Tag Archives: Graham Elliot

Masterchef Junior, Season 3, Episode 7: Raspberry Dessert

MasterChef-Junior-LogoThe final four–Andrew, Nathan, Jimmy, and Jenna–enter the kitchen stadium to do culinary battle for a place in the finale. Two will enter and move on; two will depart. Tonight there is no mystery box as Gordon presents what they will cook: crème brulee. A wonderful dish but tricky to pull off. Jenna tells us she goes to a French restaurant on her birthday and has one for dessert. Nathan has never made one before nor been to a fancy restaurant. Fortunately Gordon demonstrates how to caramelize one. It looks so easy when he does it but then he has had many years of experience (and some Michelin stars as he likes to remind us). Andrew is not much of a desert guy but likes being able to use a blow torch.

In a deviation from regular Masterchef, the kids do not have to make it from scratch. They each have 20 unfinished brulees at their station. They only have to add the sugar and caramelize it properly. And they have ten minutes to properly prepare as many as they can. So it will be both quantity and quality that will decide who wins. Jenna’s mouth opens wide in surprise in learning the time limitation. And they are off to make the perfect finishing touch to the crème brulee.

The judges look at the results to determine who got the most done correctly. Nathan finished 13 but only 1 was correct. Ouch. You have to watch that blowtorch! Jenna completed 15 but total perfect was 4. Graham said she was too timid in using the flame which is why most of them were pretty pale. Jimmy delivered 8 perfect ones. Andrew used two blowtorches and did all 20 but only 4 were done right. So usually at this point Jimmy would head back to the pantry and make a decision. But once again the comedy jester decides to use a gimmick again. Instead of revealing the fruit that will be part of the next upscale desert they will prepare, a whole lot of raspberries are dumped on them. You can just hear that circus music playing and a barker crying:

“Ladies and gentleman! Inside this tent are kids that will cook the most amazing dishes. They will astound and delight you by cooking dishes only found in the highest class places that princes, kings, and captains of industry attend. For only a mere 50¢ you will see dishes rarely seen out of those places. But we have tricks for these kids to pass through! Step inside now to see what will fall out of the sky or the cupboard or even the oven as they attempt the most difficult of dishes!”

Petr Kratochvil(publicdomainpictures.net)
Petr Kratochvil(publicdomainpictures.net)

The judges laugh, Jimmy cleans his glasses, Andrew is not thrilled with having raspberries dumped on him and Jenna has raspberries in her hair. And you have a whole lot of wasted fruit on the floor that are going to have to tossed out that could have gone to a food bank or homeless shelter. Four dishes will have this fruit as its main ingredient and Jimmy gets to decide who makes what. He has to choose from a Raspberry Napoleon, Raspberry Trifle, Raspberry Mousse, and the most difficult of all–Raspberry Tarte. Yikes! Jimmy hands the tarte to Nathan. A smart move. The mousse goes to Andrew and another smart decision. Jenna gets the napoleon because Jimmy thinks it is the easiest and can defeat her in the finale.

As time winds down, Jenna is way behind time wise. Her plating has not even been done at the 2 minute mark. She is racing about to get everything on her plate while the others do finishing touches. Sadly Jenna’s dish looks like a mess. Jimmy’s trifle looks a little uneven and taste wise it is rustic but too acidic and not enough sweetness. But overall okay. Andrew has a lot of raspberry on his apron. And he had to redo his mousse when the first one failed (too sweet). He may be a mess but the dish turns out perfectly. And Gordon is quite pleased with the result though it could have used more time to set. Overall, a good dessert.

Ah Jenna. The dish looks like it was plated in a hurry but actually tastes pretty good says Gordon. Joe refused to say anything about his tasting of the dish. They are all disappointed that she did not plate it well though tastes good. Nathan had the hardest of all, the tarte. Graham liked the visual and loved its flavor. Nathan really pulled it off on this dessert. Jimmy gave him the hardest dish of all and he aced it. This kid really has earned a place in the finale against Andrew. Which means sadly Jimmy and Jenna end up going home. It will be quite a battle royal in the final because Andrew and Nathan are well matched.

