MasterChef aired their season finale and poker pro David Williams was among the final three home cooks vying for the title of MasterChef plus $250,000 in cash. For this season's finale, three home cooks were picked for the final episode: Brandi Mudd (a teacher and mom from Irvington, KY), Shaun O'Neale (a DJ from Las Vegas, NV), and David Williams (a poker pro, WSOP bracelet winner and single dad, also from Las Vegas). Yeah, the finale was a reality TV producer's wet dream: a small-town perky blonde with a hokey accent vs. a pair of Vegas city slickers.
The first act of the final episode followed the MasterChef hosts as they visited the final three home cooks in their hometowns. Chef Gordon Ramsay and Chef Christina drove out to the middle-of-nowhere Kentucky to find Brandi's provincial town. She's a school teacher, so they visited her school and surprised her students. When asked about her menu for the finale, Brandi said she wanted to stay close to her Southern roots, but focus on plating and demonstrating refined comfort food.
The hosts flew out to Las Vegas to visit the other two home cooks: David Williams and Shaun the DJ. Williams' adorable daughter, Liliana, answered the front door and gave Chef Christina a huge hug. "She grounds me and shows me what I'm fighting for," explained Williams about his motivation to pursue culinary greatness. The producers of Master Chef downplayed the single dad angle...in order to cast him in the villain role. For more background on the vagaries of reality TV, definitely read Williams' thorough Facebook post on the episodes leading up to the finale.
When Chef Ramsay asked how he was doing, Williams responded, "Feeling good. Feeling nervous. Spending a lot time with Liliana. Practice. Practice. Practice."
The judges hung out in Williams' kitchen and inquired about his menu ideas, which included a seafood appetizer, then a poultry dish, followed by a light dessert.
"I want to make sure what I'm doing is impressing you guys," said Williams. "Everything I think of...you've probably already seen it before and it's nothing special. How do you wow the judges?"
Williams said his confidence was shaken and he spent a lot of time doubting his abilities. "Even at this moment I doubt myself. Did I only get there because someone else messed up?" That's the poker pro in DW; someone who replays hands in his head and analyzes hand histories.
Chef Ramsay was quick to reassure him, "You can cook. You're in there for a reason. Don't doubt yourself."
I want to prove to myself and my daughter that I'm the best home cook in America. I've got to do everything I can to create the best menu of my life.
David Williams' mother Shirley and his daughter were on the balcony, along with fellow poker pro Eric “E-Fro” Froelich.
Master Chef finale featured two guest judges – Wolfgang Puck and renowned French chef Daniel Boulud.
The finale consisted of three rounds of dishes: appetizer, main course, and a dessert. The home cooks had an hour to prepare each round. The home cooks got to curate their own menus, so there were no gimmicks, surprises, or Mystery Box Challenges. It was up to the home cooks to demonstrate their high-end culinary skills and their imaginations for the hosts and guest judges.
- BRANDI: Braised Pork Belly with Apricot BBQ Sauce and Squash-Parsnip Puree
- DAVID: Beet-Cured Salmon with Soft Boiled Egg, Filo Dough, Salmon Roe, and Caviar
- SHAUN: Halibut Cheek with Vadouvan Carrot Puree, Pickled Mushrooms, and Uni Foam
David Williams opened with Beet-Cured Salmon with Soft Boiled Egg, Filo Dough, Salmon Roe, and Caviar. "My entire dish hinges on a single simple ingredient -- the basic egg. The egg is what gives it the look, it shows the technique. If this egg is not cooked to perfection for these judges, then my Master Chef dreams will be over in the first round," he noted.
"He has to master the simplicity of cooking an egg," explained Chef Daniel Boulud.
If the eggs were not runny, then his dish would have fallen flat. Alas, the egg was perfect to which Chef Ramsay complimented him… "You got balls the size of ostrich eggs!"
That should be his new Twitter bio: Gordon Ramsay said my balls were the size of Ostrich eggs.
