It’s down to the final two on MasterChef Junior season 2. Will it be Samuel or Logan who join Alexander for the title of winner on the kids’ version of Gordon Ramsay’s MasterChef? Both have their strengths and weaknesses in the kitchen. And each has a different style and approach when preparing dishes. Now, Samuel and Logan discuss their time on the show, what it’s really like in the kitchen and what they plan to do after the show is over.
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Why did you want to be on MasterChef Junior?
Samuel: I really enjoyed watching the first season of MasterChef Junior, and it looked like so much fun that when the open casting call came up, I thought I’d give it a try.
Logan: I wanted to be on Masterchef Junior to meet the famous chefs and to improve my skills. I also really wanted Chef Ramsay to yell at me just like in his TV shows! I wanted to meet his standards.
What it’s really like in the MasterChef kitchen?
Samuel: It’s so exciting to cook in the MasterChef kitchen; so much is going on so fast. You have everything imaginable at your fingertips, every sort of ingredient and kitchen tool that exists, so you are only limited by where your creativity and imagination take you.
Logan: Amazing! It is so big and clean! The pantry is super fly! You are in Hollywood and it is a famous place! I loved it.
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What’s is your favorite dish to prepare?
Samuel: My favorite dish to prepare is just a simple steak. You can experiment with the seasonings, rubs, marinades, and it’s amazing how many different flavors you can get out of the beef. A steak is easy to cook, just sear it and let it rest and finish off. At home, I’ll cook a steak, some simple risotto and puree fresh vegetables for an easy dish that is very flavorful and satisfying.
Logan: I love to cook fish! There are so many different kinds of fish and it is so tasty. It makes a great lunch!
What dish did you struggle with?
Samuel: I struggled with the signature dish, because I really had to think on my feet and come up with plan B when my plan A went south because I picked up the wrong vegetable and burned my sauce.
Logan: I struggled with the ceviche a bit. It was hard to keep tasting it over and over. Plus shrimp is NEVER in our house!
What is your plan for after the show?
Samuel: After the show is over, first of all, I am most looking forward to reuniting with all my friends from the cast and cooking great meals together just for fun. We have so much fun when we get together, and it’s great to have a group of friends who are all connected through cooking. During breaks in filming, we would often go out to eat together, or go shopping for cooking utensils or cookbooks, and just have fun together with all we had in common with our cooking.
Logan: I would love to have my own cooking show and write a cookbook; and sell my spice blends. I have been working on all of them a long time so no rush, I am only 12.
What are the judges really like? Did you have a favorite?
Samuel: The judges were intimidating at first, but after we got to know them, we could all see that the they were there to help us grow and improve as chefs. I learned so much from the judges’ criticism, even though it was scary. I didn’t have a favorite judge, they all helped me to improve my cooking, and I learned different things from each one of them.
Logan: All the judges are so nice and great mentors. They each have their own unique way to be! I felt really connected to Chef Ramsay and Chef Elliot and felt the most pressure to be perfect for them. Joe scares me the most.
Did the judges guide you during the challenges?
Samuel: More like they distracted us. They would ask questions and challenge us and it was sometimes hard to focus on cooking and answer questions at the same time.
Logan: Yes, they taught us different techniques but ultimately what you did was up to you! That is the best.
Where there any mishaps or issues in the kitchen?
Samuel: There were constant mishaps in the kitchen, but that’s what happens when you only have 60 minutes to complete the challenge. Things are going to go wrong when you are rushing around. You have to be quick and think on your feet so you can rescue your dish if it’s going down in flames. That’s also how you can discover things you never knew about yourself before.
Logan: Well, we all got burned and tried hard not to get cut! Some appliances fell apart and one time my stove did not light and my water pump did not turn on! It is a set and a kitchen!
Where do you get the ideas for the dishes?
Samuel: I’m inspired by my experiences in the San Francisco Bay area where we have a huge diversity of cultures and foods. There is always something new to discover, new flavors, new experiences, new techniques. We go out to local farmer’s markets in different parts of the city, and we search out new cuisines. I like to experiment and try things I’ve never tried before.
