Welcome to the top 10 of MasterChef Junior. And what better way to commemorate this arbitrary, slightly-more-than-halfway point than a two-hour episode?
Gordon Ramsay and Christina Tosi greet the kids, but Graham Elliot is absent until he comes out in a chicken costume that goes especially well with classic moves like the running man and churning butter. Dated dancing aside, he presents a basket telling the kids that this will obviously be an egg challenge.
One by one the pint-sized chefs have to crack eggs on Graham's head. This isn't just for the sake of making a mess, it's to determine which kids are cooking in this game and which can safely scream at the others from the mezzanine. Blue or red means you're playing, normal means you're watching.
Addison is first and cracks an egg with a regular old yolk. She's bummed she's not competing, which shows just how young she is (+1). Only a kid would be mad that they don't get to do something they'll be judged on. If someone offered me, "Hey, you can either write something and everyone will tell you if it's good or bad, or you can sit and watch other people get torn apart" I'd answer so fast they wouldn't be sure if they finished asking the question.
The blue team ends up being Amaya and Kya. The rhyming seems suspicious, but I'm really into these two working together. The red team is Zac and Kamilly. Kamilly claims she's excited because Zac is a strong chef, but also you know he's the show's total heartthrob to the girls, mostly because he can reach the countertop.
There are two teams, but three stations set up. Whatever could it mean?! Turns out the 10-year-olds are competing against Gordon and Graham. Totally fair. To even out the difference in size, age, and years working in a professional restaurant kitchen, team G Squared (which sounds way cooler than "the yellow team") will have half the time to prepare their 24 deviled eggs.
Kamilly is struggling a bit with cracking the hard-boiled eggs and Zac is pretty annoyed that she's never made a deviled egg (+1 for precociousness). I think that's fair. It's not a common food to make outside of family reunion picnics and overpriced Brooklyn gastropubs.
Gordon and Graham enter the competition and things heat up. Well, not literally, it's a cold dish, but you guys get it. Piping proves to be a problem for all of the teams, even for the over-40 set. Time's up and Christina judges the plates. If Gordon and Graham win, everyone moves on to the next challenge. If one of the tiny teams wins, they are safe from elimination.
Graham and Gordon only successfully got three deviled eggs done. The red team of Kamilly and Zac won with 10 completed deviled eggs (+5 each). They switch places with the four kids who watched this all go down and can cool their heels in the safety of knowing they are going to the top eight.
Before the elimination challenge, the judges all talk about what they wanted when they were kids. Graham always wanted to publish his own cookbook, which hasn't happened... until now! (Gasp! What are the odds his dream came true and lined up exactly with his appearances on this major network television show??)
Apparently, the show asked the kids to make their own cookbooks when the season started, and they all pull out their own versions. These poor kids probably thought that they were getting a few weeks away from homework by being on this show, and here they had this assignment. Kya made her cookbook, Kya's Culinary Kaleidoscope, on poster board so that it would be the same size that she is (+3). Naturally, it's full of classic French recipes (+1 more).
For the challenge, the kids must make their cookbook's signature dish to impress the judges and show who they are on a plate. Addison is baking something from her soon-to-be-popular bakery Batter Up, which you should all remember combines her love of pastry with her love of softball.
Graham checks in with Avery and her southern bayou dish. She seems to have left the "u" out of "southern" on the cover of her cookbook, which he mocks. Let the girl go, she's nine years old and cooking a full meal. I haven't had a typo-free text in years and I have a master's degree. Plus 2 for not being thrown off by his insults.
Gordon's check-in with Kaitlyn is a bit alarming. She claims she's making a Black Forest cupcake, but she's using raspberry instead of cherry and is forgoing any liqueur from the frosting. So she's just making one plain chocolate cupcake. It's a bold move for the challenge where she has to serve her "signature style" to the judges.
Oh, and if anyone out there wanted to feel insecure about their maturity and cooking abilities, eight-year-old Kya is doing duck a l'orange with a fennel salad and sweet potato fondant (+3). If you need me, I'll be lying on the floor of my kitchen pouring shredded cheese in my mouth.
"If you need me, I’ll be lying on the floor of my kitchen pouring shredded cheese in my mouth."
In the eleventh hour (or like, ninth minute maybe?) Addison realizes that she over-whipped her whipped cream and now it's unusable. Kaitlyn comes to the rescue and gives her a few bottles of heavy cream to try and catch back up (+2).
Avery serves her crawfish etouffee with rice first, claiming to have made the dish a thousand times. The judges love everything about it. It's well done, it's bold, and it's totally her (+2). Next up is Kya's duck a l'orange, which as expected wows the judges with its technique (+1).
Kaitlyn's version of a Black Forest cupcake is a huge gamble. Gordon tells her it's not a dish and it doesn't really look like something that represents her. While the cake is gooey and good, the frosting is basically just butter and it simply isn't her best work.
Amaya made shrimp asopao with fried plantains. The judges absolutely love it (+2). JJ's fettuccine with cream sauce and zucchini impresses Gordon in terms of flavor and technique, but like Kaitlyn's cupcake, doesn't really feel like it captures who he is. Sam serves bacon-wrapped chicken with couscous and artichokes, which Graham thinks is great (+1). Addison serves her pastry to the queen of baking, Christina. The visuals of the dish disappoint her, but she loves the flavor of the apple and passionfruit danish.
