A Little Update


Dear Readers:

I have not posted since June 6th. On June 16th I injured my ankle and I have been working hard trying to mend since then. I appreciate all the well wishes, the cards and surprise videos. They have helped me feel better. Thank you to all my MasterChef and Chopped Junior Friends! You are all the best. I promise I will return to my blog as soon as possible. I’m excited The Kids Baking Championship will be airing soon and hope to restart my recaps with this new season.

In the mean time feel free to look through my blog. This week MasterChef Season 7 Winner Sean was featured on the latest MasterChef episode. You can read all about his winning season in my archives.

Also, visit me on Instagram  maxpanke   &  Twitter  @jrmastercheffan

All kind words of encouragement are appreciated!

Thanks Everyone!


MasterChef Jr 06×05


The Team Challenge “Recipe For Love” Episode starts with the top 20 kid chefs finding out they will be cooking for a wedding dinner! Nine year old Mackenzie from Newhall, CA says, “Food to me is art. I’m really good at making my food look really pretty, just like me. I always wear bows in my hair. If it’s like a sad day or if it’s just a normal, ordinary day I will always wear a bow. A bow. A bow. It’s not called a ribbon, it’s called a bow.” Because Cade and Ariana had the best dishes in the last round they will each lead a team. The Red Team Captain is Cade and he chooses Evan, Sammy, Sophia, Gracie, Quani, Ben, Camson, Henry & Avery. Cade says, “I think I’m going to make a great captain, but the thing I’m nervous about myself is I try to stay nice as possible because I don’t want people to get upset and that sometimes can affect leadership skills.”The Blue Team Captain is Ariana and she chooses Remy, Olivia, Beni, Pierce, Emily, Mackenzie, Maria, Mikey & Anthony. Ariana says, “Being captain of the Blue Team is like being a captain on a ship. If this ship goes down, it’s my fault.”

Christina drives a tractor with all 20 young cooks through a farm to the wedding site. They meet Whitney & Sam who are getting married and very excited to the MasterChef Junior home cooks prepare their wedding dinner. The couple love halibut and lamb and this is what they want to serve their 75 guests. The judges will take from feedback from the bride and groom and other guests on the food and decide on a winning team. Unfortunately, two members of the losing team will be leaving the competition. ☹
Gordon demonstrates how to prepare and serve a stunning Rack of Lamb with Butternut Squash & Apples. And a beautiful Pan Seared Halibut with Roasted Cauliflower & Asparagus. First searing the lamb for color, because as the kids shout out “No color, no flavor!” And after it is cooked twice Gordon says you have to let it rest, because if you cut it too early, “You’ll lose the juices!”

Joe gives a lesson on the front of the house. The order is called a ticket. You always give everything a short name so the Rack of Lamb is going to be called a “Rack” and the Seared Halibut dish is going to be called a “Hali.” The kids shout back his order, “Picking up 5 Racks, 3 Halis!” Joe says, “Cooking is one thing. Today you have a lesson in accountability and timing. It has to be fast, it has to be hot and it has to all come out together.”

The teams have 60 minutes to prep. Ariana passes out assignments on the Blue Team. “Okay, me & Anthony are doing lamb, Beni & Remy are doing fish, and for the sides we’re going to have Emily & Mackenzie and for the plating, everybody else.” When Maria asks who should cut the lamb, Ariana says the only ones who know how long it has been resting is her or Anthony, so they should cut the lamb. Everyone agrees to stay and work at their stations.
On the Red Team Cade puts Sophia & Henry on fish, Sammy & Gracie on lamb, Evan & Avery on plating the halibut, Camson & Quani plating the lamb chop, and Ben & Cade working on sides keeping them ready. Gracie & Ben are not sure about the assignments.

Gracie says, “I’ve never cooked a rack of lamb before, and the main proteins are the big star of the dish. I’m feeling so much pressure right now.” Ben says, “ is upset that Cade just Cade put me on sides. I wanted to cook the lamb. Back in Gary, Indiana I barbeque, and we know meat. I’m not being used for what I should be used for, so I don’t feel good about this challenge at all.”
As things get started Joe wonders if this challenge is too hard for these young cooks. Evan tells his teammates, “Okay. We just have to worry about the food. Not the marriage, just the food.” 😊

Right off the bat, Gordon has to tell the Red Team to stop cooking the asparagus (it’s already cooked!) and start cooking the racks of lamb. “You need to get this lamb seared and in the oven!” Evan tells Sammy, “Two lambs for each pan! Got it?” Cade is feeling a little overwhelmed by all the tasks, but trying to help his team stay organized.
Ariana admits trying to captain a team of 8 to 13 year old’s is a little chaotic. Everyone is following her around asking her questions until she finally stops and sends them back to their stations. “Stay at your stations. Once you are at your station you do not move. Understood?” And her team responds. “Yes, chef!”

Joe announces that the bride and groom are married and it’s time for the food service to begin. Both teams get the meals off to the head table right away. Blue Team gets their next table off without any problems, but over on the Red Team things go wrong. Gordon doesn’t like the way Ben has cut the lamb chops and throws one up in the air. Gordon asks the team if they would rather go pick grapes and let him cook, but they say they will got give up. Gordon directs Cade to the lamb and Ben to the garnish. Cade says, “I can tell that Ben wanted a bigger role … but each person on the team has a huge role. This is a team effort.” The Red Team starts to find it’s rhythm.

On the Blue team Mackenzie is getting overwhelmed because everyone is yelling for more cauliflower. At first Gordon is a bit harsh, but when she starts to cry he takes her aside and tells her she can to it. She says, “I should step it up and act stronger.” And she does.

