This season’s MasterChef, airing Monday nights on Fox, features (or featured) two local heroes: Jennie Kelley, a singer with Polyphonic Spree, and travel writer Ben Starr. Intrepid intern Harrison Smith has been spending his evenings watching the show and then recapping. Each week he will file his take on the show. Last week is here. This week is below:
Yes, the sad news is true: “Jennie from Dallas,” beloved MasterChef contestant, was booted from the show due to bad catfish. Never fear, though, for while our fair city has lost one of its great reality TV heroes, real-life true-blue no-joke Jennie Kelley still lives on in the real world—and yes, that’s “the real world,” not The Real World.
Last night’s show had the remaining 13 MasterChef contestants compete in the usual Mystery Box and Elimination Challenges. The 13 contestants, Dallasites Ben Starr and Jennie Kelley included, were given an hour to create a vegetarian dish using only the non-meaty Mystery Box ingredients. Jennifer, Adrien, and Alejandra were distinguished as having the top three dishes. Jennifer made a vegetable terrine and talked about how she was finally getting credit for her cooking and not just for her “boobs.” Adrien made a green gazpacho with Spanish rice and a fried egg. The sauce was a beautiful green made from avocado, green tomato, blanched arugula, and parsley. Ale-Ale-jandra made a vegetable korma with rice and Asian pear.
I-can-cook-and-I-have-boobs Jennifer won the challenge, but it was Christian who provided the show’s most entertaining moment. To paraphrase:
Judges: Your dish is terrible.
Christian: You’re terrible.
(Contestants look down at their plates awkwardly.)
Jennifer, this week’s champion of the Mystery Box, was given an advantage in the Whitney-Miller-themed Elimination Challenge. Whitney, as hardcore MasterChef fans will remember, was named MasterChef in the show’s first and previous season, and since then—as hardcore Whitney Miller fans well know—she’s published her own cookbook: Modern Hospitality: Simple Recipes with Southern Charm. For the Elimination Challenge, contestants were required to recreate one of Whitney’s Modern Hospitality dishes from scratch. Given no recipe, the contestants were allowed to taste the dish and then recreate it in both taste and presentation. Which makes sense, because everybody knows that to be a successful chef, you have to be able to make the exact same thing other successful chefs make.
Jennifer was allowed to choose the dish everyone would make, and went with Whitney’s crispy catfish with purple slaw and sweet potato fries. Hopefully Whitney’s dish was as good as the dream dish of Bubba’s catfish and S&D Oyster slaw that I’m imagining. (Sweet potato fries? I don’t know where to get sweet potato fries. Where do you get the best sweet potato fries?)
While everyone else was given five minutes to find their ingredients in the MasterChef pantry, Jennifer was given a second advantage in this elimination challenge: a basket with all the ingredients needed to recreate Whitney’s dish. Her catfish turned out great, apparently, with a good crunch and a nice fry. It was Christian and Ben—yes Ben, God bless him and his crazy hats and mannerisms—who were named the two best replicators in the challenge. Jennie, it turned out, doesn’t actually like Southern food all that much. It was her first time to fry catfish, and her fish turned out too salty.
With salty fish and “pre-chewed” slaw, Jennie was given the boot, karma’s way of telling her that as a Texan chef, you have to be able to fry a fish and make some slaw. A shame, but Jennie did well getting this far in the competition and never showing the arrogance and meanness seen in so many of the other contestants. Good show, Jennie, good show.
The next episode of MasterChef airs Monday night at 8. Until then, watch some reruns and bake some cake balls.—Harrison Smith