Last week, Jack won the MasterChef Junior challenge as the competitors, ages 6 through 13, confidently cooked the judges’ favorite childhood meals. But will these young contestants crack under the pressure of preparing the “World Famous Gordon Ramsay Beef Wellington” during a team challenge?
This week we are down to the top 10, so I’m looking forward to seeing if the competition heats up. As of the start of this episode, Gordon Ramsay is all smiles. He still manages to keep his angry red horns buried beneath a halo of praise and smiles.
In the MasterChef Junior kitchen, the cooks stand before judges Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot and Bastianich. Gordon asks the top three cooks from last week to raise their hands: Alexander, Kaylen, and Gavin. These three, who made the best restaurant-level burgers, will have their own competition in order to gain an advantage in the elimination challenge.
Whipped Cream Contest Mission: Cream the Judges
The three contestants must whip it, and whip it good.
Alexander, Kaylen, and Gavin line up at the first station, each with a metal bowl, a bottle of cream, and a whisk. They are challenged to whip the cream to a consistency where the cream has white peaks and won’t fall out of bowl when you turn it upside down. The first person to be ready should hold a whisk in the air and yell, “Whipped!” Hmm…
Using my adult arm, the process of whipping cream always takes two times as long as expected. The longer the arm, the more leverage and strength one can use, so I expect the owner of the longest arm (Alexander) to have the advantage here.
As the three contestants burn their muscles and smack their bowls, the rest of the children yell on the sidelines. Sarah, aged 9 and youngest and shortest by far, yells the loudest. For some reason, Sarah has her sights on Gavin. “C’mon Gavin! Whip it, whip it like a man!” Sarah screams, jumping up and down. Does she have a crush? Sarah is losing her voice. “C’mon Gavin! I don’t want to see that arm stop moving! Whip it!!” Her face starts to go red from emotion.
Luckily for Sarah’s health, the challenge ends soon. Alexander holds his whisk in the air and yells, “Whipped!” Gordon yells for everyone to stop and put their hands in the air. The judges leave and then return carrying stools, which they place behind them.
Will the children be dropping the cream while standing on stools? Better. Each contestant will hold their bowl above one of the judges heads. If the whipped cream is at the right consistency, it will have hard peaks and will not fall out of the bow. “Alexander, I already showered this morning, I don’t want to have to take another one,” says Graham.
“I don’t know how expensive Joe’s suits are, but he’s probably going to send me a dry cleaning bill,” says Gavin. Graham crosses himself. Gordon counts down from three. Alexander turns his bowl over Graham’s head, and nothing falls. Alexander gets a round of applause.
I believe this challenge is unfair (unless the judges really want to be drenched in cream) because the Gavin and Kaylen did not raised their whisks, so their whipped cream is obviously not ready yet. As expected, when Gavin turns his bowl, cream glops across the face of Joe, who doesn’t look happy. Next, Kaylen’s cream runs like milk all over Gordon’s head and shoulders. Ooh, maybe this was worth it: here comes Gordon’s first curse! “S***!” He’s completely bleeped out, and everyone laughs. This truly is a sanitized MasterChef, because Gordon tries to correct himself: “Oh, sugar sugar sugar sugar!”
Joe is not laughing at first. Alexander squashes his perfectly peaked bowl on Graham’s head. Now they disintegrated into a food fight. Joe throws the glops of cream at Graham. The children line up, and Joe congratulates Alexander even though he his covered in cream.
Alexander Gets to Choose Rival Teams for First MasterChef Junior “Tag Team Challenge”
Gordon says that the whipped cream is just an appetizer. Now for the entrÃ©e. The upcoming challenge will split the 10 home cooks into five teams of two, and one team will be an eliminated.
Alexander’s advantage is to choose the teams for MasterChef Junior’s first tag team challenge. He chooses Troy for himself, because he considers him a top competitor (and to keep his team strong). Alexander pairs up the other teams: Roen and Jewels, Dara and Sarah, Zack and Kaylen, and Sofia and Gavin. Jack is ready for the tag team challenge. “I watch wrestling a lot so I know how it works,” he says. “I’m in the zone!”
Cooking the “World Famous Gordon Ramsay Beef Wellington”
For the tag team challenge, the children will make the “World Famous Gordon Ramsay Beef Wellington.” This is a technical dish, paired with what Gordon calls “the most amazing mashed potatoes” and brocollini. (At first I wonder how in the spicy-vegan-gourmet era of 2013, Gordon’s choice of a “world famous,” amazing dish to teach children is a fancy version of meat and potatoes. Not to trivialize Beef Wellington, of course. Not sure why I wonder this, since it is a very British dish. Still, it doesn’t seem quite gourmet.)
Before starting the competition, the children are permitted taste samples of Gordon’s dish and ask questions. Now after setting my eyes on it, I really want to taste it along with them. It looks delicious! The dish includes a thick steak at rare to medium-rare, brushed in mushrooms and surrounded by pastry. Each station has beef filet, crepes, prosciutto, mustard, broccolini, thyme, oil potatoes, salt and pepper. The children have 65 minutes to cook. They all stand at the edge of their stations. And, go!
One cook from each station starts to cook. They are seasoning steak with salt and pepper and peeling potatoes. Looks like the best cooks stayed in the back to coach the younger ones during the first round.