Back on the Red Team Gracie is overwhelmed by pressure to cook the lamb perfectly. She is worried about being burned and finally says to Sammy, “I’m done, you can take them both.” But Sammy can’t do it all by himself, he needs help. Other members of the Red Team, like Ben and Evan step in to help with the lamb.

Joe finds an unhappy guest at table with Blue Team dishes. Her lamb is raw and he takes it back to the kitchen for a replacement. Anthony and Ariana come up and Joe says, “Guys, this is unacceptable. This is somebody’s wedding. This lamb is still alive. It’s cold.” The refire immediately.

The last tables are finished and service ends. Red Team Captain Cade says, “That was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. We just fed 75 people for a wedding. Our service was like a roller coaster. It was up and down, but towards the end it was smooth, so all in all, I feel pretty good.” Blue Team Captain Arianna says, “I feel a little bit torn right now. If that lamb didn’t come back, I feel sure the Blue Team would win. But now it’s anybody’s game. I just hope our team did enough.”
The wedding guests are shocked to find out that young kids made their meal! Both teams did fantastic, but Joe, Christina and Gordon agree the winning team is…BLUE TEAM!

On the Red Team Camson, Quani, Avery, Evan, Sophia, Sammy and Henry did well enough to stay in the competition.

That leaves Cade, Ben and Gracie struggled the most with the challenge. The last young chef safe is ….. Cade. That means Ben and Gracie are going home. ☹

All the kids look so sad that two of their best friends are going home. They are all cheering for them from the balcony as they walk out of the kitchen. Someone calls, “We will never forget you!”

10 year old Ben from Gary, IN says, “MasterChef Junior has been one of the best times of my life here. I got to meet amazing friends and it was an amazing opportunity to learn a lot more about cooking. It’s awesome to have made it this far.”

9 year old Gracie from Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA says, “I’ve done a lot in the last 9 years of my life, but this was the best thing ever. How many kids get to say they make it in to the top 20? I’m really proud of myself for everything I’ve done here. And today I get to go home and see my dog!”


Max’s Favorite Kid Cooks!

MasterChef Junior Season 1

Alexander: I liked him from the start. I could tell he was a very kind kid and I loved how he always helped his friends when they needed it. When he helped Dara calm down during the finale he showed maturity and class. He’s really grown up since the show and I’m happy to see that he is still cooking up a storm. I hope I get to try one of his famous meals one day.


Kaylen: It was exciting to see Kaylen in the MasterChef Junior Best Moments Show and to learn she is still cooking. I always wished she had gone further in the competition. I’ll never forget how she supported Alexander in the cake challenge, even though he was her biggest competitor. It showed she really cares about her friends.


Gavin: It was great to see Gavin make it to the top six of his season. I came to appreciate his friendliness when I saw behind the scenes photos of him hanging out with his competitors between shows. He always looked happy and like he was having a good time with his friends.


Dara: Another really good kid cook. I liked her super positive attitude during Season 1. When Alexander won in the finale she hugged him and told him he did a good job. It was nice to see her being genuinely happy for him at the end of such an intense competition. It was surprising to me that is now old enough to have her driver’s license.


MasterChef Junior Season 2

Logan: It took me a little while to warm up to Logan, but as the season went on I began to really appreciate him. His relationships with the other kids were so sweet, it showed that in addition to winning he really wanted to make friends. I loved that despite his fierce rivalry with Samuel, he made sure to be kind at the end. Logan also supported me when I was sick. He sent me a signed Chef Hat that I will treasure forever and let me know that a character in his new manga cookbook had my name. I admire Logan’s accomplishments very much and enjoy following him on social media.


Jessica: Even though she did not make it that far in the competition she was one of my favorites. I remember one time another young cook was crying and Jessica got up to hug and comfort her friend. I was excited to see that after the season ended she got to appear at an event with Logan and Graham Elliot. I know she is still cooking, so if they have a MasterChef Junior All Star Season I hope she gets to come back and compete again.


Josh: When I watched the season again to write my recaps I found that I really liked Josh. He was always checking up on the other kids when they were sad. It’s great to see that Josh is finding opportunities to cook alongside professional chefs in New York.


Levi: My original fav in MasterChef Junior Season 2! I liked how nice he was to the other kids. When Sam had to restart his dish, Levi encouraged him and told him he could do it. I was so sad when Levi got cut since he was my favorite and it meant I wouldn’t get to see him on the show anymore. Now he has his own cupcake business and I hope I get to try one someday.


Adaiah: She was a great cook (top four) and a great friend to others on the show. I liked how Adaiah always had positive things to say about the other kids’ cooking. And she was one of the first to offer goodbye hugs at the end of the show each week. I follow Adaiah on Instagram and am interested when she posts new dishes.


MasterChef Junior Season 3

Nathan: I loved seeing him all grown up on the MasterChef Junior Best Moments Show. I knew he was going to be my fav at the start of Season 3. He seemed like a thoughtful boy and he only had good things to say about the other kids. Nathan was often visibly sad when his friends left the show. I was so happy for him when he won. He really earned it and he is still a great cook. The pictures of cakes he posts on Instagram are amazing! Also, I was touched when Nathan sent me a get well message when I was sick and said he hoped I would get better soon. His support helped me a lot.


Kayla: She always worked hard. I loved how she was sweet and caring to her friends. And even though Jenna yelled and made her cry during the tag team challenge, Kayla remained a loyal friend. I follow her continued cooking exploits on Instagram and was happy to see her little sister compete in a Chopped Jr. episode. Recently, she placed second on Stove Tots. Her cooking talent is still a big inspiration.


