For “MasterChef’s” Indianapolis-area contestant, things appear to be going swimmingly.
First, Kelsey Murphy, a physical therapist from Fishers, wowed a celebrity chef panel, including guest Paula Deen, with a trout dish to earn a spot on this season of the Fox cooking show in an audition episode that aired last week.
Then on the first elimination cooking episode that viewers saw Wednesday night, Murphy came face-to-face with an inspiration when chef Masaharu Morimoto was revealed as the guest judge.
Kelsey Murphy on MasterChef:Fishers mom competes on MasterChef 2021
“He is really my first memory of watching food on TV and that’s where I feel like my passion for elevated cooking came from,” Murphy told IndyStar.
The field of 15 contestants vying for a $250,000 prize were challenged to make dishes with monkfish fillets cut by Morimoto.
Appearing calm throughout the challenge, Murphy rose to the opportunity. Her dish was named the best dish and won her a trip to Las Vegas to dine at the chef’s Morimoto restaurant at the MGM Grand.
She had one hour to cook the dish using her fish fillet and selecting ingredients from the set. She went with Asian flavors.
Murphy turned in pan-seared monkfish served over cauliflower puree and topped with a fish sauce caramel infused with lemongrass and ginger. She added an herb salad with shiso, a plant cultivated in Asia.
Judges turned in praise, calling the dish sophisticated with a great flavor profile and a sauce that stood out.
“This is great … sweet and creamy,” Morimoto said, “And the monkfish is cooked perfectly.”
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That Murphy opted for an Asian flavor profile out of her element made the first challenge win particularly sweet, she told IndyStar.
“I really was out of my comfort zone,” she said. “But that is also sometimes where I thrive the best in competition and just trusting my instincts, trusting my flavors.”
She has yet to go to the Morimoto Las Vegas restaurant, due to an inability to redeem the prize before the airing of her exit from this season, as well as the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s been a restaurant I’ve always wanted to go to,” she said. “I’ve been to his restaurant in Napa and loved it.”
Viewers can see Murphy compete next week in an episode with pastry chef Sherry Yard as guest judge.
“MasterChef” airs on Fox at 8 p.m Eastern time Wednesdays.