After last week's dreadful elimination test where the kids had to recreate Gordon Ramsay's beef wellington we saw two front runners Jewels and Roen leave the MasterChef Junior kitchen, and now the young home cooks have to face another Mystery Box. We have eight junior home cooks remaining in the chase for the title of the first-ever U.S. MasterChef Junior.
This challenge is a good one: in the box there is a selection of ingredients that most young kids don't like to eat: sardines, liver, kidneys, snails, brussels sprouts, fennel, blue cheese, olives and eggplant. I don't know how many kids are comfortable eating that stuff, therefore I am curious to see what our junior cooks will come up with.
I would seriously be clueless, but since it's a Mystery Box I would go out of the box and try to be very creative. I would make something similar to an Italian bread crostini, but without bread. I would fry the eggplant, thin and crispy, and use it as the bread; sauté the liver, kidney, snail and olives and then blend them in a mousse to spread on the eggplant and top it with chopped caramelized fennel, dates and blue cheese.
Dara is trying to make a blue cheese soufflé. We have never seen anybody try to make a soufflé in a Mystery Box challenge. In fact, no chef wants to make a soufflé ever if they don't have to! Unfortunately, this time Dara's ambition was a bit bigger then her potential because her soufflés did not raise, but I have to tip my hat to her for being very brave to try something so difficult.
Sarah is very scared of the sardines because "they have eyes and they are looking at her," so she decides to fry them! Sounds like a great idea to me!
As for every Mystery Box, the judges go around in the 60 minutes and taste and then decide who has the best three dishes.
Troy and Alexander are in the Top 3 for the second time in a row. Troy made snail chowder and "Big Al" made a sticky toffee pudding with candied fennel and a fig lemon puree. These kids continue to surprise me with their talent.
The third junior home cook that had the best dish is super young chef Sarah. I am very happy for her! She may be the youngest one of the group, but she is very talented and also super cute, adorable, and smart.
The winner is Sarah and she will have a great advantage for the next elimination test!
Not only is Sarah safe from elimination, but she will get to decide what the other kids will have to cook: she has to choose between layer cake, cupcakes or fruit tarts. In one of my Mystery Box wins I had a very similar advantage: I had to choose between cupcakes, a layer cake or cookies. I chose cupcakes and I still think it was the best choice, but if I were a kid, I would have chose layer cake as did Sarah.
Sarah targeted Alexander and Troy, as the biggest competitors, but also because she knows that they are not so confident in making dessert. Let's face it boys - we are not good at baking cakes! In my MasterChef season there was no way to compete in baking challenges against Krissi, Natasha or Bethy.
It looks like Sarah's plan may have worked because Alexander is really struggling -- he added powdered sugar to his batter instead of flour. That is a major mistake. Obviously he knows the difference between the two, but in this case his anxiety working on something he's not confident in played a nasty trick on him. He needs to start all over again, but I think he has enough time.
Dara and Gavin take time and really work well on their cakes. They have a plan and it looks like nothing will stop them.
Sofia has some big problems. She is very confused and mixed the butter with the flour, while instead you should cream the butter with the sugar first and then add all the other ingredients. That happens when you are under a lot of pressure and I don't blame her because this is not an easy task.
It is admirable to see Chef Ramsay go up to her when she is in the middle of a nervous breakdown and she is crying and try to calm her down. He actually stays close to her and helps her through the process to start all over again to make sure she is going in the right direction. She does not have a lot of time left, but she can still pull this together.
I seriously love the way this show is showing to all of America the sweet side of the judges that you would not see in the adult version of MasterChef. Except for Graham of course.
It's now time to taste these beautiful cakes. Actually not all of them look beautiful...
First up, Alexander. Chef Ramsay notices that indeed this is the first time we see "Big Al" struggle. And he is right, but please give this kid a break. He finally showed that he is actually a kid and hey, everyone has a bad day - even the great Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera.
Dara is up and her cake looks perfect. You could see a cake like hers in any cake shop in NYC, plus she spiced up her chocolate frosting with cayenne pepper. Great job!
As I suspected, Gavin's cake is perfect, and after Joe makes him taste his own cake, Gavin describes it as "stupendous"! I really love this show!
Jack worked on a meringue butter cream frosting cake. It might not be as good as Dara and Gavin's, but it looks pretty delicious to me! Jack is always so kind and sweet and you gotta love those Hawaiian shirts!
Sofia and Kaylen's cakes really don't look so good and the judges describe the sponge as very dense, which is never a good sign for a cake. This may be a good sign for Troy because he too does not have the best cake, but also for Alexander who starts crying, realizing he is in the Bottom 3 and may be going home tonight.
Well, lucky for Alexander, Sofia and Kaylen do have the worst cakes of the night and unfortunately they have to say goodbye to their friends and to the MasterChef Junior kitchen.
This was a tough challenge, but those two girls should be really proud of themselves for what they accomplished. This challenge in particular showed everyone tonight that to become a MasterChef, baking is a VERY important task and right now all these six young and talented home cooks have what it takes to win the title.
Did you like this episode? Do you bake? What is your favorite cake?
Thanks for reading and don't miss the next episode of MasterChef Junior, Friday at 8/7c on Fox!
And if you think you have what it takes to be the next MasterChef check out www.MasterChefCasting.com and attend one of the open casting calls.
Follow me on twitter at @MC4Luca and visit my website at www.lucamanfe.com