Welcome back, MasterChef Junior fans! After a long hiatus since Nathan Odom won the coveted MasterChef Junior trophy (and a cool $100,000), we finally get to meet the 24 new kid chefs battling for both the title and our hearts. I’m so excited to go on this culinary journey with you. I’ll be upfront: I neither have children nor know how to cook. But when it comes to MasterChef Junior, I simply can’t help myself. I, like so many, am taken in by the hilarious kids, the inventive dishes, Gordon Ramsay’s devilishly handsome mug, and people pursuing their dreams — oh, the pursing of dreams!
But I don’t need to explain why this show is great to you. You’re already here, right? So let’s unwrap this fresh new season, sure to be full of dishes only kids could conjure up, adults trying to let tiny people down gently, and tears — both from the contestants and your recapper.
Our esteemed judges, Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot, and MCJ newbie Christina Tosi welcome 24 very excited kids to the competition by letting them take in the immensity of the MasterChef kitchen and by reminding them that they are here because they’re the best of the best. However, not everyone is going to make it past tonight. Yes, eliminations are happening — welcome to the real world, kids!
Before the kids can show off their skills, they must don those beautiful MasterChef aprons, but their aprons aren’t just neatly hanging on a rack nearby. No, these aprons are stuffed into a giant Gordon Ramsay head piñata the kids will have to crack open. It’s as glorious and as horrifying as it sounds. Adam, who I’m convinced has the soul of an old bootlegger from 1920s New York, remarks that “Gordon Ramsay already had a big head! Now look at this thing: It’s 50 times bigger!” We all slow clap for Adam.
MYSTERY BOX CHALLENGE
The kiddos grab their aprons and head over to their stations to see what awaits them for the first Mystery Box Challenge. It’s an empty hamburger bun! Serious question: Is an empty hamburger bun one of the saddest images in the world? Go play a slideshow of empty hamburger buns set to Adele’s “Someone Like You.” Are you crying yet, or are you a robot?
Each chef will have one hour to make a signature burger and side. They have the whole MasterChef pantry at their disposal, and the winner of this challenge will receive a big advantage for the elimination challenge. The judges want the kids to use their dishes to show off a little about who they are and where they come from. This hamburger challenge is all about personality.
The judges call three kids and their burgers up to the front of the room:
Avery, 9, Baton Rouge, LA
Sportsman’s Paradise Burger (with coleslaw, creole spread, and sweet potato chips)
Avery — excuse me, Hurricane Avery — is just a girl from the bayou, and she’s thrilled to be called first. You should be, girl! The judges love the slaw, and although Gordon thinks the burger is incredibly well-seasoned, the bun’s too soggy. Graham thinks the ratio of pork to venison in the patty is a little off. But props to you, Avery, for even knowing what venison is. You’re ahead of the game.
Zac, 12, Orlando, FL
Chuck and Sirloin Cheese Burger (with panko-crusted onion rings)
Zac here is adorable, has excelled in cooking after only a year and a half, and is a ranked junior tennis player. Like, we get it Zac, you’re good at everything. Stop rubbing it in! Just kidding: You’re so cute; go after all the goals. Gordon likes that Zac kept his burger classic and that he concentrated on bread choice and temperature, but he would’ve liked crispier onion rings. Christina thinks the burger looks great but needs a little more pizzazz in the seasoning department.
Kya, 8, San Marino, CA
Wagyu Burger (with apple fries)
Kya is the youngest chef in the competition and also, arguably, the cutest. She’s only eight, but she has the refined palate of a 52-year old Upper East Side dame — the girl makes a wagyu burger, for chrissakes! I had to look up how to spell wagyu three times! Both Gordon and Graham love the burger, and Gordon applauds the flavor combo she built by using two types of cheeses. The only criticism: Although the apple fries are inventive, they could use a bit more cooking.
In the end, the first Mystery Box Challenge goes to Kya, even though her side was “apple fries,” which is an affront to fries everywhere. We’ll let it slide, I GUESS. Kya wins immunity from the elimination challenge and gets to choose one other contestant to join her in the Balcony of Safety and Delicious Cakes to watch the other kids battle to stay in the competition. She chooses Vivian, and we’re all reminded that MasterChef Junior should be, first and foremost, about friendship. But also about defeating your peers so that you can win $100,000. But mostly friendship.
NEXT: An extra-sweet elimination challenge