MasterChef Junior Luca's Recap: Building a Better Burger
by Luca Manfe
I am very thankful for MasterChef Junior. After a whole summer of watching myself compete in MasterChef, I didn’t really know what to do with myself now! I was waiting every week for Wednesday nights, and now the wait is for Friday nights.
There are just 12 junior homecooks left in the MasterChef kitchen that will compete for the title of MasterChef Junior and for $100,000. Both will definitely change one of these kids’ lives.
We have the first mystery box of the season. The mystery box was always my favorite challenge — it was cooking with no pressure because you knew that no one would be eliminated so I would always try to go outside the box and take risks.
One, two, three mystery boxes go up to reveal filet mignon, tiger shrimp, potatoes, garlic, soy sauce, ginger, mixed berries, carrots, mushrooms and a tablet — wait a tablet? All the kids get 3 minutes to Skype with one friend or family member to brainstorm and get some advice for their very first mystery box challenge. I would call my mother in Italy for sure to ask her for some tips for my recipe. I would have made a grilled spiced rub filet mignon with garlic mashed potatoes, butter-glazed mushrooms and a blue cheese sauce.
As is the case for every mystery box, the judges go around to the stations and taste what each homecook is making. I am really having fun watching Joe interact with the kids; we are all discovering a side of his personality that we did not see in the adult MasterChef. Again, these kids are very very ambitious; nobody is playing it safe and those dishes look amazing.
Alexander, Jack and Troy make it in the Top 3 in this first mystery box challenge.
Jack used both the filet mignon and the tiger shrimp, and overall his dish was the best! Good job, Jack! Congratulations on your fantastic dish, but most of all for your Hawaiian shirts! Go, Hawaiian Jack!
The judges and Jack walk inside the MasterChef pantry. I remember the feeling when I walked inside the pantry for the first time after my first mystery box win. It was incredible! It’s a great boost of confidence. Now let’s see if Jack can use his advantage well.
The theme of this first elimination test is the judge’s childhood favorite dishes. Joe loved chicken wings, Chef Graham‘s favorite dish was hamburgers (surprise! surprise!) and Chef Ramsay preferred the very British fish fingers. Jack is safe from elimination and will get to decide which one of the judges’ childhood favorite food the other kids will have to cook.
If I were Jack I would have probably chosen chicken wings because I think it would have been the more complicated. You need a glaze, a sauce and most important, you need to fry them in the perfect way. Overcook them, and the meat gets dry. Not cooked enough, and you have raw chicken. And we all know what happens when you serve raw chicken in the MasterChef kitchen — Let’s all say it together: trash can!
Instead of chicken wings, Jack chooses the American classic, the hamburger. Hamburgers are not a piece of cake for me as we all saw in Las Vegas, but I promise that I practiced a lot and now I make great hamburgers. I would make a perfected version of the burger that Kathy and I presented in Vegas. Beef hamburger with caramelized onions, lemon arugula, bleu cheese with a mustard-fig marmalade.
Jack’s strategy makes sense though. He knows everyone can cook a hamburger, but he hopes that some of them will over think it and complicate their dish. It looks like his main target may be Alexander, but I don’t really know if an American hamburger can give any trouble to “Mr. French Macarons.”
I guess we are about to find out.
Alexander is actually the first one up. He has the confidence and composure of a seasoned chef. He made beef hamburgers served perfectly at medium rare with arugula, mushrooms, pepperjack cheese and a black garlic aioli. Doesn’t that just sound delicious? I will be looking for a restaurant in NYC that has something similar on their menu. When the judges talk about Alexander’s food, they look and sound like proud teachers.
Next up, we have Tommy who played on a breakfast burger with turkey, fried eggs, pasteurized cheese with a side of sweet potatoes tater tots. There are so many great ingredients in the MasterChef kitchen, and I don’t think that something like pasteurized cheese should be ever used in this competition. His burger is slightly overcooked and that cheese may be fatal for him.
Gavin has a great idea: an Italian hamburger. He made a square patty with Italian sausage, grilled onion, arugula and tomatoes served with a cucumber, tomato burrata salad with aged balsamic. Great idea, Gavin! It sounds delicious and you made two Italians like Joe and me very proud.
Next up, is Molly who played on an Asian-themed burger. She served a Korean BBQ burger with kimchi, fried onion and a side of togarashi fries. I think it sounds delicious, but she probably wasn’t able to execute the way she wanted because the judges were not wowed at all. I really appreciate her tenacity and knowledge. She showed already how comfortable she is cooking different types of cuisine, but maybe this time she took too big a risk.
The best three dishes of the night belong to Gavin, Kaylen and Alexander. Now I am wondering what the next challenge will be because on the adult MasterChef, the judges nominate just the two best cooks that will be team captains on the next challenge, but this time there are three best dishes.
There will be a double elimination because two junior homecooks will leave the kitchen tonight. The three worst dishes belong to Tommy and his pasteurized cheese, Jewels and her dried lamb burger, Molly and the kimchi that did not work. Jewels is lucky enough that the other two homecooks both cooked dishes worse than hers so she made it into the Top 10 of MasterChef Junior.
Unfortunately for Tommy and Molly, that hamburger was the last thing they cooked in the MasterChef kitchen. Good luck with everything, guys, and please keep on cooking because you have a bright future in front of you!
Did you enjoy the second episode of MasterChef Junior? How do you cook your favorite hamburger?
Don’t miss the next episode of MasterChef Junior next Friday at 8/7c on FOX.
See you next week!