Sorry, I had just assumed that after last week’s introduction of Groovy Gordon Ramsay, MasterChef Junior was over. What could ever possibly top the visual of those luscious locks adorned with a flower crown? NOTHING. But I guess we do have a cooking competition to continue with, so there’s that.
If last week was all about teaching the kids how to cook dishes from decades past, this week is about a new generation of cooks attempting to bring their sensibilities to a restaurant full of their elders. Will food bridge this generation gap? Let’s find out.
THE MYSTERY BOX CHALLENGE
The Top 12 lift their Mystery Boxes and are immediately confused: Instead of some star ingredient that they’ll have to incorporate into a dish, it’s a blindfold. Tonight’s Mystery Box Challenge will force these chefs-in-the-making to rely on their sense of taste and smell. They’ll be donning those blindfolds and then eating a dish Gordon’s made — then they’ll be asked to recreate that exact dish without ever seeing it. Although I’m never in favor of blindfolding children and handing them sharp objects, like a knife and fork, I am in favor of this challenge. It should reveal which kids really have a knack for this whole cooking thing and which are just playing at it.
Gordon’s dish is a pan-seared chicken with rosemary mashed potatoes, baby carrots, and turnips. For good measure, he tossed in some green beans with sliced almonds. Suffice it to say, there’s enough ingredients on here to trip up some of our contestants. You’d think some of the ingredients would be obvious, at least in their broadest sense. They’ll be able to make out that there are mashed potatoes there, even if they don’t nail the rosemary or mustard infusion. Everyone must know what a baby carrot tastes like, even if it is mixed with the turnips and sitting in a honey glaze. A green bean is a green bean is a green bean, right? Wrong.
Several of the kids zero in on “white meat” right away, but for some, figuring out the protein is baffling. Sam goes with steak, and I’m left wondering if this child has ever eaten before. Ever. Ian correctly selects chicken as his protein, but he is also 100 percent sure there were roasted tomatoes on his dish. There were not. Corey, however, uses a pretty savvy and Gordon-approved strategy: Torn between duck and chicken, Corey makes both proteins and then tastes them each to match what he remembers from the dish in question. Not all is lost!
After one hour, Gordon has all 12 chefs bring their dishes up to the front, so he can take a look at them next to his pan-seared chicken. Four of our kids present plates that come close enough to the original based on sight alone – but to declare a winner, the judges will need to take a little taste.
Kya, 8, San Marino, CA
Pan-Seared Chicken Breast with Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans, and Carrots
This is my truth: I could watch Kya and Gordon whisper about carrots all day long. It is the cutest. Even cuter? When Kya’s chicken goes up in flames and Gordon has her stand back so he can take care of it — I mean, cute and safe. The judges are right: Kya’s dish looks almost identical to Gordon’s. She misses the mushrooms and turnips, but nails the sweetness of the honey glaze. Most importantly, every element on Kya’s dish tastes great. Gordon calls her a freak, but like, in a good way.
Corey, 12, Surprise, AZ
Baked Chicken with Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans, and Mushrooms
Well, Corey chose the right protein, even if he did use the incorrect cooking technique. And although he does have many of the elements of Gordon’s dish on his plate, he’s missing quite a few as well: There’s no sauce, no almonds in his green beans, and no turnips. It may not be the standout dish between the four kids, but according to Graham, it is still a delicious effort.
Ian, 8, Beverly Shores, IN
Pan-Roasted Chicken with Mashed Potatoes, Tomatoes, and Roasted Parsnips
Yes, Ian and his roasted tomatoes made it to the final four in this challenge. Christina explains that the judges were impressed Ian put forth a chicken very similar to Gordon’s, but what earned Ian a spot in the Top 4 was his ability to discern that there was in fact a root vegetable within the dish. Sure, he chose parsnips instead of turnips, but no one else even made it that far. Also, bonus points for the dish tasting so good. Could tonight be Ian’s comeback?
Kaitlyn, 11, Yorktown Heights, NY
Pan-Seared Chicken with Green Beans and Mashed Potatoes
After a spill in the kitchen, Kaitlyn is left with only three green beans to present as a side, but Gordon says that’s okay – there’s one for each judge. They’re surprised she misses the carrots, and overall the dish could benefit from the sauce, but everything that is on the plate is stellar.
NEXT: The master of the Mystery Box is revealed