MasterChef Junior recap: A Sweet Surprise
A scallops challenge has a few chefs saying, 'Aw, shucks.'
One of the best things about MasterChef Junior is seeing the kids’ faces each time they enter the kitchen. Most are overwhelmed with the excitement of living out a dream. They’re all just so happy to be there — well, until they’re told their food is terrible and are forced to leave forever. But for now, they’re just so happy!
Tonight, the 22 chefs still left in the competition have even more reason for excitement: A special guest arrives to judge a frosting-filled challenge and the kids get to learn how to shuck scallops. Okay, they might be a little more into the former than the latter. Actually, you never know with the kids on this show. That’s why we love them so much!
FROST ON, FROST OFF
For the first challenge of the night, the judges call last week’s top three chefs — Sam, Jesse, and my future BFF, Addison — up to the front of the kitchen. They’ll be competing against one another in a cupcake-frosting race. I’m not as much of an “athlete” as I am, what some may refer to as, “lazy,” but if all races involved a table covered in cupcakes, I might be persuaded to participate.
The kids have 10 minutes to frost as many cupcakes as perfectly as Christina demonstrates (it’s all in the wrist). The winner will get immunity from elimination and the losers will, well, they’ll have to press a giant button that unleashes an insane amount of frosting on whichever judge the kid is paired with. So basically, everyone wins.
Addison plays for Gordon (even though she’s half tempted to throw the competition in order to see the judge covered in vanilla frosting), Sam’s with Graham, and Jesse is tasked with protecting Christina’s lovely dress from a pink frosting disaster. Since the judges are obviously biased, as giant piping bags of delicious frosting hang over their heads, they call upon MasterChef Junior season 2 winner, the Cupcake King himself, Logan Guleff to officiate this round. There’s some adorable flirting (Can 9-year-olds flirt? That’s a serious question.) between Logan and Addison, with an assist from master chef and master matchmaker Gordon Ramsay, and then the kids are off.
When it’s all said and done, Sam and his 29 perfectly frosted chocolate cupcakes win the immunity and he’s sent off to the great cupcake balcony in the sky (or, like, up the stairs overlooking the kitchen). That means Gordon and Christina need to prepare for their frosting shower. Kyndall, who last week taught us about the healing powers of candy, sees Christina’s beautiful shoes about to get doused in frosting and is horrified (“Take the shoes off first! TAKE THE SHOES OFF FIRST.”). I worship Kyndall now. She’s so wise!
The frosting rains down on Gordon and Christina, and it looks both insanely sticky and insanely fun. Alas, the frosting food fight (complete with sprinkles!) can’t last forever — there are kids’ dreams to be crushed! The judges use TV magic to de-frost themselves in seconds and then it’s on to…
THE ELIMINATION CHALLENGE
Since the cupcake challenge was all about outer beauty, Gordon wants to use the elimination challenge to focus on a food that is all about inner beauty (MasterChef Junior, where does your cooking start and your life lessons end?) Get ready, people: It’s a scallop challenge!
The kids have one hour to come up with a scallop dish that wows the judges. But there’s a twist: the chef-testants will have to shuck the scallops themselves. For some of the kiddos, like Tae-Ho, this added obstacle is no sweat. Others, like Vivian and some of her friends from various landlocked states, already know this is extremely outside their comfort zone. Gordon gives a quick shucking lesson and then sends the kids off to the MasterChef pantry to create a dish that highlights tonight’s featured ingredient.
Nine of the 22 remaining kid chefs are called forward to present their scallops. Here’s what they came up with:
Tae-Ho, 12, Chula Vista, CA
Seared Scallops (with risotto and brussels sprouts)
Tae-Ho has a passion for two things: seafood and Gordon Ramsay. He is living his dream tonight. Gordon is not only impressed that the tween’s scallops are perfectly seared (a nice, even brown on both sides), but he can’t believe Tae-Ho can make such an impressive risotto. Turns out, Tae-Ho taught himself how to make risotto from a recipe out of a Gordon Ramsay cookbook. STOP BROWN NOSING, KID. It’s not like he needs any extra help, anyway. Gordon is blown away by the sheer number of technical abilities (there’s also a jalapeño and poblano pepper salsa) Tae-Ho has demonstrated on one dish. It’s one of the best of the night, for sure.
Nate, 10, Philadelphia, PA
Seared Scallops (with cauliflower mash)
Is Nate gunning for the Mr. Congeniality award? He’s just so happy to be here. He’s also happy to be cooking seafood. Spending summers at the Jersey Shore has made him a seafood addict, and now he gets to make a seafood dish in Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen. He’s living his best life. Christina can see his love for scallops in his dish—they’re cooked well and are the stars of the plate. His side, however, could use some more flavor. He’s in the middle of the pack for this challenge.
