TV Review: Masterchef Season 2 Premiere + Interview with Chef Gordon Ramsay

Famed chef Gordon Ramsay is back for Round Two of his culinary smash hit and last summer’s highest-rated new series, MASTERCHEF.

After conducting a nationwide search, 100 of the best amateur cooks in America, including a police officer, an oil rig engineer, an interior designer, a forklift operator, a professional poker player, a classical pianist and a tattoo shop owner, were flown to Los Angeles in the hopes of becoming the next MASTERCHEF and walking away with the life-changing grand prize.

Photo Credit: Greg Gayne/FOX

In the premiere episode, the hopefuls will prepare their signature dishes and present them to the renowned MASTERCHEF judging panel: Michelin-starred chef Gordon Ramsay; restaurateur and wine maker Joe Bastianich; and the youngest four-star chef in America, Graham Elliot. The judges are looking for presentation, flavor, originality and creativity, but most importantly – to have a chance – every contender must possess an immense passion for food. The amateur cooks will be put through the paces, and only the most deserving among them will win the coveted white apron and move on to the next round of the competition. One thing is certain in MASTERCHEF: Winning will be no piece of cake.

“You’re a lucky man…that you haven’t fu**ing killed somebody.” – Gordon Ramsay

Having not seen MasterChef season one, I was going in blind…that is from having the knowledge of Chef Ramsay’s cut throat critiques from his other cooking shows. What attracted me to this show was that 100 home cooks have the chance to work with three incredible chefs and perfect their amateur cooking. This is perhaps the most relatable of the cooking competitions, since the chefs are everyday people such as yourself and myself with little to no professional cooking experience. As a foodie myself, I also found it very interesting the nerves that the home cooks brought to the audition round.

After the judges taste and critique the dishes, the cooks have an opportunity to fight for an apron. In fact, begging on the knees worked for one contestant. The guts people have, man. Every contestant brings not only their own unique attitude to the competition but their attitude and their environment also plays very well into their food. There are really so many components to what goes into making food… and for many new foodies, this show does a great job at showcasing those components – and this is just the first episode! Not only that, but one Scottish contestant makes Chef Ramsay’s day – which is quite rare, his day being completely made by a contestant. Though Ramsay picked his “one to watch” already and even guaranteed a place in the competition for one contestant only if he continued to perfect his craft over the next year. Clearly, Ramsay is not just the mean chef that everyone paints him out to be. He’s just very passionate. And that passion is something that I can definitely appreciate… especially since he is clearly sincere in every moment.

“Compared to last year, this is night and day.” – Graham Elliot Bowles

About eight out of less than a dozen contestants that were showcased made it in the first night. Night two starts off with a story about a mother with cancer who comes to the audition to support her son. Chef Ramsay ate the contestant’s entire Sausage Roll with Creamy Marinara Sauce. In the words of Chef Ramsay, “That was fu**ing delicious.” But the rest of the auditions did not go as well, as Chef Joe Bastianich had to give the contestants a pep talk – or warning about not wasting anybody’s time. For one contestant, that advice did not seem to sink in. He made “Redneck Sushi” and yes, it looks and tastes just as nasty as it sounds. He wrapped chicken in a sushi roll with a mayo based barbecue sauce (vomit) and was eliminated by a 2/3 vote. He walked out throwing a fit. What bothers me is that when this airs, I still don’t think that he will be embarrassed by his behavior or dish.

“It’s clearly a no. Sorry.” – Joe Bastianich

What I found to be very exciting was the freak genius that is sure to bring some of the most innovative dishes this season. Also entertaining but in a different light was a man trying to speak French when he didn’t even know the language. Talk about eye rolling and laugh out loud comedy. Now what could have been an interesting aspect if both indeed made it through were a mother and son competing against each other. I’m glad that this made it to the final cut of the episode because who doesn’t want to compete against their parent in front of Chef Ramsay? Talk about an intense competition. Fox really knows how to bring the drama. This show is clearly not just about the food.

Probably one of the most intense moments of the two night season premiere was watching a high power attorney who quit her job to pursue the culinary arts audition for the show. The stakes were clearly high. She’s been out of a job for a long time, so a lot was riding on this opportunity. Basically, the Masterchef premiere came full circle on the emotions wheel. I laughed, I almost cried, I felt anger and happiness and everything in between. With all of these emotions in just the first two episodes of the season, you can count on me to tune in for more drama and more amazing dishes! Chef Graham Elliot Bowles is a joy to have around, Chef Joe Bastianich is more timid, and Chef Ramsay is clearly extremes of both. So I cannot wait to see what the second season of Masterchef brings out of not only the contestants but the chefs. It’s going to be a learning experience for everyone and that adventure amongst the newbies and the experts is one worth watching.