Jimmy: Such a polite boy and talented young cook. It’s been fantastic watching him grow up on social media. He is always cooking something new, like the cinnamon bun waffles I just had to try for myself! Jimmy has also been very supportive of my recap blog and reached out with well wishes when I was in the hospital. I know he is going to go far with his cooking. Check him out on his regular visits to The Doctors on local CBS stations.


Cory: I liked Cory’s energy on the show. I could tell he really loved to cook and he always looked like he was having fun. When I watched the season again I liked him even more because I realized he was funny. I’m one of his 31.6 thousand followers on Instagram! And excited that he recently got his business started and http://www.mrcorycookies.com ships to Connecticut!


Ryan Kate: This young lady was one of my big favs. She was so positive and encouraging to her friends. I remember when she comforted Jenna and Kayla after the terrible tag team challenge. “You tried your best!” Ryan Kate has also been very supportive of my posts and recaps. And she sent me get well wishes when I needed them most. I hope to see her cooking again in the MasterChef Kitchen if they ever have an All Star Challenge. And I was so proud of her when she won first place in Stove Tots. Amazing person.



MasterChef Junior Season 4

Nate: One of my all-time favorite young cooks. He was super nice to all the kids and glad to make friends. I noticed how he and Jesse became close. I was sad when he left, it was too early. He’d be great in an All Star Season. I continue to follow Nate on social media. Once he gave me a shout out on Instagram, he said I was the best fan ever and called me brother.


Zac: Such an amazing chef! He got along well with all the kids and was never mean. I remember that Zac felt sad when one of his best friends, Sam left the show. I was incredibly sad when Zac was eliminated in the semifinals. I believed he could win the whole thing. Zac was kind enough to send me a signed Master Jr tee shirt when I was feeling poorly. It hangs on my wall and makes me smile every day. He finally got his win on Stove Tots, a moment I had been literally waiting to see for forever. Zac is still cooking and very active on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.


JJ: I really like JJ because he was one of the nicest kids in Season 4. He was all heart and always gave big hugs to the other kids. It was so sad when he left the show. I think he deserved better. JJ surprised me with a great video message when I was sick. I loved it. Like he said, I really am one of his biggest fans! I believe he is going to go far if he keeps following his passions.


Kaitlyn: She is a very talented young cook and one of my favorites. I remember the time she had to throw the fish and how she had so much fun in the kitchen. She was a kind hearted kid and cheered on her friends even though they were her competition. I thought it was nice that she and Tae Hoe dated for a little while after the show ended, even though they lived far away from each other. ❤


Avery: She was one of the young home cooks I liked even more after the show ended. As I watched the season again for my recaps I realized what a sweet and funny girl she was. Her facial expressions were priceless. And the episode where she and JJ had to make a platter of street food neither of them had ever eaten really highlighted her “can do” attitude. She was team player and passionate cook. I wish Avery all the best!




MasterChef Junior Season 5

Shayne: He was my favorite from the start and turned out to be the nicest kid in the season. Shayne was friendly and kind to everyone. He showed he cared when others were sad with hugs and words of encouragement. As a captain he did a great job leading his team. I love how he reads my blog and calls it art. I was very sad when he left the show since I made a connection with him. Shayne has kept busy cooking at events and working for charities. He stands against bullying! And was amazing in his efforts to help those in need after Hurricane Harvey in Texas. If you check out his Facebook or Instagram you’ll get to meet his new friend Ramsay. 😊


Adam: Also a very nice boy. I love how he always gave hugs to the kids when they left the show and how he was not afraid to show his feelings. It’s been fun to see that he has continued a friendship with Mark after the show. Adam was nice enough to send me an autographed picture. It’s easy to be a fan of Adam.


Jasmine: She was exceptional in many ways on the show. She never gave up, even after being eliminated. She stayed positive and faced each new challenge with a smile. I liked how Jasmine was kind to the other contestants as they said goodbye. And I really loved how she asked Justise to hold the MasterChef Trophy with her in the finale. I follow her on Instagram and Jasmine continues to impress me with her maturity and love for food.


Gonzalo: He stood out as an expressive and big hearted kid on the show. He was always nice to the other young cooks, generous with hugs and compliments. I’ll never forget his first goodbye with Adam. It was amazing to see the kids show their feelings of friendship. Gonzalo is still cooking Peruvian food and it looks as delicious as ever on Instagram. I’d love to see him return for an All Star Season.


Afnan: A world traveler and a great cook, he was humble too. I admired Afnan’s devotion to his family’s roots in Bangladesh. I liked how he was often willing to help the younger kids when they needed help carrying large equipment. And Afnan was first to offer hugs when it was time for goodbyes. I was disappointed when he left at the top 8. So happy to see he’s still cooking on social media.



Other Kids Cooking Shows

Gibson: Racheal vs Guy Kids He was so nice to the other contestants, always caring when they were upset. I loved his story about how cooking helping him deal with bullying at school. His words at the end of the season, that he hoped he could inspire other kids who are bullied, were amazing. Fun Fact – if you watch Gibson’s win without sound, you might think Amber won by the look on her face.


Hunter: Racheal vs Guy Kids Cookoff & Chopped Teens He is the kind the kid who never gives up. After he did not win Racheal vs Guy, he went to compete in Chopped Teens and took home a win. Knowing what it can feel like to lose, he was respectful of his fellow cooks when they got chopped. Hunter is good guy.


