Paula Deen brought all the fun, sass, humor, and heart.
Seriously, of all the Legends visiting so far, no one brought that amount of energy and huge personality quite like her. She was a blast to watch interacting with the other judges on MasterChef Season 11 Episode 3, and she brought out the best in those competing too.
She also has the most infectious laugh.
We had some of the liveliest contestants yet, and they perfectly matched the energy that Paula brought to the hour and the process.
Everyone was passionate about their food, the personalities were out of this world, and it was pure entertainment throughout the installment.
It’s a good thing they still had five aprons to hand out. Paula, while filterless, was also someone easily endeared by innovative dishes, fresh faces, and stories that tugged at her heart.
It would’ve been hard to tell Ms. Paula (Aaron’s level of respect for this legendary elder belied his upbringing and was absolutely adorable) that she had to limit herself.
But with the contestants they showed us, nobody would want to do that. Everyone was so special, quirky, and lovable.
They brought out all the southerners too, which spoke to Paula as well. It was hard to pick a favorite person.
Joe was right about Kelsey coming across a bit timid, but her trout dish was far from meek. She delivered a plate that looked ripped right from a culinary magazine.
Her plating was exceptional, and so was her ability to piece together a five-star, elegant dish. She’s damn near producing $50 quality dishes, and the competition isn’t even underway yet.
She deserved the resounding yes that she got, and I look forward to what she does in the future. I especially hope she brings the hunger and grit that Joe was trying to invoke in her.
She was a sweetheart but the least vibrant of the bunch.
Lexy was young, a 23-year-old mom, but she was such an endearing person that it felt as if the judges responded more to her personality, passion, and story than her dish per se.
For starters, she made a burger, and anyone entering the competition with that has their work cut out for them. You have to elevate the hell out of a burger to impress the judges.
Fortunately, Gordon is a burger king (pardon the pun). As long as it was decent, she at least had him in her corner.
Unsurprisingly, Gordon loved it — the goat cheese and Brussels sprouts among the garlic and such won him over instantly. Aarón and Paula were impressed as well, and it was Joe who didn’t think a burger was worth an apron.
But they also responded emotionally to Lexy’s story. She and her husband are a family of four, and according to her, she feeds their entire family off of $40 a week’s worth of groceries.
Chefs like Gordon and Aarón have such incredible, inspiring background stories of their own. It’s not a surprise that they connected with her.
They’re also the two who have a knack for reaching back and giving others opportunities that they were blessed with and helping others rise to their level.
They’re known for giving back, inspiring young aspiring chefs, mentoring, and so much more. We saw another glimpse of that when young Alan served the judges his quesadilla on steroids, and despite his wonderful effort, failed to earn an apron.
I had to give the kid all the credit for even making homemade tortillas in the time frame. Alan had so much passion, and he was such a lovable kid; you wanted to reach through the screen and hug him multiple times.
He was humble, creative, and excited to be there. He did come across young, and you could sense that he didn’t hit his stride yet, but the thought of him walking away empty-handed didn’t feel right at all.
Paula felt it, too, since it broke her heart to say “no” to him; she did it with tears in her eyes. But if she thought she was emotional then, nothing compared to Aarón once again extending the opportunity of a lifetime to an aspiring chef who has potential he can sense.
No, he didn’t get an apron for a competition that he’s in no way prepared for, but what he got was much greater. He’s going to culinary school in New York City with an Aarón Sánchez scholarship.
And that will do far more for Alan than the show ever could. Aarón’s passion and dedication toward providing opportunities to disenfranchised aspiring chefs, especially those in the Latin community, is moving.
Meanwhile, Tay, the radio personality, was speaking to me with this deconstructed apple pie concept. He also was coming for Paula Deen’s heart with a fancy dessert and the use of butter.
His dish had about as much flavor and personality as he did.
His personality was dynamite, and his passion was out of this world, but he elicited some mixed feelings from the judges. But honestly, when you give the dessert of a lifetime to Paula Deen, and she says yes, then it’s all that matters, right?
Mary Jayne came for him on the dessert level, and she also was the most precious quintessential Southern woman ever.
On paper, her Peach Habanero Key Lime pie with Macadamia Crust doesn’t sound as if it should work at all. But she executed it to perfection, showed why she’s the pie queen of her hometown, and the flavors balanced out beautifully.
I want to try this key lime pie desperately! It was so good she made Gordon lick the plate clean, and that was only after he and Paula hoarded most of the dish before Joe and Aarón could even get to it, and all four of them ate every crumb.
Paula may need to watch out. Mary Jayne is the new baking queen on the scene, and while I love the hell out of the bakers, I’m curious how she’ll do with other cooking.
In the meantime, I want to scoop her up and put her in my pocket. She’s so precious, and she’s giving off American Grandma vibes, and basically, Mary Jayne needs to be protected at all costs!
Deen brought more of that classic humor when she couldn’t resist the thirsting over vegan Michael, full-time life coach, and whatever the hell he does that involves sex and food.
I mean, I’m with Paula. I need a conversation about all of this.
He was up against Katheleen, the Italian who served up a beautiful-looking seafood risotto dish. She got an A for her presentation, as it looked like pure perfection.
Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to the hype, and that disappointed me. Kathleen was another person who had a great story, she spent two decades climbing the corporate ladder and succeeding in the tech industry, but her passion was for cooking and food.
Instead, Michael — with the body that made Paula swoon a bit — won the judges over with vegan crab cakes with jalapeno remoulade. Crab cakes aren’t something you’d expect works well as a vegan dish, but Michael managed to pull it off.
Michael has only been vegan for two years, so he’s not opposed to making dishes that aren’t, which may give him a better shot at lasting in a competition like this.
While the auditions were fun, it’s a relief that we’ve moved past this portion and can jump right into the competition. They dragged this portion out too long. Although, they did save the best contestants for last.
Over to you, MasterChef Fanatics. What did you think of the latest contestants? Hit the comments below!
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.