MasterChef Junior:Cupcakes and Shepherd’s Pie (Episode 3)


This episode saw the kids to pair up to cook gourmet cupcakes and the elimination challenge was Gordon’s favorite foods as a kid with his mom on hand to deliver them personally. And we said farewell to some junior chefs as well.

The theme of this episode was working in teams and creativity. Cupcakes were the mystery box challenge. Not the pale imitations you find in grocery aisles but upscale version of what was once a classic treat at school food sales or church socials. Sadly cupcakes are banned now in many schools thanks to the nuttiness of new food rules (and it even limits or excludes natural or organic ones-vegan might be okay but who wants a vegan cupcake?) Each kid got to try one and were enthusiastic about eating them. However the challenge to make upscale cupcakes was a team challenge and partners were formed randomly by having a similar cupcake. So that gave us the following teams:

1. Mitchell & Abby
2. Josh & Oona
3. Sam & Adaiha
4. Logan & Sean
5. Levi  & Samuel

And since Masterchef hates to be predictable, it was a three-legged partnership. A goofy but fun way to learn teamwork, which is required in many places of life and not just a working kitchen. Oona is partnered with Josh, about the same size as her, and she worries they might be walked over. Getting stuff from the pantry is more challenging this way and a hoot to watch as they get what they need tethered to the other person. This is the first time Masterchef has done this but did it result in teamwork? Usually a team pulls together to get a common project done using all their combined efforts. Yes all the teams produced cupcakes but not one team produced a combined cupcake. Instead each team member produced six cupcakes of their own to present with the other person’s six cupcakes. Now they had to work together to select the pantry items and helped each other out in the preparation and cooking process. But in the end though judged as team it was two individual efforts rather than a unified cupcake that both worked on to perfection.

The top three selected were:

Adaiah & Sam: Orange Honey Blossom and Vanilla with Raspberry
Wow. They do look stunning. Gordon raves about their flavor and lightness. Joe says they are the type of cupcake he would spend money on.

Abby & Mitchell: Mexican Hot Chocolate and Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup
Graham likes both but notes that on the peanut butter the topping is not over the entire cupcake. Delicious and I want some!

Logan & Sean: Joe wants a bam (channeling Emeril Lagasse) and gets it with the Lemon Basil and Chocolate Raspberry cupcakes. They even put a sugar candy icing on top. Joe raves and notices the raspberry one has a filling. Gordon is wowed as well saying it represents teamwork.

Mom is in the House
Logan & Sean win it and head back to the pantry to learn what the elimination challenge is. The good news is that they do not have to cook. Now for the task: they must select one of Gordon’s favorite foods as a kid. And his mom shows up to deliver them!  His favorites were fish finger sandwich, chicken curry, and shepherd’s pie. Right away I think the shepherd’s pie would be the most difficult. It is a great rustic dish that has become more upscale in recent years. Usually it is beef or lamb though combining meats is not uncommon along with potato mash on top. You can view a basic easy to make recipe at Martha Stewart’s web site. Sean and Logan head up to the balcony for tea and treats while the kids learn what the challenge will be from Gordon’s mom-shepherd’s pie.

It is pretty clear from the reaction that not one of them have ever made it. Fortunately they can call home thanks to the magic of Skype and a tablet. The moms give their advice and then the kids get to work making an upscale dish. Oona is missing some ingredients like tomato or cream and asks around for them. Sam screwed up his mash and starts sobbing about it. Graham comes down to show how he can fix it by making it a pea and mash potatoes. That is the difference between a novice and a chef. Every chef has something go critically wrong  and has to fix it fast. And Graham knew exactly how to fix it. And it works for Sam. Meanwhile Gordon and his mom visit Oona. Oona is using garam masala in her version. Gordon teases her about dating his son Jack. She is not interested! They seem to like teasing her because she comes across as both funny and serious. Samuel is working on a “deconstructed” shepherd’s pie. Joe is concerned about that as am I.

Deconstructed?  As he explains what he is doing, it clearly is not simply throwing the pie’s components on a plate but a sophisticated version. Okay this might actually work out. Time goes by fast and the aromas are really getting the judges excited. On the balcony, Logan and Sean say Oona is not doing so well. A thunderous crash of glass breaking in the kitchen area (where the gadgets are) indicates something has broken. Sam comes out and he is okay. But call the clean-up crew, broken glass in the aisle!

The judging showed most got it mostly right but Oona, Mitchell and Sam are on the bottom. Oona was sure it would send her home. Gordon and his mom try it. It did not look upscale but rustic, the mash was good as was the meat but Gordon notes it was greasy. Oona is tearing up at this point but Gordon reminds every chef makes mistakes and his mom reminded him to not to give up. Joe says he makes mistakes and you learn to get over it. He thought it was mostly okay but not her finest dish. Mitchell’s does not look good and Gordon says it was strange like a chopped burger. And the meat is dry. Sam’s pea and mash is good but the beef is also dry. Meanwhile Oona back at her bench is sure she is heading home.

The favorites were Samuel for his Moroccan Shepherd’s Pie, Levi with his lamb with parmesan mashed potatoes. But Adaiah tops them all with a Napoleon style Shepherd’s Pie. When I saw it, I realized how good this girl is. That takes finesse and confidence to pull it off. And the judge’s were impressed as well giving her the win for the night.

Sadly Oona, Mitchell, and Sam are called down to face the chop. Oona, who of the three had the better dish, is spared. She is relieved and says she won by the skin of her teeth. Though she admits there is no skin on her teeth! Actually the phrase comes from an English translation of the Geneva Bible (1560) specifically Job 19:20 (Phrase Finder)which says “I haue escaped with the skinne of my tethe.” It is used to describe barely escaping from disaster.

Next time on MasterChef Junior: the infamous sunny side up egg challenge and they cook their signature dishes.