Chris: Racheal Ray Kids What an incredibly supportive young man. When the other kids were upset and crying, he would tell them they were amazing. He really cares about feelings. I enjoy seeing his cooking event posts on Facebook and Instagram and would like to try his Awesome Sauce & Liquid Gold! #chriswithatwist I really hope he gets a chance to be on another show. I think he would great on Chopped Teens. He has also been very nice to me and sent me an autographed picture.


Jack: Chopped Junior When the judges were surprised he shared ingredients with the other cooks, he asked why wouldn’t he? Class act. He had such positive energy. I love how he and Mark went out for milkshakes after the show. Even though he didn’t win on the Chopped Junior Champions, he did a great job, and it was fun to see him cooking again.



Alex P: Kids Baking Championship & Chopped Junior He is one of my favorites because he was super kind on the baking show. He made me laugh when he talked about his grandmother. He went home too soon on Chopped Junior, and I bet he would have done really well in the dessert round. I hope he gets to compete on another show because he is such a good baker.


Mason: Chopped Junior & Stove Tots He is one of my big favs because he is such a sweet kid. He was so nice to the other kids on the shows, which shows he isn’t just about winning. I still enjoy seeing him cook online and follow his food blog masonpartak.com. Mason has also been super nice to me. He sent me a nice package with his cookbook, some candies and his autograph picture. He loves by blog and has even called me his friend. He says I am an amazing person and he wants to meet me in person someday. I am honored to be have him as an online friend. He is my fav Chopped Jr winner, I hope to see him on tv again.


Isaiah: Food Network Star Kids & Chopped Junior He was so nice to everyone and cared about them when they were sad. I think he is a great kid. I was so sad when he did not win Food Network Star Kids because he was really talented and wanted him to win. I like watching his fusion cooking videos on You Tube Account, Cooking With Chef Anthony Check it out!


Christian: Chopped Junior What a nice kid. I especially liked how he talked about wanting to win for his sister who had open heart surgery. I was happy when he won. I hope I get to see Christian compete on another show sometime soon, maybe represent Massachusetts in a MasterChef Junior Season!


Caroline: Chopped Junior & Stove Tots She was such a nice girl. I liked it when she helped Sofia plating in the last seconds of the dessert round. She was being a true friend and a great competitor. When kids do this they show they want their best dish to go against the other kid’s best dish. I liked how Sofia and Caroline held hands to find out who won. And then she won again on Stove Tots, that was amazing.


Aidan F.: Chopped Junior & Chopped Junior Champs Another great kid. I really liked his story. He said school was hard because of his dyslexia, and cooking was a lot more fun. Mark Murphy said he could relate, he has dyslexia too, and that learning to cook was a great path to success for him. I was happy Aidan won. And it was great to see him return for the Champs Show and win his round. His cooking skills are getting better and better and I like following his Instagram posts.


Nick & Natraj: Chopped Junior I loved both of them on the show. Nick talked about writing a cookbook and Natraj talked about how cooking helped him overcome bullying at school. Both really nice boys. I was glad they made it to the dessert round together, and although I was happy for Nick when he won, I wish Natraj could have won too. Double winning would be amazing!

Liam D.: Chopped Junior I was impressed that he wanted to donate winnings to the homeless, so they could get homes. Caring about the people living on the streets shows what a very nice kid he is. I also love how he dyes his hair and can be himself. I follow him on Instagram and he still cooks a lot.


Christopher& Kaj: Chopped Junior I liked these two kids a lot. Christopher was brave to share that he was bullied at school and didn’t have many friends. Cooking helped him feel less lonely. Before they went to the final chopping block Kaj told Christopher that no matter what happens they would always be friends. And when Kaj won he gave Christopher a supportive hug. Two strong kids, I hope they get to be on MasterChef Junior someday, I think they would be really good on the show and make lots of new friends

Aidan: Kids Baking Championship My instincts told me he was going to be my fav on the show right from the start. He was positive and funny and knew a lot about baking. And he was kind. I loved when it ran across the kitchen to Kaniyah and helped her make whipped cream. What a great friend. I follow Aidan on Instagram and am happy to see that in addition to great baking he’s also making savory dishes


Liam P.: Chopped Junior On the show Liam was great cook and nice to the other kids. I liked how he gave Megan a big hug goodbye at the end. It was so sweet it even made Geoffrey Zakarian tear up. I literally jumped for joy when I found him on Instagram! He is still cooking and posts delicious looking Hawaiian dishes.


CJ: Online Chopped Junior Auditions I’m glad I found this video online because I was touched by CJ’s story about how cooking helped distract him from being bulled at school. It’s sad to me think about how many kids are bullied. I’m glad cooking helps them feel better. I really hope CJ keeps trying and gets to be on Top Chef Junior’s second season. He almost made it on to Chopped Junior, so he is a very good cook. I would love to see him shine on T.V.


Kieran: Chopped Junior What I liked best about Kieran is how wanting to win did not make him act rude. When Ava was so sad and tearing up after being chopped in the dessert round, it was great to see him give her a big hug and be a friend. I follow him on Instagram and he is still cooking strong in Pennsylvania.


Fuller: Chopped Junior & Top Chef Junior Fuller is such an amazing kid. He started watching cooking shows in the hospital when he had cancer and decided he wanted to learn how to cook too. Watching him in the kitchen, it’s easy to see how determined he is to succeed. I was so happy he won Chopped Jr. and excited to see him again on Top Chef Jr. It was really sad when he had to leave the competition for medical reasons, but it was the best choice for his health. I follow Fuller on Instagram, he looks great, healthy and strong, and cooking up a storm!


