In this MasterChef Junior episode review, we focus on some new contenders to the title while two previous stand-outs are sent home.
We begin this MasterChef Junior episode review with the field narrowed to eighteen young chefs, still a large group but rapidly dwindling. They will first face a mystery box challenge. They have yet to face a real mystery box as last time, they found clocks under their cloches and got to make their favorite breakfast dish.
They lift their boxes to reveal a goldfish in the bowl. After trying to convince the kids they need to cook the goldfish, making sure to remove all the bones, they are informed they can make a dish using any of the fish varieties in the pantry. So, while they are not limited to specific ingredients in their mystery box, they do need to use fish and the fishes appear to be whole.
All of the kids on the show are young, and many of them are just eight. At eight, I enjoyed your typical kid foods- spaghetti, tacos, hamburgers. I didn’t develop a taste for fish until late in life. Meanwhile, these young chefs are comfortably cooking branzino, bass, halibut and snapper. Not only that but they have learned the art of describing dishes in a restaurant menu style.
Talulah, whose grandparents own a restaurant in the South of France, is making branzino almondine with almond brown butter and herb salad. Malia is making an Asian seared halibut with Asian style broccolini and coconut lime rice. Ben is making halibut with jasmine rice, coconut green curry sauce, Romanesco, and sugar snap peas.
After an hour of cook time, the judges call up their top three dishes. Matthew, an eight-year-old from New Jersey, presents a beautifully plated pan-seared branzino sitting on top of a bed of orange-scented rainbow chard and warm tomato salsa. Gordon asks him where his ideas come from and, like any honest eight-year-old, he answers, “usually my mind.”
Brielle, an eight-year-old from Georgia, tells us her food dream is to open Brielle’s Bistro and to serve fish and Italian food. She is one of many who made fish tacos. Her red snapper fish tacos with coleslaw, pico de gallo, and avocado crema help hers stand out from the pack.
Finally, the judges call up Reid, another eight-year-old from Georgia. So, if you are keeping track, three of our youngest chefs have been called up for the most interesting dishes. Reid presents striped bass with oven-roasted asparagus and potato hash. Reid is clearly good with flavors but I do worry that his food experience may not be as broad as his fellow cooks and that his plating lacks finesse. Regardless, the judges enjoy his dish.
Matthew is declared the winner and earns three advantages. His first advantage, as is usual, is to be safe from cooking in the elimination challenge. His second advantage is to select the ingredient for the other cooks. He is told he will get three choices that are loved by all kids. The first is chocolate. The second choice is citrus. The third choice is offal.
MASTERCHEF JUNIOR: L-R: Contestant Matthew and host / judge Gordon Ramsay in the “Junior Edition: Off the Hook” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Tuesday, March 26 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2019 FOX Broadcasting. CR: FOX.
Poor Matthew doesn’t even know what offal is, even when he is staring it in the face, quite literally. Gordon explains it is liver, heart, pig snout, chicken feet, intestines, pig ear. Without hearing Matthew’s choice, we return to the remaining home cooks.
The judges tell the kids that Matthew got to pick their ingredients to feature and they even tell them the choices he had. They will need to wait until they get to the pantry to find out his choice. In the meantime, he needs his third and final advantage.
Matthew can now save five cooks from the challenge. He says he will save good cooks who are kind and deserve to stay in the competition. He selects Rhashad, Che, Ivy, Jayden, and Evie. The rest of the kids run to the pantry where I fully expect a pile of pig parts but Matthew has very kindly selected citrus.
Citrus is interesting because it can go either savory or sweet, and we get a good mix of both. For the most part, there is little drama during cooking. We do see poor Nayeli hurt herself when Aaron comes to chat with her, distracts her, and she burns herself on caramel. After a quick check in by the medic, she bravely continues on.
Something I fully expect to be a dramatic moment occurs when Malia tells us what she is making. She says she is cooking seared pork chops and the camera pans to her meat and lingers. I swear it is steak. It is deep red and marbled.
At last it is time for judging. We do not get to see all the dishes, so we do not hear from Sadie, our strong front-runner, for this entire episode. First up is Ben. He has created a citrus napoleon with blueberry jam, having never made a napoleon before. The judges wish it was a little more brown but otherwise love it.
Next up is Nayeli. She has recovered from her burn and presents a very well-received blood orange upside down cake with blood orange whipped cream. Talulah, unfortunately, does not fare so well. She has gone to her French roots to make lemon macarons with raspberry jam.
MASTERCHEF JUNIOR: L-R: Contestant Talulah with host / judge Gordon Ramsay and judges Christina Tosi and Aarón Sanchez in the “Junior Edition: Off the Hook” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Tuesday, March 26 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2019 FOX Broadcasting. CR: FOX.
The issue is that she beat color into her mixture and deflated the egg whites, so her cookies are hollow. Also, it seems she has dunked them in butter? I watched this part a few times as it made no sense to me, but that does seem to be what Gordon says. While her raspberry jam is good and her cookies look beautiful, they are soggy, hollow, and have a heavy butter flavor.
Reid next presents his donuts with a mint and lemon glaze. While I think his donuts look plain, sitting in a brown heap, the judges like the glaze. However, his dough needed more time to rise so they are not fluffy.
Mateo is up next with his pan-seared scallops with lemon beurre noisette, lemon risotto, and carrot puree. At his age, I knew only a couple of those words. Sadly, his puree doesn’t make sense on the plate and his scallops are burned. His risotto, which he has never made before, is good.
Kate presents her lemon pancakes with raspberry and blueberry syrup to good reviews. Brielle’s garlic jerk shrimp with basmati rice and avocado crema sounds more complex but her rice has too much pepper and she needed a sauce. Also, though the judges do not point it out, she did make avocado crema in her previous dish.
Kyle’s fruit tartlet with yuzu pastry cream and candied blood orange receives rave reviews for the cream, but the crust is too blond and the candied blood orange is cut far too thickly so it is hard to eat and bitter.
Last but not least is Malia. I am sure that the “pork chop” which looked oddly steaky will come back to bite her. She is interviewed about how her pork chop is perfectly cooked, “says my thermometer” as an ominous sound plays behind her. And yet, what she delivers is clearly a pork chop. Not only that, but the judges love her lemon pork chop with lemon orzo, lemon bok choy and lime aioli. She earns a double high five and I feel like someone pulled a switcheroo.
MASTERCHEF JUNIOR: L-R: Contestant Malia with judge / host Gordon Ramsay and judges Christina Tosi and Aarón Sanchez in the “Junior Edition: Off the Hook” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Tuesday, March 26 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2019 FOX Broadcasting. CR: FOX.
The top three are Malia, Nayeli, and Ben. Singled out for their lesser performance are Mateo, Brielle, Kyle, and Talulah. Though they have had strong showings previously, Mateo and Talulah are both eliminated.
It was interesting to see some different kids get the spotlight this episode. I look forward to having more time to spend with each cook as the field continues to shrink, though I hate to see any of them go home.