It was sad to see Jimmy and Jenna go. Both are very talented young chefs with a bright future in professional cooking if they go that route. They came very far beating out a lot of people to get into the top four. And now it is between Andrew and Nathan. While I like Andrew, I think Nathan has the edge needed to win.

By The Numbers
One of the reasons I wait a few days to do the write-up is for the final adjusted ratings. The fast ratings sometimes can be off. Masterchef saw a spike this week that pushed it up quite a bit but still came in third place for the 8pm hour. The final numbers are NCIS (CBS)at 2.6 rating in the 18-49 age group and 18 million viewers. ABC’s Fresh Off The Boat came in second with 1.9/6 million viewers. Masterchef came in a respectable third place with 1.8 and just under 5.5 million viewers. Th uptick is not surprising as it usually happens at the primiere and the two end shows of the season.

Food Network’s Kids Baking Championship
Thanks to Sling TV, I got a chance to take a look at this show that started this year on Food and Duff Goldman (Ace of Cakes) and Valerie Bertinelli (actress and cookbook author) are the hosts with kids aged 10-13. It is actually a very pleasant show to watch. They start out with eight kids (the season for this is just a few episodes) and as the title indicates everything they do is baking. I really loved the Desert Imposter episode where the kids had to come up with deserts that looked like regular main courses but were deserts. Duff Goldman and Valerie Bertinelli make a good team for this show and I hope they bring it back. Like Masterchef, it lacks the high drama and sometimes bracing personalities as the kids are delightful to watch. Goldman is particularly good at giving the kids helpful suggestions as they cook. Goldman really enjoys what he is doing and while they will put some twists into the challenges (like telling them after they have started one batch of sweet baked goods they must now do a batch of savory as well)it lacks the gimmicks of Masterchef Junior. And it has its tough moments too when it sends kids home at then end.

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Masterchef Junior, Season 3, Episode 6:Going To The Kitchen

MasterChef-Junior-LogoIt is the pressure test of the series: the restaurant challenge. Contestants man the kitchen of a well known eatery and serve courses that are on the menu. And they must do so at the highest standards possible under the ever watchful eye of the master expediter Gordon Ramsay. Which can be quite terrifying according to one aspiring junior masterchef. Six kids will enter the restaurant but only four will move on. No pressure though. And thankfully no gimmicks in this episode.

They are the well regarded  Comme Ça, a place that tries to transport you to Paris with its food. And this being a lunch service, it means things are going to be quick since a lunch crowd likes to get in and out in a reasonable amount of time. Since Andrew and Jimmy were the winners last week, they become team captains. Andrew (Team Blue) has Nathan and Jenna while Jimmy(Team red) has Ayla and Kayla. As the executive chef demonstrates the high quality dishes they will be replicating, it is pretty obvious that this is a very upscale lunch they will be serving. The guests do not know who is cooking the meal but they do know that it is being filmed. Joe as always is handling front of the house. Gordon does the expediting (terrifying as always) with Graham backing him up. Andrew tells his team what to cook while Jimmy talks to his team members as to what they want to cook.

Gordon says something quite telling about his role as expediter to the kids:

I’m not interested in how old you are. I’ll be treating you like professional chefs in my own kitchen. Got it?

Once again MCJ straddles that wobbly line between a kids reality show and treating them as adults. And points to something I noticed last season. There was a shift in the shows tenor as it went on as the judges stopped seeing them as kids but young adults in chefs aprons. And here it is again but this time but more direct. The only thing missing was the famous Ramsay profanity which is so common on Hell’s Kitchen and shows up now and then on MasterChef. Considering the fact they put kids in a real restaurant kitchen (free publicity for the restaurant)it is no small thing to say that. It meant in his eyes they were young adults in chefs aprons. Goodbye childhood, hello kitchen!

As was expected, the kids went through the usual problems of not cooking dishes right and having Gordon get angry at him. Jenna kept overcooking some cakes in the pan. Andrew lost control at one point and was sent outside to cool down because he became the terrible l’enfant in the kitchen barking out orders and not paying attention. Jimmy did not keep his station clean so plates had ugly stuff on the bottom. They ran out of chickpeas on Team Blue so some dishes (for the executive chefs no less)were not complete dishes. Ayla served raw steak and Kayla raw fish. Reviews were mixed out in the dining room. Some people liked their dishes, some found dishes salty, a little too rare, or underdone (like pasta). Except for Jenna getting burned with a hot pan, no serious incidents in the kitchen. The kids survived the ordeal and then faced the tough decision back in Masterchef kitchen as to who won and lost.

