I've been wondering since season 1's Michael Chiarello used packaged pasta in an elimination challenge that he did very well in. He may even have won it. I think it was the cook a vegetarian meal challenge. The judges actually specifically said there was nothing wrong with using packaged pasta.
I thought that was a fluke until I watched season 2. Carmen Gonzalez used packaged sausage from Whole Foods in a cook a birthday meal elimination challenge. She wasn't hammered for it that the audience could see, and she did well in that challenge. Then Susan Feniger and maybe Jonathan Waxman used packaged tortillas in an elimination challenge. I know you don't have time to make your own pasta/sausage/tortillas in a quickfire, but using packaged food in an elimination challenge is exactly the sort of thing Tom Colicchio has repeatedly criticized. So why's it OK on Masters?
Anyone know why the judges seem to be easier on Masters? Is it because the chefs are on a higher level and are focusing and judged on more complex components of the dishes?