MasterChef Round 3 – The Oxymoron of World Class Lasagna

2015.May.14 Thursday · 0 comments

in Books & Other Media, Food & Recipes, Life

Is it my imagination or is the opening montage getting longer? The show itself, diving into episode 3, begins at the 3:45 mark. That’s longer than the Game of Thrones opening sequence. And far less interesting.

Apparently feeling the need to “get out in the countryside”, the show takes us to Gral. Rodriguez, a suburban town of 67,000 about 55 km west of the capital. Within seconds it becomes clear based on the usual mutli-angle shots of the name, that we’re being taken to the factory site of one of Argentina’s two largest commercial dairies, La Serenisima. This place is the definition of a factory town. Host Mario Peluffo makes sure we know all the facts – 24/7/365 operation, 3.5 million gallons of milk processed per day, and more.

It’s the first team challenge – cooking for 100 people… we get immediate side interviews with a trio of the participants letting us know that 100 people is more than they’ve ever cooked for in their lives. Far more. Really far more. Really, really far more. No, you don’t understand, they’ve never cooked for this many people before. Hand-wringing starts. Except Francisco, who lets us know this is like whipping up Sunday lunch at his house. Remember Francisco, who brought tears to judge Donato’s heart with his pasta e fagioli in episode 1? I believe him.

Apparently the judges have decided it’s casual Friday and have gone for matching uniforms… err, sports jackets, with their own personal style beneath.

The two winners from last week of the chicken and salmon challenges, Alejo and Martin, will be the team captains. They pick their teams, alternating, or at least that’s the plan. Alejo panics and can’t remember anyone’s name – we get another “sidebar interview” (these happen roughly every 1-2 minutes and are really starting to annoy me) – where he admits he made his first pick with the only person whose name he could remember… he does calm down and manage to select the rest of his team, though making some questionable picks, like Matias, the loudmouth from the past weeks (side bar time – Alejo tells us he was crazy to make the pick, Matias tells us Alejo must have recognized his hidden genius). In a bizarre ending twist to the selection process that would make any kid who always got picked last feel even worse, Claudia, who is the odd woman out since they don’t have an even number of people, has to pick her own team. Sidebars of her and others to discuss her psychological state and what it must be like at that moment (Argentina has more psychologists per capita than any other country on the planet, if you didn’t know, and everyone is an amateur of the field.).

The challenge, announced by Donato – lasagna. Wait, I love lasagna as much as anyone, but didn’t Germán just tell us that this was not going to be a challenge where they cooked the sort of things that they, or the plant workers, might eat on any other given day, but that it was going to be a challenge to cook dishes that would be found at the world’s top restaurants? That better be one hell of a lasagna. The contestants cheer and jump up and down. Christophe tells us that every one of the 100 portions needs to be perfect. It’s freakin’ lasagna. Into the corporate kitchens they go.

Martin’s team gets their orders – pasta, lamb bolognesa, ricotta, roasted eggplant, and tomato sauce. They cheer and jump up and down. Alejo’s team looks less impressed as he fires off orders to bake squash, cook spinach, and make a sauce of some kind with chorizo sausages. But in the end they cheer and jump up and down too. It takes them all awhile to get things sorted out working together in teams in a small kitchen, but Martin takes control and gets his team going. Alejo isn’t quite as good at organizing, but they manage. Especially because, surprise, surprise, Matias won’t shut up and tells us what’s wrong with everything being done. Martin’s team needs to regroup when they discover there are only a few eggplants around. They settle on zucchini and chard to replace the eggplant because they’re there. What?

The judges are in and out, giving advice, sampling, etc. Alejo and Matias continue to clash, as both keep giving orders. Germán keeps yelling at them to get a move on as time is running out quickly. Alejo offers up that Germán needs to understand that they’re all just human. Germán counters with, no, you’re cooks, act like it. An hour into the challenge neither team has their pasta made and rolled out, nor a sauce close to ready. Mostly they’ve chopped lots of vegetables. Apparently feeling left out, Christophe follows up five minutes later with his own rant about getting a move on.

Both teams pull their lasagnas out of the ovens after what seems way too short a time – neither got them into the ovens until less than half an hour before service. Alejo and Matias continue to clash as the lasagnas are lined up for service, now over the size of portions. In a sidebar, of course, Alejo asserts his dominance, “I’m the captain, shut up”, but, of course, doesn’t do it in person with Matias. That would require, well, balls.

The employees start trying the lasagnas. No one looks happy. In fact, they all look a little disgusted. But meanwhile, we get a several minute montage in tribute to another sponsor as we are shown cleaning products being used to clean up the kitchen.

Move to voting time. It’s going to be open voting, with employees holding up either a blue or red card for whichever team’s lasagna they preferred. Amazingly enough, despite disorganization and a bizarre sounding lasagna, the red team wins 60:40. They cheer and jump up and down. There’s a lot of that this time.

Now, bizarrely, at this point, we’re only at the 40 minute mark into a two hour show. Somewhere, somehow, the elimination challenge is taking the lion’s share of the timing. But first, back in the MC kitchen, we get a lecture from Germán on kitchen comportment, working in teams, organization, cooking ability, the understanding of quality, and most importantly, the complete lack of all of the above on the part of the red team in particular. Matias, of course, can’t shut up, and argues with the judges – after all, they won. Christophe makes sure they all know that if it had been the judge’s decision, the blue team would have won, but they have to abide by the employees’ decision. They all compliment Martin and his team for the quality of their work.

The elimination challenge – make a dessert using a red apple, some sort of crust, and some sort of sauce. As the challenge starts, of course, Matias can’t help himself, commenting out loud with Sebastian about the work of the contestants in the elimination. And, of course, gets called out on it once again. Can they just throw him out for being an ass? Christophe says the next time either of them says something he’s going to put them in the elminination challenge. They both feign complete innocence.

Let’s jump to the end, because what we get is twenty minutes of the judges wandering about, questioning what the contestants are making, and, as usual, pointing out that they’re not working clean enough nor fast enough. We get it, really, these are not professional cooks from your kitchens, they’re home cooks still finding their way – it’s only the second episode in which they’re cooking in challenges.

Most everyone has made an apple tart of some sort, though a couple have made apple turnovers. Some are good, some aren’t. We still have half an hour to go. And somehow, they manage to take twenty of those to taste through eight apple desserts. Then deliberation, and a drawn out, ten minute judging process that ends with…

Lia wins the challenge with her tart and “semi-whipped cream”, a recipe from her grandmother.

We lose Claudia, with criticisms of her final product, her lack of organization, her lack of inspiration, followed by praise for her dedication to learning, and hopes that she’ll continue to grow as a cook. She leaves, content (sidebar interview, of course), convinced that young Simone, whom we’ve seen very little of, is going to win the whole competition.


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