5. MARK PUTS RAW FLOUR IN HIS MASHED POTATOES.
Mark was in the MasterChef kitchen for long enough to do exactly one thing.
You might think I'm ranking this too highly, but it just strikes such a chord with me. It's taken me a really, really too-long time to go from Embarrassing Food Idiot to someone who can make, like, eight things with some degree of confidence. Early in my 20s, I attempted to make guacamole with flour. Anyway, Mark is --
Ah, come on, you don't want to hear about my flour-in-guacamole story. There's barely even a story. I was working with one of those big green shitty avocados because I didn't know the difference between those and the bumpy black California avocados that are actually worth buying, and I added too much lime juice, so it ended up being too thin. I thought flour would be a neat idea. It was the worst thing anyone's done in any kitchen, and perhaps any room of any house that's ever been built, and perhaps even worse than anything that has happened outside or underground.
Anyway, Mark is kicked out at the end of the episode for this. I'm pretty sure Mark is a better cook than I am, but if I got kicked off a national television show for serving raw flour, I'd probably just unconditionally abstain from cooking for the rest of my life. Just dole out measuring cups of raw rolled oats, lemon juice, and crushed multivitamins and shoot them down my gullet, three times a day, for the rest of my life.
4. 'IT'S LIKE SALVADOR DALI ON CRACK.'
In the first season, Sharone was a favorite to win the whole thing, because he was really talented. He didn't win because he couldn't ever shut up or stop doing stupid shit whenever the opportunity presented itself. Like, look at this.
Nevermind how Sharone's interpretation of a "walk through the woods" involves a quail yolk with a bunch of Gak around it. I can't even imagine ever telling someone that my dish was a "walk in the woods" with a straight face.
This is my problem: I don't understand plating. It should be noted that my experience in Fine Dining is pretty limited: growing up, my family didn't have the kind of money to go out to eat ... well, ever, and I have spent most of my legal adulthood poor as a pack mule. And I'm not special in this regard, and that's the point: most Americans live and die having eaten 80,000 meals and given a shit about the "plating" of absolutely none of them.
Plating is, by and large, an artistic medium that didn't come about until the 20th century, and I think there's a greater onus upon such a new medium to justify itself. Popular music sure has. Cinema sure has. The artistic component of video gaming is really starting to. The preparation of food is certainly an art. But the placing of it? I'm not sold on it. Maybe it's an art, but it's one with a really low ceiling. It's a minor art, like the arrangement of your grandkids' portraits on your wall. And the thing about a minor art is that it's difficult for me to honestly have a strongly positive or negative opinion about any piece of art you might produce.
So yes, Sharone is trying to do some kind of Hansel and Gretel shit. Great food is an art, it really is, but it's not a storytelling art. Just make food good and give it to me.
3. JOE BASTIANICH MONSTERJAM!!!!!!!
Remember when I told you that Joe Motherfucking Bastianich is the best judge in the history of reality television? I meant it. Remember when I told you we had one more PlateSlam coming? Here you go.
David gonna just cook a slice of bacon, cover his eyes, hold out his arm, and drop it on top of the dish? BULLLLLLL SHIT! Apparently David is an ally of the "LoLz bacon is n3ct4r of the GODz0r lolz!!!!" pestilence that is sweeping the Internet these days. I'll tell you something: Bacon is a tasty, cheap meat that is good if you only have it once in a while, and is great on camping trips. That's about it.
Make all the image macros you want, but you know what's a lot better than bacon? Some well-seasoned broccoli. A bowl of quinoa and avocado with some hot sauce. Anything that's traditionally served with mustard. Chicken thigh. Lots and lots of things. Bacon, as bought at the grocery store, is not great. It's a 5 of 10 on the food scale.
That's what makes Joe's plate-slam all the more righteous. As I said earlier, the patented Joe Bastianich PlateSlam™ is only brought out once per season. This one is the most authoritative in MasterChef history. FOODSHAKALAKA
2. MY CUPCAKE IS HORRIBLE!
This is Tracy's horrible cupcake. It should be noted that no matter how bad this cupcake is, she isn't going to be sent home for it or accrue any sort of penalty, since this isn't an elimination round. I'm going to let you decide whether to view this a) in context, or b) out of context. Choose wisely. In context, it's heartbreaking and genuinely sad. Out of context, it's like the funniest thing I've ever seen.
READ THIS IF YOU WANT CONTEXT, SKIP IF YOU DON'T
Tracy is one of the most likable characters in the history of MasterChef. She doesn't bother with any stupid Feuds or Rivalries or any of the other dumb reality show shit that many of the others do. She's just a person who wants to cook, and she's good at it.
Tracy is also perhaps the easiest to root for. Three years ago, her mother passed away, and the family's most treasured heirloom is a book of her mother's recipes that she wrote shortly before her passing. Tracy is entering the contest in tribute to her, and she perceives the botching of this cupcake as an act of disrespect toward her. All this considered, this scene made me feel legitimately bad for Tracy.
OUT OF CONTEXT:
An adult is crying. About a cupcake. This isn't even an elimination test, so no matter how awful the cupcake is, she isn't going to be sent home. And, like, she isn't just getting teary-eyed. As the producers take a long, lingering shot of the cupcake, we hear her just wailing in sorrow.
The cupcake isn't tasted by the judges on camera, nor is it ever mentioned or shown again. Gordon's just like, "ahh fuck," and it's forgotten forever. And I cannot stop laughing.
1. WHAT THIS SHOW IS, BASICALLY.
Ah, man. This is heartbreaking.
Joel's story, I mean. His dream is to win MasterChef and use the prize money to open a restaurant named Jermaine's, in honor of his son who drowned while Joel was in military school. This is just about the most devastatingly sad thing ever. Those aren't Reality Show Tears. That is a grown man crying for a good reason. God this is rough.
Problem: this is a reality show, and reality shows are trivial by their very nature. So Joel's finished telling this awful, heart-wrenching story. The judges are welling up.
"I liked the, uh, rice and beans ... "
Love you, MasterChef. Love you forever.
Numbers 15 through 11 | Numbers 10 through 6 | Numbers 5 through 1