MasterChef Junior recap: When Life Gives You Lemons
The chefs travel all the way back to the ancient 1980s for a surf-and-turf cook-off
I don’t know about you guys, but I’m still feeling like damaged goods after last week’s inexplicable elimination of Nate and Derek. The only thing allowing me to focus on the episode at hand is judge Christina Tosi’s super cute and on-brand orange dress. It’s the little things, I guess.
Speaking of little things, the Top 14 chefs enter the kitchen and still seem just as excited to be here as they did on day one. Watching their friends have their dreams crushed one-by-one has in no way deterred any of them from achieving their own. It would be inspiring if it weren’t so scary: Kaitlyn’s dream is to win and open the first restaurant run by kids. You guys, as nice as Kaitlyn seems, it is imperative that she does not win. Did anyone see Kid Nation? It was terrifying.
Standing between Kaitlyn and her quest to erase child labor laws is a quick team challenge that’s all about lemonade and teamwork (just like life!).
THE TEAM CHALLENGE
The 14 remaining chefs draw straws and are split into two teams, the Red Team consists of the majority of our youngest competitors: Ian, Jesse, Avery, Kya, Kamilly, Sam, and JJ, while the Blue team has a lot of tall people: Mia, Tae-Ho, Zac, Kaitlyn, Corey, Amaya, and Addison. Each team has seven minutes to make a glass of raspberry mint lemonade and serve it to Christina for a blind tasting. She’ll choose the winning team, who will, of course, get immunity. As an added twist, the losing team will have a giant balloon full of lemonade dropped on their heads. Sounds fun and sticky (just like life!).
Though the Blue Team seemingly has an advantage with the older kids, they end up wasting an entire minute just yelling at one another about needing a plan, and who has a plan, and plans, plans, plans. They’re acting like seven individuals rather than a cohesive unit and the judges take notice.
The Red Team does not have this problem. Sam takes the reins and get his teammates organized. The judges are impressed by the team’s communication skills, but Christina insists that this challenge is all about flavor. Guess what? The Red Team has the flavor part down as well. They strike the right balance of lemon, raspberry, and mint and are awarded the win. Since this is MasterChef Junior, both teams end this challenge by getting soaked with lemonade from above.
THE ELIMINATION CHALLENGE
All the kids return nice and dry, and the Red Team heads up to the Balcony of Safety to sip on some fresh lemonade (still no food up there!), while the Blue Team waits for their next challenge. Then it happens. A voice blasts out over the kitchen: “It’s all groovy, man.” It is creepy and glorious (JUST LIKE LIFE), and before the kids freak out too much, Gordon Ramsay appears the way I believe he was meant be: as a beautiful flower-power loving hippie. He’s arrived in this garb to teach the cheftestants about the decade of his birth, the 1960s. It could basically be the 1660s to these kids, though – he is that old to them.
Before long, however, Graham appears in his best Saturday Night Fever get-up to represent the ’70s, and Christina roller skates her way out of the “Let’s Get Physical” music video and up to the front of the room to show these kids what the ’80s were all about (which was wearing your underwear outside of your pants, according to Ian).
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Each judge then introduces a dish from his or her decade. Gordon shows them duck a l’orange, Graham reveals a plate of Chicken Kiev, and Christina whips out some surf and turf. The kids are more than relieved that their challenge will only focus on the 1980s double protein staple. The ’80s are still ancient times to these kids, but they’re close enough they can at least wrap their heads around it. Plus: lobster!
Addison, 9, River Forest, IL
Steak Diane and Stuffed Lobster (with grilled asparagus)
The judges are once again impressed with this 9-year-old’s culinary knowledge and technique. I mean, sister flambés her sauce right in front of Graham and Christina like she’s been doing it for years. When Gordon asks her how she even knows about Steak Diane, she earnestly replies, “YouTube.” It’s the 2015 cookbook, you guys — get with it, or get OUT. Gordon thinks her dish doesn’t require two types of sauce, but overall it is delicious. He’d probably sign Addison’s petition to rename the dish “Steak Addison,” were she to ask.
