Only four contestants remain in Season 6 of “MasterChef U.S.” -- Stephen Lee, Derrick Peltz, Nick Nappi and Claudia Sandoval. This week, they paired up to form two teams to tackle the ingredients chosen by judges Graham Elliot and Gordon Ramsay. The losing team headed into the pressure test to face judge Christina Tosi’s box of dessert ingredients.
For the team challenge, Nick gets the privilege of picking his teammate after making the best dish in the previous episode. He chooses Claudia and they form the Red Team, leaving bitter rivals Derrick and Stephen in the Blue Team. Nick knows that he and Claudia get along well, and he is hoping that Stephen and Nick will let their alpha male personalities get the best of them in the challenge.
The judges roll out boxes of ingredients and set aside Christina’s box for the pressure test. The two teams pick fortune cookies that contain a judge’s name, which determines which box of ingredients they get. The Blue Team ends up with Gordon’s box, where he had placed some duck, fillet mignon, a rack of lamb, butternut squash, watercress, prawns, morel mushrooms and an assortment of other ingredients.
The Red Team, composed of Nick and Claudia, ends up with Graham’s box, in which they find live dungeness crab, wild salmon fillet, pork chops, heirloom apples, fennel, parsley and a host of other vegetables.
The teams need to prepare an appetizer and entrée out of the ingredients in the boxes that they have been given. They also need to consistently recreate the dishes three times so that the judges get their own plate.
The Blue Team goes for a spot prawn ceviche with a pea and avocado puree for their appetizer. Unfortunately, Derrick messes up the dish by adding pomegranate seeds. He wanted to add color to the presentation but ends up adding an ingredient that doesn’t fit in with the rest of the dish. Luckily for him, the pan-seared duck and squash puree that they chose to cook as their entrée is a home run despite the grainy mushrooms in the sauce.
Meanwhile, the Red Team struggles with the crab broth that they want to make as their appetizer. They change it up into a crab cake and manage to outshine the Blue Team’s appetizer. However, the pan-seared salmon entrée that they presented has the exact same roasted red pepper sauce that they used with the crab cakes. The crispy salmon skin also becomes soggy after Claudia decides to plate its skin side down, and the salmon fillets are undercooked by Nick.
In the end, the Blue Team wins the team challenge and Derrick and Stephen find themselves in the semi-finals. Nick and Claudia enter the pressure test where they have to make Christina’s chocolate malted layer cake, in order to avoid elimination.
The contestants are given only 90 minutes to recreate Christina’s multi-layered masterpiece and Claudia immediately runs into trouble. She fills her molds with too much batter and ends up needing a lot more time to cook them.
She is left with little time to decorate, and isn’t able to frost the cake properly. Christina is impressed with her cake flavor and fluffiness but Graham thinks it’s out of proportion because she didn’t put in enough frosting and marshmallows.
Meanwhile, Nick’s cake looks phenomenal. It is beautiful but not as tall as Claudia’s. He explains that his layers were smaller because he ran out of ingredients. He scaled down the recipe because he didn’t have enough ingredients after he tossed the first batch that he wasn’t happy with.
Christina tastes something in the cake that’s not quite right and Gordon reprimands Nick for adjusting the recipe instead of asking Claudia for extra ingredients. In the end, despite the fact that Nick’s cake looks beautiful, the taste of Claudia’s cake gets her through to the semi finals.
In next week’s 2-hour season finale, Derrick, Stephen and Claudia face off to determine who will be America’s next “MasterChef.” The season finale will air on Wednesday, Sept. 16, at 8:00 pm EDT on FOX.