We’re on to Episode 2, and thankfully, unlike the first season, we’re already full on into the competition. Twenty contestants – Diego, Patricia, Sol, Alejo, Matías, Mercedes, Jacinto, Alan, Lia, Francisco, Julia D, Martín, María, Nadia, Juan Pablo, Claudia, Simone, Mariana, Julia N, Sebastián – glare at the camera during the opening montage, each after stirring or pouring or throwing something, while music like the march of the brooms from Fantasia plays on.
They enter the kitchen and are all shocked at the size, the lights, and that the stoves have temperature gauges… admittedly an unusual thing here in Argentina, where most ovens have, at best, low – medium – high settings.
We start off with a classic mystery box – and just to make sure we know it, the camera zooms and pans around the room giving us glimpses of the boxes from at least a dozen different angles. The contestants look at the boxes, unsure what to do – surprisingly, not one attempts to lift the box. Bet they’re getting instructions.
They’ll be cooking in two waves, ten at a time, and different ingredients, though of “equal complexity”. The worst from each wave will have to be in elimination challenge. They’re divided into teams by pulling out either a spoon or fork from a lazy susan on a table in front of the judges.
Group 1 gets an unplucked chicken, and 75 minutes to pluck it whole and completely. Donato demonstrates how to do it. They get two minutes in the pantry to select ingredients for their dish – a rather paltry amount of time, they don’t even really have a moment to think about what they might want to make.
Disagreements abound, as the contestants try to get around the instructions. Now Christophe made it clear, repeating probably four times, that the challenge wasn’t just to create a dish, but to demonstrate that they could completely pluck the whole chicken of its feathers.
Julia D cuts off the wings and throws them out rather than removing the feathers, since she’s not planning to use them anyway and “it’s too hard”. Christophe makes her recover them from the trash and deplume them before she’s allowed to continue. Several contestants decide that “half deplumed” is sufficient and they’ll get to the rest later – Christophe reminds them once again that the task isn’t just to cook, but to deplume the whole chicken.
Matias, up in the gallery, is swearing up a storm commenting, the bleeping sounds like a George Carlin seven bad words routine. Chef German finally interrupts him and asks if he wants to come down and participate in the challenge or STFU. He turns bright red but goes quiet. The time passes by quickly, as the judges poke and prod, question and suggest.
Julia D, whose wings are now deplumed, is castigated for not peeling her carrots in her casserole. I don’t either. A zillion professional chefs out there don’t either. Other than aesthetics, there’s no reason on the planet that carrots have to be peeled, especially in something like a roast or casserole. Christophe throws down his fork in disgust and refuses to taste the dish, swearing a blue streak himself, telling the contestants to stop fucking around with them – he doesn’t get bleeped. German steps up and offers her the option of having him taste or not taste, but if he tastes and doesn’t like it, she’ll automatically be in the elimination. She looks terrified and opts out. Donato, the only judge acting professional at this point, steps up and tastes the dish, peel and all.
Several contestants have undercooked chicken and Christophe goes off on a rant and starts refusing to even try dishes, calling them disgusting, and shit. He doesn’t get bleeped, again. Maybe it’s in his contract.
Alejo & Jacinto get “best dishes”, though neither was great, and in the end, Alejo wins the challenge. Five contestants, both Julias, Mariana, Diego, and Simone are called up for worst dish, that’s half the contestants in the challenge, the remaining three are told that they scraped by and can go up to the gallery. Before announcing the worst, Donato gives a little speech to make sure that everyone understands that even the two best plates barely make it to the level that the judges are looking for on this show and that not one of the other eight dishes was really acceptable. Mariana and Simone are given a “skin of their teeth” pass, the other three trade their white aprons for black…
On to wave two. Salmon blanco, a local fish that isn’t a salmon at all, but an ocean going “sand perch” are under the boxes this time around. And, they’re huge ones, coming in probably around 4-5 kilos apiece. Christophe demonstrates how to clean the fish correctly. Same two minutes in the pantry to select their ingredients, and 75 minutes to clean their fish and cook a dish, same as the first group. Unable to STFU as requested, Matias makes sure we all know that he hates fish, doesn’t want to touch it, cook it, or eat it. The judges glare at him.
