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Was Masterchef Season 6 Rigged?

Sonia See - March 3, 2016

Half a year later, Masterchef Season 6 made its way onto my screen. Speak of lack of things to watch! Masterchef is a cooking show, starring the “ruthless” Gordon Ramsay, where home cooks fight their way to winning a quarter of a million dollars, a cookbook and the Masterchef trophy (and obviously title). Contestants typically go through four events:

  1. The Mystery Box Challenge.
    Contestants haven’t a clue what’s in the box but have to use the ingredients given in that box in order to win an advantage in the elimination test and they do not have to cook in The Elimination Test.
  2. The Elimination Test.
    The winner of The Mystery Box Challenge gets to choose from a series of options of what to make the other contestants cook or do. This is not limited to choosing the ingredients they cook with, assigning contestants to teams, or even saving contestants. The two winners of this test get to be the leaders of The Team Challenge while the loser goes home.
  3. The Team Challenge.
    Contestants are divided into two teams: the red team and the blue team. Usually held off-site, they have to prepare meals for a large number of people. The winning team is safe from elimination while the losing team goes right to The Pressure Test.
  4. The Pressure Test.
    Members of the losing team have to cook very technical dishes, often assigned to them, to impress the judges. The loser of this challenge goes home.

Masterchef Season 6 saw an incredible pool of cooking talents in the Masterchef kitchen. By the time the Top 10 came around, it was extremely difficult to decide who was the better cook, based on what we were shown on TV. Every contestant had his/her own strengths, some more than others. It was not until the last four contestants that the judgement of the three pillars of Masterchef, Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot and Christina Tosi started to look fishy.

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(Photo: Masterchef, FOX) The top 4 contestants: Stephen, Nick, Claudia, and Derrick.

Derrick Peltz, a stellar drummer turned chef and Stephen Lee, a mouthy gardener who outperformed himself, were safe from elimination, leaving Claudia Sandoval, a single mother passionate about Mexican food and Nick Nappi, the underdog who always managed to produce excellent dishes, to fend for themselves. The challenge, given by Christina Tosi, was to bake and decorate an overly complicated malted chocolate cake in 90 minutes. Both contestants had difficulties – Nick had to adjust proportions and produced a smaller cake while Claudia did not finish decorating her cake. Additionally, it seemed like the frosting between the layers of her cake was lacking.

The three judges tried her cake and all commented that it tasted good, despite the obvious failure at decorating it. When Christina Tosi went to try Nick’s cake (an almost perfectly decorated cake), she nodded, commented about the appearance, did not say another word to him on the taste, went back to the two other judges and said that his cake “had something that was not quite right”. Now, visually, Nick’s cake was a winner and unfortunately, viewers cannot pretend to be able to tell what the cake tasted like. Christina’s move very much looked like she was trying to tell the other two judges to lean towards Claudia. As compared to former instances they judged, they all voiced their opinions out loud, except for this one moment. From there on, it was clear that they had a favorite. This was only confirmed by the finale (let’s conveniently skip the part where Stephen’s steak-frites were better than Claudia’s).

Throughout the competition, Derrick offered viewers a plethora of his culinary abilities. He proved that he was well versed in countless different cuisines and more importantly, he always executed well with a presentation worthy of five-star restaurants. He does not just cook food, he makes art on a plate. The dishes he presented for the finale were nothing short of that. His cooking was the embodiment of finesse and his technique was flawless. He took major risks during the finale. After all, the judges always chant about how it is of the utmost importance to go outside one’s comfort zone in the final stages of the competition and he excelled at that. All the dishes he presented were Masterchef worthy. His whole journey on Masterchef makes him worthy of that trophy …but he did not win it.

masterchef, derrick, rigged, robbed of title, season 6, claudia

(Photo: Masterchef, FOX) The top 4 contestants: Stephen, Nick, Claudia, and Derrick.

Claudia, an equally talented cook, won the competition by making Mexican dishes. Props to her for shining the light on Mexican food and showing a number of ways to elevate simple Mexican food to fine dining. However, all throughout the competition, every time she had free range on what to cook, she made …Mexican or latin food. Does this sound like venturing out of one’s comfort zone? Should a Masterchef not embody diversity (hah!), hence the name Master? Why not rename it NicheChef since they clearly made a major exception for the latina who elevates everyday MEXICAN food.

