After back-to-back episodes from the kitchen to the Malibu vineyards, Dino Luciano advances to the Top 6 of FOX’s MasterChef.
The producers revamped the mystery box challenge with a surprising twist. When contestants opened the box, all that was in it was a pair of chopsticks. Previous mystery box challenges gave the contestants a variety or single ingredient with which they were required to cook. Prior, the contestants would have a preemptive idea based on the ingredients. This time around they were to create a dish that centered on chopsticks. As most contestants used Asian inspiration, Luciano took an array of cuisines and made his own unique dish with the creative freedom from the challenge.
“This dish is inspired by my life, when I stop by three restaurants on the way home,” Luciano said. “I did a Thai peanut yellow curry on top of a clove-infused rice with shrimp and cream cheese with mint-wrapped wonton on top.”
He said the hardest part of the challenge was figuring out how to set up the plate in an elevated fashion. He did not want the presentation to look like his takeout meals, so he took a long plate and placed the rice in a long bed with the Thai curry drizzled on top.
“I took the carrots and roasted it in the oven to create a flower shape. I thinly sliced them and rolled it up to a flower shape and roasted it again before setting it on the plate. It actually looked like a garden,” he said.
Beyond that the peanuts were roasted, and some blended.
The detail in presentation paid off. Luciano won the challenge and was able to sit out of the elimination challenge, thus advancing to the Top 6. The remaining six contestants battled it out in a pasta challenge. Luciano was given the advantage of choosing the shapes of pasta each chef would have to create from scratch for the challenge.
The next episode brought the remaining contestants to a winery for their team challenge. Luciano’s team was led by contestant Jason Wang, and they faced off in a challenge to cook for food critics, writers and chefs in a pop-up restaurant. The kitchen was set outside overlooking the winery, and the contestants were expected to recreate the items from the menu. Those entrees included a shrimp dish, a bourbon-poached lobster, a capellini dish and a fillet mignon dish.
The red team won once again, so Luciano was exempt from the elimination round. His team’s food was consistent and at the right temperature, so the food critics voted in their favor, he said. Other than the typical struggle for time management and assigning roles, Luciano’s team took on the challenge steadily. The blue team recreated a Chef Tosi’s chocolate souffle, and for the first time, no one was eliminated from the round. Six contestants moved onto the next challenge.
“We had a beautiful kitchen set up right there next to Roman archways,” Luciano said. “The entire challenge was built up, and I realized that, when coming on set with a large crew setting up. It was reality check to cook for the people who did this for a living with five other contestants.”
Watch the competition narrow down on MasterChef 8 p.m. Wednesdays on FOX.