In this episode of MasterChef Junior, “Family Style,” the final eight home cooks take a humdrum fruit to the next level. A special guest drops in to challenge the young chefs. And two more hopefuls go home.
The elite eight go “bananas” over their mystery box challenge. Yes, horrible pun intended. The young chefs have to cook a restaurant-quality dish featuring bananas. They’ve got an hour to prepare something to blow the judges’ collective socks off and, per usual, the winner gets a huge advantage going into the elimination challenge.
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Fresh and Fruity
My experience with bananas doesn’t extend past their inclusion in bread, pancakes, fruit salads, the occasional desert and on top of my cereal. Gordon believes the kids are used to eating bananas raw and their success in infusing them successfully into a sweet or savory dish will be a test of self-confidence.
Jenna, who barely escaped elimination last time, gets called up first as one of the judges’ top three. This is also her second time as a finalist in a mystery box challenge. She has prepared a coconut shrimp with a banana-coconut puree and a banana, mango and pineapple salad. Jenna struck the perfect balance between sweet and savory; all of the judges are impressed with how well the shrimp were cooked. The only criticism she receives is that her presentation lacks a wow factor.
Nathan, who surprisingly has never been singled out for one of his mystery box creations, catches the judges’ eyes this time with his banana/caramel macarons. He made a wise choose because the tiny cookies are very trendy right now. The macarons look beautiful, and Graham says that biting into one is like “eating a banana-flavored cloud.” Nathan’s technique is flawless, and it looks like he’s the frontrunner to win.
Ryan Kate is the last finalist, and her dish is a Caribbean spiced pork with a sweet potato hash and a spicy banana sauce. Joe likes Ryan Kate’s aggressive use of seasoning on her meat rub. Gordon tells Ryan Kate that this tropical-inspired concoction is the best thing she’s cooked in the competition so far.
Gordon praises all three of the children for raising the humble banana into a MasterChef-worthy dish, but the winner is Nathan.
Imitation is the Highest Form of Flattery
Instead of the usual trip to the pantry, the whole gang heads to the MasterChef restaurant where they meet a surprise guest, Gordon Ramsay’s 12-year-old daughter, Matilda. She challenges the group to recreate a meal that is near and dear to both her and her father’s hearts: salmon en croute with hollandaise sauce, baby potatoes and minted peas.
Not only do the home cooks have to replicate the taste, but the plating has to be identical to the one that Matilda has unveiled before them.
The judges’ weren’t playing around when they promised Nathan a big advantage. He gets to sit upstairs and chow down on some salmon en croute prepared by Gordon himself.
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It’s All About the Pastry
While this is a crazy, tough challenge, at least the ingredients have already been laid out for them at their stations. You know that if they weren’t pint-sized chefs, they’d be expected to figure those out for themselves.
This dish presents many challenges, but according to Gordon, the biggest is that the salmon is wrapped properly in the pastry.
Ryan Kate and Kayla are definitely working outside of their comfort zones. Jimmy and Ayla feel pressured to impress Matilda as much as the judges. Andrew is confident, even as Gordon tries to fluster him by setting him up on a date with his daughter. Something tells me Andrew hasn’t hit full-on puberty quite yet. Either Matilda isn’t to his taste, or he’s way too focused on the task at hand to try and woo the young Ramsay.
Matilda tells her dear-old-dad that she’s got no intention of marrying a chef. This seems to come as news to Gordon. When he asks her why, she says it’s because he’s such a “nutter.”
Good Sportsmanship and Good Food
With three minutes to go, Jenna flips her top when her hollandaise doesn’t thicken. She turns to Andrew for guidance, and he shows himself to be a classy competitor when he talks her down from the ledge and helps her salvage her dish.
Matilda doesn’t stick around for judging, which is a bit odd, but it must have been past her bedtime.
Gordon is impressed with Jenna’s finished product but warns her that she stresses out unnecessarily at times. She’s a pre-teen girl, what does he expect?
Andrew earns high praise from the judges for helping out his competitor. Gordon states it’s something none of the judges have witnessed in the MasterChef kitchen before. The icing on the cake is that Andrew’s dish is also spot-on.
The other standouts are Jimmy and Ayla.
Kayla’s pastry is a disaster, Ryan Kate’s salmon is overcooked and Joe calls out Riley for poor technique.
Jimmy and Andrew are singled out for their stellar performances, while Kayla, Riley and Ryan Kate face the firing squad. Ryan Kate and Riley are eliminated. When asked who they think will take home the big prize, Riley answers Jimmy or Andrew while Ashley Kate thinks it will be Nathan.
Who is not going to miss the totes adorable Riley? That kid is going places.
MasterChef Junior airs Tuesdays at 8pm on FOX.
(Image courtesy of FOX)