Since this task was in itself a pressure test, there was no final exam. All the judges had to do was declare a winner and send two home. And it was close because both teams did, despite inexperience and intense pressure, okay. Team Andrew won which means they go into the top four leaving Team Red to face the chop. And it was sad to see Ayla and Kayla sent home leaving Jimmy for the last spot on the final four. And the final four are Andrew, Jenna, Nathan, and Jimmy. The semifinals are next to determine who goes into the finals. I think Andrew is probably going to get into the final but I am torn as to the second spot. I think it might come down to Jimmy and Jenna but hey, anything can happen.

By The Numbers
No surprise– CBS won the hour with 2.9 rating in the 18-49 with a total of 18 million viewers for NCIS. ABC’s Fresh Off The Boat was second with 2.9 and 6 million viewers. Third place went to Masterchef Junior with 1.4 and 4.5 million viewers. MCJ beat out CW’s The Flash and NBC’s Parks and Recreation. While MCJ got into third place, its average viewership (not counting the premiere) seems to be around 4.5 million give or take some points here or there.

Next week: the semifinals!

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MasterChef Junior, Season 3, Episode 5: Bananas For All and Matilda’s Favorite Dish

MasterChef-Junior-LogoWith a nod to a Steven Speilberg movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind, a banana is majestically lowered to reveal it is the mystery ingredient. The gimmicks just keep on coming for MCJ and this was probably the episode they wisely decided not to show a primate in it. It looked cool with the steam billowing, the lights, and the judges looking up like this might be the first contact with a sentient species from outer space. Nope, just a banana being lowered by a wire but it looked impressive.

I love Bananas Foster but incorporating bananas into a dish can be tricky. Again the kids amaze us with their creativity and the top selected are Jenna for her well received Coconut Shrimp with banana puree, Nathan with his Banana Caramel Macarons that wowed the judges, and Ryan Kate’s well executed Caribbean Spiced Pork with spicy banana sauce. Wow! The judges were presented with three great dishes to decide who would win the challenge. And Nathan wins for his brilliantly executed macarons. For Ryan Kate though, it is her swan song because the next challenge will not go well for her.

Daughter in the House
Gordon’s daughter Matilda stops by to heckle her father. She says her father is a softie but does walk around the house naked (just joking she says-we hope!). She reveals her  favorite dish their dad cooks is Salmon en croute. After she reveals the dish, the look on the kids faces shows they are facing quite a challenge. Jenna’s smile turns to a real concerned look. Ryan Kate has never heard of the dish. Fish in pastry is not a new concept, actually quite old and something many countries have. Salmon en croute though is an upscale and sophisticated dish that has garnered a certain amount of fame. Gordon Ramsay’s recipe can be read at RedOnline.

With this as the elimination challenge, our young cooks will be put to the test. Matilda has made sure all the necessary ingredients are at their stations. As she lists them, she pronounces one herb in the American way:bey-zuhl. Gordon always pronounces basil as baz-uhl getting him often mocked by Joe and Graham. That aside, this challenge requires a replication of the Ramsay dish. This will really tell us who really has got the chops to make it to the end. Gordon as always cannot help teasing someone, in particular Andrew. He asks if he would like to take his daughter to dinner. Matilida (called Tillie by Gordon) is not amused and tries to get him to stop. She then tells her father that she will not marry a chef because her father is a “nutter.” Amusing looks all around.

