Bad enough when you’re called out on “MasterChef” for not adhering to the parameters of a challenge, but one contestant among the final 15 contestants questioned Judge Joe Bastianich’s judgment, incurring the tough judge’s wrath, in addition to creating a dish seen as an insult to Lidia Bastianich, Joe’s mother, who guested as a mentor.
It got a little tense near the end of Episode 9 of “MasterChef” Wednesday evening (June 19) when Judge Joe Bastianich suddenly gave one of the fifteen remaining contestants his death stare.
The look, so full of cold assessment and contemptuous downsizing, was nothing as compared to the blistering verbal evisceration he inflicted upon home cook Howard Simpson mere seconds later.
It didn’t help that Joe took Howard’s ignoring his mother’s tutelage in how to make classic agnolotti as an insult, but questioning him in a flippant manner? In front of his mother? What was the young man thinking?
Clearly, he wasn’t. Thinking, that is. He wasn’t cooking very well, either…
Of course, fans of “MasterChef” already knew Howard was out of his depth.
He should have been sent home in the first two episodes after the finalists made it into the MasterChef kitchen. But he had survived.
Somehow. And then only to come to such an ignominious end — but Joe’s stare and display of contempt was just the preface for the inevitable outcome.
So how did it get to this?
Howard and the 13 other home cooks found themselves in an elimination test after Eddie Jackson won the Mystery Box Challenge.
He had made an exemplary dish (as had Jordan Roots and Bime Cruz; but Eddie’s was deemed best of the top three) of Seared Elk Flank with Japanese Sweet Potato Puree topped with Lemon Sauteed Greens.
He — and all the other home cooks — had constructed the meal from ingredients packaged and labeled in other countries (like Russia, China, and Spain, among others), making their ingredients a true mystery to most of them.
Eddie got the advantage of choosing the next dish. Going into the pantry, he discovered that he would be safe from elimination.
He also got to choose which of the three classic Italian pasta dishes he wanted the other cooks to duplicate.
He chose the agnolotti, a ravioli-like dish from the Piedmont region of Italy.
Back in the kitchen, the judges — Chef Gordon Ramsay, Chef Graham Elliot, and restauranteur Joe Bastianich — revealed the Elimination Test, then Judge Joe introduced a very special guest tutor for the group:
His mother, Lidia Bastianich. Krissi Biasiello looked like a child on Christmas morning, jumping up and down and clapping.
She admitted that Lidia Biasiello was an idol, that she had studied the famed Italian chef.
Then the judges revealed another advantage for Eddie. He would get to choose two of his colleagues that would not get the advantage of watching Joe’s Mom (written on her MasterChef apron) instruct the kitchen in how to prepare a classic agnolotti.
As soon as Krissi heard the advantage, she looked at Eddie (who was on the balcony overlooking the kitchen) and told him that she’d kill him if he chose her.
But Eddie went strategic. He chose James Nelson and Lynn Chyi, whom he thought would have trouble with pasta.
He was spot on with Lynn, who admitted in confessional that he really wanted to watch Mama Bastianich because he had no idea how to construct agnolotti.
After the tutorial from Lidia Bastianich, Lynn and James returned and the Elimination Test was on.
Lynn immediately showed he was in a bit of trouble, producing a paste-like filling for his pasta (and a quick look around would have shown him not to use a blender, but to use a grinder for his filling.
James, also at a disadvantage, decided to go for Ricotto and Parmesan-filled pasta in a Tomato-Vodka Sauce. Beth Kirby had difficulty getting her water to boil (which is required to cook the pasta itself).
Jonny Blanchard decided to produce a Smoked Maple Syrup Alfredo Sauce, despite both Joe and Lidia telling him that maple syrup does not exist in classic Italian cuisine.
Howard went with an unconventional Chicken, Bell Pepper and Jalapeno Agnolotti with Spiced Cumin, hoping to create a dish reflective of his home, San Diego.
Krissi was ecstatic when she was chosen as one of the top three cooks for the challenge.
She took her place beside Jessie Lysiak (who Chef Ramsay told had a target on her back because most thought she was there because of her looks; he assured her it was due to her cooking) as having one of the best dishes.
When Joe’s Mom told her it was really good, she laughed and said it should be, everything she’d learned, she’d learned from the renowned chef.
She and Jessie would get to captain in the next team challenge.
But now it was time to decide who had the worst dish. The judges, with the help of Lidia Bastianich, chose four dishes worthy of seeing their creators turn in their apron. Unsurprisingly, it was Jonny, Beth, Howard and Linn.
But if you thought Beth and Jonny would be the last two standing, Jonny’s odd maple syrup-infused alfredo (no “harmony,” Lidia noted; maybe as pastry, but it didn’t work as pasta) and Beth unable to even cook her entry properly, you would have been wrong.
Beth and Jonny were quickly sent up to the balcony — after being told their dishes were awful, but they had been saved by two dishes worse than theirs.
But Lynn had a a couple of excuses for being in the bottom two.
One: He’d never made agnolotti. Two: He wasn’t allowed to watch Lidia’s tutorial.
Howard was. But he might still have survived elimination but for a couple things:
In the taste test, Joe and Lidia found his dish too far removed from the Piedmont (Lidia said his dish was too peppery and inharmonious, that classics were such for a reason) and he made a flippant remark when Joe critiqued his dish.
Joe told him he was getting tired of Howard, that his “cavalier” attitude, not knowing what he was cooking ten minutes prior to presentation, then getting “misty-eyed” and saying “poor me again.” He said Howard should have simply replicated the dish.
Howard said: “You want fifteen of the same dish up here?”
A quick look at James and his eyes went wide. Chef Ramsay looked concerned.
Joe gave Howard the stare. He then canted his head, looked askance at Howard, never taking his eyes off him.
“You’re here, putting your spin on everything you make because you want to show us how cutesy and intelligent and crafty you are?
Well that’s going to get you a one-way ticket back to wherever you came from, and you can show your friends and the six people who told you you were good how cutesy and smart you are when you’re at home cooking at dinner parties while the rest of this goes on and competes to become the next MasterChef.”
A camera shot at Luca Manfe shows the Italian-born home cook with his mouth open in disbelief at Joe’s upbraiding.
“So,” Joe continued, “I want pasta that’s cooked properly, because you know what?”
He took a bite and tossed his fork aside. “The only thing worse than a cook who can’t boil is a narcissist in full denial. Thanks for nothing.”
So it was no shock to see Howard in the bottom two.
But then Chef Ramsay, after noting Lynn’s failure to perform well, said, “Howard, you’ve got this ignorance that you wouldn’t absorb the kind of magic this lady has spent six decades creating.”
(Again, a camera shot of Luca with his jaw unhinged.) Ramsay paused, then said, “One of you has reached the end of the road.
I would like that individual to leave this competition in a dignified manner by removing his apron, placing it on his station, and leaving the MasterChef kitchen.
That individual knows who he is. Do the honorable thing.”
After several seconds, Howard step away from Lynn and went back and put his apron on his station, then exited the kitchen.
(Read: On MasterChef: ‘B***h move’ leads to stunning cheesecake elimination)
Although it was past time Howard left the competition, he might have saved himself by showing a little more respect.
Insulting the intelligence of someone like Joe Bastianich was not the way to go. (And everybody knows you don’t try to embarrass a man in front of his mother.)
And what had been such a brilliant strategy by Eddie turned out to be for naught.
Both James and Lynn had survived the Elimination Test. Possibly the weakest home cook in the mix was the one that ended up going home.
You got to love those Italians. They get tired of you, you’re not around any more. Capisce?