Joe Bastianich, MasterChef Joe Bastianich, MasterChef

Hello again, MasterChef fans,

Monday night's episode proved true the old adage that there's nothing to fear but fear itself. So many poor decisions were made during both the mystery box challenge and the elimination test that were based out of fear and insecurity. From multiple uncooked dishes by Jennifer, Jennie and Alejandra, to that horrible skin-graft crepe cake concoction from Max, the night's mishaps were indeed the lowest of the low since the audition round and left us judges with something we too might have to fear — the outcome of this competition!

Jennifer's plating of raw lamb was by far the worst disappointment and the biggest lapse in judgment.  I meant what I said about sending her home — I was harsh, but necessarily so. Jennifer is a good cook — no way she would have made it this far otherwise, but we are too far along in this competition for such a thoughtless error.  All it took was one comment from Graham, one inquisitive question, and she became unglued enough to second-guess her whole dish.  Though it was not my intention, I'm not sorry I embarrassed her, because maybe that's what it took to get her to wake up and fly right — to perform like I truly believe she can. We judges know what's next in store for our contestants, and there are tougher critics to come than the likes of me.

Alvin was a point of contention between Graham and I  right from the start. I always felt he was faking it a little bit — too many attempts at an advanced technique with no real proof he can handle the basics. I stand by our decision. Molecular gastronomy is not exactly my bag, but I respect it for what it can be in the hands of chefs like Graham or Wylie Dufresne in NYC. It certainly not the first thing you learn in cooking school — and there's a reason for that. Alvin, in my opinion, almost wasted his time on MasterChef by focusing solely on this aspect of cooking. Too afraid he wouldn't stand out, he ended up doing so for all the wrong reasons — and that coffee filling was so bitter and intense it stopped just short of ruining our palates for the day.

Despite some surprising disappointments, especially from Alejandra, (though her ghetto-fab instant coffee whipped cream was pretty tasty) Esther and Tracy were two bright spots that redeemed our faith by wowing us with their nearly perfect desserts. Showing skill with desserts  proves  them well-rounded contenders, but it was  Christine  who by far pulled off the biggest and most impressive surprise of the evening.  I saw that sloppy mess come out of the oven — we all thought for sure it was the end of the line for her — but she really showed no fear, kept her head, and pulled together a truly fantastic mousse in just 5 minutes. She should have started with mousse from the get-go. Imagine what she could have produced in 60 minutes!

We move on Tuesday night with the remaining 14 as they face their second team challenge with Esther and Tracy leading the way. These group challenges definitely separate the men from the boys. You don't see many restaurants with one cook in the kitchen, do you? It takes real teamwork and delegation skills to get a properly executed dish off the line, and after last night's ups and downs we were really at a loss as to what to except.  Can Tracy and Esther effectively manage their teammates? Will Max and Suzy's simmering loathing for each other (we all saw those looks) reach a boil? And don't forget about the seemingly quiet ones.  We didn't hear much from Ben Starr this time around, but crazy has held court here before on MasterChef (David Miller anyone??) so it's still anybody's game.

Tune in for the next MasterChef Tuesday at  8/7c on Fox, and thanks for reading!

Joe