Riley looks like he is in trouble. And Ryan Kate is nervous as well. You have to watch that pastry to make sure it cooks right. You do not want it too thick or it might be underdone. Jenna runs into a major hurdle when her Hollandaise sauce breaks. Andrew, who has extra time, decides to help her out by telling her what to do. And it saves her Hollandaise. Andrew does a good thing here, something not often seen on the adult version of the show. With all the cooking done, the judging begins. Jenna’s dish turns out near perfect and Gordon reminds her she has the ability to go far. Andrew’s dish gets compliments as well and his helping Jenna gets high marks too. Sadly Kayla’s dish looks not so good. Way too much pastry with too little salmon but worse-underdone pastry. Oh dear, you can hear those sounds of doom here. Ayala, who does not get much screen time, has a delicious dish but the sauce is very spicy. Ryan Kate has a good looking dish except that she folded the pastry wrong over her salmon resulting it being overcooked. Death gong as well for her and for Riley. His dish has many technical flaws. The pastry is raw, potatoes needed color, and the Hollandaise more like scrambled eggs. Jimmy’s dish is near perfect (he has cooked the dish before). Gordon loves the dish and Jimmy is secure in the top six. Sadly though two must go.

The winners were Jimmy and Andrew(who gets the top honor). Ryan Kate, Riley, and Kayla are on the bottom tonight. It is sad to see Riley on the bottom. Such a talented kid but this challenge got the best of him. As it did for Ryan Kate. Riley thinks Andrew will take it while Ryan Kate calls it for Nathan. Now we are down to the top six.  And next week they get literally thrown in the frying pan when they take over service at a restaurant, And Gordon is expediting. Yikes! And there is a fire thrown in for good measure.


By The Numbers
According to TV By The Numbers  NCIS got a 2.6 rating with 18 million viewers, SharkTank got 1.9 for 7 million viewers. And MasterChef Junior came in third at 1.6 rating and just under 5 million viewers. I will have to go back and check the numbers, but it looks like MCJ lost viewers. Fox’s numbers for the night are not that great. MCJ gets the highest ratings while The Mindy Project got at 1.o rating with just over 2 million viewers.

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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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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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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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MasterChef Junior Season 3: The Kids Find Their Aprons

MasterChef-Junior-LogoHere we go again with another season of MasterChef Junior season 3. Are you ready? Too bad because here we go!

*The kids arrive and told they are the best kid cooks around. But they need one thing to complete the image, an apron. Treasure hunt! They race into the pantry to search food bins, containers, refrigerators and even large objects shaped like chocolate eggs for aprons with their name on it. Fortunately the clock is not ticking. Trust me if they do this again they will give them 5 minutes and then they wear the apron of shame (one that has a picture of Gordon laughing).

*The mystery box is chocked full of ingredients including a nice piece of salmon. So many ways to cook this nice bit of fish or something else. Ultimately Kayla, Jack, and Jenna are called up for their dishes to be sampled. And in a first for Masterchef, a tie. Seems the judges could not make up their minds who would win. So they all do! They go back to the pantry to select one of three pastas for their fellow cheftestants to cook. Joe likes ravioli, Graham lasagna, and Gordon pappardelle. Pappardelle is a wide pasta not unlike fettucine and is served with a hearty sauce. Delicious but complicated to get the pasta just right.

*While the three head up to the balcony with ice cream sundaes, someone hopes they get brain freeze. Perhaps said in jest or perhaps not!

*It really comes down to who made not only the best pasta but a flavorful sauce as well. Underdone noodles, too little sauce, missing salt are all things that the judges notice when they taste the results. However there are enough delicious ones to pass muster and keep them in the competition. Ryan Kate, Jimmy, and Andrew are the winners but sadly AJ, Philly, Quincy, Jianna, and Parker are sent home at the end. Wow that is a big chop sending five home the first night. This season is starting off fast and will go by quickly if the usual pace of about two per episode dropped is kept from this point on.

*First ever major kitchen incident. Up till now most injuries are simple nicks but unfortunately Kayla Mitchell (age 11) sliced two fingers during the mystery box challenge. Yikes! Medics are quickly dispatched and make sure the wounds are not serious. They quickly bandage her and and put a glove on the hand to protect it. She then resumes the competition and of course was in the top three winners of the challenge. It was pretty bloody reports Radar Online

All I remember seeing was, like, part of my nail was gone and there was just blood everywhere. It was horrible. Honestly, I didn’t really know what to do. You want to keep pushing and you want to keep going to cook and finish. I was just really nervous that I wasn’t going to be able to finish the challenge.