Though her win was undeserved in the eyes of many viewers, it is not fair to bash Claudia. She did not have a hand in the final say of the three judges. From the very beginning, albeit sticking to her latina roots, Claudia has proven to be a very strong cook. She had a very stable journey, making latin food. Then again, she always said she wanted to stick to her roots and shine the light on latin food. She wanted to be the first latina to win Masterchef and she was. Were she facing a different contestant in the finale, the win would absolutely be hers. She cooks with her heart and soul and it can be seen that she pours some of herself in every dish that she makes.

The unfairness lies in Derrick Pletz being robbed of the opportunity and rewards that he worked so hard for and completely deserved. From a purely technical standpoint, the plates that Derrick presented during the finale were better than Claudia’s. They were better visually, they were riskier and they were all different. Derrick took multiple risks, overcame difficulties and gave the judges something completely new. Claudia put a spin on …you guessed it: Mexican food!

Shows like Masterchef, which serve a fat portion of bias, are a bad example for society. On one hand, it feels like they exploited Claudia’s story – single latin mom struggling to make ends meet. Mind you, there is SO much respect to Claudia to have gotten this far in life based on her determination and passion. If she were not an excellent cook, she would not have been on Masterchef in the first place. She is a PERFECT example of why people should follow their dreams. Sadly, her dreams were achieved at the expense of another talented and more deserving chef on that night. On the other hand, it does send the message that no matter how hard you work, if the judges odds are not in your favor, you are doomed anyway. It is sad that competitions nowadays are more about “who can sell more?” rather than “who is more talented?” …but then again, I am just a viewer judging by the looks.


Quick Cents

The Good
♠ Great show for food enthusiasts.
♠ Fast paced.
♠ Motivates you to be a somewhat more decent cook.
♠ Contestants are entertaining.

The Bad
♠ Fairness can be questioned.
♠ Seems like a commercial show selling people’s stories.
♠ OBVIOUS BIAS.

Where to Watch
Hulu: Find the latest season on Hulu.

Rating: 5/10 ¢

25 comments

  1. I hate to think that pretty much every ‘reality tv show’ like this, especially once based on technical skills and comfort zones such as Masterchef, are slowly becoming pre-planned, fake garbage. As much as I love Gordon Ramsay, I stopped watching after season 5.
    Klyver

    1. I usually stay away from anything reality TV related but I momentarily ran out of things to watch so I watched the Jr version as well as the main one. I was extremely disappointed by what was meant to be a show to propel a home cook forward turned into a “you’re my favorite” game.
      At this point, what’s the use of even having reality TV …if the reality concept is being taken away from it?

      1. I suspect reality TV has always been a bit fixed, but now it seems like the producers aren’t even TRYING to pretend it’s a fair fight. Even Amazing Race can feel manipulated a lot of the time. Like when a producer-favorite pair is last to the mat, and surprise! It’s a non-elimination leg! You know that if it were a blander pair last to the mat, they’d have been out.

        1. Gosh!!! I used to watch the French version of Amazing Race and I would get so mad! The American one is the same. It makes me so angry that nothing is fair anymore – why do people even participate in them anymore if the bias is ever present?!
          I was watching Unreal (on Hulu) the other day and it kinda goes in the behind the scenes of a bachelor type reality show (i’ve never actually watched The Bachelor – i care about brain cells!) and the show hits the nail on how contestants are exploited and manipulated!

  2. We (my husband and I) also thought something was fishy in the quarter final with the cakes challenge. We figured they didn’t want to have only dudes left in the competition.

    We watched the junior season 1 and 2, and then I was fed up with it. It seemed like they had favorite kids right from the start, and of course those particular kids went all the way to the final. It felt fixed the entire run of the series.

    I agree with you: it should be a test of skill, not popularity.

    1. So glad you brought the kid version up! My fiancé was the one who got me into watching Masterchef kids and I was so revolted because as you said, they had clear cut favourites! Where’s the competition if you already have a set winner?!
      I was extremely upset with the results of that final. I don’t understand how the show can progress with the audience (some of it anyway) realising how rigged it is. It’s unfair and a slap in the face to the other contestants!

      1. So much yes! It’s one thing to rig the contest in favor of adults. It’s quite another to subject kids to that kind of unfairness.

        I also didn’t like how all the kids were from either New York or L.A. in the first season. And not the “regular” parts of L.A., but the wealthy ‘burbs, where only rich white kids live. (I’m from L.A., so I was interpreting for my Canadian husband: “Palos Verdes. Another spoiled rich kid.”)

        I quit that show after the second season wasn’t much better than the first in terms of despicable rigging and cruelly disillusioning children.