Logan: I just came up with them! I listen to the little chef in my head.
Who did you see as your biggest competitor?
Samuel: Everyone who was on the cast was there because they had amazing talent in the kitchen. I feel lucky to have been included in this group of incredible chefs. I don’t think we saw each other as competitors so much as we saw ourselves racing against the clock. The clock was the biggest competitor!
Logan: Myself! I have to learn more, plate better be more creative. I am the one being judged and the food needs to be my best!
What will you do with the money if you win?
Samuel: I’ve thought about a lot of different things, but I don’t know for sure. It would be great to use the money to make a difference in my hometown in ways that are related to food, because there is a big need for improvement in healthy eating programs and there are many hungry children.
Logan: I probably would try to go Japan! I love to travel! But honestly I am not focused on the money.
You have very unique dishes. Where do you get your inspiration for them? Do you think you wowed the judges with them?
Samuel: Like I said, I am inspired by the all of the culinary diversity in the Bay Area that I have been lucky to experience. I love combining new flavors and ideas with the old classics that my mother always served at home. I think the judges always had ideas for me to improve my dishes and that was the most important thing that I will remember about MasterChef Junior — that there is always something new to learn. It never gets boring.
What it’s like to make the Top 2?
Samuel: It’s a fantastic feeling and at the same time I feel like all of the kids that came here deserve to still be here. So many incredible cooks and even better friends. I mean, really, how do you choose among the chefs? I feel lucky to have made it this far.
Logan: To make the top two is amazing! I mean around 20,000 kids auditioned and I am one of the two in the finals of MasterChef Junior! Wow
With the holidays coming, what sort of dishes are you looking forward to either eating or making?
Samuel: I love cooking for others so really if we are going to a friend’s [house] or they are coming to visit, my first thought is to ask what they would like and what makes them feel in the holiday spirit. Then I try and add a little personal twist that I hope makes the dish even better.
Logan: I am really looking forward to making our Christmas ravioli! It is a tradition, all made by hand. I can’t wait to make it and eat it.
Samuel, it took a while for the judges to really appreciate your unique, delicious dishes. What strategy did you use to really heat up the competition to get them to notice?
Samuel: I didn’t so much try to make the judges notice as I tried to be create layers of flavors in a creative way. On the salmon dish the pan sear was complimented by the sweet and savory of the tomato honey and the salty, fresh greens of the gremolatta. I was so excited that the flavors all worked together!
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Samuel, what kind of restaurant would you open and what kind of food would you serve?
Samuel: I think now that I would open a restaurant which highlighted fresh, local ingredients. One that was fun just to be in – maybe family style tables so people could share the experience. A place that was warm and inviting for everyone.
Was there one dish that didn’t turn out quite like it should have? What did you do to make-up for the mistake?
Logan: My steak dish did not have the foam I wanted. Well, I tried to cook and flavor the meat perfectly! I had to nail that meat! It was really important.
The ceviche at the pop-up restaurant, what did it take to finally get it right?
Logan: I have to trust my instincts and ask for help. I needed to trust my team. It was tough getting the seasoning just right, but once we understood the flavor, it all came together.
Did Gordon’s pep talk scare you or help you?
Logan: The pep talk was really cool, and I will remember his advice every time I am in the kitchen. He gave me great advice and confidence. It is one of the best memories from the show!
Logan, during the salmon challenge, you only had five ingredients. In the end, did you find that less was really more? Why?
Logan: I found that less is more with fine quality ingredients and simply cooking them makes you push for perfection.
Logan, do you still want to open up that underwater bistro? What kind of food would you serve?
Logan: The underwater restaurant has been my dream for a long time, so yes! I would love to make it a reality! I would serve seafood and steak, but since I am really still growing as a chef, I am not sure what my future menu would really include.
The MasterChef Junior Season Two finale airs Tuesday at 8pm on FOX.
(Image courtesy of FOX)