MasterChef Junior Season 3, Episode 4:Knowledge and Confidence

MasterChef-Junior-LogoWatching MasterChef Junior at times makes me think that Gordon, Graham, and Joe missed their calling to be kids birthday planner. They seem to work well with kids and come up with ways to entertain and challenge them. If this were a show on PBS, it would be a an extension of Sesame Street. But alas no, this is a competition in which young children (and we must remember that)are competing to win a coveted prize with real cash money attached to it. And sometimes I wonder if the challenges are really geared to kids or for the judges.

After the usual banter after entering the kitchen (and Graham showing us some dance moves), the three winners from last week (Cory, Jenna and Nathan) are given baskets and a list of ingredients. They have to fill them to win the coveted top honor for the next challenge. They have a huge pantry at MasterChef that is fully stocked with just about everything grown, raised, or farmed. The pantry appears large, almost like one of those supersize hardware stores. But remember that sets can be designed to look bigger than they actually appear. At any rate, our youngsters have to fill the carts with items on the cards given to them. Sounds easy until it is pointed out nothing is labeled. And they have only two minutes. Some things are easy to spot while others are more difficult if you have never seen them before.To add more pressure the other kids follow them into the kitchen if for nothing else to kind of cheer them on (which adds more pressure).

When all is counted up in the end, Jenna gets the win with the most correct number of items from the list. Jenna’s reward is not to head up to the balcony but to choose teams for as yet unspecified challenge. This is a time for strategy but she shied away from that except for Cory and Jack. Jack is concerned about working with Cory. Cory, as we used to say when I was a kid, is a spatz. Now that is not a bad word, it just means the kid has lots of energy. And when the task is revealed, it is a doozy: a sushi boat. Sushi is not just slicing and dicing up fish. It is a very technical and precise way of presenting raw fish and its accompaniments. It takes a lot of training to become an expert. I understand why they throw this at adults but why at kids? It makes me wonder if there is a dichotomy on this show. I noticed it last season. On one hand they want to treat these kids as kids yet they put demands on them same as the adults. In fact I believe they seem them as just little chefs waiting to grow up into the big outfits. They may outwardly treat them as children but many of the tasks say otherwise.

This challenge was a team challenge but tag-team. Which means one person cooks while the other stands watching the other cook. To pull this off you need confidence in each other. And you have to be careful not to talk down your partner so as to loose confidence. Replicating a sushi boat is difficult as it is without causing unnecessary friction. Teams that worked well together produced good to excellent dishes. Those that had problems either in working with each other or just not having the confidence to pull it off, ended up on the bottom. Jenna and Kayla bicker so their confidence was lost and their dish reflected it. Likewise Cory and Jack have problems as well so their dish is not great either. Andrew and Riley really worked well together and their dish reflected it. Ayla and Jimmy did it better. They simply and mostly quietly did their work and produced a dish that won the night. That left Jenna/Kayla and Cory/Jack on the bottom.

And the decision was Cory and Jack left the kitchen. Some out on the Internet are not happy with this decision. Jenna and Kayla’s dish looked worse but the judges decided Cory and Jack were worse. It may have been a close decision or two versus one. The judges tasted both dishes so obviously one was worse than the other. At any rate the group gets smaller and smaller, not unlike taking a trip through the Willy Wonka factory.

There was an interesting bit of side news for the show. At one point, a chimpanzee was used for an episode on the show. What exactly it was doing is unclear and MasterChef says it was all done under the guidance of the American Humane Association to make sure nothing was done wrong. PETA, the radical animals rights group that wants to ban all meat from our diets (along with dairy as well), got mad when the saw a Facebook post. So they let Masterchef know of their displeasure. Now the official word is that they decided to drop using the filmed scenes for “creative reasons.” Perhaps but it shows the almost charade this show is becoming relying on such gimmicks.

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From The Titanic Mystery Files:The Case of the Misidentified Corpse

MysteryWhat happens when you open a casket and find out it is not who it is supposed to be? It happens, regretfully, once in a while. Sometimes it was a goof up at the coroner’s office or the mortuary screwed up. In the case of Leonard Hickman, the Winnipeg Free Press reports, his remains were not in the coffin when arrived for burial but someone else.

