'MasterChef' recap: Orange You Glad I Didn't Pick Mushrooms?

masterchef-joe-bastianich-graham-elliot-320.jpgPreviously on "Eat, Pray, Cry" (aka "MasterChef")  the judges continued to pare down the initial glut of would-be chefs from hundreds to 30 to 14. And there was much rejoicing. For our purposes, rejoicing also looks like weeping. Oh, and if the previews of the season to come are any indication, we are in for a series of untold culinary disasters.

On the bright side, "MasterChef's"  producers are beginning to intersperse shots of actual contestants among the now-familiar glimpses of Gordon and Graham and Joe looking fussy. There's Jake, the construction worker. And Whitney, who is far too young to ever consider cooking unlike that other 22-year-old who's still in the competition. And then there's Faruq, followed by Tracy, who gave up being a doctor, and Sharone, who gave up a "six-figure salary" to be here," and Jenna, who sold her children to slave traders to be on the show. What's that? Oh, they're just at home. Still, my version was more dramatic. Anyhow, the eight other people on this show are apparently not interesting enough to merit face time.

But you know what is interesting? The "MasterChef" kitchen. We're treated to shot after shot of the contestants strolling through sliding doors -- what, no retina scans? -- before oohing and aahing at the majesty of the kitchen in which they'll be cooking. I'd make fun of them, but I've got a s****y little electric stove in my house, and I'd probably end up dry-humping the gas cooker were I in their shoes. And that would just result in unseemly burns.

Anyhow, Gordon's already waiting for them. He tells them to don an apron and find their station. In addition to their apron, a strategically placed wooden box awaits them, but more on that in a moment. "You've got a state-of-the-art kitchen, a Viking range," Gordon tells them. "But let's be honest. It's not the tools that will make America's first MasterChef. It's how you use them." I feel like the Viking people are about to demand equal time. Gordon Ramsay is filling your head with nonsense, they will say. Of course, our cooking equipment will make you a better chef, particularly if you buy our more expensive offerings. Goddamnit, Gordon, do you want this show to be sponsored or not?

Anyhow, those boxes -- they're part of the Mystery Box Challenge. [ Wait a minute -- are you telling me that "MasterChef" and "Top Chef" used basically the same gimmick on the same night? - Zach] Contestants will have 45 minutes to cook one dish using nothing more than the ingredients inside the box. They can use as many -- or as few -- of the ingredients as they want, but they better blow the socks off the judges. Because Gordon, Graham, and Joe will only be tasting three dishes, and from that group, there will be just one winner, who will get to pick the main ingredient in the next challenge. So no one's getting eliminated then? Well, that sort of takes the fun out of things.

And inside those boxes? OH, MY GOD, IT'S PEOPLE! No, not really. It's a very thick pork chop, some flat-leaf parsley, half a cabbage, some ciabatta bread, what Gordon calls "the most amazing Granny Smith apple," a lemon, some vine tomatoes, brandy, a cinnamon stick and chocolate. Well, what are you waiting for, wannabes? Start cooking.

Photo credit: FOX