MasterChef Junior recap: The Good, the Bad, and the Smelly
How was your Thanksgiving, MasterChef Junior fans? Still feeling a bit stuffed? Well, they say the best remedy for a food coma is watching 18 young cooks whip up some imaginative dishes that will either earn them praise from their idols, or send them home to bury their sorrows in some Thanksgiving leftovers. So, it looks like you came to the right place!
Tonight we’re treated to the first ever MasterChef Junior team relay — and it celebrates the delicacy that is seven-layer dip. You know the one: It’s full of beans, corn, salsa, lettuce, guacamole, sour cream, and topped with copious amounts of cheese. It’s disgusting and beautiful and you can never say no to it. Addison knows what I mean. She wishes she could “dive right into it and swim in it.” Did Addison and I just become best friends?
THE TEAM RELAY RACE
The kids are split into three teams of six, in order to tackle each layer one by one. The sixth chef will cover two layers, sour cream and cheese, which are arguably the most important (CHEESE). The winning team will get an advantage in the Elimination Test, and — more importantly — they’ll get to dunk one chef’s face directly into the dip.
The relay starts and these chefs are into it. There’s lots of screaming about chopping things faster, which, like, please stop telling tiny people to use giant knives more erratically. Our judges try to spin the challenge as a test of knife skills, but again, we all know this race is about eating massive amounts of sour cream. Don’t be ashamed of this, judges. We all have dreams.
The three teams stay pretty close throughout the race, but in the end it is Ian’s team (Jesse, Amaya, JJ, Zac, and Mia) that finishes first. Since they were playing for Christina Tosi, Ian gets to smash her pretty little face into the bowl of freshly made dip. Don’t think Graham and Gordon miss out on the fun though — they are very quickly dunked by their team captains, Avery and Kya, respectively. Though it looks like fun, it actually seems like a waste of perfectly good dip. I’m very concerned about the dip, you guys.
THE ELIMINATION TEST
Besides bragging rights in the seven-layer dip street wars (very gritty, so I hear), Ian’s team wins immunity from elimination and they get to select the challenge ingredients for their fellow competitors. That’s right, the fate of the other chefs lies in the hands of these six kids. They have three options, each one a category of food that describes one of the judges. Christina’s ingredients include all things spicy: hot peppers, chili oil, and wasabi root, among other things. Graham opts for smelly foods (he’s always pretty pungent post iron-pumping, he claims), including garlic, rose water, blue cheese, and truffle oil. Gordon selects “wrinkly” as his modifier (I guess there are no foods in the “devilishly handsome” category), and offers up cauliflower, calf brains, and raisins as some ingredient options.
Ian’s team can either be strategic, and select a category that would be damaging to the other cooks (“wrinkly” sounds particularly challenging), or they can be kind, and choose ingredients that would help their friends make some amazing dishes. They choose to be kind because these kids know the true meaning of life and should probably start some kind of self-help seminar after this show ends. Smelly it is!
Addison, 9, River Forest, IL
Tom Kha Gai (with garlic chicken meatballs)
Addison is the perfect example of what the judges refer to as “a contestant who embraces the challenge.” All they’re asked to do is incorporate at least one of the smelly ingredients into a dish, but Addison chooses to use four: garlic, fish sauce, corn nuts, and rose water. Her Thai dish with a twist is a big risk, but the judges know that if anyone can handle big flavors, it’s Addison. They’re right – her soup is bold, flavorful, and all four of her smelly ingredients work together to make something special. Gordon is a bit in disbelief that the dish worked so well, and calls Addison a “force to be reckoned with.” TELL US SOMETHING WE DON’T KNOW, GORDON.
NEXT: Derek injects the kitchen with a little more science
Derek, 11, Yardley, PA
Rib Eye Steak (with acorn squash and Israeli couscous)
Derek once again brings science into the kitchen to create a very successful dish. Graham thinks the steak looks great, and it tastes even better. Perhaps it was Derek’s technique of injecting the steak with marinade to make it extra-tender that really sent the dish over the top. It could also be his selection of garlic and vinegar as his smelly ingredients — they enhanced the dish without overpowering it.
Kya, 8, San Marino, CA
Poached Chicken (with white truffle cream sauce)
Before Kya even gets called up to the judges’ platform, Gordon, Graham, and Christina are already impressed with our youngest contestant’s technique. She’s decided to poach her chicken inside of a plastic bag, a skill Kya learned from her mom “when [she] was little.” Which, if you’re keeping track, was yesterday. Regardless of age, Kya’s prowess in the kitchen is obvious, and aside from leaving the skin on, Gordon gives Kya’s chicken two big thumbs up.
Avery, 9, Baton Rouge, LA
Seared Lamb Chops (with garlic-potato cake)
Avery didn’t feel particularly inspired by the smelly ingredient challenge, but channelled her mom in order to make some top-notch lamb chops. Christina thinks the meat is cooked perfectly, and there’s great flavor, but the plate looks a little bland and she wishes Avery had gone a bit further to try and incorporate more of the challenge’s ingredients.
Jaeclyn, 9, Philadelphia, PA
Shrimp and Pineapple Kabob (with lime rice and corn salad)
Jaeclyn is another one who is not a fan of smelly ingredients and makes no attempt to cook anything outside of her comfort zone. She goes for shrimp kabobs, but makes some huge mistakes, like, you know, giving Gordon Ramsay a raw shrimp, which puts her in a very precarious situation.
Corey, 12, Surprise, AZ
Farfalle (with turkey sausage and marinara sauce)
Making pasta from scratch is no joke, and Christina is definitely impressed with Corey’s farfalle. The rest of his dish, however? Not so much. The sauce incorporating pickled eggs and garlic doesn’t do much except, well, smell. Corey stands by his dish, but we’ll have to wait and see if confidence will be enough to keep the kid safe from elimination.
Nate, 10, Philadelphia, PA
Rib-Eye Steak (with potatoes, asparagus, and blue cheese)
Riding high from his fish win last week, Nate serves up another plate that wows the judges. His steak is cooked to perfection and seasoned expertly. Graham loves Nate’s use of blue cheese to compliment the meat, and he, like Addison really captured what the smelly challenge was all about. Nate just wants to do Philly proud, and tonight he definitely did.
Adam, 11, Brooklyn, NY
Hand-Cut Pasta (with anchovy sauce)
Poor Adam. All the dude wants to do is show off his pasta skills, and here he has Amaya bossing him around from her Balcony of Safety. I know you’re trying to be helpful, Amaya, but STAY OUT OF IT. Adam gets nervous and forgets to let his homemade pasta rest before putting it through the machine. He makes a mess out of things, and ends up having to hand cut his fettuccine. It does not turn out well. Gordon actually looks mad that he even has to taste it. The pasta is too thick, the sauce is too salty, and it turns out there is such a thing as too pungent in a smelly ingredient challenge.
Though Nate gives her a run for her money, Addison and her risky soup win this round. The judges were seriously impressed that she could pull off such a tasty dish with those ingredients. Sister friend is crushing it.
Not crushing it, however, are our bottom three: Corey, Jaeclyn, and Adam. Corey and Adam are both in the bottom this week because they made some disastrous choices with their pasta dishes. Jaeclyn failed to embrace the challenge with her kabobs, and, even worse, had some glaring technical mistakes. In the end, we say goodbye to Jaeclyn and one of my favorites: Adam. Oh, Adam, please never lose that spirit (of an 85-year-old bookie). We shall miss your hilarious deadpan quips most of all.
Well, how’s the food coma feeling now? Are Addison and Kya destined to be in the finals this season? Any other tiny chefs have a special place in your heart yet?