MasterChef United Tastes of America: Top Ten Touches Down with a Blast from the Past


The top ten has descended upon us, and the competition couldn’t be hotter and more emotional.

At this point in the game, it’s tough to see anyone go home because they’ve devoted so much of their time to improving and growing while delivering great dishes.

A fish challenge on MasterChef Season 13 Episode 13 unleashed a sea of potential and a few flops.

And things got more creative on Masterchef Season 13 Episode 14, as the Masterchef Season 11 winner, Kelsey Murphy, returned to host a stadium-themed challenge.

We’re two contestants down and nearing the finish line. Let’s get into it.

Something Fishy

The fish challenge was fascinating and so niche because, with a regional competition, it’s glaring who has access to what types of seafood.

When you have more landlocked people, they don’t have access to an array of fish as someone coastal or those who live on islands or peninsulas.

The Masterchef kitchen produced some staples like halibut, catfish, and salmon, and those that were a bit more complicated, like Mackeral, Sardines, and John Dory.

The Sunshine Twins, MD, and Sav got the advantage of picking a contestant to switch a fish with another, and it was their turn to be strategic about who to set up and who to assist.

Some of the regional loyalty still exists, as they got Kennedy to swap her fresh salmon for Reagan’s sardines, and they definitely had their sights set on tripping up the competition by having Grant switch his sea bass for James’ Mackeral, which poor James couldn’t even pronounce.

I, too, put a little flair on the pronunciation of Mackeral!

One of the surprising elements of the challenge that added a flair of danger was learning that Reagan is allergic to fish and could barely touch or inhale it, let alone taste it, which set her at a disadvantage, but she managed to pull through.

A notably hilarious moment was when Wayne assumed the girls were talking about him as their biggest competitor when they were referencing Kennedy instead.

The competition has dramatically humbled him since Masterchef Season 13 Episode 2, but he still has amusingly arrogant moments.

The filet and cooking experience was entertaining and filled with fun and cute moments, like Lizzie needing Joe’s assistance opening her first-ever bottle of wine.

Wayne’s lowkey diss of catfish, dismissing it as a premium fish despite being one of the most popular in the South, had all the Southerners grumbling and Aarón Sánchez affronted.

Gordon couldn’t stop marveling over how Kennedy had become the #1 chef to beat and biggest target out of the bunch, and she was cool, calm, and collected about it and never seemed to get rattled in the slightest.

They keep taking shots at our girl and missing. Ramsay is unequivocally a Kennedy stan.

The Fish Delights

Despite his humbling realization that he wasn’t at the top of everyone’s list for biggest competition and total disinterest in catfish, Wayne pulled off getting called first for top dishes.

He was so thrilled that you couldn’t help but root for him. Wayne’s transition from Succession series-level arrogance and suit-donning to humble Midwest student is the best.

His blackened catfish over spicy potato hash and green tomatoes was so distinctively southern and did the fish justice.

It was perfectly balanced and a good dish, and the judges raved about it. He did good.

Kolby got infinite kudos for the refinement of his plating, and it really was a marvel and Michelin-star restaurant quality presentation.

His Harissa-Spiced Halibut with butternut squash and carrot puree got high praise from Joe for being “perfectly conceptualized and executed.” Sánchez described it as “intelligent.”

And despite the target on her back, Kennedy presented the judges with wholly inspired Fried Sardines with white wine raisin sauce and herb panatella.

They said it was perfect, crispy, rich, acidic, and everything was right.

Shockingly, despite the unique nature of Kennedy’s dish and the high praise for Kolby’s plating, Wayne executing a Southern staple so well won him that immunity.

The Fish Flops

Grant’s first time in the bottom three was due to that abysmal Mackeral dish that defined “doing too much.”

His pan-seared Mackeral over greens and a Mackeral broth and potato souffle was the definition of “busy.” And the judges kept mentioning how he had two dishes in one happening.

Somewhere in that was some type of mousse or pate, and the broth, which they suspected would be oily, was a total misfire. You knew it was terrible when Gordon said he had one foot out the door with his dish.

And much like Grant, Lizzie did too much and spent too much time using ingredients she wasn’t even familiar with to utterly butcher a red snapper.

She had pan-seared snapper with orange saffron sauce, couscous, charred bok choy, and orange segments tacked on like she was plating for one of her students.

They couldn’t fathom how she spent an entire hour on a 20-minute dish. Her components didn’t mesh well or make for a cohesive and appealing meal, and the things she did with the wet ingredients made a person cringe.

Sánchez said it tasted like she sprinkled pure orange juice over everything. And to Joe’s chagrin, she made the amateur error of not burning the alcohol out of the white wine she used, so her couscous tasted like a mimosa drink.

James fumbled through a sea bass he should’ve had a handle on, creating a parsnip puree with sauteed mushrooms and roasted tomatoes still on the vine.

And sadly, the execution of his dish was poorly done, with overcooked fish, improper pickled romesco, and poorly cooked tomatoes.

And the dish sent him home. James had a nice run, though. His exit was a bit on the emotional side, and he took a lot away from the experience.