Milo: Top Chef Junior He was my fav. I loved when he made a butter stuffed burger in honor of his best friend, Fuller. He said he wanted to make his friend smile. I was so sad when he left the show, he was so close to winning. I hope you competes on TV again and keeps following his cooking dreams.


Logan G.: Chopped Junior I felt bad for him when he was having trouble with the wonton wrapper and started to doubt himself. I loved that he didn’t give up and kept on cooking. I thought he was a really nice kid and I was happy for him when the won and got a chef’s coat.


Jacob: Kids BBQ Championship, Chopped Junior & Stove Tots If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Jacob had a rocky path. He was always in the bottom on Kids BBQ, came close to winning on Chopped, but then finally won Stove Tots! I was so happy for him. I liked how he never gave up and earned a win. He is an amazing fighter.


Elliot: Chopped Junior & Stove Tots He is a nice boy and I was glad to watch him cook on tv and online. I like his long hair style. I think it shows he is not afraid to be himself. I was happy to see him win Stove Tots in the pilot episode online and on the televised show. I follow him on Facebook and it’s fun to see his dishes and all the special events he gets to cook at.


Bryce: Chopped Junior & Stove Tots He is one of the amazing young cooks who may not have won a show, but never gives up. I admire that, and I hope he gets a win one day. I follow him on Facebook and think it’s great that he cooks at all sorts of events.


Devlyn: Stove Tots I was glad to find this new fav kid chef on Stove Tots. He has a great personality, is proud of his family and seems like the kind of kid I would like to be friends with. He was super sweet when he hugged the other kids after he won. I was SO happy for him, I had joy in my heart.


Aditya: Kids Baking Championship He was my favorite baker in Season 4 and I was Team Aditya from the start! He was sweet, humble and funny and I was so sad when he left. I really hope he keeps baking and I get to see him compete on another show someday. For now, I enjoy following him on Instagram and watching his mini speed baking videos.


Owen: Top Chef Junior I was happy for him when he won Top Chef Jr. and I loved his friendship with Henry. It was so cute to see them hug and fool around when they were cooking as a team in the finale. It’s great to see boys unafraid to show their feelings of friendship.


Ryan: Chopped Canada Junior I liked Ryan. I was impressed when he told Charlie his meatballs were burning. He was such a good sport (unlike the guy in Cake Wars who did not tell the women her oven was open). I think the adults could learn a lot of positive things by watching the kids compete.


Daniel: Chopped Canada Junior & Racheal vs Guy Kids Cookoff I really liked seeing him cook on these shows. Even though he did not win, he was a talented cook and fun to watch. When he posts his latest dishes on Instagram, I am always interested to see he’s been cooking.


Hudson: Chopped Canada Junior I liked his story about being very quiet and not having many friends. Like other kids, cooking helped him find more self-confidence and he is still cooking today. I recently found his account on Instagram, and everything he makes looks amazing.


Trishul: Chopped Junior What a nice boy. I loved how he cooked from his Indian roots and how he dresses and dances to honor of his culture background. He was one of the kids I was so sad to see not win.


Nyles: Chopped Junior I thought he was a very kindhearted boy. I loved how he wanted to win the money for his mom and help her since she was a single mom. I was SO sad he got chopped, I felt he really deserved to win.


Etimfon: Chopped Junior I loved his story about recently coming to the United States from Nigeria. I thought it was very honorable when he told the judges that he felt he should be chopped in the entrée round, because the other cooks had done better. I would love to see Etimfon on a Chopped Jr Redemption Show, and I think the judges would too!


Ade: Chopped Junior He arrived with an amazing story. He had badly injured his leg in a dumbbell accident and needed surgeries, but still wanted to compete on Chopped Junior to inspire other kids to cook. He never gave up his dream. Ade came close to winning in the dessert round, and still acted happy for the boy who won.


Jake: Chopped Teens Even though he was teased for being “weird” or “awkward” when he was younger, he is more confident now. I liked how he is comfortable with himself and his motto is “If you are different, stay humble. Accept who you are.” He’s a very mature seventh grader.


Peter: Chopped Teens He has so many interests, he is a very special boy. I was happy when he won his episode of Chopped Teens and I like following him on YouTube. He has he own cooking show online and sells clothes he has designed and made himself. Maybe he’ll end up on Project Runway Junior someday!


Jeremiah: Chopped Junior He left too soon! I thought he was very funny and I loved how he talked about living and cooking in Hawaii. I was very sad when he left in the appetizer round. He did not get a chance to show what he can do. Jeremiah deserves to come back for redemption. I’m glad he got to cook with professional chefs in Hawaii after the show.


Joe: Chopped Junior Another great kid from the great state of Texas! I loved his Tex-Mex Style of cooking and the positive way he interacted with the other cooks, always offering encouragement. I was disappointed he did not make it to the dessert round. I believe if he keeps cooking he will be going places.




Max’s MasterChef Recap 08X20&21

-1The Season 8 MasterChef Finale begins with the grand entrance of the top 3 home cooks.

Jason, a 34-year-old Highschool Music Teacher from Newton, Massachusetts. He has shown he can plate beautifully with explosions of flavor. His mother, father, brother and partner are very proud of him and in the MasterChef Kitchen to cheer him on to victory.

Eboni, a 33-year-old Addictions Counselor, Military Wife and Mother of four from Chicago, Illinois. In the kitchen she always pushes herself to be the best, fuel by love for her family. Her husband and kids are rooting for her and say they are really missing her at home.