Leonard Hickman had emigrated from England in 1908 to Eden, a small town in Western Canada north of Neepawa. He worked on a farm and was apparently well liked. He was engaged to Margaret, the daughter of the farm owners, in 1911. So he traveled back to England in late 1911 to tell his family and convince them to all move to Canada. And they all agreed. Alas the coal strike of 1912 meant they could not all travel together so Leonard, his brothers Lewis and Stanley, and four friends ended up on Titanic.

Leonard’s body was the only one found so it was decided to ship it to Neepawa for internment there. There is some dispute over whether White Star arranged shipment of the body or the Eden branch of Independent Order of Foresters which Hickman was a member of. The funeral was set for May 10, 1912 but the train was late in arriving,  Harold Honeyman, who owned the farm and was Hickman’s boss, and James Smith who knew the Hickman family, opened the casket to find it was not Leonard Hickman. Instead it was a much older man with a moustache. Since the mourners had already assembled, a decision was made not to inform them. Whether or not the minister who presided over the ceremony knew is unclear and was announced that due to his being in the water for a while, it would be a closed-casket service.

Now the town had gone all out for the funeral with flags at half-staff with many businesses and offices closed, and a citizens band to lead the procession. So one can understand why they choose the deception. Sometime afterwards they discovered the body was Lewis Hickman, Leonard’s brother. Personal effects confirmed later by his widow that it was indeed Lewis. Apparently what happened was a card found in Lewis’s pocket from the Independent Order of Foresters with Leonard’s name on it was used to identify the body.

Photo: South Africa War Graves Project (2013)
Photo: South Africa War Graves Project (2013)

So what happened next, as word eventually spread about what happened, was to alter the gravestone to mark the names of all three Hickman brothers who perished on Titanic. The grave is located in the Riverside Cemetery in Neepawa, Canada.

1. Mix-Up Of Titanic Proportions(26 Jan 2015,Winnipeg Free Press)
2. Leonard Mark Hickman Encyclopedia Titanica
3. Lewis Hickman

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“Indignant” Letter Sells For Just Under $12,000

Lucy Christiana, Lady Duff Gordon(circa 1916 or earlier by Arnold Genthe) Photo:Public Domain (Arnold Genthe Collection,US Library of Congress digital id agc.7a15137)
Lucy Christiana, Lady Duff Gordon(circa 1916 or earlier by Arnold Genthe)
Photo:Public Domain (Arnold Genthe Collection,US Library of Congress digital id agc.7a15137)

A handwritten letter by Titanic survivor Lady Duff-Gordon was auctioned off by RR Auction in Boston for $11,875. In the letter Duff-Gordon wrote:

According to the way we’ve been treated by England on our return we didn’t seem to have done the right thing in being saved at all!!!! Isn’t it disgraceful?

The name of the buyer was not revealed in the news report. A cup and saucer from Titanic fetched more at $13,750.

Source: Titanic Survivor’s Indignant Letter Sells For Nearly $12,000 (23 Jan 2015,

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Masterchef Junior Episode 3: Aged Judges and Alligator Meat

American Alligator in captivity at the Columbus Zoo, Powell, Ohio Photo:Postdlf(Wikipedia)
American Alligator in captivity at the Columbus Zoo, Powell, Ohio

Originally I was going to write your standard boiler plate up or down review of this episode. Here is what it all boils down to: gimmicks and alligator. Every reality show has a gimmick to get viewers to watch. Masterchef Junior (MCJ) has landed on the side of comedy. In this episode, the judges were made up to be 80 year old guys to match the theme of well aged foods. Fortunately most well aged foods are not kept for 80 years (unless it is a very rare wine or the legendary fruitcake of Hogwarts). One kid thought Graham’s eyebrows were scary and asked him to move away. Of course before the judging began, once again they did the Superman trick by walking  out one door as old dudes and then magically reappearing seconds later back as their current selves.

