MasterChef Junior: Whipping It Good

Photo: Wikipedia

There is an old Devo song called Whip It that comes to mind when you see this episode. The best way to understand this episode is that part 1 is vaudeville and part 2 is the actual competition. In part 1, the winners last week face off to make whipped cream the old fashioned way-by hand. Then we have the top 10 broken up into teams of two to cook Gordon Ramsay’s famous beef wellington. Yes, this is the same dish that bedevils many on Hell’s Kitchen (risotto being the other).

Vaudeville Act
Step up to see three Masterchef Junior winners attempt to make whipped cream. You just pour the cream into the bowl and whip it, whip it good. Nothing else to do but that. All right, ready, set go! Watch those arms go around and around those bowls. Look at all that cream going all over the place! What a mess. Little Sarah is yelling on the sidelines “C’mon Gavin! Whip it, whip it like a man!” The crowd is really getting into this as Alexander, Gavin, and Kaylen frantically stir.

Oh there is Alexander raising his whip and saying “Whipped!” The other two sadly must stop. But hold on folks, there is more to come. Yes, we are not just going to have the judges spoon up the whipped cream. The bowls will be turned upside down on the heads of the judges themselves. Here is the opportunity for you, America, to see these MasterChef judges possibly get drenched in underdone whipped cream. Alexander bravely steps up behind Graham, who has suddenly become a praying man. The bowl turns! Alexander did it right, no splatter on Graham Elliot’s head.

Gavin now raises his bowl above Joe “The Stare” Bastianich. Oh no folks, it looks like a Gavin did not get it right. My goodness,look at all that cream on Joe’s face and clothes. Joe looks very unhappy. Meanwhile Gordon awaits his fate. Will Kaylen’s whipped cream stay put or go all over the foul mouthed Brit. The bowl turns over and….

Oh dear. It seems Kaylen did not do very well at all. It is nearly all cream coming out covering Gordon causing him to utter a very rude word! Fortunately he recovers with saying sugar repeatedly. Alexander, possibly on cue from the director, taps his bowl on Graham’s head. Food fight! When it is all over, the judges retire to clean themselves up and a clean up crew must come in to remove the mess and set up for the next challenge.

Beef Wellington
Photo: Wikipedia

The Great Beef Wellington Challenge
Having won the challenge, Alexander gets to pick the 5 teams that will cook in the next challenge. And that challenge is to recreate Gordon Ramsay’s signature dish: Beef Wellington. Dispense with the easy stuff and go right to the toughest thing to do. So many things to be done right, so many ingredients. Done well, a work of culinary art. Done badly it is a disaster. The ghost of Lord Wellington (hero of the Peninsular War against Napoleon) is probably watching to see if his namesake food can be done right.

Ah but there is of course a catch. They are cooking in teams but it is a tag-team cooking challenge. One person cooking, the other standing outside yelling tips or getting upset. So many ways it can can go wrong. They get to taste a proper Beef Wellington so they know the flavor profile. The question is can these kids accomplish what so many find hard to do and get right (especially on Hell’s Kitchen)? All the ingredients needed are provided for so they do not need to spend any time in the pantry. With that, the clock starts ticking down and the kids all start working feverishly.

Alexander & Troy produced a Wellington worthy of Gordon Ramsay.  A home run.
Sarah & Dara produce one just as good, possibly better than Alexander and Troy. Sarah had a frightening moment when taking the pan out of the oven when she dropped the pan on the floor. Fortunately it did not effect the Beef Wellington. A home run as well. Joe did make a comment about back of the house that people do not see. The health inspectors probably are on their way to his restaurant after what he said (in jest, we assume).
Kaylen & Jack had some problems with the puffed pastry. The broccolini overcooked and the beef did as well since the mushrooms were not there to provide moisture. A foul ball but just short of a complete out.
Sofia & Gavin did a good job, though not quite as good as the top two. The puff pastry could have been thinner but the flavors are all correct. A double.
Jewels & Roen have serious problems with the dish. While Jewels says she went light on the salt, it turns out to be very salty due to the mustard not being put on right after searing the steak. It ends up making it more salty. Gordon is very disappointed. A strikeout to be sure.

So the bottom two are Kaylen & Jack, Jewels & Roen. There is a rule on these food shows (see my rules here) that if you over salt the dish, odds are you are going home. And that is what happened to Jewels & Roen.

My thoughts
Not a bad episode. I did think they overdid it on the whipped cream part. They ought to have let the other two finish before they tested the results. Having them do the testing on the judge’s heads was interesting but went a bit too far in my book. The Beef Wellington task really showed both strengths and weaknesses. It also has raised questions on the Internet was to whether these kids are actors, being coached, or the real thing. We know on Hell’s Kitchen they put people on just to fill space and to cause friction. Did that happen here? There is no evidence of that but it is right to ask how these kids can produce pretty good renditions of a difficult dish they have (we presume) never done before. So I have to keep the skeptic hat on. I am not totally convinced these kids are true amateurs but they are not pros either since they do make mistakes.

The most recent numbers provided by TV By The Numbers show this last episode(11 Oct 2013) got just enough winners to beat out ABC’s Last Man Standing and CBS Undercover Boss. It was actually close in terms of ratings points:

FOX     MasterChef Jr         1.4     5     3.78
CBS     Undercover Boss     1.3     5     7.82
ABC     Last Man Standing    1.2     5     5.86

That last number on the right shows how many millions watched live and watched the same day on their Tivo or other dvrs. Which means, if the numbers are right, more people watched MasterChef Junior live than the others. I happen to be one of those people. I record Last Man Standing and watch it usually after MasterChef (I actually record both but watch MasterChef live). Undercover Boss had more viewers when you include in those who recorded and watched later but loses when you remove that factor and only include those who watched live.

A Sad Note About Josh Marks
As I finished writing this, news came that Josh Marks of MasterChef season 3 (who left and then came back ending up facing Christine Ha in the finale) had been found dead. And it appears he took his own life. This is a very sad outcome of someone so talented and destined, I think, for a long career in the food business. He apparently suffered from a bi-polar disorder which likely caused an incident that led to his arrest over the summer. He was undergoing required medical evaluations. This sad outcome is no doubt devastating to his family and friends. My heart, condolences, and prayers are with them in this time of sorrow. He was a good fellow who had a good heart. RIP Josh Marks.