NEXT: Double the proteins, double the problems
Tae-Ho, 12, Chula Vista, CA
Lobster and Filet Mignon (with cauliflower-spinach puree and dynamite sauce)
From the moment the judges say “surf and turf,” Tae-Ho is confident he can win this one. Oh, sweet, Tae-Ho, don’t you know your over-confidence means you’re obviously going to fail? Watch TV some time, kid. Gordon is outright offended to see two top-tier proteins covered in an over-powering sriracha and mayo sauce. He tells Tae-Ho that he would’ve fired a chef for such a travesty. It’s a little harsh, but it’s not like anything else on the plate was really working either — even under all of that sauce, his steak was overcooked and his cauliflower-spinach puree was DOA.
Zac, 12, Orlando, FL
Filet Mignon and Lobster (with parsnip puree and fondant potatoes)
Is all of America in love with Zac after tonight? Poor kid is finally ready to show the judges what he’s capable of and he goes and burns his hand. They call the medics in and patch him up so that he can keep cooking, but it looks painful. He never complains though! Gordon’s worried that his complicated dish coupled with an injury might be trouble, but Zac cannot be stopped. Christina cuts into the steak to find it cooked perfectly — even Gordon is impressed just looking on from the back.
Amaya, 10, Bergenfield, NJ
Filet Mignon and Lobster (with green rice and garlic sauce)
Graham takes one bite of Amaya’s steak dipped in her secret garlic sauce (she won’t even divulge the recipe to Gordon), and looks like he might be sick. In all fairness, she did warn him that the sauce was strong. It’s a little too strong for Graham’s liking. It’s not all bad news, though: Sure, her steak is undercooked, but Amaya has managed to serve up some great lobster. Will one perfect protein be enough to keep Amaya and her stable of headbands in the competition?
Mia, 11, Leander, TX
Steak au Poivre and Lobster (with brussels sprouts)
Mia, like Zac, is having a rough night. As a vegetarian, Mia confesses she doesn’t have much experience cooking any protein… let alone two all-star proteins. A helpful hint for all vegetarians entering large-scale cooking competitions: Learn how to cook meat — it will come up. Unfortunately, Mia learns this lesson a little too late. Her lobster is completely raw and Gordon refuses to taste it. Her steak is extremely undercooked as well, and her butter sauce could hardly be called a sauce at all. Mia knows she messed up and her name will surely be on the elimination short list.
Kaitlyn, 11, Yorktown Heights, NY
Filet Mignon and Lobster (with roasted potatoes, fried brussels sprouts, and beurre blanc)
Kaitlyn admits that she feels much more comfortable with the “turf” portion of this challenge than with the “surf.” She has nothing to worry about, though. Her dish wows Graham on looks alone, and then again when he slices open her steak to find a perfect medium rare temperature and some knock-out seasoning. He tells her he’s proud of her, you guys. I’m moved (also, hungry). With reviews like that, how can the other judges resist? Christina is blown away by Kaitlyn’s lobster and beurre blanc sauce, and congratulates the young chef on bringing a 1980s dish elegantly into 2015.
Corey, 12, Surprise, AZ
New York Strip and Lobster (with asparagus and red wine sauce)
Corey feels great about his steak and thinks this is the dish that will really push him to the top in the competition. Corey, have you met my friend Tae-Ho? Graham cuts into the steak and finds it overcooked. Hopefully Corey can win over the judge with his lobster, but as soon as Graham puts a bite in his mouth, he wants to spit it out (Graham’s having a tough night, too). It’s extremely salty, and has lost the flavor of the lobster. Graham uses this as a teaching moment: Taste. Your. Food.
The judges barely need to discuss this one. There’s one dish they all would love to put on their own menus tomorrow: Kaitlyn’s. And thus, Kaitlyn is one step closer to her dream of having an all-kids restaurant. Her win is well-deserved, but I’m wary.
The bottom three are pretty obvious choices as well: Mia, Corey, and Tae-Ho. Unfortunately, Mia and Tae-Ho are sent home for a lack of understanding how to work with such premium proteins. Both kids are class-acts on their way out. Tae-Ho is grateful for the new skills he’s gleaned, and Mia is grateful she got the chance to whack a piñata of Gordon Ramsay’s head. See? There are no losers on