We're down to the final six kids on MasterChef Junior, and from the looks of it, the producers force fed them all Pixy Stix before sending them out into the kitchen to find out their next challenge. Kya is screaming that it's not her bedtime, Amaya is running through every emotion she can possibly imagine, and JJ's eyes are wider than mine were when I saw my first Loehmann's receipt.
Graham Elliot explains to the pint-sized chefs that today they will have to cook a VIP lunch for culinary luminaries. And it won't just be the overpriced soup/salad/sandwich nightmare that working adults are used to. They are charged with creating a three Michelin star–quality dish for these notable guests. The kids all freak out, but when I was 10 and you said "Michelin star" I'm not even sure I'd think of the nationally-known tire brand, let alone the fine-dining restaurant rating system.
And to add even more stress to the already anxiety-ridden children, the judges announce that the lunch will be held at Gordon Ramsay's house. The other five are nervous about this, but JJ is excited, saying, "It'll be an honor to cook at your house." Plus 2 for knowing when to butter someone up.
Christina Tosi explains the teams. Addison and Amaya were the winning team of the previous street food challenge, so they are each team captains (+1 each as a carry over). A coin flip gives Amaya first pick, and she chooses Zac and Avery. Addison chooses Kya and JJ. They're two pretty evenly matched teams, so anything can happen (within the realm of formulaic network television reality competitions, that is).
Gordon heads home to get ready, but it seems like he's mostly just making phone calls and chilling with his heavy-breathing French bulldog, George. I'm very jealous these kids get to go see Gordon Ramsay's house. I love going to other people's homes for the first time. You get to find out about their taste, what food they keep around, the size of that amazing silk top with jaguars on it that's hanging in their closet when they step out to take a quick phone call. I mean, what?
His house is predictably huge and gorgeous with everything a multi-millionaire chef and television personality would want. While Christina and Graham are carting around kids in convertibles, Gordon is in a white terrycloth bathrobe trimming his hedges (not a euphemism). Looks like he subscribes to my life motto: Everything is better when you're wearing a bathrobe.
A makeshift outdoor kitchen is set up in his backyard, and it puts pretty much every normal kitchen I've seen — short of a Nancy Meyers movie — to shame. The blue and red teams are separated by a hedge so they can't keep tabs on each other.
The kids are responsible for a two-course lunch for Gordon and his 20 friends. The appetizer is a pan-seared snapper with rainbow chard and shellfish broth. For the entree, they must prepare venison loin on a bed of bacon and cabbage with gnocchi, chanterelles, and a parsley puree. Gordon gives a lesson in cooking the two dishes while the kids eagerly take notes. He asks questions along the way, including one about which shellfish to toss in the skillet first. Zac answers correctly (+3).
When demonstrating the entree, Gordon explains how to cook venison. Avery is only a little nervous because she has hunted deer before and claims to know everything about them (+2). I feel like hunting deer versus preparing venison is kind of like changing a car battery versus doing a backflip. Both are super challenging, but have nothing to do with each other.
The contestants have 50 minutes to prepare the appetizer as Gordon's guests arrive. The lunch attendees have no idea that their meal is being prepared by cooks who weren't even alive the year that Britney Spears married Kevin Federline.
Amaya decides that for this course, her team will divide and conquer. She'll handle the seafood broth, Avery can cook the snapper, and Zac is responsible for the rainbow chard. Plus 3 for understanding delegating and time management. Addison's strategy is to have everyone make their own plates from start to finish. Surprisingly, Gordon agrees with this strategy.
Zac points out that his team isn't communicating at all. He says, "Come on Amaya, we have to talk" (+2). I've never had anyone say that to me before, it sounds odd. I'm used to more, "Alison, you have to stop talking," and, "Seriously, shut up and just order your drink that guy does not need to hear your life story." The red team is seriously behind as Amaya is cooking seafood for two portions at a time and Avery is doing three at a time. Gordon rounds them up and points out how this system won't work. Amaya acknowledges the fault saying, "I haven't done a lot of team leading in my life, I'm just a 10-year-old girl in fourth grade, this is really hard" (+4).