NEXT: The only time in history that pasta is a bad decision
Chad, 9, Poughkeepsie, NY
Spaghetti and Meatballs (with scallops)
Oh, Chad. Any time the star ingredient is relegated to the parenthesis, you know you’re going to be in some trouble. I love pasta as much as the next girl, but even I could tell that a heavy tomato sauce and meatballs would overpower those tiny little scallops. Graham admits that if this were a meatball contest (WAIT, CAN WE HAVE ONE OF THOSE?), Chad would win. As it stands, his scallops are overcooked and completely lost within the dish.
Ian, 8, Beverly Shores, IN
Pan-Seared Scallops (with zucchini cakes and microgreens)
Our friend Ian here has a rough go of it. He can’t get any of his scallops out of their shells and begins to melt down. (Anyone else gasp with joy when little Kya told Ian all he had to do was believe in himself? I mean, it was terrible advice for shucking a scallop, but the sentiment was nice.) Because Gordon is a handsome angel person, he comes over, calms the guy down with small talk, and gives him a one-on-one shucking tutorial. Ian is back in the game and just barely gets his food on his plate. You know what happens when Gordon tastes the completed dish? He loves it. It’s visually stunning and the scallops are perfectly cooked. HANDSOME. ANGEL. PERSON.
Vivian, 11, Avendale, AZ
Parmesan Scallops (with couscous and bacon-corn relish)
Not only has Vivian never cooked a scallop before, she’s never even tasted one. Right off the bat, she’s concerned about her ability to complete this challenge at its most basic level. The judges try to remind all of the kids that their scallops should be the last thing they cook, and that a scallop really only needs about 90 seconds on each side. Vivian should’ve listened a little more closely. Christina has to deliver the bad news that Viv’s scallops are not properly cooked and because of that, the dish doesn’t work at all.
Derek, 11, Yardley, PA
Pan-Seared Scallops (with Israeli couscous and herb pesto)
D-man calls himself the Frankenstein of the kitchen. He’s a scientist as well as a cook, and he is super pumped to show off his inventive cooking skills in the MasterChef arena. Gordon is super pumped about Derek’s dish. The combination of the rich, sweet scallop with the herb pesto is delicious. Gordon’s only note is that the dish could’ve used a little more salt, otherwise: perfection. That’s a bold statement coming from Gordon Ramsay, and Derek knows it.
Kamily, 10, Santa Ana, CA
California Scallops (with avocado lime sauce and quinoa)
Kamily’s biggest fear about getting eliminated is that it means she’ll have to go back to her fifth grade math class. Girl, I hate to break it to you, but math class gets so much harder than fifth grade. Are her scallops good enough to save her from the horrors of fractions? Maybe not. The scallops look pretty, but Christina isn’t impressed. She finds the ingredients to be a strange mix and the scallops are not evenly cooked. A big no-no.
Amaya, 10, Bergenfield, NJ
Pan-Seared Scallops (with asparagus and béchamel sauce)
Amaya is rocking some sweet glasses, has a great hair accessory game, and serves up a mean dish of sass alongside her scallops. She also shucks her scallops like a pro; even the judges are impressed. Thankfully, she also knows how to cook a good scallop. Graham thinks her scallops are perfect but, she hid them under too much sauce. Amaya needs to work on her presentation. Next time, let the star ingredient stand out by putting it on top of the sauce. Don’t hide your light under a bushel, is what he means. So many life lessons!
Annabelle, 10, Cookeville, TN
Scallops Two Ways
Like Ian, Annabelle cannot shuck a scallop to save her life. Gordon comes to her rescue so she has a fighting chance. Unfortunately, Annabelle blows that chance when she completely burns the few scallops she has. She tracks down a few leftovers before time’s up, but things are not looking good. She made a scallop ceviche with lemon cilantro and…water. Gordon explains that a ceviche is never made with water, and doing so rendered her dish virtually tasteless. Her pan-seared scallops also fail; they’re completely overcooked. Gordon wishes AB had focused on cooking her scallops one way perfectly, rather than over-complicating things.
The scallop-shucking challenge win goes to Tae-Ho and his mean plate of risotto. Kamily, Chad, Annabelle, and Vivian make up the bottom four dishes for the evening, but Kamily and Vivian just squeak by into safety. So, we must say goodbye to Chad and Annabelle. Gordon reminds them both that they’re good enough, and I’m tearing up on my couch because Gordon has once again cut to the core of me. Though Annabelle seems to take it pretty hard, both kids look like they’ll bounce back eventually. And thankfully Kamily doesn’t have to go back to math class just yet. I mean, who needs math when you have a $100,000? NOBODY. Just kidding, stay in school!
Next week: CHEESE.