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MasterChef Junior Episode 2: Eyes on the Pies

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To thoroughly enjoy the wonder that is MasterChef Junior, please welcome Alison Leiby, who will be here every week to take us through the season.

MasterChef Junior / Facebook

Welcome to week two of MasterChef Junior, or as I refer to it, The Alison's Ticking Biological Clock Show. It's so strange to watch this show as an adult who is never around children because everything about it is so, well, I guess the phrase would be "weirdly magical"? It's bright and cheery and even the music they play at the beginning feels like the score of a Disney movie and the three judges are going to leap out from backstage and break into a song about roast chicken.

Oona, Samuel, and Sean were the top three in last week's chicken challenge, so they get to participate in a special challenge. Upon hearing this, vest-enthusiast Samuel yells, "Yes!" confirming for me that he's the kid in class who reminds the teacher she forgot to assign homework and will likely grow up to be the adult in the CVS who spends 15 minutes with the only working cashier to go over his club member savings on the receipt.

Judge Graham Elliot brings out a stack of pancakes. Oona is already unhappy with the challenge because she's "more of an eggs benedict girl." She's also a 30 year old trapped in a 9 year old's body. The challenge for these three is to cook and stack as many pancakes on a plate as they can in six minutes. Each kid cook is matched up with a judge, and winning the challenge means saving their respective judge from having a bucket of maple syrup poured on his head.

Sean is responsible for saving Graham, Samuel for Joe Bastianich, and Oona for Gordon Ramsay. Gordon makes a plea for Oona to win asking, "Do you have any idea how long it takes me to get my hair looking like this in the morning?" As someone who once dated a looks-obsessed narcissist always striving to achieve that perfect tousled look, I can answer that for her. Mastering that look takes about 30 minutes, or the time it takes me to drink two cups of coffee and ask myself, "Can I really do this anymore?" about 12 times.

The clock starts and the tiny chefs are off and running pouring batter and flipping pancakes. All of the other kids are cheering them on from the side of the room, namely Abby, who is screaming like she just downed an entire pack of Pixy Stix. Time's up and Oona realizes she isn't even close to the other two, looks at Gordon and says, "I'm screwed." Again, are we sure she's not 30?

Oona successfully made 8 pancakes, Samuel made 16, and Sean made a whopping 19. Thanks to Sean's skills, Joe is safe from having syrup poured on him, which is more than we can say for Gordon and Graham. Seems kind of unfair that the one guy with no hair is spared from being doused in a sticky liquid. Sean rectifies that by also pouring syrup on Joe. The whole thing felt like a diabetic version of You Can't Do That On Television.

Thanks to the magic of editing, the judges get cleaned up and return to tell the kids their next challenge. Since, according to Joe, pancakes are the dessert of breakfast, now they're going to have to make a heavy-hitting dessert. Today's challenge is to make a cream pie. Because Sean won the pancake competition, he is safe from elimination and from competing today. In addition to that safety, he gets to choose which type of pie the rest of the kids have to make: chocolate cream pie, fruit cream pie, or citrus cream pie. Sean chooses citrus because he thinks the most kids will struggle with it, proving he has a future not only in cooking, but also in reality television.

Sean also gets to choose another pint-sized chef to join him up on the balcony to be safe from elimination. Sean chooses Mitchell, and the two sit above the action like a tiny, live-action Statler and Waldorf.

Everyone begins cooking and the judges make their rounds in the kitchen to check in. I can only imagine that between these shots there are dozens of adults running in and out of the stations helping and making sure the kids don't seriously injure themselves. I'm also a cynic, so who knows, maybe they all have flawless knife skills and we have nothing to worry about. During this time Gordon stops by Abby's station to see how she's doing. After she explains her history of making pies with her grandmother she says, "Could you move, I'm trying to concentrate?" while not even looking up from the pie filling she's focused on whisking.

The most unbelievably refreshing thing about this show is that whenever one of the kids hears their name mentioned in a compliment, they always yell out a "thank you" even if they aren't part of the conversation or even that close to the conversation. If this was an adult show, I'd chock this up to wanting attention and recognition. But these are 8-12 year olds and I think they are just trying to be polite. It's so cute I could die.

Samuel presents his pie to the judges first. He made a grapefruit rosewater pie with nutmeg cream and pistachio dust. Not one of those flavors is something you'd expect a kid to like, let alone combine. He has all of the vest-confidence in the world, but the judges aren't wowed. It's too heavy on all of the spices and not quite sweet enough. Joe reminds him next time he is planning an elaborate dish to put all of the ingredients out there, and then take off two. Like Coco Chanel's advice regarding women's accessories, or my mother's advice when it comes to how much wine I drink on a Tuesday.

Logan, while he has an unappealing crust has an actually very good tasting raspberry lime pie. He argues that it isn't how it looks, it's how it tastes that's important, which forces Joe to ask if his parents are in politics. Sure enough, his dad is. Joe then hammers him with political questions about if he is a republican or a democrat and if he is fiscally conservative. Sure, this 9 year old can make a pie crust from scratch, but where does he stand on the environment?

Adaiah, 12, is a confident baker and wasn't worried with this challenge. She made a blood orange lemon pie that the judges love. They also really like Oona's blood orange cream pie with passion fruit whipped cream. When Gordon asks her where she got the idea for the passion fruit she says, "Um, mostly from my brain." I would financially back a TV show where these two go to restaurants and discuss the food. Can Fox get on that?

Natalie initially wanted to do an orange cream pie, but accidentally grabbed grapefruits, so she made a grapefruit cream pie with coconut whipped cream. She didn't have strong enough flavors for the judges, but what did they expect, she didn't even know what the fruit looked like?

Lisa Frank binder come-to-life Abby presented her blood orange cream pie with apple butter whipped cream and jelly beans on top. The jelly beans make it look like it's going to be a real mess of a dish, but Gordon tastes it and is floored by how good it is. The judges also love Levi's key lime pie with coconut whipped cream.

Jessica also felt confident in this challenge thanks to the state fair blue ribbons she's won for her pies back home. Unfortunately, the judges weren't happy with her citrus Texas pecan pie with key lime and lemon. She knows her state's nut and flower, but she didn't know how to get the proportions of filling and cream right on her pie.

The judges deliberate and decide that the best two pies of the day are Levi and Adaiah. The bottom four of the evening are Sam, Josh, Jessica, and Natalie. Josh notes, "I hope I don't go home because that would ruin my thoughts of key lime pie." It's a sentiment I totally get. I can never eat lasagna again because that's what I was having at dinner when my parents told me they weren't paying for graduate school. Ruined forever.

Ultimately, Natalie and Jessica are sent home to return to their lives as normal children not on reality television. Stay tuned for next week when the kids have to do a three-legged cooking challenge and I once again reconsider freezing my eggs.

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