And Dino, a 28-year-old Dancer from Benson Hurst, New York. His artistic and unconventional eccentricities on a plate have blown the judges away. His parents are excited to watch him cook in the finale, they so impressed with the way his cooking skills have grown.

Joe Bastianich is back in the MasterChef Kitchen and will be the fourth judge in the finale. He says he has missed “the incredible energy and passion of the home cooks in this competition.”


The cooking is exciting in each round, but I’m going to just talk about the food served.

Appetizer Round!

Jason made Uni Custard with Prawns, Clams and Miso Vinaigrette. The presentation is breath taking. The custard is a bit broken but still tastes amazing, the clams and spot prawns bring wonderful sea flavors. Sublime, but not perfect.

Eboni made Pan Seared Scallops with Charred Romanesco, Rainbow Chard and Pea Purée. Visually it is a beautiful dish, but the scallops are undercooked. The cauliflower and the purée are rustic and spectacular.

Dino made Squid Ink Capellini with Calamari, Clams and Cherry Tomatoes. This dish has a gorgeous presentation. The pasta is perfect and together the components are delicious. Joe says, “This dish is authentic, flavorful, properly executed … You’re one hell of an excellent Italian pasta cook.”


Entrée Round!

Jason created a Tofu Wrapped Black Cod with Bay Scallops, Maitake Mushrooms and Cucumber-Pea Tendril Sauce. It is a remarkable and he invented the dish! Aarón, Joe and Christina love it, but Gordon is very disappointed with the way the cod is cooked in the tofu and placed in the green broth.

Dino made Rack of Lamb with Lamb Belly-Sunchoke Caponata and Balsamic Glaze. The cook on all four cuts of lamb is spot on, perfect medium rare, but there is some fat cap remaining on Aarón and Gordon’s lamb. The dish tastes great and the belly is cooked well, but Gordon says the garnish and glaze are all wrong. Joe disagrees, he says Dino can cook old world Italian in today’s style very well.

Eboni made Honey Glazed Duck Breast with Sweet Potato Mash, Collard Greens and Crispy Heirloom Carrots. The presentation is down-home rustic. Gordon points out that duck is not easy to cook and the breast is a bit undercooked, but everything else on the plate is incredibly delicious. Aarón says the collards are the best he’s ever had. Joe says it was 90 seconds away from being a three-star dish and finishes cooking the duck with a lighter under the dish!

Desert Round!

Dino made a Pistachio Tiramisu with Orange Mascarpone Cream, Expresso Caviar, and Pistachio Tuile. It’s nothing like a traditional tiramisu. Still, Joe loves it. Aarón says it is very much off kilter, but delightful. Christina likes the sugar tuile and the ideas in the dessert, but not so much the execution of the pistachio. Gordon doesn’t like that Dino called it a tiramisu, but says it is “bloody delicious.”

Eboni made Chocolate Orbit Cake with Macadamia Crumble and Passion Fruit Coulis. It is baked perfectly inside and Christina says it is incredible. Joe says the glaze is fantastic, but Aarón doesn’t like it. He thinks it takes away from the decadent cake. Gordon the dessert has a ‘Wow” factor.

Jason made Black Sesame Japonaise with Chocolate Yuzu Mousse and Berry Shiso Coulis. Visually, the dessert is a work of art. Gordon & Christina love the chocolate mousse with yuzu. Aaron calls it a well-seasoned dessert and Joe says, “It’s tart, acidic, sweet, chewy, nutty, crunchy, a great nod to Asian cuisine, along with a great sweet sensibility of just a delicious dessert. Great job.”

The judges deliberate. Argue. And finally agree the next MasterChef Champion is … DINO! He is ecstatic. “Mommy I did it! Mother! I did it Ma!” and “BABY DOLL! I AM THE NEXT MASTERCHEF!”

Eboni says, “I’m happy for Dino, I’m proud of Jason, myself. I just wasn’t my time yet. I’m still going to pursue my food dreams. This isn’t the last you’ve seen of me.”And Jason says, “I’m so happy for Dino. … To make it this far in the finale, and to cook for the judges, and to make so many friends, I am just over the moon. I feel like I won too!” You can’t get that guy down. 😊Dino says, This is the biggest moment of my life. My whole life was built for this – this right here, for this point. I’m very proud of everything I accomplished tonight. And I know my mother’s proud of me. That’s all that really matters to me. This right here is the ticket to the beginning of my life. For the last 28 years, I’ve been trying to figure out who I am. And now I’m finally awake and I’m finally getting to go out there and be that positive light I was born to be!”


Max’s MasterChef Recap 18 & 19


MasterChef Season 8 Episode 18 begins with the top 6 home cooks finding a letter from their loved ones under their final Mystery Box. Everyone is missing their family and the letters are very emotional, but not as emotional as the actual folks surprising them on stage. Jeff’s fiancée and baby, Yachecia’s daughter, Jason’s partner, Dino’s mum, Cate’s dad and Eboni’s daughter. They will make a dish inspired by the love of their family.

The first best dish belongs to Eboni who says I’m “I’m not cooking anymore, I’m cheffing it!” She made Herb Crusted Lamb with Gruyère, Sweet Potato Fondant, Swiss Chard and Red Wine Reduction. The lamb is a beautiful medium rare and herb crust is fresh and delicious.

Secondly, the judges want to try Yachecia’s dish. She says, “This is the most beautiful plate I have ever done in my life!” She made White Grape Gazpacho with Spicy Grilled Shrimp. Gordon says it is delicious and tastes expensive. It is visually stunning.

