Masterchef: United Tastes of America: The Wild Wild West Brings All Quirk, Some Talent!

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It’s time for the West Coast, Baby!

The competition is heating up, and they brought things over to the west side, on MasterChef Season 13 Episode 3, as the regional battle continued with contestants from Hawaii and Cali to Utah duking it out for one of those coveted aprons.

And befittingly, the West Coast brought us some very quirky individuals.

With a new region to explore, the Masterchef judges chose a great guest judge with James Beard Award nominees Susan Feniger.

And some of you will be pleased to know that the contestants that competed and those who were chosen didn’t just hail from California.

The Wild West Delivers Everything

One of the exciting parts about regional exploration is that it considers how genuinely diverse the country is.

We have one of the most diverse ecosystems of the globe, and that’s often reflected from one corner of the U.S. to the next.

The West Coast alone has such a truly diverse landscape and agriculture, from mountainous regions to valleys and deserts. They have the ocean to contend with as well.

And with such a wide range of agricultural effects, it’s reflected in the food, what’s produced, and the signature dishes that become staples.

And make no mistake; we got a glimpse of that with these contestants and the dishes they produced. We also got such a deliciously strong flavor profile that it makes you want to reach through the screen and devour everything in sight.

And it was genuinely exciting that they recognized that the West doesn’t just consist of the continental U.S. either; Alaska and Hawaii showed up and showed out!

A Lil’ Tough Lovin’

Seriously, as we noted during Masterchef Season 13 Episode 2, the judges are very critical and not playing around this season.

They’re all very excited about this premise and ensuring they get the best contestants for a fantastic season.

We’re at lucky number 13 with seasons, so they’re not holding back on their criticism, and the goal is to continue outdoing the seasons before.

But are these contestants the ones to do it?

They’re certainly off to a very strong start, and with this batch of individuals representing the West, they’re also off to an interesting start.

Joe and Gordon keep rotating with which of them will be “The Heavy,” they’re typically the hold-out votes, making or breaking a person’s shot at heading to the next level in this competition.

But that’s not to say Susan and Aarón weren’t hitting it where it hurt a few times. They weren’t as flashy or brutal with their critiques or “No” as Joe and Gordon, but they sure as heck weren’t mincing any words either.

Ahead of the Pack

No, we’re not talking about Teen Wolf.

Teachers are essentially the heart and soul of this country, but they may be the same with this competition too. Lizzie, the preschool teacher aide from Alaska, seems genuinely sweet as pie and ready to take anything on.

If the good sis can handle a gaggle of toddlers, she can put up with Gordon and Joe and run circles around the competition. I’m just saying.

A Fairbanks native, it was cool to hear her talk about how she found a love of cooking while dealing with those dark days back home.

And honestly, I don’t know how all of you Alaskans go without Sun for that long out of the year. But if anything will bring you comfort while you’re listening to bears and moose in the distance and its pitch black at noon, it’s cooking.

Her first kudos in my book was serving up a fish dish that wasn’t Salmon. Salmon is the first fish that comes to mind when you think about Alaska, and it would’ve been too on the nose.

It also would’ve subjected her to more scrutiny because of that.

Instead, she made a gorgeous oven-roasted halibut with a cauliflower puree, and the mere sound of that suggests that she knows what a restaurant-worthy dish is.

Her plating was great, and Joe and Susan loved the overall look of her dish and the flavors of it.

Aarón loved the dish’s earthiness, and it did appear to have that quality, but I definitely had to side with Gordon, our Halibut King, as evidenced by Hell’s Kitchen, on the plating. The white-on-white food with the halibut, mushroom, and lemon generally falling under the same coloring made the dish look washed out and didn’t pop enough.

But aside from that, it was a strong enough dish for her to get that apron, and I’m glad we got an Alaskan in the competition!

Also, when Joe says your dish is worth being copied, it just doesn’t get any better, right?

Our next front runner was sexy, hot mama Amanda, the stay-at-home mom who decided that NOW was her time to shine.

Listen, Amanda is gorgeous and seems like she should be on one of those Real Housewives shows.

She also seems like the type of mom that lowkey makes the other moms jealous, but she is an excellent cook, too, so you kind of want to hate her, but you can’t because her food tastes too good.

I’m all for moms finding their own passions outside of their kids, so it made it easy to root for her.

And then she produced a herb-crusted halibut dish with fennel and pickled purple cauliflower, and that sounded and looked just pretentious enough to impress the judges, and it freaking did.