Graham and Joe think this might be beyond the realm of reason that the cooks can pull this off. Gordon, however, points to all these children have achieved thus far and believes they can do it. All three judges admit that there are so many moving parts to Beef Wellington that having two cooks at the helm will be a hindrance.
Team Alexander and Troy
Here are the masters of MasterChef Junior, but they do not agree about when to brush on the mustard. Troy is the first one cooking and Alexander coaches from the side. Alexander is polite at first, asking, “Do we brush it in mustard first?” Troy says no. Alexander then says to marinate it first, and Troy says the meat is not hot enough. Alexander says he let Troy put it in the oven without mustard, and he fears this will send them home.
But Gordon Ramsay comes to their rescue. Either he doesn’t want to see them leave, or he doesn’t want to ruin an otherwise delicious World Famous Gordon Ramsay Beef Wellington. So Gordon heads to their station and asks where the beef is, and whether it has mustard on it. Troy admits he did not, and says they will stick together as a team in the future.
When Alexander and Troy bring their plates to the judges, Gordon asks if they are in for a treat. He says it is visually stunning, and Alexander says when Gordon cuts it should be rare to medium rare, with the proper layers. Gordon Ramsay says the meat is cooked perfectly and is phenomenal. Alexander and Troy nail one of the most sophisticated dishes in the world. Graham said that on the outside, their meat is talking the talk, and on the inside it’s walking the walk. He can’t find fault; it’s “almost a complete grand slam.” Back at their station, Troy says that they set a bar he doesn’t think anyone will top.
Team Sarah and Dara
These two young ladies do not completely jive. When Dara cooks, she yells to Sarah to talk to her, but then she does not take Sarah’s advice. Sarah worries Dara won’t listen to her, but notes she is 9 years old and made it this far.
Sarah pulls her pan of Beef Wellington from the oven, and it looks beautiful. For a second … Oh the humanity! Quirky, likely-not-very-muscular since she’s short, nine-year-old Sarah dropped her team’s Beef Wellington on the floor! My stomach is in knots during this commercial break. (I know from personal experience working in a seafood restaurant the sickening feeling as you see yourself in slow motion dropping a blackened salmon on the filthy floor after the ticket hung for a half hour and the dish cooked for at least another half hour … the cook and the patron will kill you if they find out! Hey, it’s blackened already!)
Back from commercial: “Sarah’s just dropped her Wellington,” says Gordon. But the pan landed on the floor! The Wellington stayed on top and didn’t drop! Phew!
In front of the judges, Dara says they struggled. Joe cuts into the meat. He thinks it might be tied between Sarah and Dara and the first team. Sarah admits she accidentally dropped the Wellington. Joe tells her she probably should not repeat that, nobody needs to know. He admits that he uses the five second rule: “In a restaurant, we have a back of the house. Not everyone needs to know what happens in there.” Gross, but true. Gordon says he’s struggling to understand how they are 12 and 9, combined 21 and he knows professional cooks in the industry at that age who can’t cook like that.
Team Kaylen and Jack
Jack worries that the bottom of the puffed pastry around the beef is gummy. Graham says Jack is correct. The flavor is good, but the broccolini is also overcooked. Gordon said the mushrooms are sparse and therefore the beef is slightly overcooked without the wall of mushrooms. Jack prays that he will make it to the next round.
Team Sofia and Gavin
Graham says that their plate looks beautiful: an a A or B+, closer to an A. It tastes incredibly good, but the puffed pastry could have been rolled a little thinner. Gordon said the beef is cooked beautifully. The fundamentals are good, the pastry is too heavy, but the sear and seasoning are perfect.
Team Jewels and Roen
The pastry Roen rolled is slightly thick. Gordon is not saying anything; this is worrying. “That is very interesting,” he said. He lets Roen and Jewels try the meat. What is going on? Gordon is disappointed with how saIty it is. “It’s like eating a mouth full of salt. What a shame.”
(Yeah, that is a shame Gordon. It’s a shame you sound so disappointed at this beautiful first effort by two children who had never made your signature dish before. Is it just me who is a little annoyed? But then, I bet they do appreciate the opportunity to learn directly from Gordon.)
Jewels admits to having used too much salt. Good for Jewels. She’s not crying. Joe also notes that mustard is raw. But the cook on the beef is delicious, broccoli is perfect and mashed potatoes are excellent.
The judges leave to do their judging. Kaylen is so sweet. She says quietly to Jack, “Just remember that we got this far.” Jack has his head on the stove. Don’t turn on the stove, Jack! Roen is crying.
The judges return. The teams of Alexander and Troy, Gavin and Sofia, and Sarah and Dara are safe. These teams head to the balcony. Kaylen and Jack are safe, and they say goodbye to Jewels and Roen and join their fellow six competitors.
“This is the bit we do not enjoy,” Gordon says, hugging Jewels and Roen. “Keep hold of those aprons, and maybe we’ll see you back here one day, maybe in the adult MasterChef.”
Next week will be a nightmare “mystery box challenge” of sardines, liver, and snails. The children are grossed out! This may turn out to be even more entertaining than Beef Wellington. These children are amazing when they are on a roll; they will likely be more fun to watch when they are in distress.
Keep up the good work, MasterChef Juniors!
MasterChef airs Fridays at 8pm on FOX
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(Image courtesy of FOX)