And third, Cate, who says, “I’m so pumped to have my Dad here to witness me get called to bring my dish to the judges!” She made Venison Loin with Chestnut Purée, Butternut Squash and Smoked Cherry Compote. The cook on the venison is gorgeous. Christina says the rub is amazing, nice and sweet, and every bite is perfection.

Cate wins the last Mystery Box Challenge! She is safe and gets to pick how long the others will have to cook an elevated Salmon dish. She sends Jason to the pantry first with the full 60 minutes, Eboni gets 50 minutes, Yachecia 40 minutes, Dino gets 30 minutes and Jeff gets only 20! Cate says it is because he has the poorest attitude in the kitchen. He can’t explain his dish to Gordon and only starts cooking the fish with 90 seconds to go!

Time is up!

Jason made Vietnamese Salmon with Daikon and Crab Slaw. The salmon is cooked beautifully and the slaw is delicious. His knife work is perfect.

Eboni made Crispy Skin Salmon with Bamboo Rice, Spinach and Avocado Remoulade. The seasoning looks nice and the cook on the fish is spot on. She nailed the forbidden rice. Aarón says each element on the dish is flawless.

Yachecia made Sweet & Hot Salmon with Braised Swiss Chard, Tuscan White Beans and Citrus Cream Sauce. Gordon says “it looks disgusting” and the fish is “hammered!” He actually spits it out!!! Not a dreamy dish.

Dino made Squash Wrapped Salmon with Fregola and Crab Stuffed Pepper. The fish is cooked nicely and the fregola’s flavor and texture are a smart pairing. An elegant dish.

And finally, Jeff’s 20 minute Mediterranean Salmon with Cheese-Tomato Relish and Fruit-Cucumber Gratin is basically raw. “Are you trying to poison me?!?” Jeff insists he wanted the fish to come out that way! Gordon is stunned.

While the judges are deliberating Dino and Jeff verbally spare. Dino teases Jeff about it not being a sushi challenge and Jeff comes back with pure rudeness. You will never hear the MasterChef Junior contestants treating each other with such disrespect. Not cool.

Not surprisingly, Yachecia and Jeff are the bottom 2. They both go home!! Yachecia’s salmon was miles away from what they expected from her and Jeff gets so defensive they felt they couldn’t teach him anymore because he wasn’t prepared to listen.

Yachecia says, “I’m bummed about being eliminated, but it’s kind of mixed emotions though, because I’m so proud of myself for going this far. There is no way in the world that I could feel disappointed because I’ve grown so much in this competition.”

Jeff says, “I’m leaving the MasterChef Kitchen but this but this journey bought out Jeff 2.0. My cooking has been elevated to a new level. I wear my emotions on my sleeve. I’m a very passionate person and so I might have ruffles a few feathers, honestly I probably have. But, I always worked hard, I supported my team, and I did the best I could.”


Next episode is number 19, the Semifinals.

The top 4 home cooks will compete in skills tests using Flour.  At the end, 3 cooks will be in the finale and 1 will go home empty handed. The best cook in each test will earn a spot in the top three.


First Test: Profiteroles


Jason’s profiteroles are glazed and baked well. There is pastry cream in every nook and cranny, and they taste great. Eboni’s profiteroles themselves look good but the white chocolate glaze is grainy and runny. Inside, the filling is beautiful and tastes great. Dino’s dark chocolate glaze looks grainy and dull. Inside they are beautifully filled and the profiterole is done well. But the glaze didn’t work. And Cate’s are a bit small, misshaped and messy. She filled them from the side, which is unconventional and the taste is a bit off. Pressure is on.

The first one in the finale is Music Teacher, JASON!


Second Test: Lava Cake


Eboni’s cake is baked well and tastes good. Dino’s cake is flat, undercooked but tastes great. Cate’s is slightly broken but tastes amazing.The next one going to the finale is Addiction Counselor, EBONI!


Third Test: 3 Cheese SoufflésDino and Cate do their very best to present three perfect cheese soufflés. All 3 soufflés are tasted at the same time and the judges don’t let on to what they think until they announce that the last home cook in the finale is …… Ballet Dancer, DINO!

Cate is going home. 😦  She says, “When I first came back here, I had one goal and it was to get my apron. I made it to the very last step before the finale. That’s huge. I had some obstacles throughout this competition and it feels like I’ve climbed over MT Everest to get to this point. Not only did I learn about cooking, I learned more about myself and my strengths and my weaknesses. I’ve won so many challenges. I came here for redemption and I redeemed myself and some. My dream was, yeah, to win the trophy, but I still feel like I won an experience of a lifetime.”



Max’s MasterChef Recaps S8/12-17

With two episodes a week airing it’s been tough to keep up. Here is a quick look at who went home:

Episode 12 “In a Pinch”

Jenny failed her with her crawfish then was unable to make dumplings. She was sent home. She said, “I’m disappointed. It’s a bummer to be going home. Top 10 was like this close (pinching her fingers together).This competition has changed my life in so many ways. I’m really, really proud with the person I’ve become, the confidence I’ve gained, and the passion that’s been really invigorated in me. I’m so excited for the next step.”

Episode 13 “Gordon’s Game of Chicken”

Despite cooking like a top level chef in his last challenge, Adam was sent home because his chicken was raw. Adam said “I’m sad to go, but the fact I made it to the top ten in the Masterchef Kitchen is so life affirming. As hard as it was to leave Harvard, coming here to the Masterchef Kitchen, totally worth it. I don’t have to worry about pursuing investment baking or pursing a law degree. I know what I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life.”

