The "MasterChef" kitchen can be a bit intimidating, but the Team Challenges always seem to put the home cooks to the test. Monday night's Team Challenge was no exception and, in fact, presented the two teams with the largest group that show finalists have ever faced -- 500. And not just any 500 individuals, either. This 500 were U. S. Army soldiers.
As was recapped by Zap2It on June 9, the choices made by the Red Team would prove the difference in the season's first Team Challenge and the subsequent Pressure Test as well.
Season 5's first Team Challenge would pit two teams cooking for the approval of soliders stationed at Fort Irwin in California. They were to choose a protein, a sauce, and a side. Whichever dish received the most votes would win and be exempt from the upcoming Pressure Test. Francis B., since he won the last Elimination Test (meat loaf), got to choose first for his Red Team. Daniel McGuffey was elected leader of Blue Team.
The Red Team got off to a great start, keying off of Willie's ideas: Grilled pork chop served with macaroni and cheese and a chutney sauce. The Blue Team debated for a while, settling on chicken as their protein -- over the protestations of Leslie Gilliams, who told the team that chicken would be difficult to time. However, that was prior to service.
Sure enough, Leslie was right, and Chef Gordon Ramsay called them on undercooked chicken moments after Leslie questioned whether or not it had cooked long enough. But Red Team's great start became marred when they in turn served raw pork to a few soldiers. They, too, received a tongue-lashing from Chef Ramsay. The poor cooking caused a few plates to be presented without pork, an automatic lost vote for Red Team.
But when all was said and done and the votes were counted, Red Team chalked up an impressive 329 votes -- despite the disqualified plates.
Blue Team, having lost, now faced the first Pressure Test of Season 5. Back in the "MasterChef" kitchen, Daniel was given the power to save three of his teammates. After choosing two to join the Red Team in the safe zone of the balcony, Daniel was advised that he could choose himself. He chose honor and decided to let another teammate head upstairs. Although Chef Ramsay questioned his judgment, the die was cast.
And Leslie, who had attempted to get his team on the right track and had worked hard to help get a victory, was ignored. In confessional, Leslie said he now was targeting Daniel for elimination.
The remaining seven home cooks were charged with baking a latticed blueberry pie. They were given 75 minutes.
Unfortunately for Daniel, he made an error in making dough and had to start again. This put him in the position of placing his blueberry pie in the oven late. (A blueberry pie generally takes 45-50 minutes to properly cook.) Leslie Gilliams was nearly ecstatic.
With time up, each "MasterChef" finalist took their blueberry pies to the from of the kitchen for sampling. After seven taste and presentation tests, four were chosen to stand before the judges. Leslie (experiencing a bit of karma, no doubt), Jaimee Vitolo, and Courtney Lapresi all were judged to have superior pies and were sent upstairs to watch.
Even though Daniel's blueberry pie had undercooked dough and Jordan Kaminski had flour specks on his pie (a pet peeve of restauranteur judge Joe Bastianich), they were soon sent upstairs as well.
This left two: Stephani Syfax-Shepherd and Elise Mayfield. Elise had seemed to have an advantage -- baking pies was how she had won her way into the competition after all. Yet, she had produced one of the worst two blueberry pies, one with undercooked dough that "tastes like sand," according to Chef Gordon Ramsay. Stephani had produced a pie loaded with sugar and pecans, the latter being seen as an egregious error in pie-making, according to the "MasterChef" judges. And it would prove her undoing, because, as Chef Ramsay told her, she had made too many fundamental errors too quickly. So he asked for her "MasterChef" apron.
"MasterChef" airs on Fridays at 8 p.m. (EST) on Fox Television.