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'Master Chef' shocker: Joe 'Death Stare' Bastianich has a sense of humor

July 6, 2011 | 11:48 am

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I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes. Joe "Death Stare" Bastianich cracked a joke and came close to cracking a smile on this week's "MasterChef."

The judge who makes chef Gordon Ramsay look like a 'lil puddy cat brought the house down during this week's pressure challenge, which was presented, above, by Whitney Miller, the Season 1 winner of "MasterChef" and author of a new cookbook, "Modern Hospitality: Simple Recipes with Southern Charm."

The competitors had to re-create her crispy fried catfish, coleslaw and sweet potato fries, down to the plating. Jennifer had the upper hand, after winning the vegetarian challenge: She was the only one given all the ingredients in the dish; the rest had to guess.

That edge wasn't enough to put her among the top two finishers. One of those slots went to Christian, who looks like the heir apparent to the "Ain't I Swell" crown previously worn by Max. (Apparently the judges don't hold a grudge: Christian was obnoxious and defiant when the judges criticized his dish in the earlier vegetarian challenge. "If you were a man, you'd take it on the chin," Ramsay told the upstart. "Unfortunately, your talent is not matching your arrogance. Your dish was a letdown, end of story.")

The other slot went to -- shock! -- Weird Hat Dude, a.k.a. Ben, whose dish looked like it was stolen out of Whitney's back pocket. Then, it came to taste. Ramsay sampled but did not let on how he felt about it.

Bastianich was next: He took a bite and delivered his patent-pending glare -- and then busted out with a "Why don't you cook like this all the time! What's the matter with you!" I am pretty sure I saw some scraps of food fly from his mouth when he said it, and then he added "You really nailed it. Congratulations. Good job."

That's three compliments, Ben. You might want to quit the competition on this high note. Even if you win, you might not get another three in a row from Joe.

The bottom of the heap dishes belonged to Adrien, who either ignored or forgot the judge's admonishment to plate like Whitney did; Jennie, who served up obscenely salty food; and Alejandra, who dared to put raw garlic in her tartar sauce. Egads!

No surprise: Jennie, who has been in over her head, was sent home. Were you surprised by Ben's victory? Does he have a chance to win this?

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--Rene Lynch
Twitter/renelynch

Photo: A scene from "MasterChef."  Credit: Fox

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