MASTERCHEF JR S07 x 14 and 15

The Grand Finale, Parts 1 and 2

The amazing top 3 enter the MasterChef Kitchen all ready to cook in the Finale. Eleven-year-old Californian, Malia, twelve-year-old New Yorker, Che and eleven-year-old Georgian, Ivy are super excited to cook their hearts out as their family and friends cheer them on. Massive group hug! Kyle looks overwhelm with happy to see his friend Che. Tears of joy. He wants his New York buddy to win the whole thing. The top 3 must cook an Appetizer, an Entrée and a Dessert. Cooking times go smoothly for all three young chefs so I will just talk about the judges reactions to the dishes they created.



Malia made Miso-Marinated Black Cod with Fresh Soba Noodles, Pickled Cucumber and Soy Quail Egg. She nailed the cook on her fish. The rich egg yolk works well. Chef Gordon says the dish has saltiness and sweetness, but it needed a bit acidity to cut the richness. Chef Christina loves the dish, but wished the noodles were longer. And Chef Aarón says the dish shows great confidence and that she did a great job!


Che made Pan-seared Prawns and Cuttlefish with Calabrian Chile Butter Polenta, Lemon Vinaigrette and Parmesan Crisp. Chef Gordon says the plate is visually breathtaking and special because he cooked two of the most difficult proteins perfectly. Chef Christina loves the complexity and elements of surprise, but she wanted more seasoning in the polenta. Chef Aarón thinks the cooking of the cuttlefish is amazing and the combination of flavors are magical, but he doesn’t love the use of cheese with shellfish.


Ivy made Pan-Seared Red Snapper with Tropical Salsa, Avocado Crema and Tostones. Chef Gordon says the fish is cooked beautifully and packed with flavor but the skin is soggy. The salsa is super delicious, but it should not have been on the fish. Chef Christina says the dish is Ivy on a plate! She wanted more of crema because it tasted so good. Chef Aarón loves the tropical colors and flavors, but might have used the plantain as a crust on the fish.


Malia’s Pan-Seared Filet Mignon with Fried Shishito Peppers and Dashi Braised Daikon looks delicious. Chef Aarón says the flavor of the dish is unreal good, but sadly the steak is about ten seconds undercooked and the daikon was a miss. Chef Christina loves that the dish screams uniquely Malia but she wanted more seasoning and more sear on the filet. Chef Gordon says the dish looks spectacular and has great finesse. He thinks it is a sophisticated dish and she did a great job.


Che’s Veal Saltimbocca with Fingerling Potatoes, Spring Pea Ragout, Morels and Mushroom Jus is a visual wow. Chef Aarón is impressed with the perfect cook on the veal, prosciutto and cheese together. Chef Christina liked that the dish is both comfort and elegant and tells his story. She wanted the peas to be brighter green. Chef Gordon says the flavors are exquisite and Che did a great job with seasoning to offset the salty prosciutto. “It’s you on a plate. That’s the most exciting thing about everything that you touch – I really get to understand it’s you. Thank you.”



Ivy’s Glazed Hanger Steak with Butternut Squash Two Ways, Brussels Sprouts and Herb Purée is an ambitious because the cut of meat is unforgiving. Chef Aarón says the cook on the steak is beyond perfect and the dish is so well crafted. Chef Christina says it is a stunning dish and she loves the steak, but she wanted more acidity. Chef Gordon says it is a chef’s dream to have a protein cooked this beautifully. And the herb purée is breathtaking, so breathtaking that she didn’t need the sauce on the plate.


Chef Gordon says, “We’re two down, and let me tell you, Ivy, Che and Malia, right now, have one hand each on that trophy. Let’s see who can impress with desserts.”


Malia made Sesame Panna Cotta with Mixed Berry Coulis, Raspberry Cream and Sesame Tuile. Chef Christina is impressed that the panna cotta has just the right amount of gelatin and is luxuriously smooth. The flavor is expert. Chef Aarón loves the combination of vanilla bean and black sesame. “Really impressive.” Chef Gordon agrees Malia has nailed the dessert. “I love it! It’s like the front cover of a pastry chef’s cookbook.”


