Everyone’s favorite British chef Gordon Ramsay is back to show his softer side for season 2 of MasterChef Junior. Alongside chefs Graham Elliot and Joe Bastianich, Gordon narrows down the top 16 kid chefs to just 12. As with season 1, there are some crying kids, undercooked meat and burned chicken. And in the premiere, there are even live birds! But nothing can phase these children, ages 8 to 13, as they make their way around the MasterChef kitchen.

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A Mystery Box Picked By a Winner

The first challenge is a mystery box, with ingredients handpicked by last year’s winner, Alexander. He informs the young chefs that he is traveling the world, cooking for dignitaries and will be a judge on MasterChef Junior in Indonesia soon. Something to look forward to, kids! Though I find him a bit cocky and over-confident, I guess I can’t knock him and his success.

The ingredients include a pork chop, a pork tenderloin, Granny Smith apples, fingerling potatoes, hazelnuts, brussels sprouts, wholegrain mustard, phyllo dough, wild rice and artichokes. And the kind Alexander even whips up 13 dishes for inspiration.

Each kid goes to work, sweating it out in the 60 minutes. Coco, from Texas, is the first to crack under the pressure. She starts crying when she thinks her potatoes are too salty, but Gordon swoops in to assure her that they are fine. I think she was hamming it up a bit for the camera. Plus, who doesn’t want to see the softer Gordon?

The top three dished belong to:

Natalie, who has made a seared pork chop with rosemary potatoes, sauteed apples and carrots.

Mitchell, who has made a pork tenderloin with wild rice and a fried egg.

Oona, who’s made a spicy seared pork loin with mixed vegetables and a fried egg.

I wish Coco made the top three, even though she’s a crier. But I guess her Texas-style bacon-wrapped pork loin isn’t enough to wow the judges. Gordon is impressed with Natalie and Mitchell’s dishes, while Joe can’t stop singing the praises of Mitchell, even going as far as saying he could be a threat. The winner of the mystery box challenge, though, is Natalie.

The First Elimination Test is for the Birds

As many know, the winner of the mystery box challenge not only gets saved from the elimination round, but he or she also gets to pick what the other chefs cook. It is a time for the winner to plot their strategy in the competition. Natalie gets to pick between chicken, duck or turkey. Surprisingly, she chooses chicken; however, it is a wise choice as some of the dishes trip up the contestants. Nasir burns his chicken wings, while Isabella’s classic chicken parm ends up undercooked.

The chefs taste all of the dishes, but the following are featured:

Oona’s chicken liver pate with bruleed pears on a garlic croustini.

Isabella’s chicken parmesan in a marinara sauce with pasta.

Sean’s chicken wings in a fish sauce with yuzu salad.

Coco’s chicken milanese with wilted greens and fingerling potatoes.

Berry’s Moroccan chicken with couscous and fava bean salad.

Nasir’s lemon chicken drumette with potatoes and sugar snap peas.

Abby’s Mexican fried chicken with corn salad and zucchini.

Samuel’s five-spice chicken wings with black rice and pickled veggies and a Sriracha foam.

Joe absolutely loves Sean’s chicken wings, calling them a classic turned into a $20 dish, while Gordon and Graham love Oona’s chicken liver pate. Coco’s has the look though, but Graham thinks it’s slightly dry.

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Four Chefs Head Home

Ultimately, it is the burned and undercooked chicken that sends Isabella and Nasir home. Which is a shame because it was nice to see all the kids rally around Isabella after Gordon ripped into her — in the nicest way possible, of course.

The top 12 chefs are: Sean, Oona, Samuel, Josh, Natalie, Logan, Mitchell, Levi, Sam, Abby, Adaiah and Jessica.

Some top standouts include the cocky Samuel, who thinks he has more knowledge about food than the others; Oona, who looks really cute, but I think has a mean, competitive side; and Abby, who looks a little dumb, but could be really smart. Natalie stood out too, but it could just be her luck in winning the mystery box. Each way, all these kids are winners by me, though, as they are far superior cooks than myself and most adults I know. It will be fun to see how well these kids handle being under pressure in the MasterChef Junior kitchen.

MasterChef Junior airs Tuesdays at 8pm on FOX.

(Image courtesy of FOX)



Contributing Writer, BuddyTV