Andrew won the aged foods challenge with his grilled New York Strip with fennel salad and smashed potatoes. It looked delicious. Back in the pantry he is shown three very dangerous animals that are eaten: snapping turtle, rattlesnake, and the American alligator. My mind raced back to images of certain well traveled chefs who ate such exotic things. Andrew has to decide which one to give his fellow contestants to cook. I would have picked rattlesnake. I would bet that not one of those kids had every cooked with one before. He choose alligator and while he enjoys a nice pizza pie on the balcony, the kids get to cooking. But before that they had to go into the pantry to see which creature he had chosen. Mind you that these animals are enclosed. They are not walking about but still you get the obligatory scream. The alligator looks bored and, according to what I have read, the American alligator generally likes to stay away from humans.

Andrew choose poorly because many of them did know enough about alligator to make passable dishes. The trick is to keep it moist! Three ended up in the bottom in the end:Kyler, Jimmy and Mia. Jimmy was there because although his dish was okay, it was nothing that screamed MasterChef. More like Wednesday night dinner at Old Pop’s down the road. Okay but nothing that screamed exceptional. Both Kyler and Mia way overcooked the alligator making it tough and jerky like. No real hard decision here: Jimmy is saved sending Kyler and Mia home.

Next week:the infamous tag-team challenge returns with sushi determining whose team reigns supreme.

Odds & Ends
*Joe trying yoga and failing-priceless!
*Gordon at age 80 still looks good but the bushy eyebrows they gave Graham made him look a creature from a 1930’s movie with Lon Chaney.
*Joe putting a sock he wore on a unused food device was also kind of scary. Now I do not want to eat at his restaurant!

By The Numbers
Due to the State of the Union address, most broadcast networks used repeats to fill the evening. For the 8:00 p.m. hour that meant powerhouse NCIS was on repeat mode. According to TV By The Numbers , MasterChef Junior got a 1.8 rating in the 18-49 age group giving it a win over a repeat of NCIS. But remember those share numbers are funny things. MCJ won with less viewers (5.53 million) compared to NCIS with a share of 1.4/11.96 million eyeballs. Meaning even on a repeat night more people were actually watching a NCIS repeat than MCJ.

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When Visiting A Nature Preserve Obey The Posted Rules

I grew up in a time when we learned not to get too close to animals in the wild. I guess back then we learned that wild animals, even those in zoos, ought to be given the proper distance. That meant never approach them like they were your pets because they might just think you are a threat. Simple. But alas many today forget many of the simple rules and just roll right up to a bear sitting there apparently in a peaceful state. Perhaps they saw too many Disney and Yogi Bear animations. Now at Kruger National Park in South Africa, they post all kinds of warnings when you drive through. Keep your windows up, do not lean out, don’t follow the animals in your car. Some idiot tried doing that with an elephant resulting in it attacking the car. So what do you do when you see a female and male lion just having a nice bit of sun on the road? Well I know what I would do. And it is not what these idiots decided to do. Notice the kids hanging out of a car.

MasterChef Junior Season 3 Episode 2: Teamwork Pays Off

MasterChef-Junior-LogoIn the last season of MasterChef Junior a team cupcake competition, where team members were literally connected to each  other, produced no unified cupcake. Instead each member produced six cupcakes of their own resulting in two separate entries though being judged as a team challenge. This time around for the sausage competition, there was no wiggle room. Each team had to produce a stunning sausage and its accompaniments. And the only way to do this right was to work together. Most of the teams got it right but some did not resulting in another take your apron and leave the kitchen result.

Before we got to the sausage team competition, once again the producers decide we must have a comedy skit that involves the judges getting dunked, drenched, or covered in something unpleasant. Last season it was maple syrup and this season is the lemon meringue pie. Fortunately the three kids–Jimmy, Ryan Kate and Andrew–did not have to make the pies. There were twelve there and they had to make the meringue for the  pie. I know many out there like to see the MasterChef judges get splattered but personally I think it is just filler for the show. And it is predictable that all of the judges will get splatted. So I would suggest they dump this skit and come up with something else for filler. After three seasons of seeing this, either call in professionals to do it or simply dump it.

