‘MasterChef’ Recap: ‘Back to Win’ chefs unleash their inner herbivores for a vegan challenge

MASTERCHEF: L-R: Joe Bastianich, Aarón Sánchez and Gordon Ramsay in the “Back to Win: Gordon Ramsay Loves Vegans!” episode airing Wednesday, July 13 (9:01-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2022 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: FOX.

Welcome back to "MasterChef" recaps! In episode 7, "Gordon Ramsay Loves Vegans!," the chefs ditch meat and dairy. Will they raise the stakes? Let’s find out! Miss a week? You can read our recaps and watch On Demand, on FOXNow, on Hulu and on Tubi, FOX’s free streaming service. This television station is owned by the FOX Corporation.

Gordon Ramsay begins this week’s "MasterChef" by teasing a "shocking truth," a secret that he says is "so big" he’s scared to say it on national television. He declares it will set the cooks on a challenge "no one saw coming." That secret? He enjoys vegan food. It’s an amusing reveal from a chef who made his name on Beef Wellington, undercut somewhat by the episode’s title being "Gordon Ramsay Loves Vegans!" 

After some flashbacks in which Gordon lambasts bygone chefs for serving him veggie-forward dishes — he’s not a rabbit, you know — our fearless leader demonstrates his newfound love for vegan cuisine by preparing a Beet Wellington. Swapping out a hunk of beef for a vibrant beet, he wraps the red vegetable in a crepe made from beet greens and chives, then wraps it again in a vegan pastry brushed with a chickpea brine. It’s always a memorable "MasterChef" when Gordon gets to cook, a reminder that, despite hosting three dozen different shows, he’s still a natural over the stove. 

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The challenge is obvious: Make a vegan dish using ingredients from "the ‘MasterChef’ garden" — less a garden than a relocated Whole Foods produce section — and a pantry that’s been restocked with vegan-friendly ingredients like tofu, miso and nut milks. As Aarón reminds us, "This genre of food is very hard to execute." He’s not wrong. Vegans crave substance and texture as much as your standard omnivores; the mark of a great vegan chef is someone who can conjure up the sumptuousness of meat and cheese dishes while working with ingredients that are infinitely more delicate. The chefs will want this win, though: Immunity is back on the table and the loser will leave the competition. 

"MasterChef: Back to Win": Beet the best that you can beet


MASTERCHEF: Contestant Samantha in the "Back to Win: Gordon Ramsay Loves Vegans!" episode airing Wednesday, July 13 (9:01-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2022 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: FOX.

Some chefs are thrilled by the challenge. Shelly, for example, wants to make a Peruvian curry dish with tofu that she often makes for her daughter, who she’s raised as a vegetarian. Amanda, too, says this challenge was made for her, noting that her Lebanese-inspired cooking leans vegetarian. Her falafel dish, she says, is inspired by a recipe her grandmother taught her. Bowen, too, exudes confidence, given that his restaurant back home has a full vegan menu. He plans to pair a scallop-style tofu preparation with a mango and coconut risotto. Joe, as ever, is skeptical. 

Others are decidedly less enthusiastic. Willie and Brandi are quick to declare themselves out of their element, as does Shayne, who, despite winning the vegan challenge on his season of MasterChef Junior, longs for an icy bucket of turkey legs.

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Derrick has something to prove. He’s been cruising in the middle throughout the competition and wants to finally score a big win. "I’m not here to skate by," he says. "I’m here to win." His idea? Flatter the host. Taking a cue from Gordon, he works to reimagine a beef tartare as a beet tartare. Fred, too, is feeling the pressure. He won his apron with a vegan dessert and Joe has "sky-high expectations." 

"MasterChef: Back to Win": That drip


MASTERCHEF: L-R: Contestant Christian with Gordon Ramsay in the "Back to Win: Gordon Ramsay Loves Vegans!" episode airing Wednesday, July 13 (9:01-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2022 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: FOX.

"This is, like, super ambitious," Joe says of Fred’s tofu gnudi, which swims in a spicy mapo sauce popular in Sichuan cooking. Unfortunately, the judges see the slips in Fred’s technique as they coast from table to table. Joe is also skeptical of Samantha’s stuffed potato pancake, a dish inspired by her favorite pierogi shop. "Mysterious!" he declares while eyeing her table. The look he gives her, however, is not nearly as withering as the one he gives Shayne, who’s dramatically undersalted his risotto arancini. 

