Is Midwest the Best?
As a Northeast gal, I’ll have to stand beside my region.
And we kicked things off nicely during the premiere.
Even though I didn’t see my people, I heard my people. Buffalonians will chant “Let’s Go Buffalo” anywhere; deal with it.
Nevertheless, I don’t mind putting some respect on the Midwest, and they brought all the heart and the heat from the Heartland during MasterChef Season 13 Episode 2.
50 Countries in a Trench Coat
Masterchef Tastes of America understands the assignment and understands it well, putting some recognition on the sheer diversity in food spanning across the States.
How does the saying go? The US is like 50 countries in a trenchcoat, and there’s no better indicator of that than our food profile, which not only varies from region to region but state to state and damn near county to county.
And that’s what makes this latest season of Masterchef a sheer delight, even when they just kicked things off.
Not only are we getting educated on the vastness of Midwestern cuisine, but we’re getting a feel for how immigration and the sheer diversity of areas contribute to these fusion dishes.
No, you won’t go to Springfield, Missouri, and find a replica of fried rice from China. Still, you will get some variation of that dish with an American spin due to the produce, product, and myriad other influences.
And that’s as American as it gets, right?
Graham Was Back, Baby!
One of our OG chefs and judges, Graham Elliott, showed up and showed out as a guest judge this time around.
He’s always a welcome addition to the Masterchef kitchen, and as a Midwest boy, you better believe he wanted to represent.
And everyone being geeked about his appearance only made things all the better when you could tell they looked at him like he held the moon whenever he tried their dishes.
The Hot Hardasses
At some point, Gordon and Joe competed for who could be the hardass out of the bunch. We were dangerously close to Hell’s Kitchen Ramsay, which is a different kind of treat.
Do we mind it? No, because that’s the type of energy they bring to the table, and they look damn good doing it.
But they were so contrarian to each other sometimes that it seemed they were doing it just to spite each other.
Men, am I right?
Grant came in and showed out. The big boy from Iowa brought the homeland to the competition with his corn agnolotti, elevated it, and delivered.
An Iowa boy knows his corn, and let us hope they drop the recipe on the Masterchef website somewhere because it looked as delicious as it apparently tasted.
What’s likable about Grant is that he’s incredibly humble and as moldable as his homemade dough.
Masterchef is about home cooks bringing a particular skill set to the table and building from there.
Grant can only improve and get better from this point forward, and he’ll heed all the advice the judges give him and come out better for it.
Dammit, let our boy’s Farm to Table restaurant dream come true!
Joe was a bald baby about pasta, but he’s always a stickler when it comes to pasta dishes. Fine, whatever. Fortunately, our boy Grant didn’t need Joe’s vote to get that well-earned apron.
Those Iowa boys are killing it in the reality food competition game. If you haven’t tuned into Netflix‘s The American Barbecue Showdown, I suggest you get on that next.
If you weren’t feeling “FEELS” from Grant, you probably did with Kyle from Kansas City, who closed out the hour.
Kyle looked like the type of guy who gives the best bear hugs and fixes you a plate when you walk into the door because food is his love language.
We stan Kyles of the world!
He was confident but not too cocky about it, which was a plus and means he’ll still be open to learning and doesn’t think he has everything figured out.
And he delivered a pork chop that looked incredibly tasty, and this is someone who doesn’t like pork chops.
It looked dry, but it wasn’t as bad as it seemed. And it seemed like he would be polarizing for the judges.
But Kyle came out with that apron, but more importantly, he had the vote of confidence from his son, who left him the sweetest little note.
And I’m not crying; it’s just the onions; shut up!
Now Ms. Sarah from Missouri shocked folks with her Springfield fried rice dish.
We got an excellent little history summation about Chinese food in the area and that reminder that the Midwest is more than just steak, potatoes, and corn.
Sarah’s dish was fine — some heaping dose of fried rice that she did a decent job of making look pretty.
But it’s fried rice, and unless you bombard it with loads of colorful veggies, it will look brown and bland. And then her chicken was also the same color, and so was the sauce she made that looked more like gravy.
It looked like a homogenized dish of brown food, and as a girl who likes things to look a bit vibrant visually, it wasn’t a standout.
Graham and Aarón appreciated her flavors and what she brought to the table, though, and they’re my boys, so I have to trust their judgment.
Shockingly, Joe suddenly decided he would have a heart and gave Sarah the final Yes; she needed to get an apron.
That means Ramsay was the holdout, and I swear it looked like Joe said “Yes” to spite Gordon because they’re such bickering brothers sometimes.
Gordon wasn’t impressed with the sauce, which definitely needed more soy and less corn starch, and I was vibing with Gordon on this one, but Sarah seems like a sweetheart.
We’ll have to see if she stands the test of time and can hack it during the competition.
Charles, the Cambodian-American hairstylist from Ohio, was one of the more fun competitors.
Not only did he have some advice for how to style Ramsay’s hair, and yes, he’s right, we love a silver fox!
