Exclusive Clip: MasterChef Cooks Face Army-Inspired Mystery Boxes With Guest Judge Andre Rush

"MasterChef" fans, get ready to say, "Hooah!" As revealed in an exclusive clip shared with Tasting Table, the upcoming episode of "MasterChef" centers on a particularly patriotic Mystery Box challenge featuring the food that feeds America's troops: meals, ready-to-eat (MRE). The test requires the contestants to use three military rations to help craft a single, restaurant-worthy dish in one hour. Stepping up as the guest judge and MRE guru is Andre Rush, a retired US Army Master Sergeant turned White House Chef who is intimately familiar with both high-end cuisine and humble military rations. 

For a little inspiration and guidance, Gordon Ramsay and Rush offer a look at how they would approach the task. With a divide-and-conquer game plan, Ramsay focuses on searing a peanut-crusted salmon filet and a potato cake made from hash brown rations while Rush tackles a complimentary lentil ragout and beurre blanc sauce. The ragout features a pack of ready-made lentils, but Rush's classic beurre blanc makes use of a more wild card ration: lemon-lime-flavored powdered sports drink. 

As they cook, the chefs extoll plenty of pearls of wisdom. Rush's main note of caution to the contestants? Watch the sodium, as the salt content is high in military rations in order to preserve them for longer. He and Ramsay also stress the point of bringing fresh produce and color to the meal, to compensate for the drab pre-made elements. And, as hinted with the lemon-lime beurre blanc sauce, bold creativity is preferred over playing it safe.   

The perfect chef for the job

Though Rush has also worked with Ramsay on Tubi's "Kitchen Commando," a cooking show devoted to helping foundering restaurants in the greater Washington D.C. area, he admitted in an interview with Tasting Table that he was a bit star-struck. "I mean, imagine being on that stage with Chef Ramsay," he said. Still, Rush can more than hold his own on the "MasterChef" panel, as he's won more than 150 medals in his tenure on the United States Culinary Arts team. Plus, he's certainly eaten his fair share of MREs during his 23 years of service. 

Reviewing the episode, he noted that he was impressed with the combined creativity of the contestants, with some pairing delicately balanced gastriques with forcemeat (aka meat paste), and he was quick to acknowledge the unprecedented difficulty of this mystery box episode. "This one in particular was an extremely different challenge ... because they weren't in it, they had no military background," he noted. Rush also gave kudos to each chef for getting out of their comfort zone — even if the results were disastrous. "Imagine having something that's unfamiliar, full of sodium, [and] you're trying to navigate to try to make that the best it could possibly be." As Rush put it, "Whether they succeeded, highlights, [or] lowlights, at least they had the experience." 

Outside of the military theme, this episode will be business as usual. The winning team from last week's episode gets an advantage (first dibs on their protein), one cook will be crowned the winner with an immunity pin, and one will be sent home. Something that is a bit new? This episode marks the beginning of a "MasterChef" episode doubleheader, where two new episodes will be aired back to back each week until the finale. 

"MasterChef" airs Wednesdays (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.