Chef Ramsay and Chef Boulud thought Williams' appetizer looked good, but lacked flavor. However, Chef Wolfgang Puck loved it and appreciated the risk. Chef Puck said it felt like cutting into a bird's nest.
"A well-thought-out dish and not an easy dish to execute," Chef Puck added.
Williams explained that he's not a big salmon eater but his daughter loves the protein, so he wanted to do something for her. When the judges walked around to chat with the home cooks, they noticed Williams was struggling to peel the eggs.
David Williams cut his finger early in food prep. The episode was edited in a way that omitted the details due to time constraints, but Williams confirmed the accident on Twitter. You could clearly see a bandage on his thumb. An early injury did not deter Williams, but it was apparent the nicked finger was impairing his ability to slide the shells off the eggs.
Brandi cooked a Braised Pork Belly with Apricot BBQ Sauce and Squash-Parsnip Puree. She felt as though she had a disadvantage because she didn't eat at high-end restaurants like the Vegas boys, who had many opportunities to feast on fine dining options. She wanted to show that simple southern ingredients could be transformed into high-end cuisine. Chef Ramsay loathed the puree and thought she was crazy for combining parsnips and squash. Ramsay loved the combination of pork belly and raw rhubarb, but the squash-parsnip puree tilted him. Chef Boulud liked it, but Ramsay and Boulud got into an argument in French (without subtitles). No one knew what they were arguing about, especially Brandi who didn't speak a lick of French. Wolfgang Puck joked that they were arguing over how awesome the dish is.
Shaun the DJ served up Halibut Cheek with Vadouvan Carrot Puree, Pickled Mushrooms, and Uni Foam. Shaun tried to show off his high-end skills but Chef Ramsay thought it didn't taste as good as it looked. The strong pickled mushrooms offended Chef Ramsay. Shaun the DJ got cocky and offended Chef Boulud saying that French cuisine had too many rules and that American cuisine was superior because of the lack of rules and restraints. Um, yeah... Shaun pissed all over the history of French cuisine. When Chef Ramsay called him out for being an arrogant prick, Shaun shot back, "It's not arrogance, it's passion."
David Williams thought his opponents' dishes looked too heavy for an appetizer. It seemed like a close race for between Brandi and David Williams for the lead, but clearly Shaun's appetizer was a dud. "I'm on the bottom as far as appetizers go," Shaun lamented.
- SHAUN: Spice-Rubbed Venison with Cipollini Onions, Smoked Plums, Black Truffle, and Fiddlehead Ferns
- DAVID: Cabbage-Wrapped Guinea Hen with Foie Gras, Morel Mushrooms, and Wine Cream Sauce
- BRANDI: Seared Duck Breast with Andouille Greens, Blackberry Demi-Glace, and Ramp Hush Puppies
The home cooks had sixty minutes to whip up their main course. David Williams prepared a classic French dish with a twist... Cabbage-Wrapped Guinea Hen with Foie Gras, Morel Mushrooms, and Wine Cream Sauce. The thumb injury came into play once again for David Williams, as it slowed him down during while prepping and plating his cabbage-wrapped hen.
Williams was not happy with his dish because he could not wrap the cabbage as tightly as he would have liked. As a result, the hen did not cook properly like he envisioned. He knew his dish had flaws and Chef Ramsay was not shy in pointing out the undercooked hen. On the flip side, Williams' sauce was superb according to Chef Boulud. If you can impress a French chef with a sauce, then you're definitely doing something right. The judges all loved the sauce. However, the hen he served to Chef Ramsay was undercooked. Chef Wolfgang Puck adored Williams' dish and asked for more foie gras. Overall, the undercooked hen would bite DW in the arse.
Brandi cooked Seared Duck Breast with Andouille-Greens, Blackberry Demi-Glace, and Ramp Hush Puppies. While the duck itself won some raves, Christina didn't care for the presentation at all. The hush puppies looked dope, though.
Shaun tried to show off with a Spice-Rubbed Venison with Cipollini Onions, Smoked Plums, Black Truffle, and Fiddlehead Ferns. Chef Christina called the dish dream-like. Chef Ramsay thought he could serve that dish at one of his bougie restaurants. Shaun redeemed his crappy app with a strong entree.