Return of a Winner

One of the best things about the series is bringing former winners back to serve as guest judges. It inspires the current contests and helps them see how the experience can serve them.

And bringing back Kelsey Murphy was inspiring and led to a fun challenge.

In just two years, she changed the game at the Colts’ stadium with her elevated versions of food that everyone loves to devour while watching games.

It’s an awe-inspiring contract, and her dishes seemed simple enough but also high quality.

The challenge encouraged everyone to get creative, which was fun, and Wayne had the edge of setting someone back with a penalty at a crucial point of the challenge, which was fun to watch.

He mentioned his top targets were Grant, Kennedy, Kolby, and Jennifer.

And that tracks with what we’ve seen so far and how many of the same contestants seem to keep pulling ahead.

His lack of mention of Brynn was actually shocking. If anything, he was likely focused on how Kolby was a frontrunner with him during the previous challenge, and Grant has been known to pull things off randomly.

Because out of the three, Brynn is the most consistently front-leading and likely to make it to the end.

Wayne flagging Jennifer was unexpected, only because one would’ve thought he’d go after Kennedy instead.

However, he couldn’t have planned it better by giving Jennifer a five-minute timeout right before she could put her pork in the pressure cooker.

That move could’ve easily ruined her entire dish and left her in the lurch. The fact that she could pull that off and still produce perfectly tender, cooked, pulled pork was a miracle, or as the judges said, her being a supermom.

The judges observing everyone cooking was entertaining, too.

They all were distraught over everything Lizzie was doing to that premium-level seafood. Who puts the incredibly expensive, high-grade King Crab into hush puppies?

And nothing was funnier than when Joe flat-out said what Sánchez was probably thinking: Grant was too white-bred even to attempt to make tetelas in such a short time and think he’d execute it well.

One of the most interesting aspects of this season is how often people’s go-to creative dish can be Mexican-inspired because they think it’s easier than it actually is.

Certain cultural foods get typecasted in this weird elitist food hierarchy as being simpler, easier, or not requiring technique or whatever else comes to mind when it’s nothing like that at all.

Mexican-based food is one of those on the list as not being considered as “elite” as something French or Mediterranean until someone utterly butchers every aspect of a Mexican-inspired dish they thought they had in the bag because they ate nachos once at a football game.

Chinese and some Asian-inspired dishes are similar in that regard.

It’s why Kennedy is a fascinating example of someone who appreciates and pays homage to cultural dishes she’s experienced (something she likely did with her Bánh mì dish we sadly didn’t get to see).

It’s such a minor distinction compared to even our lovely guest judge making the innocent but common choice of having “Sticky Asian Wings,” which is so generically termed for familiarity, simplicity, and convenience but unwittingly lumps the idea of very diverse flavors and cuisines that span multiple countries into a single continental term.

The MVPs

MD finally getting to shine is making the back half of the season exciting.

She had such a vibrant personality when we first saw her in Masterchef Season 13 Episode 3, and she’s been strangely muted and shoved into the background since.

It was great to see her return to her roots, creating cake-based donuts to serve to the judges to show off why she’s so fantastic at what she does.

Her mixed berry cake donut trio looked divine. They were festive, light, airy, creative, and fun. And she was the only one who went out on a limb to make dessert.

Seeing her return to being her authentic self after feeling insecure in the competition for so long was pleasing.

The judges loved them, including Joe, who seemed a bit out of place with judging this challenge and couldn’t conjure up compliments beyond something looking “professional.”

Brynn absolutely shined with her Lobster rolls with tempura-battered lobster claw, sweet potato chips, and celery slaw.

It was definitely something I would’ve clamored to get to if I saw it on a menu.

And Jennifer, despite her setbacks and Wayne’s attempt to derail her, nailed her pulled pork with blackberry BBQ sauce and slaw.

While Brynn getting top dish and immunity wasn’t surprising, it being her first big win and immunity actually was.

Riding the Bench

Kolby got into his head too much with this challenge, which he should’ve had in the bag with his entire childhood spent eating stadium food while his father played on the field.

His patty melt, slaw, and fries looked sad and elementary. It looked like something you’d see in a kid’s cafeteria lunch.

Meanwhile, Grant’s pulled pork stuffed tetelas were a disaster. He used too much masa; it was undercooked, the dough was raw, and it was a prime example of Grant once again doing too much and his ambition almost costing him everything.

Meanwhile, Lizzie’s king crab hush puppies fell through. They were mostly inedible since they were raw, and there was no way of impressing judges by putting one of the best qualities of seafood ever into shredded-up bits and burying it in the batter.

As someone from Alaska familiar with King Crab, Lizzie fumbled big time. It cost her everything, but she had a nice run, and she did incredibly well and made it so far in this competition. I, too, will miss her smile and bubbly persona.

Over to you, Masterchef Fanatics.

Did the right two chefs go home? Which dish appealed to you most? Hit the comments.

For all of our food-related content, check out our sister site, Food Fanatic.

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.

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