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Joe and Aarón are much more impressed with Shanika, who is making vegan mozzarella from scratch for her caprese salad. "Look at that drip!" she says, holding up her cheese-laden stirring spoon. Very impressive, indeed. Dara, too, is praised for utilizing jackfruit — a favorite among vegans for its meaty texture and flavor absorption — and making mandarin pancakes for her taco shells. 

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Shanika and Dara don’t make the top three, however. That honor goes to Derrick, Amanda and Bowen. Joe positively swoons over Derrick’s beet tartare, which he calls "a crowd pleaser, a money maker and a winner." Aarón is swept away by his daring pairing of beets and avocados, not the most natural of bedfellows. Gordon’s only note? A "touch of chile" and it would be just about perfect. He doesn’t win, but Derrick remains thrilled to have finally made it to the top of a challenge.

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Bowen’s tofu scallops also fall short, mainly due to the overkill of his mango and coconut risotto, which Gordon deems superfluous. Still, all of the judges compliment his technique — Joe calls the dish a "triumph of textures" — even if they seem to admire the plate more than they love it. 


MASTERCHEF: L-R: Contestant Gabriel with Gordon Ramsay in the "Back to Win: Gordon Ramsay Loves Vegans!" episode airing Wednesday, July 13 (9:01-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2022 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: FOX.

Amanda takes home the win, despite the simplicity of her falafel. Joe calls it "perfect," but he ponders if a perfect falafel is enough to win immunity. Turns out it is, its simple pleasures belie the intricacy of its components. Gordon calls it "street food elevated to restaurant quality." Immunity is hers.

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As high as the highs were in this challenge, the lows are somehow lower. Gordon, Aarón and Joe are acid-tongued in their critiques of Shelly, Samantha and Fred’s dishes. Shelly’s tofu curry is described as a "nightmare," with the judges calling it "slightly anemic," "bare" and "unfinished." Fred’s gnudi is also lambasted, with Gordon comparing its stuff-in-a-bowl presentation to what’s served up on "MasterChef Junior." Furthermore, the judges ding it for being too salty, lacking in texture and tasting as if it came from a can. "Technique really let you down," Joe says. His saving grace, Aarón notes, is in the eggplant, which he describes as "perfectly cooked." 

As for Samantha, Gordon snarks that her stuffed potato pancake is like something he’d find in a frozen food section. Joe grumbles about it being "like one component out of four on a mediocre breakfast or brunch plate." Aarón calls it "boring." Just brutal stuff. 

As the judges deliberate, Samantha and Fred debate what’s worse: Having your food called "canned" or "frozen." The answer, we soon find out, is "frozen." Samantha is eliminated and a sigh echoes throughout the ‘MasterChef’ kitchen; tonight, they’ll all be sleeping next to a rack of ribs. 

Dish of the night

Amanda’s falafel looked deeply satisfying, but I was surprised to see no love for Michael’s dessert, a coconut and key lime panna cotta with vegan donuts. It was colorful, artfully plated and appeared to hit the plate without a hitch. Of course, we viewers have no choice but to eat with our eyes. 

Next week on "MasterChef"

Top Chef alum Tiffany Derry swings by for a fusion challenge in which the chefs have to honor international cuisines via Southern cooking techniques. Bon appetit and bless their hearts.

"MasterChef" airs Wednesdays on FOX. The first six episodes are also currently available to stream on Hulu. Recaps run weekly, and you can read them all below.

Season 12, episode 1: "Back to Win: Audition Battles"
Season 12, episode 2: "Back to Win: Audition Battles (Part 2)"
Season 12, episode 3: "Back to Win: Audition Battles (Part 3)"
Season 12, episode 4: "The Dish That Sent You Home"
Season 12, episode 5: "Mystery Box: Spirit of Vegas"
Season 12, episode 6: "Feeding the U.S. Coast Guard"

Binge next: "Mary Berry’s Absolute Favorites"

Mary Berry’s Absolute Favorites (2014): "Great British Bake-Off" icon Mary Berry cooks up comfort food in her cozy kitchen, casually coaxing curious cooks into concocting Berry’s favorite recipes. (No, we will not apologize for any of that alliteration.) One season, eight episodes.

How to watch "MasterChef"

"MasterChef" airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. EST on FOX. You can also watch On Demand or stream online via FOXNow.All 12 seasons of the show, including the first six episodes of the current season, are streaming on Hulu. And there’s a whole world of "MasterChef" streaming free on Tubi, including beloved series "MasterChef Junior" and several international editions. 

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