Che made Gluten Free Chocolate Olive Oil Cake with Orange Glaze, French Ricotta Cream and Pistachio Tuile. It is nice and fluffy and glistening in the center. Chef Christina could do without the tuile, but she wants this gluten free recipe. Both Chef Aarón and Chef Gordon love the cake, but they disagree on the amount of orange zest. Chef Aarón thinks it is too much, Chef Gordon thinks it is balanced well. Either way it is a great flourless cake.


Ivy made Butterscotch Pots De Crème with Caramel Sauce, Pine Nut Brittle and Whipped Crème Fraîche. Chef Gordon says the plating on the dessert is very inviting and eye-catching. He thinks it is delicious, but very sweet. Chef Christina loves the whimsy of smashing the brittle, and the creamy pudding with the crunchy texture. Chef Aarón thinks the flavors are magical, but he would have used less thyme.


After much talking and thinking the judges pick a winner and leave the MasterChef Restaurant to tell everyone who it is. First they ask the top 3 young cooks to trade places with them on center stage. Chef Gordon says it was so close. The winner of MasterChef Jr is …………. CHE!!!!!!!!!!


Che is so thrilled he drops to his knees and falls flat on his back as confetti rains down!!!


He says, “OH MY GOSH, I CAN’T BELIVE I WON IT! I WON MASTERCHEF JR! I’ve been dreaming about this for so long and I finally won! I’m so happy and excited. Cooking alongside Ivy and Malia was amazing. They’re such great home cooks, they deserve the trophy just as much as I do. I wish I could share this trophy with them. You know, cut it in 3rds or something.”


Ivy says “ I am very happy for Che. I feel like he deserves it. He puts his heart in everything he does. He’s just amazing.” Malia says, “I have grown so much in this competition. You know, even if I didn’t win MasterChef Jr, I’m just really proud of myself and I’m really proud of Che.”


Che says, “My dad got me started into cooking and now I have they the trophy, I have the title, and I have the $100,000 and it’s all because of him. If my dad could see me right now he would be so proud of me!” 😊



Under The Big Top

The top 20 young home cooks arrive at Circus Vargas for the first Team Challenge. (FYI Circus Vargas became animal-free in 2010 😊) They will be cooking for the performers and crew, including the clowns! The teams are picked randomly based on where the kids sat. Evie is Blue Team Captain, leading Jayden, Nayeli, Talulah, Rhashad, Matthew, Reid, Ben, Brielle & Kyle. Che is Red Team Captain, leading Malia, Jaala, Sadie, Aaron Ivy, Kate, Mateo, Tal & Ashely. They have 45 minutes to prep and 60 minutes to serve 51 plates to Circus Vargas!

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On the Blue Team Evie struggles communicating with her team who are not listening to her commands. When she can’t get them to gather for a meeting she asks for Jayden’s help and tells her team, “I find it a little ironic, because nobody’s listening to me about coming to a meeting that’s about not listening to me.” She says it is hard being the Captain of 9 kids. But Christina tells her “the hardest parts of life are where you grow the most” and helps Evie pull it back together. She assigns eight year old Reid to take over cooking the steak all by himself!

On The Red Team Che has things well in hand, but Mateo decides to leave his job with the tomatoes and instead help manage the stations. “I’m trying to go around, help, not be bossy. But I’m trying to be like, a Co-Captain, like a CEO of a business.” Suddenly everyone is leaving their stations and the team gets all mixed up just before service is to start!!! Che says, “All of a sudden we are not acting like a Red Team, we are acting like Red Individuals.”

The Blue Team’s dish is a New York Strip Steak with Sweet Potato Mash and Baby Vegetables. Christina compliments Reid’s cook on the steaks and Aarón says, “You’re rocking and rolling with the steaks. You’re cooking steak like a pro!”

