Finally, with all the shows jumping to American television, we’ve made it to one I’ve really been waiting for. Masterchef is hitting on FOX this Tuesday, July 27th at 9:00pm et/pt. The reality competition show has been a huge success, already spawning a celebrity version, an Australian incarnation, and more. Focusing on bringing home chefs into the spotlight, it’s a theory that suits my tastes better than most.
Hosted by Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot, and Joe Bastianich, contestants will have to get past some tough judging in order to make it through the successive rounds on their way to $250,000 and the coveted title.
Of all the cooking competitions that have been on television, Masterchef has always been my favorite. Though others are fun to watch, there is something about the battle between people who already own a successful restaurant (or have even more impressive credentials) that just isn’t what I’m most interested in watching on television.
In the first episode, select contestants, weeded down from thousands of applicants, will have their last chance to earn their spot in the top 30 by cooking one dish for the judges. From incredible dishes to unedible disasters, the judges will have to sort through these home chefs to figure out who is impressive enough to continue.
As Gordon puts it, Masterchef is “American Idol for cooking,” and that’s what really sucks me into this show. I find myself quite willing to get behind the idea of giving someone a chance at pursuing their dream, when they really might not have any other shot at it. That sits a lot differently with me than showcasing the talents of people who are able to come to the show by way of figuring out who to leave in charge of the restaurant they already have.
I also like the fact that the show doesn’t rely on wacky challenges, but sticks with a more pure, more honest ability to cook.
I don’t think I need to give you much info on Ramsay, star already of several shows on both sides of the pond, and notorious shouter of Hell’s Kitchen. Instead of introducing Ramsay, give a listen to him introducing the show in these interview bites.
Our other judges deserve a bit of introduction though-
Chef Graham Elliot is the culinary mastermind behind Chicago’s first “bistronomic” restaurant, Graham Elliot, which tempers four-star cuisine with humor and accessibility.
In a very short time, the 33-year-old chef has accrued accolades, including Best New Chef in 2004 from Food & Wine magazine and three James Beard Nominations. At age 27, Bowles was the youngest four-star chef in America. In May 2008, he opened the aptly named Graham Elliot, a restaurant that would not only bear his name, but become an extension of his passionate personality embodying his core principles of humility, courage, vision, respect and focus.
He is also the chef/culinary ambassador for Lollapalooza, a three-day music festival, in which he cooks for bands backstage as well as oversees all of the restaurants at the Lollapalooza Chow Town.
Joe Bastianich opened his first restaurant, Becco, with his mother, Lidia, in 1993. Soon after, he partnered with Mario Batali, and together they have established some of New York’s most-celebrated restaurants, including Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca, Lupa Osteria Romana, Esca, Casa Mono, Bar Jamόn, Otto Enoteca Pizzeria and Del Posto.
Expanding their horizons beyond Manhattan, Bastianich and Batali opened Enoteca San Marco, B&B Ristorante and Carnevino in Las Vegas and Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles. The duo also purchased a vineyard in Italy with the goal of creating the world’s finest wines and olive oils.
Their latest venture, a revolutionary retail food concept called Eataly, will be debuting this summer in New York. Eataly will be a resto-market featuring the best of Italy – from Italian products to Italian dining. Bastianich is an accomplished author whose passion for the culinary arts has been recognized with professional awards from Bon Appétit magazine and the James Beard Foundation.
As a special treat, I have what I think is a very interesting preview of what you’re going to see, including recipes.
Let’s take a look at some of the contestants, and their creations-
You are advised to make these at your own risk!
Randy Twford’s Funeral Potatoes
|2 – 3||Lbs.||Baking Potatoes||Cut them into cubes|
|1||Small bunch||Green Onions|
|2||Cups||Shredded Cheddar Cheese|
|1||Small Can||Cream of Chicken Soup|
|1 1/2||Cup||Sour Cream|
|Taste||Salt and Pepper|
|1||Cup||Shredded Cheddar Cheese||Add to top within last minute of cooking|
Scrub and cube the potatoes. Place in pan of water and boil for 7-10 minutes. Remove when potatoes just yield to piercing with fork. While potatoes are boiling, dice bacon and fry until crisp.
Add chopped green onions during last few minutes to soften onions. Drain potatoes, mix with the bacon and onion mixture. Add the remainder of the ingredients and mix. Spoon into a greased 13 x 9 baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes until bubbly and golden. During last few minutes top with 1 cup of shredded cheddar.
Suzette James’ Tilapia Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa
|5 – 6||Medium||Tomatoes||Dice, scoop out middles|
|3 – 4||Mango||Diced|
|1||Bag||Frozen corn||Warm on stove top|
|1||Package||Herbed goat cheese||Crumbled|
|1||Package||Corn tortillas||Steam to warm|
|1||Cup||Heavy whipping cream||Whip to cream|
|1 – 2||Packages||Blackberries||Garnish/side|
Make corn salad by adding corn, tomatoes, cilantro, lime zest, ½ lime juice, and ¼ tsp salt, and 2 shallots. Combine and fill inside hollowed tomato shell. Top with goat cheese.
Make mango salsa by combining mangos, tomatoes, cilantro, green onions, and 2 cloves of garlic, salt and olive oil to taste. Pan-sear Tilapia 3 – 4 minutes and side with seasoning and olive oil. Create fish taco with steamed tortillas, Tilapia, red cabbage, and mango salsa. Serve with sliced avocados.
Dessert: Fresh cream with ½ lemon juice, lemon zest, and powdered sugar. Serve with mango slice and fresh blackberries.
Chris Spradley’s Beer Cheese Soup
|½ – ¾||Lbs.||Sausage||Finely chopped|
|½||Cup||Scallions||Finely chopped (including green part)|
|6||Large Cloves||Garlic||Finely Chopped|
|1||Teaspoon||Ground Black Pepper|
|1||Teaspoon||Tony Chachere’s Cajun Seasoning|
|1 ½||Teaspoon||Fresh Thyme||Chopped|
Cook the sausage in the olive oil with salt and pepper in a large cast iron pan on high heat until golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove sausage from pan, leave oil. Cook the onions and celery, stirring until soft and slightly caramelized. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add unsalted butter and melt in. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and cook, stirring constantly (similar to a making a roux). Gradually whisk in the beer first and then the stock. Add the thyme and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Stir in the cream (if using it). Add the cheese, a little at a time, stirring until nearly melted after each addition. Remove from the heat, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Ladle the soup into the bowls and garnish with the minced fresh chives. Serve with lightly toasted garlic bread.
Before we start thinking it’s all bad news, let’s take a look at one they liked.
Be sure to tune in tomorrow, and for a lot more clips and info, check out http://www.fox.com/masterchef/