Greg Gayne/FOX
Joe Bastianich
June 19, 2012 09:00 AM

Monday’s episode of MasterChef gave us season 3’s first team challenge – cooking for a pretty intense and intimidating group, 201 U.S. Marines.

Traditionally on MasterChef, the first team challenge of the season is a nail-biting experience for all, including us judges. More than 200 people is huge number to cook for, and execution at that high a volume is something most amateur home cooks have never experienced. Anyone in banquets and catering will tell you there is much more that goes into this than meets the eye.

Frank’s failure to consider mass appeal in what they cooked for the marines was a rookie mistake. Sure, Italian cuisine is one of the most popular in the country, but does it surpass traditional American comfort food? These marines are from all over the U.S., and no matter what state you are from, chances are you love a good barbecue with potatoes.

Another brutal disappointment was the loss of Michael Chen – what a shame to see him go home so soon. His incompetence throughout the challenge, and that sloppy mess of an apple pie, was too much to forgive. The cheddar cheese was such a bad judgment call – I knew when I saw it that he’d be the next to go. He shows a lot of promise, but he is just not there yet.

As frustrating as the day was, it was not without moments of sheer inspiration. Wow, did the ladies deliver! Becky solidified her place as a top contender, and Monti and Christine showed real strength under pressure. Once again, Becky keeps her cool while aboard a sinking ship and steps up to take over the entire red team. It was amazing to watch – this is a future professional executive chef in a kitchen of significance. Monti also helped take control – I didn’t think she had it in her. Her performance forced me to reconsider some initial assumptions on both her character and capabilities.

After a day filled with inspiration as well as disappointment, we forge ahead! Tune in Tuesday for more MasterChef (9 p.m. ET) on Fox, and follow @jbastianich for more thoughts. Thanks for reading!

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