The Red Team’s dish is a Pan-Seared Salmon with Orzo and Tomato Vinaigrette. They fall behind during service and send up salmon raw. Gordon gets upset and slam dunks undercooked portions into the clown-trash-can-mouth! Tal says, “That salmon exploding, that is symbolic of our team right now. We are falling apart.” Gordon helps Che get everyone back to their stations and they get a system going to finish service.

In the end the Winning Team is … BLUE TEAM!!!!

The judges decide that Che, Ivy and Malia earned their safety from the pressure test. They join the Blue Team on the balcony.

The 7 remaining young home cooks have 90 minutes to bake and decorate a beautiful birthday cake. Christina describes what needs to be happen. “First you have to get those layers of cake made. You gotta get that batter going; cream your butter, your sugar, add your eggs, add your milk, add your flour, your salt, and of course your baking powder, otherwise your cake won’t rise. Get those in the oven and while that cake is baking you go for the frosting. The fillings – what are going to do to amp it up? What are going to do to stand out? How are you going to tell us your story?”

When time is up the young bakers bring their cakes forward for tasting!
Gordon says Sadie’s Pink Champagne Cake with Rose Buttercream and Raspberry Jam is “a work of art.” The layers are amazing. “That’s worth $25 a slice!” He would have liked a touch more jam in the middle, but overall, well done.

In his own words, Tal’s family story inspired Brooklyn Blackout Cake with Espresso-Chocolate Frosting and Chocolate Ganache looks “a bit raggedy”. Christina tastes it and is sorry to say the frosting is super dry and the flavors are just okay. Unfortunately it is just an average cake, maybe not enough to stay in the competition. ☹

Aaron is a 10 year old from Powder Springs, GA. His bright yellow Blueberry Lemon Cake with Lemon Frosting looks wonderful. Chef Aarón loves the frosting and perfect balance between the sweetness of the berries and the sourness of the lemons, but finds the cake a bit underdone and gummy.

Mateo made a Vanilla Sponge Cake with Chocolate Buttercream and a Cupcake. It looks really good. Gordon says, “That is delicious.” The sponge is nice and light and the frosting is soft and creamy. One note, it could have used some fruit to cut through the richness.

Kate made a Tie Dye Cake with Raspberry Frosting. Christina loves the tie dye effect, “It really pulls you in!” The taste is delicious she nailed the raspberry frosting, “it’s bright , it’s punchy, but next time give me a little bit more frosting.”

Jaala, an 11 year old from Pawtucket, RI made a Vanilla Galaxy Cake with Buttercream Frosting. Aarón says, “It’s visually fun, it’s out there, it’s wacky!” Inside the differently colored layers are impressive but the taste is a little disappointing. No one flavor stands out, it tastes more like sugar and coloring.

And finally, Ashely’s 4 Berry Cake with Coconut-Cream Cheese Frosting is visually appealing but something she has never baked before. Gordon applauds her taking the risk, but sadly the sponge is very dense and the layers are sliding back and forth because there is too much coconut cream in her frosting! Gordon says, “Here’s the good news, what you’ve done with the four berries is beautiful. But they might have been better as a jam in the center and let the sponge be nice and light.”

SADIE, AARON, KATE and MATEO have the top 4 cakes. Sadie’s cake is judged the best.

That leaves Tal, Ashley & Jaala and the one who is safe is … Jaala. That means Tal and Ashely are going home. ☹ They get cheers and applause from their friends as they leave. Someone calls out, “I love you.”