What I Have Learned From Masterchef So Far:
Style means nothing if you can’t cook.
Run away from a restaurant that has (white) truffle oil.

Photo Credit: Greg Gayne/FOX

What is the one thing that you expect every contestant to have?
So, the one thing I expected when they walked into the MasterChef kitchen was determination. Determination with a really ballsy attitude. I think what’s happened over the last 18 months or two years in terms of the disposable income that we haven’t had to go and eat out in restaurants as often as you would like. So, everybody is watching the pennies, everyone is very careful.

So, therefore, we’ll be cooking more at home, and on the back of cooking at home more often, maybe, three, four, or even five times a week, what’s happened, naturally, is they’ve got better. They got more competitive because there’s more TV shows, more magazines, sourcing food is so much more easier. So, them, as individuals came in with a much more so sort of toned ambition. Almost in a way that they wanted to sort of set the bar thoroughly on in the MasterChef kitchen.

How do you think this season’s contestants compare to last season’s group?
This season’s contestants to last group, yeah, fascinating because, obviously, they’ve all seen the show, they all think they’re going to sort of outsmart the judges. We raised the bar. We became more competitive with the mystery box challenges. We had some pretty darned difficult, you know, out of the studio challenges, I mean, really tough, and in some remote locations.

I think they came in better, to be honest, because we had different sorts of cuisines, widespread from a phenomenal sort of lady who cooked Mexican food for her local school, a private school, and they wanted it sort of almost on a daily basis and food to go home as well . When was the last time you heard food from school to be taken home to go?

We had a molecular gastronomy chef that wanted to cook with lots of liquid nitrogen and CO2 and dry ice. He looked like a professor, pushing his cart down. To the most amazing classic American. A phenomenal baker this year as well, which, yeah, my God, the guy’s name was Ben Star, and what an appropriately named surname, Star, because he cooked like a star. I’ve never seen a man stick a carrot cake together with roasted pumpkin and come out as delicious as his did. It was quite mind blowing.

On the difference between professional chefs on Hell’s Kitchen and amateur chefs on MasterChef:
If you asked me that question in three years ago, I would have said that the difference was night and day. Now, hand on heart, the difference is pretty much insignificant and is quite scary in a way on how good the home cooks are becoming. So, it’s a breath of fresh air really that the domestic front can give the professional chefs, me including a boot up the ass.

Why? I’m not saying we got complacent, far from it. But they’re getting good. I mean, they are getting very good. So, they, obviously, had a little bit more time on the hands, but they are obsessed foodies, and I would now confirm that we’re a nation of foodies here.

There was one lady in the competition who actually went to have her knives made to fit her hand. She actually went to a specialist that got the grip focused around her hand. I mean, soccer players get their football boots made to measure, models get dresses and shoes made to measure. You’re having these domestic goddesses now that go and get knives made to fit their hands. I mean, Jesus, I’ve never of that before.

Do you watch any other cooking shows on TV?
I don’t really, but I do, to be totally honest. I tell everybody else I never watch them, but, of course, I do. I’m obsessed with them. Top Chef, because everyone wants to see me on there. Iron Chef, because they want me to go up against Mario Batali. If they can film Iron Chef between midnight and six o’clock in the morning, I’ll be very happy to take them on.

All jokes apart, I do, and I watch them a lot. I quite enjoy the Top Chef, and I quite enjoy the MasterChef Juniors. I mean, to see nine-year-olds and ten-year-olds coming in, especially in the U.K. with that level of bravado and cockiness at the age of ten to say, “Hey, my spaghetti carbonara can knock yours for sticks,” is quite funny.

So, yeah, I’m quite excited about that. Although, Tara, my wife has downloaded on my iPad, Housewives of Beverly Hills and New York City. I mean, I can’t quite believe. I sat on the plane last week, and there it was on my iPad, and she said, “I thought you might want to watch it.” “Ah, no. I’m a chef, darling, I don’t want to see ladies arguing and fighting over a glass of wine to who broke their nail.”

Watch Part 2 of the 2-Night Season 2 Premiere of Masterchef tomorrow night at 8/7c on Fox.