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MasterChef Season 9 premiere recap: 15 of top 24 home cooks revealed

Olusola Ogbomo on MasterChef
Olusola Ogbomo making her dish on the MasterChef Season 9 premiere. Pic credit: Fox

MasterChef Season 9 began on May 30 with a two-hour premiere on Fox, featuring both Episode 1 and Episode 2. The cooking competition returned with a new panel of judges and 43 home cooks hoping to win the MasterChef title.

Host and award-winning chef Gordon Ramsay, acclaimed chef Aarón Sánchez, and renowned restaurateur Joe Bastianich are the judges this season. As explained in the long introduction to the episode, there is a big MasterChef twist this time around.

It was revealed that each judge got to hand out eight aprons to home cooks they wanted to mentor from this season. From the group of 43 home cooks that walked through the doors at the beginning of the episode, a top 24 will get selected during the two two-hour episodes airing on May 30 and June 6.

The introduction from Gordon Ramsay, Aaron Sanchez, and Joe Bastianich can be viewed here:

It was then time to open the doors to the backyard, allowing the 43 hopefuls to walk in and prepare themselves to “do battle.” The judges explained to the home cooks how the season would work. Joe noted that the winner would be walking away with $250,000 and the title of MasterChef.

The revelation of the apron by Gordon got a loud ovation. It got quiet when he talked about how much harder this season was going to be for the competitors. Explaining the concept of the season a bit further, Joe stated that the judges would be offering spots to the home cooks. He also noted that the possibility was there that more than one judge could covet one of them. At that point, they would have the opportunity to choose among the mentors.

Friends and family of the home cooks entered the backyard after the opening speech. From there, it was time to get cooking. Each of the 43 contestants would be cooking a signature dish to impress the judges — and would have to prove that they belonged on the show this season.

Jannie Lam, Emily Hallock, and Bowen Li

The first three cooks brought inside were making dishes with beef as the star. Jannie, Emily, and Bowen had the added pressure of stepping into the spotlight first. Jannie made Cambodian beef skewers with green papaya pickle. Aaron and Joe liked it, while Gordon noted that he felt it needed some heat.

Emily went with a filet mignon over fondant potato. Gordon liked it, Joe was not pleased with the garlic and onion powder, and Aaron liked it but noted it needed more acidity.

Bowen made lion’s head meatball. Gordon said it looked weird but tasted delicious, Aaron said the beef had a beautiful texture while tasting it, and Joe said it was very, very flavorful.

When it came to assigning aprons, Aaron saw nobody he wanted to give an apron to. Joe then gave an apron to Bowen. He also gave one to Emily. When Gordon was up, he also offered an apron to Bowen. Bowen ended up going with Gordon as his choice of mentors. Jannie had to leave the competition.

Cynthia Smith-Allen Bey and Shanika Patterson

Cynthia and Shanika were up next, tasked with preparing a signature dessert. Cynthia made a strawberry shortcake with lemon-mint strawberry puree. All three judges had problems with the dish. Shanika made a bitter French kiss with puff pastry. She used goat cheese as the filling. While Joe and Gordon remained silent, Aaron said that he was impressed.

Cynthia was offered no aprons, while Shanika received aprons from both Gordon and Joe. In the end, Shanika selects Joe as her mentor.

Sid Hoeltzel and Julia Danno

Following the dramatic decision Shanika had to make, it was time for a montage of people getting denied by the judges. A series of cooks were paraded across the screen, with a summary given of the only ones who made it forward from those groups. Gordon handed out his second apron to Sid and Aaron handed out his first apron to Julia.

Samantha Daily and Mark Ingraham

30 minutes were given to Samantha and Mark to prepare a signature dish of their choosing. Mark was very confident speaking to the judges and they were quite impressed with his knife skills. Aaron liked the style that Samantha was undertaking while working with multiple pans at the same time.

Samantha made a chicken piccata with potato puree. Aaron noted that she had a beautiful color on her chicken, giving a lot of compliments about the meat, but noted that she didn’t cook off the wine enough. Gordon agreed with the color and stated it was flavorsome. Then, Joe made jokes about the strong taste of wine.

Mark prepared pan-roasted lamb chops with crispy potato cauliflower puree. Gordon was frustrated that the lamb was undercooked and that the cauliflower tasted like butter. Joe was less kind, telling him he needed to go to culinary school. Aaron stated that he had a lack of imagination with the dish.