It was so quintessentially Cali that all I could do was smirk. Also, a girl really loves some fennel, and I could practically smell how delicious that dish was through the screen.

Naturally, it wasn’t a complete slam dunk for Amanda, as Aarón said it was too sweet of a dish with too many onions and aggressive levels of fennel, and sometimes Aarón is just wrong because how can there ever be too much fennel and onions?

Anyway, Cali’s mom got through, so we’re good!

From there, our frontrunners got quirkier and more heartwarming, and I may or may not want to hug people.

One of my personal favorites was M.D., and we’re calling her that now since she’s so much more than Madame Doughnut.

She basically had me at bright colored hair, her vibrant persona, and being from Hawaii.

My fingers were crossed the whole time that she’d produce something magical because this show NEEDS her kind of energy, okay?

And M.D. didn’t disappoint with a more traditional choice of Ahi Tuna Masubi but with her skills on full display.

I will dream about how pretty and delicious that dragonfruit dressing was, and it’s good to know that M.D. may be a secret weapon that can both cook her bum off and bake too!

We love a double threat!

She walked away with four yeses, that white apron, a new nickname because Gordon would NEVER call her “Madame Doughnut,” let’s be real, and our hearts.

Mahalo for representing Hawaii so well, M.D.

Kennedy slid into the competition very much, giving Ashley Spinelli from Recess with the hat, but her energy was so infectious and sweet.

We got someone from Colorado holding it down for the WEst, and she shared that she basically lives in a freaking school bus, and it looked so awesome, so you know this woman is just too cool for words.

Breaking up the monotony with similar protein dishes, she went big and actually gave us some gamey meat for a change, which was refreshing.

Her elk dish with a blueberry compote and rainbow carrots looked divine, and her plating skills were rather impressive, if not a bit unexpected.

Despite choosing one of the more challenging proteins to nail, she absolutely slayed the cook on it, and Gordon was damn near beaming with pride.

Kennedy may be one to look out for from the West Coast crew because she’s so unassuming.

And finally, James had me clutching my heart with his Glorious Gloria Crabcakes serving as a tribute to his late mother.

Hailing from Portland, Oregon, again, it was nice to have more diversity in West Coast states represented this time rather than everyone coming from the same general area.

And he was such a lovely and warm soul that you wanted him to win well before his food proved that he could hack it with the rest.

His perfectly sized crabcakes looked positively delectable, and someone must be cutting onions because my eyes were watering from the mere thought of his mother watching him succeed like this.

The Flops (Respectfully)

Remember when we said many quirky things were happening with the West contestants?

None more than the Salmon Queen, who couldn’t even create an edible salmon dish that properly featured her favorite fish.

What was going on there?

Gigi was fun, no doubt, and anyone who gets the word “Salmon” tattooed on their lower lip is committed, and that’s respectable.

However, she was a bit too unconventional for this competition, and her Spicy Salmon Tostadas were far too light on actual salmon and flavor to earn her an apron.

To put it kindly, it was an imbalanced dish, so they sent her packing.

Tyson from Utah was one of the more upsetting losses. His heart was in the right place, and you could tell he really wanted this.

He also attempted to pull off something big by baking a scone, a Utah Scone, he called it, in such a short period.

It’s an impressive feat, but his costly mistake of not salting his dough ended his shot before it ever got to take off or go anywhere, which is unfortunate.

It genuinely sucks when the minor mistakes are what hem you up.

Megan from Washington by way of Wyoming also attempted to go bold with a dessert, and you wanted her to get farther than she did because she was willing to take that risk.

She even had the cute kid cosigning her expresso custard dessert.

But no child is a match for a cranky Joe, so she had to take those “no’s” and go home. I truly hated to see it!

Sadly, by the time we saw the surfer kid with the soggy fish taco made of halibut cheek, it was evident he wouldn’t get anywhere.

You can’t make a soggy taco and present it to Aarón of all people like it’s a quality dish. Baby, no!

Can we ban tacos for at least a season?

It’s a setup for failure at this point.

The West Coast may not be the Best Coast, but they were entertaining as hell!

But that’s what we think. Now it’s time to tell us what your impressions were.

Sound off below, Masterchef Fanatics!

Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is an insomniac who spends late nights and early mornings binge-watching way too many shows and binge-drinking way too much tea. Her eclectic taste makes her an unpredictable viewer with an appreciation for complex characters, diverse representation, dynamic duos, compelling stories, and guilty pleasures. You’ll definitely find her obsessively live-tweeting, waxing poetic, and chatting up fellow Fanatics and readers. Follow her on Twitter.

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