*Needless to say MasterChef immediately alerted the media that the set is well staffed with medics and a safety class is held so the kids know kitchen safety basics. Accidents are going to happen and thankfully this was not something requiring a trip to the hospital and requiring stitches.

*One writer out there said it is really hard to know what makes these kids tick. We get hardly any background about their lives at home. Just some bits and pieces dropped here and there. It is a valid point. How do these kids get this good? Be nice to see them at home to add more to their backstory.

*So how did the show fare in the ratings? According to TV By The Numbers, MasterChef Junior earned a 1.8 rating for adults 18-49, even with fall season premiere and up 6 percent from the last season finale. But NCIS was 2.7 with a 17 percent gain from its most original episode. ABC’s Marvel’s Agent Carter got a respectable 1.9 putting MasterChef in third place for the 8:00 hour. It means 19. 49 people watched NCIS, 6.88 million for Agent Carter, and 5.26 million for MasterChef Junior.

Next week we go vaudeville or old school comedy with the old fashioned pie-in-your-face skit.


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MasterChef Junior Season 2 Finale: Wrapping It All Up

MasterChef-Junior-LogoSeason 2 of MasterChef Junior concluded with its finale Tuesday night crowning the bow-tie wonder Logan as Masterchef Junior for 2014. It was quite a ride though the season was short (unlike the full run of regular Masterchef which spans six weeks or more). They really had some very talented kids this year making it worth watching. Once again there was no one really to hate and most of the kids were adorable. And once again many are amazed as to how talented these kids area. More on that later. In the finale we saw two very talented junior chefs take the stage, each cooking the best meal in their lives. They just had to convince Gordon, Graham, and Joe they were worthy of the title.

And it was not so easy at all. Both of them were exceptional so it came down to very fine technical points in the end. Was the sauce right or wrong? Did the flavors go well together or did the olives make it too strong? It was those kinds of things that the judges had to sort through because both, quite frankly, could win the award. They were that good. In the end they awarded the win to Logan. I have to admit he was my underdog in the challenge.When he decided to do the salted fish I was both amazed and shocked at his decision. It is not for the faint of heart but is something you see in Sicilian dishes and elsewhere in Italy. If you ever attend an Italian Christmas Eve Dinner you probably will see a large fish that was likely cooked that way. It is very delicious and worth the effort. But not for the squeamish either. The fact he pulled it off shows Logan’s boldness and it paid off.

This season had a lot of  bright, creative kids doing things in the kitchen that astounds many and raises questions I see all the time on the Internet. Is it staged? Do the kids get coached? Is it faked? My answer is no but these are not your normal kids either. If you go into any elementary, junior high, or high school and select a random number from each and ask them to roast a chicken, many might not know what to do. The reason for this success of this show is that they pick kids that are cooking at home. The parents may be foodies or old fashioned families that want the kids to learn how to cook (in the old days that is how cooking was learned). And so at an early age they are shown how to cook. Think about how that helps out down the road. You open up a cupboard and find canned beans, spam, tuna, and rice. In the fridge are some mushrooms, bell peppers and in the pantry some onions. A clever cook or chef will make use of those ingredients to produce a decent meal while someone else might just pop open a can of beans and warm it up.

The show is enjoyable to watch and clearly is winning viewers but it not toppling the competition either. According to TV By The Numbers Tuesday’s finale had 5.5 million viewers (live plus dvr recording) while a new episode of NCIS on CBS had 17.21 million viewers. Masterchef Junior came in second place. It beat out A Charlie Brown Christmas on ABC, another Christmas show on NBC, and a rerun of The Flash on CW. It will need to get a lot more viewers to topple CBS from the perch it now has on the 8-9 p.m. time slot. But the producers and schedulers are very confident in the show. So confident that season 3 will literally start on the heels of the last one and premiers on 6 Jan 2015 at 8 p.m. That seems odd to bunch them so close together like this. It is certainly a risky move and could backfire if people find more interesting things to watch.