But he also was the epitome of bringing his heritage to the plate and knocking it out of the park.
Most of the judges stated that they had just gotten done traveling across countries in Asia, Joe had just come back from Cambodia specifically, and Charles captured all that flavor and heat straight from the Motherland with his Amok.
Again, the best part about being [Insert Heritage] American is that you blend bits of your ancestors’ country, styles, flavor, and food with your region and America, and you end up with these fabulous dishes.
Charles using catfish over some other form of saltwater fish was a perfect example of this. And it worked in his favor and showed he understood how the breakdown of fishes work and how to orchestrate them in a dish.
He also brought all the heat and didn’t hold back, and his authentic presentation of the dish only made it more appealing and restaurant-ready.
Charles more than earned that apron!
However, the most unexpected dark horse competitor of the hour was the media company owner, suit-wearing Wayne.
He definitely looked like the kind of guy who eats at fancy restaurants that don’t list the prices and pulls out a Black Mastercard to pay for the whole party. He was very much giving Succession Roy energy at first glance.
But before we chant “Eat the rich,” let’s change that to “Eat Rich’s food” because Wayne’s wine-infused venison dish was divine and a work of art.
Ramsay called him “meticulous,” and it’s the most appropriate word for him. Wayne is a man who wears many hats and can’t be put into a box, making him instantly likable and relatable in that way.
He’s also clearly passionate about food; you can tell he’s genuinely taking this as a second-chance shot at something.
Listen, if Wayne’s middle-aged crisis is creating stellar dishes and potentially winning Masterchef, I love that for him.
He sometimes trades in suits for camo and goes hunting, which brings a new appreciation for how to construct meals as he understands the meat and what he uses.
A man who can go from Succession to Yellowstone? Not mad about it.
He’s bringing loads of passion, newfound knowledge, and backseat observations from years of overseeing some of the food portions of his media company.
Wayne definitely was the strongest of the hour, and he’s one to watch. He may take this competition home or give the others a run for their money.
The Bad News Bears
Not everyone can get an apron, and it sucks.
Why do they show these people? Well, there’s the suspense and wondering who will get through.
But then there are people like Kevin from Detroit who come along.
You root for him with everything you have because he’s so likable, and then when things fall through, you hope he’ll make a run for it next year.
Kevin is coming back next season. Can we all agree on this? Like bringing pasta to Joe, presenting Aarón with tacos requires harsh scrutiny.
Unfortunately, while Kevin’s grandma loves his cauliflower tacos, it didn’t make the cut when his tortillas were not uniformed and looked more like flatbread pitas than tortillas.
And the chunks of fried cauliflower were way too big. He also had too much content on one taco.
You couldn’t exactly roll it up and have that portable ease to it without the total breaking apart or things falling out, so I’m sure that cost him some points too.
His flavor profile was great, though, and he had all the damn passion in the world.
And it’s something that Ramsay, who always has a knack for that type of thing, saw in him because he encouraged him to return.
If he returns, Kevin will represent Detroit and its diverse flavor profile well. Until next season, my guy.
Marquilla was someone else who brought the passion, and she presented a filet mignon that looked great.
Her presentation wasn’t too shabby either, but the peppercorn mishap cost her everything.
Peppercorn is great, and it gives that lovely bite and spice when you bite into one, but unless it’s ground up a bit or broken down so that it can easily come apart in your mouth, black peppercorn can taste like pebbles or glass in your mouth.
It was unfortunate that her overdoing it with the peppercorn, likely in her attempt to impress and make it fancy and more elevated, cost her everything.
And then there was another woman whose name I didn’t quite catch. Was it Yamada?
Bless her heart; she made one of the simplest pasta dishes I’ve ever seen in this series. Thankfully, she knew enough t make her own pasta, but it was just pasta without any protein, much sauce, or anything else.
It was far too elementary for this series, so there wasn’t much hope that she’d walk away with anything more than a few encouraging smiles and well wishes.
Trevor, the liquor store representative from Nebraska, understood that alcohol in food is like the best thing ever.
But he was a bit too pretentious, and his meal didn’t match his arrogance.
He was also a man from freaking Nebraska who didn’t think to provide the judges with more than enough food for them to all taste it.
Isn’t Nebraska known for its generous portions and servings? I had to squint to find the chicken in his chicken roulade.
Godspeed, Trev, with your glorious Jesus hair.
OK, that’s the dessert and tea of what happened on Masterchef and our opinion on it.
Now it’s time to hear yours!
So hit the comments below with all of your thoughts and impressions, Masterchef Fanatics!
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is an insomniac who spends late nights and early mornings binge-watching way too many shows and binge-drinking way too much tea. Her eclectic taste makes her an unpredictable viewer with an appreciation for complex characters, diverse representation, dynamic duos, compelling stories, and guilty pleasures. You’ll definitely find her obsessively live-tweeting, waxing poetic, and chatting up fellow Fanatics and readers. Follow her on Twitter.