Jimmy won the meringue challenge and gets to pick the teams. No exemption for him! He has to cook as well. Probably the one he was most clever about was pairing up Andrew with Cory. Andrew has one way of doing things and Cory another. And they cannot agree on much. Which means producing a unified sausage dish is going to be a challenge. Jenna hates sausage and it makes you wonder if pairing with Mia will work. But despite her dislike of sausage, their pork & chorizo with sauerkraut is delicious. Joe thinks it reminds him of a rustic German dish and even yodels when the girls ask. Gordon is pleased as well.

Jimmy and Kyler though have a split decision, which is rare to see on MasterChef. Joe likes their pork butt & kangaroo dish but Gordon has a totally different reaction. Not only did he disagree with Joe but said they ought to have left kangaroo to the Australians. Which means Graham would be tasting it to break the tie. But no, for some reason it is not shown. Huh? Here you have two judges with two completely different takes on a contestant’s food. Is it not worth it to put in what Graham thought as well?

On the other hand Ayla & Reilly got raves for their version of bangers and mash. Gordon’s only complaint was that the sausage was too small. But at least they got it right unlike Andrew & Cory and Alexis & Micah. Andrew & Cory was a sad dish to look at. The sausage was dry and bland which is not a good thing when it is supposed to be the star. Alexis & Micah had a promising dish with white bean and Swiss chard stew but both the sausage and stew were under seasoned. Meaning the sausage sat in a watery dish that gave it no help. Not good at all.

The winning team was Jenna and Micah, remarkable when you recall Jenna hated sausage. It was no surprise that Andrew & Cory and Alexis & Micah ended up on the bottom. After the usual drama, Alexis & Micah were sent home.

I liked the sausage challenge which took them out of their comfort zone. Most people do not make their own sausage. It is a lot of work to do but gives you control over the meat and spices being used.

Odds & Ends
*Andrew really has to learn that yelling at inanimate objects like stand mixers will do no good. Unless you are on The Muppet Show and only with the Swedish Chef.
*Always watch your flame on a gas burner. Once it goes out precious cooking time is lost.
*As always those who over salt their food will get zinged but those who under season their food will always end up on the bottom.

By The Numbers
TV By The Numbers final results for Tuesday night are in. For the 8:00 p.m. hour, NCIS (CBS) won 1st place with 19.87 million, SharkTank(ABC) came in second at 7.48 million, and in third place MasterChef Junior with 4.93 million viewers. MasterChef was 5.26 million last week so it lost viewers, which is not unexpected, after the premiere. Fox has renewed it already for a fourth season and replacing Joe is Christina Tosi, the owner of New York’s dessert-based restaurant Momofuku Milk Bar.

Next week: We see aged versions of the judges and there are some scary reptiles and snakes in the house. (Note: The U.S. State of the Union address will be shown at 9:00 p.m. ET/6:00 p.m. PT on that day. So it is likely the east and central timezones will have their showing pre-empted for its coverage).

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Lady Duff-Gordon Letter Up For Auction

Lucy Christiana, Lady Duff Gordon(circa 1916 or earlier by Arnold Genthe) Photo:Public Domain (Arnold Genthe Collection,US Library of Congress digital id agc.7a15137)
Lucy Christiana, Lady Duff-Gordon(circa 1916 or earlier by Arnold Genthe)
Photo:Public Domain (Arnold Genthe Collection,US Library of Congress digital id agc.7a15137)

RR Auction of Amherst, NH has put up for auction a letter written by Titanic survivor Lady Duff-Gordon. The letter is dated 27 May 1912 and sent to a friend. In the letter she writes “According to the way we’ve been treated by England on our return we didn’t seem to have done the right thing in being saved at all!!!! Isn’t it disgraceful.” The letter was written during the time of the British inquiry in which both she and her husband Sir Cosmo were questioned about being on a lifeboat (lifeboat #1)with so few people aboard it. The minimum bid is $300 and you can view the letter and details by clicking here.

Source: Titanic Survivor’s Angry Letter To Be Auctioned In Boston(12 Jan 2015,CBS Boston)

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