MasterChef Recap: Graham’s Signature Panna Cotta Ends James Nelson’s Stint

MasterChef puts the top 5 home cooks under several rounds of intense cooking albeit with very disappointing results, first of which is James Nelson’s elimination after nailing the mystery box challenge. This happens despite Krissi’s obvious errors in critical sections which the judges (Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot and Joe Bastianich) keep pointing out. From hereon, the show is giving every indication that Krissi’s personality has more weight over talent.

The two-hour episode is extra ridiculous with the way the judges debate on the dishes when it’s clear that they have every intention of keeping Krissi. She serves Vietnamese noodle soup and gets commended for her “great” effort. She serves overcooked filet mignon and she qualifies for the next round. Meanwhile, James commits one blunder in the pressure test and goes home for it.

Tonight’s biggest highlight, trivial as it may appear, is the presence of the young sons of Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot and Joe Bastianich during the mystery box challenge. All five kids were tasked to put together random ingredients to their liking among which are ketchup, peanut butter, coconut, marshmallows, baby pineapples, passion fruit, maple syrup, bananas, blueberries, puff pastries and sliced cheese. That’s a handful when the challenge requires restaurant quality dessert in just an hour.

James starts doubtful at the process: putting his fate in the children’s hands is tough now that they’re this close to the finish. On his foray in the baking department, James nails the flavors in his passion fruit turnover and wins his first mystery box challenge. He gets extra credit for putting two of his biggest competitors, Natasha and Krissy, out of spot for the top three best dishes.

James’s victory not only earns him immunity in the elimination test, he also gets to choose which of the three dishes will be replicated: dishes considered by the judges as the best they’ve ever had. James subjects his competitors to Gordon’s Vietnamese noodle soup, one which requires the right layering of spice, sweetness and saltiness. Among the five, Luca and Krissi face an enormous setback for their limited exposure to Asian food. Krissi compensates her unfamiliarity by picking the same ingredients that the others have chosen. Yes, she admits to cheating but this is the only way she thinks she can survive.

During judging, Luca prevails over the rest despite his handicap. He also gets commended for his growing maturity in understanding his ingredients. Gordon happens to be so satisfied that he even gives Luca a resounding high five. The least appealing bowls of soup are served by Natasha and Krissi: the former is way sweeter for insufficient salt while the latter isn’t just at par with the rest. For all the suspense generated including subjecting Natasha to a bout of crying, both remain safe for one muddled reason: all have missed the mark but the dishes are all good.

However, the judges need to cut down the number of contestants so they move on to the next challenge where each is required to serve 10 plates of a southern-style dish to Paula Deen’s group of local volunteers. As the previous challenge’s winner, Luca is given the power to assign the type of protein: he gets pork chops, Natasha works with catfish, Jessie has alligator meat, James deals with chicken while Krissi is left with shrimps. All five contestants are required to prepare, cook and serve their dishes.

This is where James’ problems starts: he may have a lot of chicken recipes lined up in his head but he ends up serving undercooked meat. Natasha faces the same problem after she decides to grill her fish fillets rather than fry them, a big no-no for Paula. This may be Jessie’s first time to cook alligator meat but she succeeds in seasoning it well. Krissi’s shrimps are also cooked well along with her fried green tomatoes. Luca, who gets some flak for choosing pork, redeems himself with his moist double chops that one diner rates as 11.

With complete control during judging, Paula hands the advantage to Luca and Jessie which includes a chance of assigning the dish that the other three will be replicating during the pressure test. These dishes happen to be in the menu of the judges’ respective restaurants so you can imagine the gravity of creating something that should be at par with what already exists.

Among the three, Natasha appears to have the easiest time preparing Gordon’s $150-salad of scallops. Although she falls short on the plate’s aesthetics for lack of time, her melt-in-your-mouth scallops generate raves. Krissi gets criticized for overcooking her beef (Joe’s filet mignon entrée) but still get high points for plating and side dishes. James’ dessert (Graham’s panna cotta) suffers a setback as it is served when it hasn’t gelled yet. With James, the judges put more weight on the panna cotta’s form over its taste (described to be good). James ends his ride in the show but is confident that his future lies in the culinary industry. Yep, he’s planning on opening his own restaurant.

That’s our recap of MasterChef today, 8/28/13. We’ll have another recap next week. Until then, please check out our MasterChef archives HERE. 

Image credit: MasterChef


  1. Sammi says

    They even said James’ tasted better. The only reason they’ve kept Krissi, so they would have the chef viewers would hate for drama. James was robbed. Crap like this makes me so mad!

  2. Nicole says

    I used to love this show but throughout this season have lost all respect for it, as it has morphed from a serious food competition into something that feels completely rigged. It seems as if the judges have less power than the producers. James was promised a spot in the top 4 two episodes ago, yet was sent home; meanwhile drama queen Krissi and narcissist Natasha get free passes everytime they make mistakes that others would easily get sent packing for. I guess the producers keep them around because the know the audience hates them. I never thought Gordon Ramsay would let his name be associated with something so fake and contrived.