Overall, Shaun regained the lead with his venison, which was the best entree of the three. But it would come down to the dessert to determine the next MasterChef.
- BRANDI: Cornmeal Madeleine with Bourbon Caramel Sauce, White Chocolate Mousse, and Glazed Peaches
- DAVID: Stuffed Cherries with White Chocolate Glaze, Cherry Compote, and Cookie Crumble
- SHAUN: Salted Caramel Tart with Dark Chocolate Ganache and Raspberry Coulis
David Williams cooked a stuffed cherry dessert that was inspired by his daughter's favorite fruit: cherries. Williams said, "My plates are beautiful. There's nothing I'd change. I gave it my all. I put my heart and soul in that plate. I focused like I have never have in the MasterChef kitchen and I produced the results."
Williams delivered on the eye candy. The judges loved his visual presentation including the gold popping candy, which the judges noted resembled the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas. Everyone loved the dessert, especially Wolfgang Puck (cherries and chocolate are a German delicacy after all) who called it a "visually stunning dish." Chef Christina gave props to Williams for nailing the classic combo of chocolate and cherries. Chef Boulud said it was so good you wanted to "go back and scrape the plate." However, Chef Ramsay felt that the cherries should be the main focus but despite all the added ingredients, he didn't enhance the natural flavor of the cherries. Leave it up to Ramsay to be the Debbie Downer of the group.
Brandi plated a magnificent-looking Cornmeal Madeleine with Bourbon Caramel Sauce, White Chocolate Mousse, and Glazed Peaches. They loved all the additional elements, but the overall construction of the madeleine came into play. The judges were not blown away with her use of cornmeal, because it made her dessert heavier than it should be.
Shaun opted for a simple tart dessert with Salted Caramel Tart with Dark Chocolate Ganache and Raspberry Coulis. The ever-cocky Shaun felt he nailed it. The tart impressed Chef Christina, who is the dessert connoisseur among the judges. Chef Ramsay nearly jizzed in his pants and called it "fucking delicious."
The dessert round came down to a deadlock between the Vegas boys. With Brandi's underperforming dessert, it appeared that the title of MasterChef and $250,000 would come down to either David Williams or Shaun the DJ.
Shaun was a great chef from day one and he executed and performed in the finale. He deserved to win. I gave everything I had and it wasn't good enough to win.
WINNER WINNER, CHICKEN DINNER
The result was supposedly the closest finish in the history of MasterChef. It was a slim and narrow margin, but the judges picked Shaun the DJ to become America's next MasterChef. Williams crushed the appetizer and dessert, but he barely lost in a close race. In the end, the undercooked hen came back to bite him in the ass.
An emotional Shaun said he was inspired by his father who passed away. He also hinted that he was going to give up the DJ gig and focus on being a chef.
Despite not winning the show, David Williams was a good sport in his final sound bite: “Shaun was a great chef from day one and he executed and performed in the finale. He deserved to win. I gave everything I had and it wasn't good enough to win. I'm happy for my Vegas brother.”
Even though he fell short of winning MasterChef, Williams demonstrated his self-taught culinary skills for some of the most exceptional chefs in the world. He also earned the respect of many of the culinary greats, particularly Wolfgang Puck, who said he picked Williams to win it all and compared him to a high-wire artist.
Congrats to David Williams for an excellent job on this season of MasterChef. He got a ton of shit on social media for losing his temper, but then again, the show's own host Gordon Ramsay is renowned for his emotional outbursts and hurricane of expletives. David Williams is only 35 years old and in a short time, he has excelled in the word of Magic: The Gathering, poker, and now the culinary arts. He's truly a post-modern renaissance man. If David Williams ever gives up poker, he definitely has a potentially bright career as a chef. Sure, Williams' didn't win $250K in cash, but Chef Gordon Ramsay said he had balls the size of ostrich eggs for taking risks with his dishes. That's gotta count for something right?