This season of MasterChef Canada has been like no other. By now, the teams will have gone outside for some kind of challenge. I’m assuming that to ensure everyone stayed safe, this didn’t happen. But, rather than missing that part of the show, I’ve relished staying in the studio and focusing on tough tests on-set.
The toughest so far took place on Sunday, as the remaining contestants were faced with Italian-themed challenges in a Pressure Test to eliminate at least one.
Following the Red team’s win last week, Blue team members Andrew, Jen, Mai, Andre and Barrie were welcomed by Chefs Claudio, Alvin and Michael, who informed everyone that one member from Jeremy’s winning squad would participate in the Pressure Test too … and he had to pick who. Whoa. I think if I was Team Captain and as confident in my skills as Jeremy is, I would put myself forward rather than someone else. Jeremy, instead, put Andy into the line of fire.
The two-part Pressure Test began with Chef Michael calling his son, Chef Oscar Bonacini, into the MasterChef Canada kitchen. And, whereas Oscar spent four months learning how to make hand-made pasta in Italy, the competitors had mere minutes to observe Oscar’s masterclass in creating three shapes of pasta (dimpled, braided, and curled), each more intricate than the one before it. Head-to-head battles ensued, with teams facing off to make one pasta and a traditional sauce to go with it. Red team’s Andy doled out the pairings this way:
Capunti with tomato sauce: himself and Barrie
Lorighittas in butter herb sauce: Mai and Andre
Trofie and pesto sauce: Jen and Andrew
The 25-minute deadline was definitely a challenge, though fresh pasta takes less time to cook. Everyone started in a frenzy, mixing the semolina flour with water to get just the right hydration and consistency. The sudden curveball that Barrie had experience making pasta threatened to derail Andy’s plan; Mai was confident she would beat Andre, but her Lorighitta looked less delicate than Oscars; and Jen opted to use her hands to shape the Trofie rather than use a fiddly bench scraper. With just minutes before the deadline, Andre’s water wasn’t boiling, Andy’s sauce seemed to have too much garlic and cheese added too soon, Andrew was bruising his basil in the blender, and Jen was taking too long prepping her basil with a mortar and pestle.
Andrew and Jen were up for judging first and Chef Alvin pulled no punches. Andrew’s pasta was inconsistent and his sauce was brown, but it had a nice flavour; Jen’s pasta was more consistent but small, but her sauce was delicious. Andrew got the win and moved to the gallery. Andre and Mai were next, judged by Chef Claudio. Though Andre’s pasta looked the most authentic, it wasn’t cooked all the way through; Mai’s pasta was pillowy and cooked to perfection but the sauce’s flavours weren’t as bright. Mai triumphed and moved to safety. Finally, Barrie and Andy presented to Chef Michael. Barrie’s pasta looked good and his sauce was vibrant, inviting, and on point; Andy’s pasta was within the size variance allowed and his sauce was darker and richer, and Chef Michael hinted there was an issue with it. The winner in the final round was Barrie’s better sauce.
But the episode was only half over. For the next test, Andre, Andy, and Jen created a Secondi, and a choice of making Eggplant Parmigiana, sautÃ©ed veal, or Chicken Cacciatore. Jen was tasked with making the veal, Andre the chicken, and Andy the eggplant. Andre plotted a fried chicken twist to the classic dish, Jen used rabbit instead of veal, and Andy an elevated baba ganoush.
Because of the teasers before the episodes rolled out, I knew an extra twist in the 60-minute test was coming. It arrived in the form of an added dish. Now the trio had to make a Contornoâ€”a side dishâ€”to accompany the Secondo. With just 30 minutes to go, I would have started crying, put down my apron, and walked out the door. Instead, Jen opted for a simple vegetable side dish, Andre a buttermilk-dressed salad, and Andy an orange and fennel salad.
Andy, who got emotional at the end of the cook, was judged first. Chef Claudio deemed the eggplant “sensational” and Chef Michael the fennel salad “beautiful.” Jen’s rabbit and wine sauce was a tad overdone, according to Chef Michael, but Chef Alvin said her veggies were flavourful. Andre’s fried chicken pop Cacciatore was a hit with Chef Claudio, and his frisÃ©e salad was “pleasant” but underwhelming according to Chef Alvin.
In the final judging, the chefs gave a nod to Andy, sending him to safety in the gallery. That left Jen and Andre in the bottom and, ultimately, it was Jen who left the competition.
MasterChef Canada: Back to Win airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.
Images courtesy of Bell Media.