Joe and Aaron kept their aprons to themselves, but Gordon decided to hand his third apron to Samantha. Mark, while looking flashy while preparing, didn’t follow through with a good dish. Just as Mark was about to leave, Joe pulled him aside and offered to invest in him this season. Mark took the opportunity, agreeing to follow direction. Mark walked out with an apron.

Taylor Waltmon, Ralph Xavier Degala, and Chelsea Sargent

Taylor was on MasterChef 7 and MasterChef 8 but stated that it lit a fire to make it back a third time. Taylor, Ralph, and Chelsea are all from Houston, helping raise the stakes to have them compete against one another. They were given 30 minutes to complete their signature dishes.

Chelsea made lamb shawarma pita with fattoush salad and hummus. Joe and Gordon said that the dish was good. Gordon said it was a bit messy. Aaron asked her if she thought it was good enough to get an apron from him. She said “yes.”

Ralph made Filipino pancit with noodles, shrimp, and vegetables. Gordon said the shrimp was delicious but the noodles were oily, Aaron thought it was also oily but seasoned well, and Joe asked about other dishes he could make. Ralph said he could make fresh handmade pasta. That perked up Joe.

Taylor made a pulled tomatillo chicken with rice crema, egg, and aji salsa. Aaron complimented her a lot on the dish, Joe said it was really rich, and Gordon stated that the dish was “bloody good.”

Gordon gave an apron to Taylor, Joe gave an apron to Ralph, and Aaron gave an apron to Chelsea. All three Houston home cooks are moving on.

Olusola Ogbomo and Mark Myers Jr.

When Olusola and Mark entered the kitchen, they were told Aaron had six aprons left, Joe had four, and Gordon also had four. Olusola talked about being a bus driver back home, while Mark was used to the pressure, as he is a firefighter. They both seemed very confident in the kitchen.

Olusola prepared jerk snapper with coconut rice and sauteed cabbage. Gordon noted how Olusola was tasting everything she put in the dish. Gordon said she nailed the fish, Joe said he liked the cabbage a lot, and Aaron was impressed with the exotic spices.

Mark tackled buttermilk biscuits with gravy and sausage roux. The judges appeared worried the dish wasn’t one for this show. All three judges loved the flavor of the dish, but Gordon thought the biscuit was doughy and Joe said the biscuit was raw.

All three judges offered Olusoloa an apron, putting her on the spot to pick between the three egos. She went with Joe. As for Mark, none of the judges offered him an apron, meaning his time in the kitchen had come to an end.


An extended montage of chefs who failed to impress the judges was shown. Cook after cook got sent out the front door, taking the episode into the final 25 minutes. At that point, Aaron still had six aprons left to give out. When the final four contestants entered the kitchen, it had to leave some viewers confused about what they were going to do with those extra aprons.

Cesar Cano, Matt Houck, Ryan Cortez, and S.J.

The final four home cooks were given 40 minutes to construct their dishes. There were still a lot of aprons on the line as Cesar, Matt, Ryan, and S.J. began cooking their dishes.

Cesar made pan-seared red snapper with orange guajillo beurre blanc on crispy rice cake. All three judges complimented the dish, with Aaron stating that the dish transported him.

Matt prepared a pan-roasted cod with turnip puree and pickled carrot. Joe said he had a great cook on the fish, Aaron said he loved it, and Gordon said that Matt “nailed it.”

Ryan made baked catfish with dirty rice and bacon-wrapped haricots verts. All three judges enjoyed the dish, with Aaron even said the cooking was perfect. Joe noted that it was too rustic for his tastes.

S.J. prepared panko-crusted cod with honey butter chips and cucumber kimchi. The judges all enjoyed his dish as well, with Gordon saying that he nailed it.

When it came time to give out the aprons, Aaron said he was giving out three. They went to Cesar, S.J., and Ryan. Joe gave out one apron to Matt when it was his turn. Gordon then gave aprons to S.J. and Cesar. This put S.J. and Cesar in a position to select their own mentor. S.J. chose Gordon and Cesar chose Aaron. All four cooks left with an apron from this group.

That brings an end to the MasterChef May 30 episode recap. 15 of the spots in the top 24 have been filled, with the rest (nine) to be filled next week (June 6). Does one of these cooks have what it takes to join Masterchef 2017 winner Dino Angelo Luciano?

MasterChef airs Wednesday nights at 8/7c on Fox.