Last up is Corey and his "Dreadlock Jerk Chicken with Rasta sauce." While the flavors are all representative of his Caribbean background, the execution is a mess. The carrots are nearly raw and the chicken is absolutely raw. He goes back to his station and starts crying, which is exactly what I would do. One point for naming creativity, though.
Avery wins the challenge (+5), with Amaya as a close runner-up (+2). Of the bottom three, Addison is safe, which unfortunately means Kaitlyn and Corey are going home. There are more tears here than at last call of a bachelorette party (+3 each for tears).
And in case you thought maybe you were done crying for the day, you're not, because we're moving right into a second hour which means, eventually, more eliminations. Keep the wine and Kleenex handy.
For the next leg of the challenge, Christina welcomes her mom to the kitchen. She prepared a special mystery box for the kids, featuring all of the foods Christina ate as a child. It's a lot of cereals, unsurprisingly. But the kids don't have to make these dishes alone. They pull out their totally-not-product-placement Surface tablets and get to Skype their best friends for a little support.
Graham swings by Avery's station to find she's doing a dessert, a first for her. She says, "I want to show you guys I'm not just a one-legged pony." Clearly she means one-trick pony, but I propose that we change the phrasing (+4). No one wants a horse with one leg.
Christina and her mom both love the flavors and the presentation of Addison's chocolate rice cereal and strawberry tart (+1). On the savory side, Zac did pan-seared chicken with potato puree that Graham and the rest absolutely love (+1). Last of the top three is Sam, who made chocolate mousse with strawberry mint coulis and a fruit cereal topping. He's two for two on impressive desserts now (+2). The winner of the three is Zac, with his first mystery box challenge win (+5).
For his advantage, Zac gets to (or has to) pick the teams for the team elimination challenge. Zac chooses Kya as his teammate. Plus 1 because I like her. He pairs Kamilly and Sam, Avery and JJ, and then Addison and Amaya, who by her own admission can be "super mega bossy." Girl, same. Game recognize game. (+4)
This challenge is a tag-team one. Each pair must together prepare a tray of international street food. They are responsible for samosas, spring rolls, arancini, bao buns, and kofta. Avery and JJ are struggling to get it together and do things in the right order. Avery and Amaya are yelling, but that's to be expected from both of them. Zac and Kya seem like a big brother-little sister team and I would really like Fox to pick up a show where the two of them solve mysteries or maybe just like, pet dogs? Someone over there get on these two (+1 each).
When the minutes really start to tick away, there's a lot more screaming and a ton more tears. Amaya paces back and forth watching Addison, after having yelled at her about how hard it was to stuff cheese into rice balls. I'll really never get over watching a show with real people under real pressure making real mistakes and not hearing a single swear word. It's almost like another language.
Apparently the judges weren't expecting a perfect plate of international street foods from these pairs. It's more of a "How much of this did you even finish?" challenge, which seems a lot more reasonable.
"I would really like Fox to pick up a show where the two of them solve mysteries or maybe just like, pet dogs?"
Amaya and Addison are up first and both admit they had a long and emotional challenge with many communication breakdowns. But they actually managed to get everything on the platter despite all of the screaming and tears. All of the elements impress Gordon and they finished strong (+3 each for honesty and talent).
Zac and Kya had a strong start but didn't manage to get the spring rolls and a few sauces onto the platter. It would be one thing if what made it to the plate were perfect, but unfortunately for these two, there are lots of errors. The lamb is bland, the rice balls aren't breaded, and the steak in the buns is overcooked.
JJ and Avery had a rough start, but Gordon's yelling seemed to whip them into at least a little shape. Like Zac and Kya, they didn't get two sauces and the spring rolls onto the plate. Despite being unfamiliar with most of the foods, they nailed the flavor and the execution on everything, especially the samosas (+1 each).
Last up is Sam and Kamilly. They admit to their communication problems and that their platter is a bit of a mess. They didn't get to the arancini or some sauces. The lamb kofta is raw and the beef in the buns is undercooked, though they did a great job with the spring rolls and samosas.
The top team of the night, even with the tears, is Amaddison, aka Amaya and Addison (+5 each). The worst of the night was unfortunately Sam and Kamilly, whose individual talents couldn't overcome their communication problems. Well, I'm glad I kept my tissues nearby. Less glad about the wine because now these are Pinot Grigio tears. Whatever, let's all cry it out. I'm going to miss that mohawk (a very sad +3 each).
The Definitive And Very Serious MasterChef Junior Power Ranking*
1. Kya, 159 points
2. Avery, 66 points
3. Tae-Ho, 64 points
4. Addison, 58 points
5. Amaya, 56 points
6. JJ, 49 points
7. Zac, 47 points
8. Ian, 26 points
9. Nate, 21 points
10. Jesse, 2 points
11. Kaitlyn, 1 point
12. Sam, -4 points
13. Adam, -22 points
14. Jaeclyn, -27 points
15. Kamilly, -29 points
16. (tie) Mia and Derek, -35 points
18. Kyndall, -36 points
19. Corey, -37 points
20. Vivian, -40 points
21. Chad, -42 points
22. (Tie) Kade and Alexander, -45 points
24. Annabelle, -48 points
*It's been two weeks so can someone at least double check this math? The last time I added something was on New Years when I was trying to keep track of my drinks, and that was really more multiplication than adding if I'm being honest.