Tal from Port Washington, New York says “Tonight I’m going home with a smile on my face, with my head held high. What other 13 year old can say that they’ve gotten to the top 20 of MasterChef Junior? Even though I’m going home now, I’m gonna keep traveling, eating, learning, cooking and doing everything I can to make myself better each and every day.”  🙂

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Nine year old Ashely says, “I’m just a girl from Queens, New York, and I’ve cooking in the MasterChef Kitchen. I mean that’s a big deal. My mom always tells me that when one door closes another one opens. So, hopefully this just opens another door for me.” 🙂

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“Going Bananas”
Tonight’s culinary challenge is to make a perfect Banana Split Dessert. 12 lucky young home cooks are randomly placed into color teams of four while 12 are sent straight to the balcony to await the Elimination Challenge. The Yellow Team is Ashley, Ben, Matthew and Tal. The Pink Team is Malia, Sadie, Jayden and Brielle. The Green Team is Rhashad, Kyle, Shannen and Thomas. The catch is — all four are tied together at the ankle while making as many banana splits as possible in fifteen minutes. Each team will have to work together and coordinate their movements to get the job done. The winning team will be safe from the Elimination Challenge.

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YELLOW TEAM wins with 8 Banana Splits! The winners cover the judges with whipped cream and frosting and pelt them with sprinkles. Messy! Messy! Messy with a cherry on top!


Time for the Elimination Test! The remaining eight: Sadie, Rhashad, Jayden, Malia, Thomas, Shannen, Brielle and Kyle have to make a dish with LIVE LOBSTER!!! They have one hour to kill, cook and extract the lobster meat all by themselves. Several of the kids are freaked out.


During the cook time Malia cuts her finger but it gets patched up and she is good to go. She says, “I’m not going to let just a little cut stop me from cooking.” 😊 She impresses the judges when she uses her lobster shell as a taco holder. Thomas has never cooked lobster before and struggles with time. He tries to get his Lobster Roll perfect but struggles to get everything on the plate. Just in time he finishes and time is up.



Malia made Lobster Taco with Sweet Potato Wedges, Slaw and Avocado Crema. Aarón says, “You know that tacos is kind of my thing? And I’m looking at this dish that you presented, and you know the first feeling I have? Is jealousy.” When he tastes the taco he does the taco dance. She hit it out of the park.


Shannen also made Lobster Tacos with Carrot Chips. Christina says the tacos are chock full of lobster, but the salsa is over puréed and the lobster itself is overcooked.


Sadie made a Lobster Cake with Avocado, Picked Onions and Tortilla Chips. Gordon thinks it is “absolutely delicious.” It has finesse and charm, and tastes rich and sweet.


Jayden made Lobster Rangoons with Sweet and Sour Sauce. Christina says his dish is clever but the dumplings are slightly underdone and the filling needs more lobster. “Don’t be stingy with the lobster in the lobster challenge!”


Brielle made Lobster Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce. Aarón says the pasta is delicious and the lobster is cooked well, but the cheese doesn’t work. “Seafood doesn’t like cheese, but good job young lady.”


Thomas made a Lobster Roll and Fried Jalapeños. He says jalapeños are a big part of the culture in Texas and he wanted to show the judges where he comes from. Gordon likes the lobster and mango combination, but thinks there is too much hot pepper.


Rhashad made Caribbean Lobster with Curry rice and Coconut Jerk Sauce. The dish looks beautiful. Aarón says, “This plate is as buttoned up and fashionably cool as you are.” 😊 And the dish is unbelievable, he nailed the lobster and the heat in the spice is well balanced with the creaminess of the coconut milk.


And Kyle made Lobster with Orzo, Roasted Asparagus and Lemon Beurre Blanc. His lobster is cooked beautifully, but it is hidden on the plate and his sides miss the mark. Gordon is worried it might not be good enough.


The top 2 lobster dishes belong to MALIA and SADIE!


Thomas, Brielle, Shannen and Kyle’s dishes are in the bottom and the 2 who managed to stay in the competition are Kyle and Brielle. Sadly, Thomas and Shannen are going home.☹


They gets lots of emotional hugs and well wishes as they are walking out. 😊Shannen says, “Even though I’m going home to Scarsdale, New York, I’m looking forward to showing my family what I have learned from here. I’m going to be the chef in the house now.”Thomas says, “I definitely don’t want to go home, but I’m still one of the top 22 junior chefs in all of America. I beat so many kids getting here, I bet no one in my school has ever done anything like this before. I’m still going to keep cooking, and I know I definitely made Texas proud.”