“When I first came here I was a ballet dancer, and now I am in the top four of the best home cooks,” Dino Luciano of Murrieta said, introducing the semifinal.
In selecting the three finalists for this season’s MasterChef, four finalists faced off in a series of timed challenges all focused with using the key ingredient of all-purpose flour. The challengers had the opportunity to compete in one to three skill-based challenges with the goal of getting to safety as quickly as possible by winning the challenge. The winner of each challenge was given a spot in the finale, leaving the remaining contestants to the next challenge.
Starting the skill series, the contestants were given 45 minutes to create three profiteroles with a chocolate ganache glaze. Each contestant had difficulty with the consistency of the ganache.
Luciano struggled with his profiterole because he failed to heat up the heavy cream before mixing his ganache and the white chocolate ganache in his dark profiterole lacked a silky consistency, the judges said. \
Besides commenting on the ganache, Chef Aaron Sanchez complimented the overall taste and the filling, but Luciano’s performance on the first challenge did not win him a spot in the finale, so he continued to the next.
Contestant Jason Wang won the challenge and offered encouragement from the balcony in safety.
With significantly less time, the three remaining contestants were given 25 minutes to create a molten lava cake with a Latin twist.
Using dulche de leche, the chefs were given 11 minutes to prepare before putting their cake in the oven. The lava cakes required about 14 minutes to cook, so contestants were pressed for time. Eboni Henry’s molten cake cooked correctly while contestants Cate Meade and Luciano’s lava cakes crumbled.
As he flipped the cake onto the dish, Luciano’s fell apart due to a lack of flour and limited time in the oven; however, the taste lived up to the skills of a MasterChef, according to the judges.
In the final elimination challenge, the two remaining contestants Meade and Luciano were given 30 minutes to cook three cheese souffles. Staying focused, Luciano attempted to perfect the technique for his souffle batter, cooking five souffles as insurance in case one went wrong.
He placed the tray off center in the oven, which led to a less sturdy rise, but it did not affect the overall souffle in the end, he said. Although he forgot to turn off the heat while cooking the cheese, which left a greasy residue, the remainder of the souffle was nearly perfect.
Judge Sanchez commented on the taste and consistency, and his plate put him in the final seat of the Top 3.
“Everything I’ve ever worked for has paid off,” Luciano said.