There is also the danger of what I call déjà vu programming, When you run reality shows so close together, people might get tired of it thinking they are seeing the same thing all over again. After all, the danger for shows like Masterchef Junior is becoming formulaic lacking depth and breadth. Libby Hill over at Grub Street had this to say on this point:

The thing about both Logan and Samuel is not that they’re bad chefs or uninteresting boys. But the fascination they exhibit with the cooking process seems to be just that: a fascination with the process. It doesn’t seem like either of them really like food all that much. In other words, the finale of MasterChef Junior was missing any sense that the people involved loved food, and so a certain level of warmth was lost, too.

Her concern is that the show is more concerned with process less about the food itself. She has a point in that but regretfully in cooking shows of this kind, process is going to be desired. This is not a food science or food cooking show like on the old Food Network but a competition. Perhaps competitors will try to get that into their shows. Fox probably knows or expects that other networks might be looking at their own kids food shows to compete with Fox. Food Network probably has someone working on it right now and planning either Booby Fool or Gina Italian to handle it (Alton Brown is too grizzled looking like someone out of a Friday The 13th movie). Again people watching television make decisions: do I want to watch my favorite comedy/drama or watch kids cook like adults? So far millions are making the choice not to watch Masterchef Junior so running the shows nearly back-to-back makes little sense to me.  Time will tell on this one.

A problem I see is that fine line between adults and kids seems to becoming blurred on this show at times. I get the impression that while Gordon, Graham, and Joe treat these kids on one level as children, that it changes as the competition goes on. There is a shift and often comes as the challenges get more difficult and more suitable for adults. Like running a professional kitchen. It is one thing to have the adult contestants do a restaurant shift (and it is very tough on them)but to throw 8-12 year old kids into a professional kitchen seems unwise to me. I just wonder if some child experts out there will eventually start criticizing the show on these lines.

Masterchef Junior Season 2 Winner Logan Guleff Photo: Fox
Masterchef Junior Season 2 Winner Logan Guleff
Photo: Fox

At any rate, we wrap up this season with big congratulations to Logan. The bow-tied wonder proved he was the best. And more importantly shows bow ties are not a bad thing to wear anymore. And I look forward to eating in his restaurant one day (even if it is underwater!).

MasterChef Junior: King Salmon Decides Winners(Episode 6)

MasterChef-Junior-LogoThe MasterChef Junior Semifinal had Adaiah,Abby,Logan and Samuel fillet a king salmon but then also cook the portions into one stellar dish. None of the kids had ever done this before so Gordon demonstrated the proper way. Say what you want about Gordon, but he is a master of his trade. The kids try to match but only Adaiah and Samuel do the best job while Abby and Logan struggled. Adaiah had the most portions so she got the win. Her prize was to select the number of ingredients her fellow cheftestants would use. Which brings us to to the product placement chapter of this episode titled “Selling the Fridge.” After a glowing description of the fridge, Adaiah looks into the fridges since they are not tagged. I wondered why and then realized it was all part of the advertising. Without her opening them, we would not see the insides!

She gives Abby 100 ingredients,the fussbudget Samuel 25 (“pedestrian” ingredients),herself 50,and leaves only 5 for the bow-tied wonder Logan. Logan produces a good moist salmon by poaching in olive oil though stumbles with the raw broccoli rabe. Samuel overcame burning his salmon and produced a good dish as well. Sadly Abby had an overooked salmon though the puree is good. Adaiah had a lot of ingredients that mostly went well and her salmon was decent. What sealed her doom was burnt garlic. I know from personal experience how this can totally ruin an otherwise good dish. The smell hits your nostrils but it also dominates the dish. Whatever goodness you have on the dish will be overshadowed by the burned garlie.

Which is sad because it sends Adaiah home along with Abby. I really liked Adaiah and think she is more talented than Samuel. No surprise with Abby going on, she was unfocused. Logan is a surprise. I think early on many wondered if he would make it this far. Not me, this kid has talent and is serious challenge to Samuel. So it is the fussbudget versus the bow tied wonder. Bow ties are oft ridiculed but it really comes down to the person who wears it and Logan wears it well. It ought to be a good match between these two and I hope Logan pulls out the win if nothing else to prove that someone wearing a bow tie is not the comic nor fool many think they are.