The Claws Come Out On MasterChef Junior

Now that we're through two episodes of the reality show cooking competition, the cooking competition can begin.

MasterChef Junior fleshes out its Top 20 by speeding things up a little, namely the bullshit move of skimming over an odd matchup between four boys in which all four get an apron (see below). Get your shit together, MasterChef Junior.

Tonight's competitions: a cupcake-off, a steak battle, signature chicken, and lobster. In each of the lobster and steak competitions, all of the competitors were from a single state. For lobster, it was Massachusetts, and not, somehow, Cape Breton, where I was born. Although, to be fair, Cape Breton is less a state and more part of a Canadian province. Now, try to guess what state the steak chefs are from!

The great news is now we're finished with the bullshit Top 40, which feels very much like when the NCAA added those extra four play-in games to the March Madness bracket -- the ones that only the people playing in them care about, and even then barely. It's like the stupid games and trivia they have in movie theatres before the movie, where you learn when Natalie Portman's birthday is and that Tom Hanks is excited to be part of Toy Story 4, which is nice, but what you're really there for is to see what new adventures the Transformers are up to.

But hey, I could come up with stellar analogies all night, so let me rank a few things from tonight's episode, from least-liked to most-liked. But first:



Thing I want to eat now: Adam's chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting and strawberry compote. He almost lost me early on when he was talking about how he's a "scientist-slash-chef" and he's into molecular gastronomy, but the cupcakes look amazing.

  1. Four Kids Who Get The Shaft
    As I noted last week, only eight of the Top 20 were decided, so unless the show picked up the pace a little, we still wouldn't have the Top 20 nailed down by the end of this episode.

    So they pick up the pace. The penultimate segment features the usual four kids entering the kitchen, but instead of us learning about the contestants and watching them compete, we get a nugget of info on each of them, see the dish they prepared, and learn that all four get an apron. The hell? They're not even identified by a chyron, so I hope I've got their names right: Mashu, Evan, Afnan, and Charlie.

    Listen, MasterChef Junior. We're not the ones who changed up the format this year. You did. There's plenty of flab in each episode that you could have done ten and ten instead of eight and twelve, and then those four kids -- one cooks an egg-yolk ravioli -- wouldn't have been screwed over like that! This is the television equivalent of not planning out the banner you're making for a birthday party, so you wind up with "HAPPY BIRTH-" in big letters to start off and then "-day" crammed in like shrivelled-up pinkie toes because you ran out of space.

  2. Valuable Judge Insight
    During the cupcake segment, Christina Tosi explains that "the batter is crucial." If we're just going to be phoning it in, let's cap this at a nice round five seasons, yeah?
  3. Boston Jake
    Jake, 11, from Bellingham, shows up in the lobster segment, where he makes a lobster mac and cheese with panko bread crumbs, gruyere, and white cheddar cheese. It's delicious, but lobster is more of a supporting role than the star of the dish.



    He doesn't make it into the Top 20, which is too bad, but at least he'll have more time to spend in Boston, which he tells us he loves to do, somewhat unnecessarily. With his little porkpie hat, he looks like he could be in the Mighty Mighty Bosstones today. I miss him already.

  4. Kids Say The Most Adorable Things
    Despite my complaint last week about the kids who need to learn a little perspective on what their culinary interests and opportunities really mean in relation to their classmates who eat things like, sniff, chicken nuggets, if you can actually imagine, I do enjoy the sincerity of the contestants, and one of my favourite things is hearing a nine-year-old explain that this is the biggest thing she's ever done.
  5. Eddie
    Eddie is a nine-year-old from Manhattan. He explains that he loves cooking Chinese and Jewish food, and he either wears bifocals or he looks over the top of his glasses like your grandparents do. When a girl asks him where he's from, his instinct is to say "the earth," like I did when I was a nine-year-old shithead.



    He makes chicken marsala with potatoes, prosciutto, and parsley, which is where he and I, who was mostly able to microwave cans of Chef Boy-Ar-Dee, diverge.

  6. Lila
    Nine-year-old Lila makes lobster wontons and seems to think that she's a late bloomer because she didn't start cooking until she was seven. "I wasn't super-young like most kids." MOST kids, she says.



    God bless her, she thinks most kids are more gastronomically inclined than she is.

Collecting aprons and making the Top 20: Adam, Peyton, Shayne, Solomon, Eddie, Avani, Lila, and Sam. (The aforementioned four boys who advanced in the shady fast-forward-everybody-wins competition didn't have any on-screen graphics for identification, but I'm pretty sure I got them right above.)

The competition is over. Let the competition begin!

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