MasterChef Junior US:Pancake Follies and Citrus Pies(Episode 2)

We learned in this episode that (1)the Culinary Trio of Graham, Gordon, and Joe do not like having imitation maple syrup dumped all over them and (2) selecting citrus cream pies is a successful strategy to knock some competitors out of the race.

Last year there was the famous Whipped Cream Challenge. Three were selected to make whipped cream manually and then, to test if it is done right by turning over their bowls on the heads of the judges. Done right and nothing will fall out. Only Alexander got it right making Gordon and Joe getting lots of cream all over their heads.

This year they decided to make Oona,Samuel,and Sean cook up as many pancakes as they could in six minutes. The largest stack wins saving a Masterchef judge from having (imitation)maple syrup over their heads. Sean got the win leaving Gordon and Graham having the syrup poured over their heads. In the end Joe got it as well and for a moment wore a pancake beanie on his head. Gordon recounts what it felt like below:

With the pancake follies over and with the magic of television making the judges looking clean and neat again along with the cooking area, the more serious part of the show began. And for Sean it was deciding which cream pie to have the others cook:chocolate cream pie, fruit cream pie, or citrus cream pie. Pies look easy but are tricky. I wondered if these kids could pull off making a delicious cream filling and a good crust. And Sean choose the trickiest of all: citrus. Citrus is acidic so you have to really get it just right. Make it too tart and people’s lips will pucker. Too sweet will send others screaming into that not so gentle night. Undercook and it is a disaster. Above all it has to be harmonious. Sean gets another advantage to save someone and saves Mitchell. So the citrus cream pie challenge gets underway.

Can these kids pull off such a tricky challenge? Oona decides to make a passion fruit orange cream pie and seems pretty confident it will work out. Sounds good! Samuel is doing a grapefruit and rose water cream pie. Grapefruit? It would not be my first choice. And a lot of people do not care for grapefruit which is why you do not see it on a pie menu often. But hey, Samuel might pull it off. Abby says she makes pies with her grandmother. Gordon wishes her well but Abby asks him to leave so she can concentrate! Levi goes for a key lime and coconut cream pie but Graham warns it needs more lime. Josh’s also making a key lime pie but Joe is worried it is sweet. Josh has a problem though-his voice. He seems to be having trouble speaking. I cannot tell if it is just nervousness or he is getting over a cold. Adaiah is going more complicated with a orange-lemon-raspberry pie. Wow that is a lot to pull off and Gordon is a bit concerned. She is confident though since she comes from a long line of Southern bakers.

Natalie though has a problem. She wanted to cook an orange cream pie but picked grapefruit by mistake. So now it is a grapefruit coconut cream pie. Gordon is concerned and I see the signs of doom on this one. Perhaps she will pull it off. But Gordon tastes nothing in the filling like grapefruit/coconut so that increases my worries Natalie could be on the bottom tonight. Jessica comes off as the best pie baker because of her experience and also did a key lime pie. The way she did the pipping on the pie made me realize she has most of the mechanics down pat. Logan, who bursts with energy, feels great with his lime-raspberry pie. The judges themselves are amazed at the level these kids are cooking at.

The Top
Adaiah (well presented and flavors awesome.)
Oona(Gordon raved about it.)
Abby(despite using jelly beans on top, it worked!)
Levi (balanced and well presented.)

The Middle
Samuel (for not controlling spices, heavy on the cream, crust a little underdone.)
Logan (not visually appealing but delicious.)
Sam (crust underdone but otherwise good.)
Josh(crust underdone but flavors good.)

Natalie (sweet but not much grapefruit flavor and raw pastry dough.)
Jessica (not enough filling, crust uneven.)

The Winners
Levi and Adaiah

And Those Selected For Elimination
Sam, Josh, Jessica and Natalie

Sent Home
Jessica & Natalie

And now we have the top ten! Next week it is a three-legged challenge and Gordon Ramsay’s mom stops by!

My Perspective
An interesting episode that will leave cynics wondering if the kids are being coached. One of the search queries for this site is whether Masterchef Junior is fake. Consider how phony a lot of reality television is, that is a valid question. I doubt this is the case here. Simply put, it would be hard to pull it off and not have one of the kids spill the beans. The kids may be well prepared at home but Masterchef Junior wants these kids to earn their prize honestly. Still the skill level of these kids is well above the ordinary so it raises questions. However cooking has become really popular and open to all ages. We are seeing the results of many years of making cooking accessible to everyone, not just those who attend cooking schools. Shows like America’s Test Kitchen try to make good cooking possible and easy without having to rely on frozen meals or packaged ready mix foods like macaroni and cheese.

So no, I doubt the show is faked to make them cook better than they really are. That I think is part of the magic: that these kids can really cook. Oona may be small and not able to stand at her workbench without footstool, but see shows a lot of passion in her cooking. Even the judges are amazed at what they see and this clearly reflects something going on in the home. Parents or whoever are the guardians are getting them interested in cooking and letting them discover (with proper precautions of course)their skills. In short, these kids will grow up unafraid of cooking and will pass it on to their own children one day. We have sort of lost that in our modern times where families learned to cook together and often you would see three or sometimes four generations all cooking together especially at holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas.

But I do wish they would sort of reign in the theatrics like syrup dumping. Okay I get why they do it but need to be more creative and change it up so it appears later in the season. Or perhaps a trip to a local beach or entertainment venue might spice up such things. Other than that this show is quite good, the kids positive, and the food preparation on par with what you would see on the regular Masterchef. Heck these kids could probably run rings around some of the fools that fill out Hell’s Kitchen! I doubt Alexander would screw up a risotto or scallop dish which seems to happen regularly on that show.