‘MasterChef’ season 12 episode 2 recap: All-Stars return and compete for Top 20 spot in ‘Back to Win – Audition Battles (continued)’ [UPDATING LIVE BLOG]

Season 12 of “MasterChef” is all about redemption, when All-Star competitors from the last 11 seasons return to the show to see if they have learned from their past mistakes. For the first time ever, “MasterChef” is re-opening the door to some of the most memorable and talented cooks in the competition’s history, including two “Junior Edition” cooks now competing as adults! Judges Gordon Ramsay, Aaron Sanchez and Joe Bastianich return.

40 chefs get called back to audition, but only 20 will claim a coveted white apron. The returning chefs compete in groups of four in head-to-head audition battles. In each round, the two chefs that create the most impressive comeback dish will secure their spot in the Top 20. Below, read our minute-by-minute “MasterChef” recap of Season 12, Episode 2, titled “Back to Win – Audition Battles (continued),” to find out what happened Wednesday, June 1 at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT. Then be sure to sound off in the comments section about your favorite aspiring chefs on Fox’s reality TV show and who you think has what it takes to join the winners list.

8:00 p.m. — “Previously on ‘MasterChef!” In last week’s episode, three battles were shown and six places in the Top 20 were taken by Brandi from Season 7, Derrick from Season 6, Emily from Season 9, Shanika from Season 9, Christian from Season 5 and Amanda from Season 6. Which cooks from today’s episode will move one step closer to  winning the “MasterChef” title, a $250,000 grand prize, a complete Viking kitchen and that beautiful trophy? Let’s find out!

8:08 p.m. — The first battle tonight is set: Willie from Season 5, Derrick Season 2, Tommy from Season 6 and Micah from Season 10. Each of them finished in 7th place on their respective seasons. Since his season of “MasterChef,” Willie has become an executive chef and started a catering business. Derrick has become a chef at one of the busiest restaurants in New York City. Tommy has done morning cooking shows and become a brand ambassador in the Netherlands. Micah has worked in two Michelin star restaurants and studied baking for one year.

8:13 p.m. — Time expires and it’s time to see what these returning cooks came up with. Willie is first with a Cajun Poached Halibut with a Purple Cauliflower Puree and Spicy Roasted Corn Relish. Gordon calls it “beautiful” and “elegant.” The fish is cooked beautifully, but needs a hit of lime or lemon. Aaron thinks the puree is unnecessary. Joe thinks it is a restaurant quality dish. Derrick presents a Crispy Head on Shrimp with Corn Pudding. Gordon calls it “great” and says the shrimp tastes like lobster. Joe wishes the dish was more “punchy.” Aaron likes it more than he anticipated. Tommy serves up Fried Quail with a Nest of Phyllo Pastry and Garden Vegetables. Gordon says it has finesse and the quail is cooked beautifully. Aaron loves the seasoning. Last up, Micah serves Yuzu Citrus Ricotta Fritter with Blackberry Gin Sauce, Chocolate Soil and Star Arnise Powdered Sugar. Joe loves the artistic expression, but it’s a little raw. Gordon says the flavor is amazing.

8:15 p.m. — The first two cooks to earn white aprons tonight are Willie from Season 5 and Tommy from Season 6.

8:30 p.m. — The second battle of the night is Cate from Season 8, Sarah from Season 10, Daniel from Season 8 and Michael from Season 10. Michael placed 15th on his original season, but since then he quit real estate, started his own business as a private chef and published two best-selling cook books. Kate came in 4th place on her season, but since then she has become a full-time private chef in Chicago. Daniel finished 8th place on his season and since then he has opened a food truck. Sarah was the Season 10 runner-up and since then she became a private chef for clients as elite as Alicia Keys. Time expires and it’s time to see what these four cooks have come up with!

8:35 p.m. — Time got away from Cate and she forgot to smoke her venison. Hopefully it’s still a worthy bite! She serves a Mushroom Rubbed Venison Loin with Pommes Puree, Sauteed Wild Mushrooms and Sour Cherry Red Wine Sauce. Joe says it’s visually “on point.” Gordon calls it an accomplished dish and he doesn’t miss the smoke. Daniel serves Prosciutto Wrapped Cod with Lemon Pea & Herb Puree and Roasted Glazed Carrots. Gordon says it looks restaurant quality and the fish is cooked beautifully. Aaron says the salsa and the pea puree are disjointed and don’t belong together. Sarah has prepared a Crispy Skinned Duck Breast with Balsamic Honey Glaze, Pipian Mole and Pickled Peaches. Joe says her duck is perfectly cooked, but it’s a little starchy. The mole isn’t great, but the duck is the hero. Michael serves Smoked Filet Mignon with Black Garlic & Cherry BBQ Sauce and Mexican Street Corn Grits. The steak is cooked beautifully and earns high marks from Joe. Gordon says it’s delicious and “finale worthy.”

8:37 p.m. — The next two cooks earning white aprons tonight are Michael from Season 10 and Cate from Season 8.

8:42 p.m. — The third battle tonight is fast-tracked into a small clip. Brien from Season 8, Newton from Season 8, Bowen from Season 9 and Stephen from Season 6. Brien made his signature Filet O’Brien with Whipped Potatoes, Bacon, Brussels Sprouts and Red Wine Demi-Glace. Joe called the texture “sandy” and didn’t enjoy it. Newton prepared Filet Mignon with Sweet & Tangy BBQ Glaze, Southern Greens and Chipotle Pommes Puree. Gordon says the fritter was cooked beautifully, but there was so much heat in the sauce that it destroyed the quality. Bowen presented Filet Mignon Pot Stickers with Thai Chile Finger Lime Vinegar Sauce. Gordon called it “delicious” and Aaron says the sauce is “action packed.” Finally, Stephen served Rabbit & Donuts with Sauteed Dandelion Greens and Cactus Berry Salsa. Joe thinks it’s psychedelic and a “trip on your palate.” He gets goosebumps because he’s never tasted anything quite like it.

8:45 p.m. — The next two cooks to advance in the competition are Stephen from Season 6 and Bowen from Season 9.

8:50 p.m. — Next up is a battle of former “MasterChef Junior” contestants! Tae-Ho is now 19 and finished in 13th place on Season 4. Since then he’s gone to high school and culinary school. Shane is now 18 and placed 3rd on Season 5. Since then Shane has started college and works at a Vietnamese barbecue restaurant. Dara is now 20 years old and she was the Season 1 runner-up. People might remember her for always wearing big bows in her hair, but she’s ditched the bow and gained a culinary degree.

8:57 p.m. — Tae-Ho serves “Sleeping Beef” New York Strip with Pasta Blankets and Sugar Snap Peas in Yuzu Dashi Sauce. The steak is a bit undercooked. Joe likes the flavors. Aaron likes the herbs. Gordon thinks the pasta is delicious. Shane presents a Cajun Risotto with Blackened Catfish and Cajun Cream Sauce. Gordon compliments the risotto as better than his own at that age. Aaron says the catfish is great and the flavors are clear. Last, Dara serves Chinese Style Steamed Cod with Stuffed Bok Choy and Seasoned Dashi Broth. It’s visually beautiful. Gordon says it’s also delicious and the cod is cooked beautifully. Joe calls her dish “electric.”

8:59 p.m. — The last two cooks to take home white aprons tonight are Dara from Junior Season 1 and Shane from Junior Season 5.

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