MasterChef Junior review S7E1: New Kids on the Block


It’s that time again and it’s the first MasterChef Junior review. Which junior home cook has the talent to impress these talented celebrity chefs?

MasterChef Junior is back with twenty-four incredibly talented kids aged eight to thirteen. Also back are judges Gordon Ramsay, Aaron Sanchez, and Christina Tosi as well as the fun and often messy challenges that only MasterChef Junior can bring.

We begin with a supposed mystery box challenge. The kids stand at their stations, many needing step stools to reach the tops of their mystery boxes. But before anyone can lift their box, an alarm begins ringing. They try again, but another alarm goes off. At last, the kids raise the boxes, each to find an alarm clock clamoring.

Told it is time to wake up, the kids will be making breakfast. The judges are looking for a dish that showcases the cooks’ own styles and skills, so they can make anything they want in forty-five minutes.

With twenty-four kids to watch, it is hard to discern a lot of individuality among the cooks. In the end, we get to focus on just three dishes. Sadie, a twelve-year-old from Seattle with a very healthy self-image, is called up first as a best dish. She has made delicate Parmesan cups in which nestle eggs, bacon, and chives. The lacy cups look delicious and very elegant and the dish is well-received.

Next up is Ivy, an eleven-year old from Atlanta. As a Georgian myself, I was thrilled to see that seven of the twenty-four kids are from Georgia. Ivy has made French toast, scrambled eggs with gruyere, bacon, plantanos, and berry compote. I think the plantanos are part of the reason she was recognized as, like Sadie, she has presented something above and beyond your typical breakfast fare.

Similarly, we have Ben’s Japanese style pancakes with maple bacon and fruit. His pancakes are huge and fluffy, having been made in ring molds.

In the end, all three earn an advantage. The biggest advantage, in my opinion, is freedom from cooking in the elimination challenge. The other advantage is the ability to assign dishes to the other cooks. As this is the first episode, I wonder how much the kids know about each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Also, the dish choices all seem approximately even in terms of challenge. In other words, this advantage may have been fun but probably wasn’t terribly strategic.

The elimination challenge is to cook a school lunch with the key being to make it MasterChef worthy. It needs to be elevated with unique flavors, techniques, and presentation. The kids will have sixty minutes to make a quesadilla, chicken tender, or meatloaf lunch. Because of the challenge, we do get the pleasure of seeing the judges wear lunch lady hairnets. Gordon looks ridiculous.

After time is called, Evie, Talulah, and Thomas are named winners without us even seeing their dishes, which is disappointing. Instead, the show focuses on a close inspection of the six dishes that are most concerning for the judges.

Mateo, an eight-year-old from New Jersey, presents his three-cheese chicken quesadilla with lemon-lime rice and black bean puree. His tortilla is a crispy, golden brown, packed with chicken and cheese. His rice is grainy.

MASTERCHEF JUNIOR: L-R: Contestant Mateo with judge Aarón Sanchez in the “Junior Edition: New Kids on the Block/Going Bananas” special two-hour season premiere episode of MASTERCHEF airing Tuesday, March 12 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2019 FOX Broadcasting. CR: FOX.

It doesn’t surprise me when they call Rhashad, a twelve-year-old from Georgia. When Gordon visits his station, Rhashad is happily chopping away but has not started cooking his meatloaf. It is only when Gordon prompts him that he decides he needs to focus on the main component of his dish. He presents a meatloaf with jerk ketchup glaze, mashed potatoes and green beans.

His meatloaf is cooked, but it is also gray. Gordon tells him it looks like “the kind of thing that my bulldog leaves under the sofa.” He has also put burnt chives, garlic and shallots on his potatoes. When asked why he would put it on the plate, he says he wanted the color against his white potatoes. All around, he seems to have made some poor choices this round.

Neko, an eleven-year-old from Texas, presents a chicken quesadilla with rice and beans. Neko is not thrilled with her assignment of quesadilla and it shows in her dish. Her quesadilla is dry, lacking cheese, and eats like a plain tortilla with chicken.

Miguel, a twelve-year-old from Atlanta, has made the mistake of recreating but not elevating his dish. His chicken tenders with sautéed corn and mashed potato is unremarkable. His tenders are also unevenly browned and his potatoes are undercooked. Shannen suffers from the same problem. Her chicken tenders, corn, potato chips, and “side of ketchup” are deemed nothing special.

Kyle’s jalapeno and cheddar stuffed meatloaf with gravy and saffron mashed potatoes sounds interesting but apparently lacks flavor and seasoning.

MASTERCHEF JUNIOR: L-R: Contestant Kyle host / judge Gordon Ramsay and judges Christina Tosi and Aarón Sanchez in the “Junior Edition: New Kids on the Block/Going Bananas” special two-hour season premiere episode of MASTERCHEF airing Tuesday, March 12 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2019 FOX Broadcasting. CR: FOX.

In the end, three kids are called forward- Neko, Rhashad, and Miguel. As there is one of each dish, I assume these were deemed the least successful quesadilla, meatloaf, and chicken tenders, respectively. Rhashad is safe, and Neko and Miguel are sent home.

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This looks to be a fun season with plenty of embarrassing, silly moments for the judges which is one of my favorite things about MasterChef Junior. We get to see the softer, goofier side of these professionals. Best of luck to the remaining kid chefs!