        1. OMG!!! YESSSS …We watched the last season and I said that to my fiancé …I was like “Can’t you see that all of them are from super rich areas?” They all look like they are from wealthy families! It’s extremely unfair. What about the kid around the corner who cooks amazing even without fancy equipment?! I don’t like how these shows pretend they are giving people opportunity when they’re just using the people who are already privileged!

  3. Masterchef is one of our favorites, but this past season was messed up! We were sure from about the halfway point that the final two were going to be Derrick and Stephen. It just seemed like a lock. They even had that competitive thing going on most of the season. I was really surprised when Claudia won. The best we could come up with was that they believed her cookbook would sell the most out of the final 4. I personally think Stephen’s book would have been amazing.
    I’m certain she can cook circles around me, but she was clearly not the best chef that season.

    1. I absolutely agree with you! I was so disappointed. Claudia should have gone home during the cake test …I’m not a 5 star baker but I reckon Nick’s cake could not have been worse than Claudia’s. His layers were even and his cake just look so much more appetising.
      Stephen was so enjoyable to watch all throughout the season. He is a cook that showed true progress. Derrick has been stellar from the very first episode – sure he’s had some hiccups but the guy has been in almost every pressure test!!!
      My fiancé and I both think the same – Claudia won because they thought her book would sell more. Oddly enough, I would’ve actually gone out to buy Stephen or Derrick’s book.
      They are the true masterchefs!

  4. I thought it was. I remember being very visibly annoyed when the finale was aired. The point is that it is Masterchef and Claudia never pushed the limits. Sure, she pushed the limits of Mexican cooking but she did not apply the same to rest of the cuisines. If you have ever watched Masterchef Australia, in season 6 Laura (the italian chick) really pushed it. She was winning because of her Italian flavor and style but she also produced some ground breaking Japanese dishes (I don’t even know how I remember this). All in all Masterchef USA is (in my opinion) not worth the watch (though I do catch myself watching it at times) if cooking competition shows are what one is looking for, Australia (even juniors) is a much better option and there is one hilariously annoying show on TV; cupcake wars or better yet if kitchen gore is what you are looking for, just watch Hell’s kitchen 😉

    1. Cupcake wars make me want to reach through the TV and push the judges off their chairs or something. I utterly dislike the judges, they sound so snobby! Hell’s kitchen gives me a headache – tried it (again) the other day and I had to take Tylenol.
      I actually might give Masterchef Oz a try!

      1. AHAHAHA yeah but it is equally annoying as Masterchef US. Both the shows (cupcake wars) have weirdly glossy screens. But Oz is definitely worth a try I love it 🙂

  5. Hi Sonia! Thanks for stopping by my blog!

    I haven’t seen this particular cooking show, but Cutthroat Kitchen is crazy! How could anyone possibly win if they’re forced to turn a pan upside down and cook an omelet on it? It’s kind of irritating to watch a judge critique the food when he doesn’t even know what the chef just went through, although I enjoy the aspect of someone taking the Pop Tarts that have been forced on them and making them into a crust. 😀

    1. Cutthroat Kitchen makes me SO edgy!!! I’m either annoyed at the sabotage or just too shocked to react! Why do they even have shows like that?!
      I really liked your post about the oscillating fan! It made me chuckle haha

      1. Thank you! 😀 A dear friend of mine has cancer and was able to come over to visit. I was doing a search I think for the movie “Home” to watch with her when I saw “Oscillating Fan” and I just about died laughing. She was quite amused as I started taking pictures and trying to document whether the ice melts a significant amount or not.

        Yeah, I can only watch a little bit of Cutthroat at a time. My kids love to watch it, but I’m sitting here thinking, “Which one of you cooks the best under normal conditions?”

  6. I will watch anything Gordon puts on TV, but I refuse to watch MasterChef Junior…because they get help from adults and it completely ruins the show for me!
    And yeah, at one point during credits it says something along the lines of “Producers have a say in who stays and goes”…

    1. In that case, it can be argued that adults are helped too, especially in cases where contestants are unfairly eliminated to boost other contestants!

      1. Yup!
        Derrick definitely was the obvious winner…until it was announced.

        Another show, which I stopped watching because they picked “Who’d get us the best ratings/most money” over “Who was the most like what the show wanted” was America’s Got Talent.
        Season 6 had a “Sinatra impersonator” win, and while he was very talented, the show advertises as “looking for fresh new acts”…and they sent Sinatra to Vegas…which is highly unoriginal.

        1. I only watch Britain’s Got Talent. I don’t think I’ll ever give the American one a try given that most of the shows are manipulated in some way (EVEN the talent shows like X Factor, The Voice, etc).

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