Red team regroups to each do 4-5 portions on their own instead of the assembly line set-up. Over on the blue team, they're making progress, but when it comes to finally searing the snapper, Kya keeps burning hers, which is met with an exasperated, "Ugh, Kya," from Addison (+1 because I use that tone all the time). JJ also seems a little overwhelmed with the dishes and forgot to put olive oil in his broth. Weird, I thought that everyone just automatically put olive oil in literally every dish ever prepared. That's how I cook. They are also short on scallops and the servers come out and the blue team had one dish missing a piece of fish. It's a disaster.
The guests each only get either a red or blue team dish, and their feedback will determine the winner and loser. Seems overall split — some fish is good, some is under or overcooked. In general, everyone seemed impressed without even knowing that children made their lunch for them.
Addison channels her softball history and rallies her team to get it together for the venison entree (+2). Over on the red team, Avery, with her encyclopedic knowledge of all things deer, is giving advice to her fellow cooks about basting their venison (+3). Zac and Avery argue with Amaya over the temperature of the oven for the venison to be fully cooked and not dried out. She's losing control of her team, or as Avery describes her, "crumbling like a piece of paper." Plus 2 for Avery again for an excellent visual.
Christina comes to check in and Amaya starts crying from the stress (+1 because I get it). Christina gives her a pep talk about this being the time to take control, turn it around, and crank out some great dishes. I wish I could give Christina points. Better yet, I wish I could have her come to my house when I'm on deadlines and convince me to get off the floor and just finish writing — and also maybe bring me a compost cookie or something, I don't know, just spitballing here.
It's time to pull the venison from the oven, but none of the kids seem strong enough to do that. As JJ is pulling his skillet from the oven, all heavy with deer meat and melted butter, he spills its contents not just onto the grass, but on Gordon's leg. Plus 1 because I truly feel for JJ at this point, that's an awful feeling.
With his fresh shin burn, Gordon checks on Amaya's team just before service and notices her venison is seriously overcooked. Avery and Zac both have properly cooked pieces of meat because they knew the right oven temperature (+1 each). Things aren't much better on the blue team, though. JJ was supposed to cook two more pieces of venison to make up for the ones that scalded Gordon's leg, but turns out he never cooked them so with almost no time left for prep, that meat is still raw.
Zac steps up to lead the red team (+2) in the final moments when Amaya starts to fall apart. Both teams managed to pull out excellent, high-quality dishes. The diners overall are impressed with both teams. so it's anyone's game.
After the meal, Gordon introduces the phenomenal chefs responsible for this exquisite lunch, and then the 20 diners see a tiny parade of children run down the hill on his property. They clap in awe of their ages and laugh to each other in disbelief. I'm crying and I don't know why but it's wonderful and also I am nearing the end of this bottle of Shiraz I found in my desk drawer.
The judges join the kids the next day back in the kitchen for elimination. The winning team of the challenge is Amaya and the red team. They all fall to the ground in excitement. Avery is crying (so now I'm crying, +3). I secretly want her and her pigtails to win the whole thing.
This means two members of the blue team of Addison, JJ, and Kya, will be going home. Safe from elimination and moving to the top four is Addison. She deserves it as she came through for her team when she needed to and helped them turn it around after several missteps. While I'm happy that she's moving on, I am DEEPLY upset to say goodbye to Kya, who knows how to sous vide and is eight years old. Bye, Kya. I'll miss your bows the most.
The Definitive And Very Serious MasterChef Junior Power Ranking*
1. Kya, 99 points
2. Avery, 68 points
3. Tae-Ho, 64 points
4. Addison, 52 points
5. Amaya, 49 points
6. Zac, 46 points
7. Kaitlyn, 44 points
8. Sam, 40 points
9. Ian, 26 points
10. Nate, 21 points
11. Kamilly, 13 points
12. Corey, 9 points
13. Jesse, 2 points
14. JJ, 0 points
15. Adam, -22 points
16. Jaeclyn, -27 points
17. (tie) Mia and Derek, -35 points
19. Kyndall, -36 points
20. Vivian, -40 points
21. Chad, -42 points
22. (Tie) Kade and Alexander, -45 points
24. Annabelle, -48 points
*This is basically run by NASA at this point.