MasterChef Junior recap: Head of the Class
A tricky pork challenge determines our Season 4 finalists
Sometimes MasterChef Junior gets a little weird, and sometimes it has the contestants’ parents position themselves as if their heads were on serving platters as they give their kids words of encouragement. It is the semi-finals, so anything goes!
Last week, we were treated to a lovely getaway in Ramsayville, where plush bathrobes are the fashion of choice, and King George the dog reigns supreme. It is a magical place. Tonight, we’re back in the MasterChef kitchen and it’s all business. Four kidtestants are left – Addison, Zac, Avery, and Amaya – but there’s only room for two of them in the finals.
Addison and Zac are the obvious choices, leading the pack since the beginning, but Avery shouldn’t be overlooked either. She’s played a slow and steady game, and has turned in some dishes that have wowed the judges before. Amaya, well sure, she’s skated by thanks to some team challenges, but remember her shrimp asopao? She shouldn’t be completely discounted just yet.
Back to the parents on a plate thing. They aren’t just there to creep everyone, including their own children, out. They’re also there to hand over ingredients for a challenge that will give one young chef a big advantage in the elimination test. Amaya gets dark chocolate, Avery gets strawberries, Zac’s ingredient is milk chocolate, and Addison has blackberries. The dish? Soufflé.
Our dessert expert, Judge Christina Tosi, explains that the soufflé is a technically tough dish, even for world-class chefs. It’s light, airy, and needs to be cooked for the perfect amount of time, or else the pastry won’t rise correctly. It will be, quite simply, a big challenge.
But Christina doesn’t really need to warn the kids, they are all aware. Most have never made a soufflé before, and are completely intimidated. The real tension comes when the chefs put their dishes into the oven. They have 18 minutes to watch in horror and wait to see if that soufflé, like Alexander Hamilton, is going to rise up.
For first timers, the kids do pretty well. The only mishap comes from Zac, whose soufflé splits while baking. It tastes just fine, but each of the girls serve up a fabulous looking dessert. In the end, the judges pick Addison’s blackberry soufflé, one that looks and tastes like it came out of a professional kitchen. Addison is called back to the pantry to learn what her win means, which is huge because, as she notes, “winning an advantage in the semi-finals is like stealing home plate.” The girl never met a softball reference she didn’t like.
THE ELIMINATION TEST
Although Addison doesn’t win any kind of immunity for this semi-finals elimination test, she does get a great advantage, if used strategically. Gordon lets her know that each of the four chefs will be cooking a dish with a different cut of pork – and Addison gets to decide who gets which cut. The judges lay out pork belly, ribs, pork loin, and the most difficult of the four, pig’s ears. Addison wants the ribs for herself, and gives the ears to her biggest threat: Zac. Well played, Addy. Avery gets the pork belly, which leaves Amaya with the loin. Yeah, Zac is in trouble.
NEXT: A piece of pork is the last hurdle to the finals
Addison, 9, River Forest, Illinois
Soda-braised Pork Ribs (with strawberry salad and potato salad)
Addison wanted the ribs from the moment she laid eyes on them. The judges remind her that making melt-in-your-mouth ribs is a tall order in the limited amount of time she’s given to cook. Addison pays no mind – she’s a rib master. The judges fall all over her ribs; they’re cooked to perfection. The only problem Gordon really has with her dish is the plating. To him, it looks more like a plate from a backyard barbecue, and he knows Addison’s usually no slouch when it comes to presentation. Hopefully the excellent ribs can compensate.
Zac, 12, Orlando, Florida
Braised Pig’s Ear (with frisée salad and quail egg)
Zac has the exact opposite problem as Addison. The judges love his frisée salad’s presentation, but unfortunately, his pig’s ear is undercooked. No one is too hard on the guy though, they’re all acutely aware that Zac was handed the most difficult task tonight. Gordon praises Zac’s use of quail egg, and Graham notes that his vegetables were outstanding. So, basically everything but the main protein was great. Zac is trying to stay positive, but the cards are stacked against him tonight.
Avery, 9, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Braised Pork Belly (with sweet potato mash and beetroot chips)
Avery’s excited about her pork belly dish, even though down in the Bayou, she’s more accustomed to cooking alligator belly. Not tonight though, tonight she’s adopted a new mantra: “Go pig, or go home.”And guys, go pig she does. All three of the judges are completely blown away by Avery’s refined, insanely delicious pork belly dish. Every single element on the plate is so good, it renders Christina speechless, and Graham tells her she picked the perfect time to peak. So, that’s one finale spot taken.
Amaya, 10, Bergenfield, New Jersey
Pork Loin (with mushroom farro and apple marmalade)
Gordon spots trouble with Amaya’s dish even while she’s cooking it. He notices that Amaya begins cutting her meat without letting it properly rest (cutting meat: not Amaya’s strength); it’s raw. She puts it back in the oven, but that’s a misstep as well. The meat is still undercooked when she presents it to the judges. Christina likes the dry rub Amaya used, and Gordon is intrigued by her combination of farro and marmalade, but the glaring technical mistake on the plate isn’t easy to overlook.
The judges take some time to deliberate on whose dish was enough to push them through to the next round. It’s no surprise when they call Avery‘s name first, and she falls to her knees. There’s an attempt for some dramatic tension over the second spot, but if we’re all truly honest with ourselves, that spot has been Addison’s since day one. So, to no one’s surprise, Addison moves on to the finals.
Sadly, Zac and Amaya‘s time in the kitchen is cut short just shy of the finale. Zac takes it especially hard, and even the judges look bummed to say goodbye. The kid only started cooking less than two years ago, and he made top four on MasterChef Junior – I think he’ll be okay.
In happier news, for the first time in MasterChef Junior history, we have two (extremely deserving) girls in the finale. Which tiny blonde will take the title? I mean, probably Addison, right?