Episode 14 “A Mexican Tag Team Challenge”

Caitlin goes home due to a lack of assertiveness in the team challenge with Jeff. Letting him take over was a mistake. She said, “I’m definitely disappointed, but I think the judges made the right decision because tonight I can see why they didn’t think my voice came through. But I can’t be sad that I was only part of the top 9. Like the top 9? That’s amazing. I’m so thankful for this experience, for putting me in a position to learn and grow. I consider this competition for me, a success.”

Episode 15 “The Great Outdoors”

Daniel goes home due to unmelted chocolate in his truffle pressure test. hhHe says, “I guess I’m supposed to be upset or disappointed but I’m not. I’m so happy with what I’ve done, what I’ve accomplished, and uh, I get to go home I get to hold my fiancée, I get to feel my baby kick. I’m going home to soon, but I’m going home happy and with my head held high. I may be 5’5, but I feel like I’m 8 feet tall right now.”

Episode 16 “Chopsticks & Pasta”

Gabriel is sent home due to his collapsing cannelloni in the pressure test. But what happened next is amazing!!! Gordon said Gabriel has the potential to be great and offered to send him to culinary school and help his family. Then Aarón offered him a job in New Orleans when he gets out of school. It’s better than winning the show! He says, “I’m not going back to fast food. I’m not going back to my regular routine. I’m changing my life and that is all thanks to “MasterChef” and what the judges have presented me. My parents have always struggled. They don’t make a lot of money so Chef Ramsey offering to pay for my culinary school and telling me not to stress about my parents is a huge relief because they are my main people that I care about, love and respect. On top of that, I get to go and experience this amazing food scene and this amazing restaurant that Chef Sanchez wants to put me at. To me that’s the world, that’s the jackpot. The trophy’s shiny but this is amazing!”


Episode 17 “Pop-Up Restaurant”

After a lot of team challenge drama in the vineyard and some trash talking between Dino and Jeff – no one actually goes home. Jeff, Cate and Eboni all make a great chocolate soufflé in the pressure test and the judges can’t find a reason to send one of them home. No one went home, thus not exit speech. I am guessing next week 2 go home and I’ll be writing my full recap on that episode. See you then!


Max’s MasterChef Recap S8x11


MasterChef Season 8 Episode 11 “Vegas Deluxe & Oyster Shucks” begins with the top 12 home cooks in Las Vegas to cook for Caesars Palace 50th Anniversary. Captain Dino gets to pick his whole team first or which protein his team will cook, sea bass or rib cap. Dino chooses people, so Captain Daniel gets to pick his protein and he chooses the fish. Dino’s Red Team is Jason, Eboni, Adam, Jenny & Cate. That means Daniel’s Blue Team is Catlin, Yachecia, Jeff, Gabriel & Newton. The VIP guests will vote on the dishes and the losing team will face the dreaded pressure test.

At the start of the cook time Daniel’s Blue Team quickly agrees on a menu. Dino’s team shoots down all his ideas and comes up with their own plan. Dino says he’ll try to make sure it isn’t the worst idea in the world. And Gordon asks, “Is Dino going to run the Red Team or is the Red Team going to run Dino?” 😮 Dino takes charge but they end up having a hard time getting the cook right on the steak.

The Blue Team is not able to complete their plates because Yachecia’s barley does not cook in time. Gordon tells her she should not get angry with him and it will be near the 60th anniversary by the time they get the Blue Team’s dish out. They have to go without it. MasterChef Champion Shaun is back again as VIP, he’s expecting a lot from the home cooks.


Time’s Up!

The Red Team serves Rib Cap with Parsnip Purée, Chanterelles and Romanesco with Hazelnut Crumble. The Blue Team serves Poached Sea Bass with Pickled Leeks, Turnip Purée and Stuffed Squash Blossom.

With 68% of the votes, the RED TEAM wins by a landslide! Captain Daniel picks two home cooks from his team for the pressure test. He chooses Yachecia and Newton! Newton says, “Path of least resistance. Old man. They want me outta here. I’m their strongest challenger. Daniel, he’s the captain. He’s the one who should be on this pressure test. What a lucky SOB he is. Thanks for driving the bus over me fella.”

Newton and Yachecia have to make Las Vegas on a plate – champagne poached oysters. The oysters need to be shucked. The capellini needs to be made from scratch. The tarragon beurre blanc needs to be draped over the oyster. The cucumber batons need to be cut perfectly. And the delicate dollops of caviar on top need to look beautiful. The home cooks will need finesse, timing and confidence to pull it off. Yachecia is panicking because she has never made anything like this before. She leaves her pasta in a pile instead of hanging it to dry before cooking. Newton knows he is out of his comfort zone but he is confident he can pull it off. But he is going too slow, can’t open his caviar jar and does not get everything on the plate before time is up!

Newton’s dish is incomplete, no caviar and no beurre blanc. His batons are not uniform. But his oysters and pasta are cooked perfectly.

Yachecia’s dish has all five elements. Her oysters are poached beautifully but her beurre blanc and her pasta are too thin. And the pasta is greasy.


While the judges deliberate:

Newton says, “Ten months ago I had a stroke, and spent most of January sick and in the hospital. It’s a huge sacrifice for my family to be here, and for that, I owe them a MasterChef Trophy. There’s no way I can go back home right now.”

Yachecia says, “Food and ministry are the two elements that I’m most passionate about. Now I have the opportunity to take my food dream to whole different level. This is extremely important to me.”


The person who executed their champagne oyster dish just a touch better, the person returning to the MasterChef Kitchen … is … going to be revealed NEXT WEEK!?!

Spoiler Alert! It is Yachecia! 🙂