In this recap of MasterChef Junior, we get to see a noodle of “impastable” length, and we also see the kids challenged to make a classic but unfamiliar dessert.
We begin in the MasterChef Junior kitchen, but it is different today. At the front of the room, shiny metal prep tables are laid out, each with the markings of a ruler on their top. The judges, all dressed in head-to-toe white suits, await the arrival of the kid chefs.
Our top ten cooks arrive to find out today’s challenge. They will split into three teams of three and attempt to be the first team to roll out a single, unbroken sheet of pasta to twenty-four feet. To pick teams, they draw a colored, dried noodle out of a jar.
The green team consists of Malia, Jaala, and Reid. The yellow team is Matthew, Rhashad, and Che. The red team is Aaron, Ben, and Sadie. As that accounts for nine of ten kids, lucky Ivy gets a black noodle and is safe from the day’s competitions.
Christina and Aaron will show the kids how to roll their pasta before the race begins. All teams will have ready-made pasta dough available at their station. They need to hand-roll it a bit to flatten it and then they can roll it through a hand-cranked pasta roller.
While doing so, they need to be sure to flour the dough just enough to allow it to roll through without clogging but not so much that they dry it out so that it breaks. As it is rolling, they must support the dough so that it’s own weight doesn’t tear it.
MASTERCHEF JUNIOR: Judge Aarón Sánchez in the “Junior Edition: Pasta Race” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Tuesday, April 30 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne: FOX.
As Christina cranks away, Aaron supports their ever-growing pasta sheet. They start at what I think of as the back of the kitchen, the large door where kids enter and exit. From there, the sheet goes the length of the kitchen, up the stairs, across the balcony, and then back through the large door. I am highly skeptical that this is a single pasta sheet. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn she had rolled linen through that thing given the length.
MASTERCHEF JUNIOR: Host/judge Gordon Ramsay in the “Junior Edition: Pasta Race” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Tuesday, April 30 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne: FOX.
Before starting the race, each judge sits down at a table set with a huge plate of spaghetti, one that looks like it could feed a family of eight. It wouldn’t be MasterChef Junior without a mess and a possible loss of massive amounts of foodstuff, so the judges stand to get doused in sauce depending on which team wins.
MASTERCHEF JUNIOR: Contestants in the “Junior Edition: Pasta Race” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Tuesday, April 30 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne: FOX.
Green team quickly finishes their twenty-four foot pasta sheet and the kids dump a huge bowl of green pesto on Aaron’s head. Since red came in second, they get to cover Gordon in red marinara, and to be a good sport, Christina gets doused in cheese sauce.
I’m not keen on these messy bits but the best part happens when little Matthew can’t reach the pull above his head. His teammates lift him up and he alone pulls the lever.
MASTERCHEF JUNIOR: L-R: Contestants with host/judge Gordon Ramsay in the “Junior Edition: Pasta Race” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Tuesday, April 30 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne: FOX.
Malia, Jaala and Reid of the green team are safe and head up to the balcony. The remaining six cooks will face the pressure test. This time they must create three perfect eclairs, each with a different topping.
One will feature milk chocolate and silver leaf, one will have a white vanilla glaze, and one will have a dark chocolate topping with gold leaf. As they pan across the ingredients that each kid has at their station, I notice that each one is labelled as far as what the ingredient is and what it is for (for pate a choux, for vanilla pastry cream, etc).
Also, each one is pre-measured. I had always wondered if they taught the kids how to make these things off camera or what, so it was interesting to see the labels.
While most of us have seen eclairs one place or another and many of us have eaten them, it’s not something you typically whip up at home. Many of the kids have never eaten an éclair, let alone made one. I took a class on eclairs once and it was fun to make and not too challenging, but there are some tricks.
For instance, you cook a dough mixture until you’ve cooked out the moisture, but then you need to beat the mixture off the heat long enough to cool it so it doesn’t cook the eggs you add. You need to add just enough egg to get the right consistency, and it can vary a little each time.
When you pipe them out, you ideally want them the same size so they cook evenly, and you poke down any little peaks with a wet finger so it won’t burn. Once in the oven, you leave them alone so the steam in the dough will puff them, leaving a hollow for your filling. Once out of the oven, you poke a hole in them to release any remaining steam because otherwise, they deflate.
The worst part for me was dipping them in glaze. I kept getting divots in the glaze where my fingers were, and our glaze promptly ran down the sides as soon as we set the eclairs down.
Even with so many pitfalls, all the kids do a great job and we get to enjoy just how cute and talented they all are. Aaron, endearingly, eats half his gold leaf while he is baking. How often to you get to eat gold?
Matthew, when asked if the pressure gets to him, tells Gordon he is just having fun. Gordon replies, “what excites you most about food?” Matthew cheerfully tells Gordon that Gordon himself most excites him. He watches all Gordon’s videos and he wants to be like Gordon when he grows up.
Later, Matthew struggles to add glucose to his bowl. The sticky stuff won’t leave his spoon, so he tries to nudge it with another spoon, but it sticks to that one too. So then he tries his finger and we see him frantically shaking his finger. Maybe glucose is what we were lacking for our glaze to make it stop being so runny.
The only two that I worry about are Ben and Che. Ben won’t stop opening his oven. He is worried the eclairs will burn, so he opens it again and again (he estimates four times), each time letting out the all-important steam.
When his eclairs deflate, he thinks it is because he over-cooked them so he removes them from the oven. Gordon goes to check and finds them raw, so he puts them back in the oven. According to Gordon, you can still save a deflated éclair with a higher heat, but I don’t know that Ben thinks to do that.
Che doesn’t bake much due to having celiac disease. So not only does he not have baking skills to fall back on, he has no idea what an éclair should taste like. Aaron comes to check on him and tells him, “let me take a little gander and a meander to your eclairs,” which Che has in the oven.
I am thinking he will give Che a couple of helpful hints, but instead he tells him, “at this moment right here, you’ve gotta make sure that you’re putting the good juju up in this oven.” He then has Che join him on his knees to pray to the pastry gods in a weird (maybe French?) accent. Gee, thanks for the help, Aaron.
MASTERCHEF JUNIOR: Contestant Che in the “Junior Edition: Pasta Race” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Tuesday, April 30 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne: FOX.
The kids put their final touches on their eclairs, using giant culinary tweezers to apply the gold and silver leaf. True story, I bought giant culinary tweezers in France and have yet to use them for anything. I found it amusing to see these little chefs using comically over sized tweezers to apply tiny bits of leaf.
We get very little commentary during judging, which is weird as there are only six kids being judged. Aaron tries each dark chocolate éclair, Christina tries each vanilla éclair, and Gordon finishes with all the milk chocolate ones. Even during deliberation, we only hear a brief comment here and there. They admit that the details that they are picking at would be ones they would only ever discuss in their professional kitchens, not here in MasterChef Junior.
Che, despite his celiac disease and Aaron’s dubious “help,” wins a top spot along with Aaron and Sadie. This leaves Matthew, Rhashad, and Ben on the bottom, and makes for Ben’s third consecutive week on the bottom. All we know is that Matthew’s eclairs had surface cracks but were crisp, Rhashad’s eclairs had some dips and divots but his glaze was impressive, and Ben’s eclairs were too flat from all that oven opening.
In the end, the judges decide to send no one home as they all did so well, so we remain at the top ten. Not only that, but they have all been invited to appear at Camp MasterChef this summer. I really need them to create an adult version of Camp MasterChef so I can sign up.
Next time, the MasterChef Junior restaurant opens its doors. I am sure no one will be safe next week in that challenge!