Who will win the title of the first-ever MasterChef Junior?
This is it – the finale of the first-ever MasterChef Junior! Of the original 24 young contestants we met in the very first episode, only two remain: Dara and Alexander. Last week Troy and Jack went home in the semi-final “chicken” battle. Now, these last two junior chefs must make their best food to date in order to win the title and the $100,000 prize money.
They are two of the oldest kids who entered the competition, so on that basis alone it’s not too surprising that they made it to the end. Alexander indeed seemed to be an early favorite to win it all, but Dara had many shining moments as well that wowed the judges. It could be a very close call indeed …read on to find out what they cooked and how the decision came down at the end!
November 8, 2013 episode recap and review
It’s 12 year old Dara from Los Angeles versus 13 year old Alexander from New York for the final battle. To cheer them on in the MasterChef kitchen are their parents, and all of the other competitors. Also as a special guest to cheer them on and add commentary is MasterChef Season 4 winner, Luca Manfe!
The two young chefs will have 90 minutes to create a three-course dinner: one appetizer, one entree and one dessert. There’s a surprise waiting for them in the pantry as they run off to start shopping for ingredients: it’s Dara’s aunt and Alexander’s uncle, both on Skype to give them some words of encouragement and advice. Graham comes in to tell them it’s time to get “shopping” and end the call. Once they return to the kitchen they are both off to a very fast start. Alexander is doing a crostini appetizer, gnocchi and veal chop for an entree, and a deconstructed Napoleon for dessert. Dara is doing ahi tuna two ways for her appetizer, spot prawns for her main course and poached pears for dessert.
Gavin thinks Dara might win if Alexander over-complicates things. Sarah thinks Alexander is going to win. Kaylen thinks it’ll be an “epic” battle no matter what. Meanwhile, Joe is worried Dara’s dual appetizer is going to be too much but Gordon disagree and thinks Alexander is attempting too much. Dara is going for an Asian theme because it is her heritage and what she knows best.
They are both working hard and getting a little frenzied over making sure everything is done in time. Alexander is getting the shrimp done for his crostini and knows he has to get his veal chop browned and in the oven quick. Dara is freaking out because she forgot an ingredient she needs – Alexander gives it to her. But she’s still getting light-headed and feels like she’s going to pass out. Both of them are stopped for a minute to take a water break and compose themselves. It seems to help.
The last five minutes are there and it’s time to plate, but Dara is still making elements of her dishes. Graham says they want “edible art” as the final seconds tick down.
It’s time for the tastings. Dara is first with her appetizer of an ahi tuna duo: poke and seared tuna. Visually Gordon says it’s stunning. Joe says the rice cake is rich and crunchy and the tuna is beautiful. Joe says it’s a $25 appetizer in Manhattan. Graham says she went above and beyond what they asked and it’s a great job. Gordon wouldn’t change anything.
Alexander is next with his basil lemon shrimp and heirloom tomato crostini with roasted red pepper puree. Joe likes the roasted peppers and that you can taste every component in the dish. Graham says it’s delicious and beautiful, natural, he would only add a pinch more salt. Gordon says it’s vibrant but it’s simpler than Dara’s because he didn’t do something as technical as Dara did.
It’s time for the entrees after it seems Dara won the first round, although Joe liked Alexander’s better. Dara presents her fried spot prawn with wontons and coconut curry. Gordon says it’s delicious but it might have used a minute less cook time on the prawns. Graham loves the steamed dumpling although he thinks the curry is a little thick. Joe disagrees and likes the curry and the dumplings and says he’d pay $45 for the dish.
Alexander has pan-seared veal chop with gnocchi and butter sauce. Gordon wants to know what cook to expect in the middle of the chop…it should be medium rare and Alexander’s nailed it. “Phenomenal,” Gordon says. The gnocchi is hard on the outside but magical on the inside. Graham loves any food that comes with a handle, he jokes as he picks up the bone-in chop—and it’s amazing. Joe says the hero of the dish is not the veal or the gnocchi but Alexander himself. Joe says the veal chop is one of the best dishes they’ve ever tasted in a finale. Gordon still thinks Dara’s curry was amazing and it may only be an issue of the prawns being slightly overcooked.
It’s dessert time and Dara has poached pears in a lemon ginger miso sauce . Graham says it’s fragrant, light and beautiful, creative and balanced. Dara wanted to poach them instead of roasting them to keep the desert quality. Gordon is not a big miso fan but he likes the creaminess of it. Joe says it’s actually quite amazing…sweet yet still acidic. It’s the perfect harmonious note to an incredible symphony of dishes.
Alexander is next with a “deconstructed cannoli Napoleon”, with mascarpone cream and macerated berries. Graham likes the texture and the berries, and the dough. The filling is maybe a touch on the sweet side for him. Gordon feels like an old fart: at 12 and 13 these young kids shouldn’t be deconstructing anything! It’s bloody phenomenal, he says. Joe thinks it’s an amazing dish. The two depart while the judges must decide who will win the title.
Gordon thought Dara’s final dish was a perfect ending. But Alexander’s dessert was clever. Joe thinks both menus were very intellectual and Alexander paid tribute to the classics. Joe still thinks nothing was as good in four years as Alexander’s veal and gnocchi, but Gordon thinks Dara’s menu as a whole was the most cohesive.
So who is the winner? It seems to be a very close call. The judges want them both to come up onto the stage and switch places with them. They are told how they have both changed how every young chef thinks about cooking and that gives them all great optimism about the future.
Their performance was so close the smallest details gave one person the slightest edge.
So, who was the winner? It turns out to be … congratulations to Alexander!
Your thoughts on the finale: Do you agree with the judges’ selection?
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For more on MasterChef Junior
Read all my recaps – and find out about applying for next season! (Yes, there will be more MasterChef Junior!)
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sockii is just your typical Jane-of-All-Trades who never has enough time in her day for all of her projects. She has written for many websites online including Squidoo, Zujava, Yahoo! Contributors Network, HubPages and Wizzley. She has been attending and vending at science fiction and media conventions for over 15 years, and for several years ran an art gallery and jewelry store in Philadelphia. Today she is happy to be living in South Jersey with her partner David and their 6 cats. Sockii is a member of several affiliate sales programs including Amazon Associates and Viglink. Products from these services may be advertised on her posts and pages to generate sales commissions.