Master Chef Latino, Quarterfinals part1

It was an spectacular show in the first round of the Master Chef Latino quarterfinals at the Convention Center.  Four accomplished and talented chefs put all on the line and was there to cover it.

The Teams

Chef Ivonne Martinez represented Ivonne’s Catering.  Team sous chefs were Roxan Alvarez and Jose Rosa.  Chef Ivonne showed her girl power in being the only femme to survive into the quarterfinals round.  Her team embodied the same quiet confidence that’s taken her so far in a male dominated sport.

Chef Jose Terrero represented Cuzco restaurant in Guaynabo.  Team sous chefs were Tito Gonzalez and Omar Flores.  Chef Jose blazed his way to the quarters with the top overall score in the preliminaries.  His team came in black with tattoos, gangster hats and shaved heads.  They looked the part and played it, ready to take risks with exotic  combinations on their mind

Chef Christian Quiñones  represented Laissez Faire restaurant in Mayaguez.  Team sous chefs were Pierre Saussiy and Jeremy Cruz.  Chef Christian barely conquered his best friend Jeremy Cruz in the best match up of the preliminaries, and then brought him on board his team.  He also brought his mentor Pierre Saussiy for his “west coast all stars” in order to execute his technique driven style and take the trophy west.

Chef Christian Alejandro represented Niche restaurant in Condado.  Team sous chefs were Yaris Carmona and’s own Javi Sanchef.   Chef Christian has impressed everyone with his grinning calm and his execution.  Together with wingman Javi Sanchez you had a feeling this team could contend.

The Challenge

RICE!!!!! The Challenge was friggin RICE!!!!!  Challenge professional Puerto Rican chefs on rice and the pressure goes up a notch because there is no excuse to do anything but 5 star, grade A+,  AWESOMNESS.  Host Luis Freyre LOL’ed at the cruel irony of it and we LOL’ed with him.

The Judges, the gatekeepers to the $10,000 prize, were Rebecca Tiago, Chef Enrique Piñiero, and friend of, Sommelier Adrian Roman.


50 minutes to go, Chef Ivonne strikes first by announcing a pair of intriguing selections to get the judges mouths watering.  She’s doing a salmon & tuna tar tar duet and a chocolate rice ice cream.

40 minutes to go, Chef Christian Alejandro announces he’s going with rice paper for spring rolls.  Nice choice and surprising nobody else did it.

35 minutes to go and Jeremy Cruz from team Laissez Faire gives the quote of the night saying the Jappanese grill they are using gives food “a sexy, smoky flavor”.  Day-um, I bet his kitchen gets hot!  Chef Freyre hams the line up beautifully.  Good times.  All kinds of scents are coming from Chef Christian Quiñonez kitchen including the foodie classic, TRUFFLE OILZZZZ!!!!!  The west coast all stars are working pretty much every kitchen machine you know and don’t know.

30 minutes to go, former Taste chef/owner Tito Gonzalez slips on a bad surface and burns.  He still gets up and makes a rice crispies & peanut butter ice cream.  We love that guy.

25 minutes to go, Chef Ivonne announces another interesting choice Duck breast with cinnamon, terriyaki, and duck chicharron.  She seems to have a more defined plan than the other teams.

20 minutes to go, Nutritionist Aileen Morales is an intelligent and friendly young lady I met a couple hours earlier.  She is on stage now telling us the do’s and dont’s of eating during Christmas.  Pork good, cuerito bad.  Fair enough.  Then she tells us not to drink coquito.  I don’t like her anymore.

15 minutes to go, Chef Jose announces he is using the cancha his Peruvian restaurant is known for.  To what end he doesn’t say.  His flock of followers goes into a frenzy.

10 minutes to go and Christian Alejandro is such a cool cat, he breaks from his work for a good 30 seconds to laugh and jab with Luis Freyre.

5 minutes to go, Everybody seems to be in control.  The Cuzco team is a bit more frenetic, but they don’t look nervous, they just roll like that.

2 minutes to go, we are looking at Javi Sanchef and his patented presentation skills on team Niche.  every advantage counts.


Everybody is working 4 courses and just getting the plates lined up in time proves a hassle.  We look for winks of confidence but everybody seems….worried!  It’s anybody’s game.

And the winners are….

Chef Ivonne Martinez went with an asian influenced menu.  The tuna of the duet goes on a sticky rice.  The cinnamon/teriyaki duck is followed by a ground pork asian dirty rice.  It’s well thought out as a 4 course that pairs.  Judges raved on the duet, the dessert & the overall balance of the tasting.  The duck is apparently a tad overcooked.  The rice seems to be a supporting actor instead of the lead.

Chef Jose Terrero swings for the fences.  The arrancini appetizer goes with a manchego foam & a pepper/zambuka glaze.   The main protein is quail over an almond rice and candied almonds.  The Rice crispy ice cream comes with sugared cancha.  The manchego foam doesn’t get mentioned by the judges and we wonder if it went flat during the wait.  The quail divides the panel with 2 judges scoring it “too nutty” while Piñiero calls it a stroke of brilliance.  The dessert kills.

Chef Christian Quiñonez starts with an asparagus rice with shitake and creme fresh.  He uses a different type of rice in every dish and a different technique as well.  He does an alborio puree “shot” that sends Chef Luis Freyre into a foodgasm.   Team Laissez faire has used the hydroponic garden extensively, including the main dish, a paella.  Judges love the flavor and the dedication to the rice theme.  The tasting as a whole is crtiqued as too creamy with not enough variety in texture.

Chef Christian Alejandro starts with the spring roll and it has a smoked piquillo/panko foam.  The dish rocks Adrian Roman’s world.  A pumpkin risotto has baked scallops & bacon.  Smoked arroz con dulce with a cinnamon creme anglaise is for dessert.  A shrimp dish gets talked down by the judges.

With a score of 164, Christian Quiñonez of Laissez Fair wins the day and the west coast all stars become a favorite to win the title.

At 161, Chef Christian Alejandro of Niche come in second and passes to sunday’s finals as the wild card.

With a score of 150, Chef Jose Terrero painfully goes home after a brass ballsy effort.

At 142, Chef Ivonne Martinez exits with her head held up high after reprezenting the women.

Congrats to the winners and see you all saturday and sunday!




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