Alejo starts trying to help Claudia by putting his hand up as if the judges won’t be able to tell who’s doing it, and calling out instructions at nearly full volume. Christophe threatens to throw him out if he doesn’t, oh, STFU, and makes him move to the other side of the gallery. He just stands around smirking, and in a sidebar, lets us know that he thinks that as a perfectionist, his advice is well warranted and needed by the others.
Overall, this second group looks far more scared, given the results of the first group, but they also seem to be being more creative with their dishes, and, in general, the dishes seem to be better received, other than a bit of overcooking of the fish, which at least doesn’t leave it inedible like the undercooked chicken.
We end up back with Matias, who’s served up a disaster of a dish. Christophe trashes the dish, especially after Matias tells him once again that he doesn’t like fish, didn’t want to cook it, and wouldn’t eat it. Christophe suggests that if he put as much energy into creating a decent plate as he did into being an ass about the challenge, he might have put up a good dish. German goes for the jugular and reminds him that thousands of people tried out for this spot, and if all Matias wants to cook and/or is willing to put any energy into making, are things that he already likes to make, then he’s in the wrong place and should just leave. Donato steps up and says, with your attitude, just change your apron now for a black one, I’m not even trying your dish, you’re in the elimination challenge.
German makes a grand speech about how this is the judges’ worst nightmare – to have someone who’s just there taking up space with no interest or passion in really cooking. Matias starts making jokes and laughing from the gallery, sottovoce. Of course the judges catch it and call him out, making him come back down in front of them. Christophe tears him apart and says if he doesn’t change his attitude right now he’s going to face the worst nightmare of his life…. seems to me that’s exactly what German told him just a week ago in the pilot.
Sebastian, a musician, is upset because when he cooks for his friends and family, even if they criticize they do it with love, and the judges don’t seem to be loving when they tell him that he’s cooked his fish to death. Remember that bit from last week? The judges aren’t in love with the contestants.
On to the elimination challenge – German announces a more than century old traditional dish that any good chef has to master. Eggs Benedict. He traces its origins to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York in 1896 – the hotel was then just called The Waldorf Hotel, no Astoria family involvement yet, and it was actually 1894, but hey, close enough for Masterchef, no? It’s a dish near non-existent here in Argentina, and it looks like not one of the six has any idea what it is. The six come up to look at it and taste it, and then head to their stations to duplicate it.
They have thirty minutes to cook and present it. Since there aren’t English muffins in Argentina, they seem to be using odd looking bread rolls shaped like giant biscuits, and since there’s no Canadian bacon (though there is ham, which is actually the way The Waldorf originally made it), they’re using roasted pork loin.
The eggs get tasted in two waves of three, one to a judge. Everyone holds their breath as Christophe tastes Matias’ egg. The judges retire to discuss and decide they have a serious problem – almost all six did a great job. They decide to go back and announce one by one whether the contestants are staying. First, Julia N – who gets the nod to stay, and best eggs benedict of the group. On the other hand, Julia D is summarily dismissed for her plates of the day – at least we don’t have to worry about two Julias anymore. She leaves in tears.
Mercedes, oddly, gets criticized by German for producing two dishes in a row that he didn’t like and that weren’t acceptable for the competition. But he passes her through anyway. WTF? Maria, next up, gets Donato – he says that while she produced a great egg dish, and in the pilot cooked really well, she’s just not as good as the others and needs to leave.
Diego and Matias get called forward together. Christophe says he’s confronted by a real problem – two successful egg dishes. Matias gets the nod, Diego gets kicked to the curb, “by a hair”. All three judges give him inspiring compliments – he’s a dishwasher in a restaurant, and as German says, the only one in the competition who works in the industry, and they tell him to keep cooking, that he has a bright future. The show closes with Christophe and Donato reading Matias the riot act one last time for his attitude, and letting him know in no uncertain terms that being a chef isn’t just about cooking, but about attitude, ethics, and passion. He apologizes to them all as they walk away.