Season 6 of MasterChef Junior starts off with a surprise for the 40 junior home cooks — Joe Bastianich is returning as the third judge for their competition. He’s joining Gordon Ramsay and Christina Tosi. The kids, who range in age from eight to 13, are split into two groups. In the two-hour season premier, the 20 boys and 20 girls each face a competition in the MasterChef kitchen to try and win one of the 24 aprons. As usual, the winner not only gets a trophy and title of MasterChef Junior, but also $100,000.

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Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

The ladies are up first in the MasterChef kitchen. After the rules are explained that only 12 of them will move on, Gordon demonstrates how to make the perfect medium rare filet mignon. The girls then get 25 minutes to replicate the filet with a vegetable side dish. During the 25 minutes, the judges meet all of the contestants.

When time is up, the judges taste all 20 filets. They announce the top eight dishes that impressed them, with Ariana being the first name called as the dish of the night. Zia, Sophia, Avery, Emily, Beni, Gracie and Remy all make it up to the balcony and into the top 12 girls. Four ladies are then sent home, leaving eight chefs vying for the four leftover aprons. The eight girls get another challenge to wow the judges by preparing their signature dishes in the next 60 minutes.

As always, the judges go around to each station to find out about the dishes, and the girls are pretty creative. When time is up, they present their dishes to the judges. Up first is Remy’s sister Olivia. She brings up a berry tart with raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and whipped cream. Christina says it’s impressive and looks like it came straight out of a bakery. Eight-year-old Lila presents Gordon with her dad’s famous meatballs with tomato sauce and cucumber-tomato salad. He thinks it tastes great, but could have a little more color. Mackenzie brings up her dish of gyoza with carrot slaw and soy dipping sauce, the filling includes pork, scallions, white onion, ginger and garlic. Christina and Joe can’t stop raving about the gyoza, which they call “incredible,” “unbelievable” and “gorgeous.” Laken is up next with her shrimp and grits with vegetables and Andouille sausage, but her dish misses the mark. While Gordon says it is seasoned right, he finds a lot of flaws with it.

Chloe presents her flan with caramelized bananas, which turns out more like banana soup. Joe says it tastes delicious, but obviously the texture isn’t right. Abby, who had trouble during the challenge, presents her beignets with honey and strawberry dipping sauce, but Gordon says they are nowhere near actual beignets. Lindsay shows off her skills with rosemary lamb chops with tzatziki and cheese stuffed eggplant. Christina thinks it’s beautiful and a nice pairing. Finally, Maria presents her lamp chops with mofongo and tzatziki sauce. Gordon says the dish tastes great, but the balance is incorrect and it needs more color.

In the end, the final four who get a white apron and join the other eight in the balcony are Mackenzie, Olivia, Lindsay and Maria.

The Boys Are Back in Town

Next up are the boys. They head into the MasterChef kitchen, and the rules are explained. For their first challenge, Gordon demonstrates how to make a stunning breast of chicken. During the demonstration, he makes a point to make the boys repeat, “no color, no flavor” to make sure they are paying attention. The boys then have 25 minutes to replicate the dish with a side of their choosing. In the last 10 minutes, Gordon has to swoop in and put out a dish towel fire at one of the stations.

After time is up, the judges taste all of the chicken dishes, but some are still raw. The eight kids heading up the balcony are Sammy, Juelz, Grayson, Camson, Henry, Cade, Mikey and Pierce. As with the girls, four of the kids get sent home, and the remaining eight get a second chance to impress the judges and vie for the final four white aprons. They also get 60 minutes to prepare their signature dishes.

Once the 60 minutes is up, it’s time to taste the dishes. First up is Quani with his cupcakes with chocolate swirls and strawberries. Everyone thinks he’s crazy to present them to Christina, but she loves them. She does suggest changing the color, since they are blue. Anthony presents his chicken cutlet with spicy mayo, provolone, and roasted peppers hoagie with broccolini on the side. Gordon jokes a little bit about presenting just a sandwich as his signature dish, but Joe sticks up for Anthony. Then, after tasting it, Gordon loves it. Drew is up next with his Arab fusion burger with pita chips. The meat consists of lamb and beef and spices. Joe says it’s interesting, but too spicy. Next, Gordon tastes Tyler’s chicken nuggets with glazed carrots. He likes the carrots, but the chicken is a little dry. He suggests presenting it with a sauce.

The final four dishes are Chuk’s Nigerian shrimp stew with chimichurri sauce, Luca’s spicy tomato pasta with garlic bread, Ben’s peach cobbler with whipped cream and caramel sauce and Evan’s bananas foster crepes with dulce de leche stuffed bananas. Christina thinks Chuk’s dish has a bold flavor, but it’s heavy on the salt. Joe says Luca’s pasta is overcooked, but the sauce is good. Christina loves Ben’s cobbler, and Gordon is wowed by Evan’s stuffed bananas.

The four chefs who get a white apron are Anthony, Quani, Evan and Ben. The remaining four contestants head home.

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Introducing the Top 24 of Season 6:

  • Ariana – 12 – Minnesota
  • Zia – 9 – California
  • Sophia – 12 – Hawaii
  • Avery – 8 – Texas
  • Emily – 9 – California
  • Beni – 9 – Chicago
  • Gracie – 9 – California
  • Sisters Remy, 12, and Olivia, 10 – New York
  • Mackenzie – 9 – California
  • Lindsay – 10 – Michigan
  • Maria – 8 – California
  • Sammy – 12 – Michigan
  • Juelz – 8 – Missouri
  • Grayson – 11 – Louisiana
  • Camson – 13 – Florida
  • Henry – 9 – Texas
  • Cade – 11 – Mississippi
  • Mikey – 10 – Illinois
  • Pierce – 10 – Illinois
  • Anthony – 10 – New Jersey
  • Quani – 11 – Georgia
  • Evan – 11 – California
  • Ben – 10 – Indiana

I really do enjoy MasterChef Junior. The kids never cease to amaze me with their culinary skills and the judges always seem to be a little kinder to the contestants because they are younger. So it’s nice to see their softer side. I think season 6 will be a pretty close competition with many talented boys and girls.

The dish that impressed me the most in the season 6 premiere is Mackenzie’s gyoza. I absolutely love gyoza and hers looked on point. From the way the judges raved over it, I could almost taste them. However, while she says her grandmother taught her how to make gyoza, she did say hers are better than her grandmother’s. No one’s cooking is better than grandma’s!

Are you happy that MasterChef Junior is back for season 6? Are you pumped that Joe is back as a judge? Which series do you prefer, MasterChef or MasterChef Junior? Was there any contestant or dish that really stood out to you in the season premiere? Let us know in the comments below.

MasterChef Junior airs Fridays at 8/7c on FOX. Want more news? Like BuddyTV’s MasterChef Junior Facebook page.

(Image courtesy of FOX)


Contributing Writer, BuddyTV