacherie, LA
Signature Dish: Catfish Acadiana with Creamy Shrimp Butter Sauce
Avis was the last one picked to be in the Top 14. Ramsay criticized her cooking style as too old-fashioned and informed her we were in 2010. OUCH. Hope she stays around awhile, her reactions and confessionals are fun to watch.
Hometown: Glendale, CA
Signature Dish: Chic Macaroni and Cheese
Anyone who has macaroni and cheese as their signature dish receives the thumbs up for me. He’s one of three bartenders competing in the competition. Who knew serving drinks was a stepping stone for being a chef?
Hometown: Euless, TX
Signature Dish: Stuffed Buttermilk Pancakes with Fresh Berries and Pure Maple Syrup
Can’t recall too much about her cooking, but I remember I sorta liked her. She talked about having an identity outside of raising a child. You go, guuuuuuuuuurl.
Hometown: Venice, CA
Signature Dish: Herb and Panko-Crusted Rack of Lamb with Fennel Risotto
The third hottie and bartender on the cast list. Everything sorta faded to black, when he raised his arms and inadvertently flexed his biceps as he moved on to the next round. If his meals are half as tasty as he his, book me a reservation at his restaurant.
Hometown: Harvey, LA
Signature Dish: Vietnamese Chicken and Rice with Cabbage Salad
I love Slim. Her Vietnamese-inspired rolls during the egg challenge impressed me and the judges. Hopefully this cutie makes it far and doesn’t always rely on her Asian heritage as her cooking inspiration. Variety is the spice of life and a must-have in this competition.
Occupation: Software Engineer
Hometown: Newton Centre, MA
Signature Dish: New England Style “Bouillabaisse” with French Bread Croutons and Rouille
While most of the contestants are quite likable and charming, for some reason David annoyed me. Unfortunately for me, I think he’ll last long as he strikes me as a very polarizing slash entertaining personality.
Occupation: Marketing Executive
Hometown: Anaheim, CA
Signature Dish: Pork Tenderloin with Braised Fennel and Spaetzle in Orange Sauce
Sheena WHO? Can’t remember squat about this chick. Buh-bye.
Hometown: Redondo Beach, CA
Signature Dish: Duck Ssam Wraps with Orange-Miso Sauce
Another one that didn’t really leave a strong impression. All I can recall is he cut his hand during the onion challenge and wore a fedora last night. Choice in hat selection, thumbs up. Being blah, thumbs down.
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Signature Dish: Chicken Tikka Masala
She’s one of my early sentimental favorites, but she also strikes me as a drama queen. PERFECT. Sheetal was the first one to pass the onion slicing challenge and received the most airtime during last night’s show. During the egg challenge, she commented how her Hindu upbringing was a hindrance since they never ate eggs in their faith. Who knew? You learn something new every day.
Occupation: Construction Worker
Hometown: Santa Cruz, CA
Signature Dish: Eclectic Surf and Turf – Steak Spiedini with Charred Asparagus and Seared Scallops with Pea Puree
Expect a lot of hearty manly meals from this former construction worker. He’s a man’s man. Being a wannabe chef, you would expect him to either trim his chin hair or wear a net around that bush. It was too distracting and I’m sure very unsanitary. Someone call the health board inspectors.
There you have the aspiring chefs competing to be America’s first-ever MasterChef. Who’s your favorite? Watch all the action at 8pm Wednesdays on Fox as the competition heats up to crown the winner.