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'MasterChef' recap: The return of Luca and Alexander

Season 5 | Episode 6 | “Top 16 Compete” | Aired June 30, 2014

This week on MasterChef, the top 16 battled it out for top marks by cooking two incredibly challenging dishes. Their first challenge? CANNED GOODS. What on earth are you supposed to cook with canned goods? Canned meat, canned vegetables, canned fruit … canned sauce?

And in a suprising twist, the home chefs were challenged by former MasterChef winners Luca Manfe and Alexander Weiss to cook two technically difficult dishes. Luca and Alexander do not make it easy for any of these season 5 contenders.

Read on to find out who goes home, who steals another chef’s dish, and what MasterChef season 4 winner Luca, and MasterChef Junior season 1 winner Alexander, pick for the chefs to cook!

Mystery Box Challenge: Canned Goods

‘Can’ Anything Good Come out of a Can?

From Graham Elliot’s Twitter

First up, we have the Mystery Box Challenge. The top 16 chefs are tasked to cook with whatever items are hidden underneath their mystery boxes. The last Mystery Box we saw was live seafood in week 4. Tonight? It’s 52 silver unmarked cans. No labels. Just cans and a ticking clock!

Judge Suggestions

Joe Bastianich: “Use the staple pantry to get you into some quality, handmade food — then use the cans for that extra touch.”

Graham Elliot: “Rinse the canned foods really well.”

Each home chef tackles their mystery cans differently. Francis Legge uses a lot of the canned liquids to make a Thai-inspired seafood soup. Ahran picks the canned fruit cocktail as a filling to spread into a coiled sponge cake, and Willie puts together a canned-style eggs Benedict. What would you make if you could only use the cans currently in your pantry?

Top 3 Dishes:

  • Elizabeth: Creamy Borscht with Peas + Ham
  • Ahran: Rolled Sponge Cake with Fruit + Whipped Cream
  • Victoria: Potted Meat Fritter with Artichoke Salad + Spicy Ketchup

Judges’ Remarks

  • Gordon praises Elizabeth’s Borscht as an “elevated, creamy, restaurant-worthy” dish.
  • Joe savors Ahran’s sweet sponge cake, calling it a “smart use of the pastry box — light, moist and intelligent.”
  • Graham enjoys Victoria’s fritters, declaring them “intriguing,” while Gordon loves their “in, hip, gastropub” vibe.

At the end of this challenge, Elizabeth is declared the Mystery Box Challenge winner!

Elizabeth is now safe from elimination and gets to join the judges in the MasterChef pantry! Once inside the pantry, she is joined by surprise guests Luca and Alexander! Luca won MasterChef season 4 and is on the brink of opening his new restaurant in Brooklyn. Alexander was the first winner of MasterChef Junior. Since his win, he has been teaching other young people how to cook.

Both Luca and Alexander have prepared their own stunning signature dishes, which the remaining chefs will have to cook.

Elimination Challenge: Signature Dishes

Can You Outcook Another MasterChef?


Tonight the chefs are tasked with cooking one of these former MasterChef winners’ dishes: Luca’s or Alexander’s. Once the dishes are revealed, Elizabeth gets to decide which of her competitors cook which dish. So let’s jump into this:

Luca’s Signature Dish:
Pancetta-Wrapped Veal with Radicchio + Apples

This dish looks stunning. Exquisite, beautiful and very complex.

Who gets to cook this dish: Francis L., Courtney, Willie, Elise, Leslie, Daniel, Dan

Alexander’s Signature Dish:
Passion Fruit Panna Cotta with Berry Coulis + Hazelnuts

His panna cotta is perfection — beautifully molded, colorful and delicate.

Who gets to cook this dish: Cutter, Christian, Jaimee, Christine, Ahran, Francis B., Victoria, Tyler

masterchef chefs taste the foodThe chefs gather round Alexander and Luca’s dishes, tasting and discovering each flavor and technique. Figuring out the flavor profile is key in this challenge because to win, you have to get every ingredient right and cook it exactly like the MasterChef winners.

This challenge begins to baffle a lot of the chefs because many of them have never cooked or eaten veal or panna cotta. The veal in this recipe must be sliced and pounded out very thinly, and the panna cotta must have time to set to hold its shape. I finally got to try my first panna cotta last May and I must say, it tasted amazing! Have you ever eaten panna cotta?

Drama in the Kitchen

As each chef begins to plate his or her dish, Jaimee notices she is missing a panna cotta dish. Three dishes went into the blast chiller and only two came out. What happened to her third dish?

Best & Worst Dishes

Luca’s Veal

Courtney: Beautiful, fragrant, “right there with Luca’s”

Willie: Cooked twice, too dry, at risk for going home

Alexander’s Panna Cotta

Christian: Too firm, cheesecake-likeCutter GIF

Cutter: Really good consistency, well made

Jaimee: Unset, pudding-like, good flavor

Tyler: Plated Jaimee’s Missing Dish

After watching a video replay, it was discovered that Tyler took Jaimee’s dish out of the blast chiller. Say what? Tyler plated and served Jaimee’s third panna cotta … The judges were stunned and did not know how to proceed.

After much deliberation it was decided that, to be fair, Tyler would be sent home today. Gordon encouraged Tyler by saying he’s a talented young chef, and should keep cooking. Tyler apologized to Jaimee for taking her dish, and left the MasterChef kitchen.

Courtney was crowned the winner of the challenge, with the best dish of the night: perfectly cooked and 100 percent on execution.

Stay tuned next week for a “pairs challenge” … I believe from the preview that Leslie and Ahran are paired up, which should create a lot of sparks in the kitchen!

MasterChef airs Mondays at 8/9 C on Fox.

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