The competition continues in Week Two of MasterChef Junior
Welcome to week 2 of MasterChef Junior, the latest cooking competition series on FOX. Last week we were introduced to 24 young home cooks hoping to get their chance at the MasterChef Junior trophy – but only 12 made it through the first round of challenges.
Who will be left standing after this week’s round of competitions?
Read on to find out…
October 4 2013 Episode Recap & Review
Thoughts on the second episode
At the beginning of this episode, as the twelve contestants re-enter the MasterChef kitchen, the judges announce there will be another big prize for the winner of the competition: $100,000! Some of the young chefs are asked what they would do with that much money; Alexander says he would use it to go to the Culinary Institute of America. But right now they have to face their very first mystery box challenge. They have one hour to make one “amazing dish” using the ingredients in the box, and the winner will get a “huge advantage” in the upcoming elimination challenge.
The Mystery Box Challenge
There’s one very very special ingredient inside, they’re told that has never been used in a Mystery Box challenge on MasterChef before. They open the box to find filet mignon, tiger shrimp, mixed berries, blue cheese, and puff pastry. But the special ingredient is a tablet – on which they can use Skype to call someone for three minutes, and get some advice or ideas for their dish. Jewels is going to make great her grandma’s latkes, she says. Gavin is calling a friend of his mom, who says to make something teriyaki-style. Jack is calling his friend Frank who owns a restaurant. Calls over, it’s time for the chefs to start cooking!
Joe says this challenge is an important one, to really establish themselves in the competition. Kaylen is making a rub for her filet and a mixed berry vinaigrette for a salad. Sarah is making a grilled filet mignon. She’s the youngest in the competition but she isn’t nervous. Jack is now to be known as “Hawaii Jack”, because of his shirts. Molly is doing Hungarian goulash. Alexander is making pan-seared filet mignon with mixed berry puree. It seems like a lot to accomplish in one hour, but he cooks 5-6 times a week at home, he says, so he’s pretty sure he can pull it all off. Troy’s filet has “explosive flavor,” Joe says, as he talks to the other judges about what he’s observed. He thinks the plates are of an adult level. Alexander is composed. Jack “has it all going on” with his mushroom cream sauce.
The hour is up and it’s tasting time. The judges take a last look before picking out the top three standout plates to sample. The first young chef really challenged himself: it’s Alexander. He made seared filet mignon with garlic mashed potatoes and butter glazed carrots. Gordon criticizes him for putting the salad under the steak. But the carrots are cooked beautifully but the mash is really was a smart choice and it’s a very good dish. Graham says the outside of his steak is beautifully seared. He sees a lot of himself in this 13-year old kid. Joe wants to know about his spicy berry sauce and says it’s a good job.
The second dish they want to see up front, was because the cook was bold enough to use both the shrimp and the filet: it’s Jack. He made surf and turf with potato puff and a mushroom cream sauce. The sear on the steak is awesome, Graham says; his shrimp looks like a sea monster but he “nailed it” like with a hammer. Gordon says Jack cooks like a dream. He puts food on the plate with finesse.
The last person to pick, it was a difficult decision, but they go with Troy. He made filet mignon with root vegetable hash and poached egg on top. Joe likes the bitterness from the arugula, the rub is amazing, the vegetables are sweet. Gordon only thinks the steak should be medium rare in stead of medium well – Troy has to cook not to his personal tastes but to the judges.
So, Alexander, Jack and Troy had the top three dishes. But who won the challenge? It turns out to be Jack. He’s ready to see his advantage in the elimination test – and it’s important because at least two cooks will be leaving after this challenge.
The Elimination Challenge
The judges lead Jack into the pantry where they have their favorite dishes from being a kid. Joe’s favorite was chicken wings. Graham wanted “a party in a bun”: a perfectly cooked burger. Gordon loved something crunchy: fish fingers!
The chefs have to make a refined, restaurant quality dish based on one of these child-friendly dishes. Jack doesn’t have to cook and he is safe from this elimination. He also gets to pick which dish everyone else has to cook. Jack ends up choosing hamburger. But it can’t be a plain, flat burger; it has to be a gourmet burger. Jack says he thinks Alexander is the one to beat in the competition right now, so he definitely wants to see how Alexander does with this challenge.
Time to see what everyone is planning. Gavin is doing an Italian-style burger. Kaylen is doing an
“all around the world burger ” with Italian, American and Mediterranean touches. Molly is doing a Korean-style burger with a rice cake to go on top of the burger. Gordon is worried about her choices.
Tommy is doing a breakfast turkey burger but Gordon doesn’t think he made a good choice with using American cheese. Jewels is doing a lamb burger, and Graham is worried that it could dry out and he only says “good luck” about her choice. Alexander is doing sliders on mini-brioche buns with crispy fried onion rings. He’s doing fried kale chips too.
Jack thinks Sarah is in trouble but she doesn’t agree – and she will remember his comments!
Time is up and now the judges will taste everyone’s burgers. Alexander is first with his beef sliders black garlic aoili and kale chips. Joe says it looks amazing and only hopes it tastes as good as it looks. He used pepper-jack cheese and made a lemon-arugula salad as well. “Take some notes,” Joe says to the other judges. Gordon says the burger is delicious and has that star quality. Alexander has a natural gift for cooking. Graham says it tastes great.
Tommy is next with his breakfast burger with American cheese, fried egg and sweet potato tater tots. Gordon says the fried egg gets lost and the processed cheese didn’t melt enough, with the way Tommy put it in the center of his patty. Joe never had a turkey burger he liked…but Tommy has hit on the idea that people want to eat breakfast all day.
Gavin is next with his Italian burger, with a cucumber tomato salad and aged balsamic vinegar. Very smart seasoning, Graham says, and it’s a good job. Joe says there are “Italian people and people who wish they were Italian.” He likes the Italian sausage in Gavin’s burger and says “Bravo.”
Sarah is next with an all-American burger with pineapple and cabbage. The burger is slightly overcooked but the judges like the pineapple. Jewels make lamb burger with caramelized onions. The meat is a little dry but the idea is really great. Kaylen has a beef and pork burger with bacon and Parmesan chip. It shows very good technique. Molly is next with Korean barbeque burger with kimchi. Gordon thinks the patty is slightly dry and the seasoning is off balance. Joe thinks she is disappointed with her own effect, and loves the idea of an Asian burger, but that it could have been more if the execution had been better.
Alexander, Kaylen and Gavin are told they have the top three dishes. Which three didn’t hit the high notes? At least two will be going home so it’s tough for the judges to make the call…but it turns out to be Jewels, Tommy and Molly. Jewels is called forward first…she did just enough to remain safe. Tommy and Molly will be going home. But Gordon wants them to remember that there are thousands who wanted to get as far as they got, so they should go home with their heads held high.
All in all I thought this was a great episode and a fine follow-up to the promise of the premiere. I certainly have to wonder how much coaching and instruction these kids are getting off-camera in order to turn out these plates that often seriously do look as good as what the adult MasterChef contestants can produce. But no matter, it’s still fun to see a MasterChef season that goes light on the nastiness and cutthroat competition that has made the show sometimes ugly and unpleasant to watch in the past.
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