MasterChef Junior: S01E03: "Whip It"
By Dom Sinacola· Oct 17, 2013
Last Time On MasterChef Junior
Twelve children aged 8-13 remain from the initial purge that salted the soil of hope and love that characterized MasterChef Junior’s series premiere. I fully expect that by the end of this thing these kids will become ruthless, bitter husks of what they once were—innocent prepubescents—but at the beginning of Episode Two they’re still prelapsarian paeans to the kind of passion and support typically absent from reality shows starring people over the age of 21.
Teensy 10-year-old Jack, he of the wardrobe featuring only Hawaiian shirts, wins the first Mystery Box Challenge, which basically amounts to a kind of Phone-A-Friend scenario. Jack calls a friend of the family who owns a restaurant, which Jack later tries to plug on national television before Gordon Ramsay cuts him off mid-sentence.
Gordon: And who did you call, Jack?
Jack: My dad’s friend who owns a restaurant. It’s called Sweet Lou’s Th—
Gordon: Tee hee! Nice try, Panama Jack.
Because Jack wins the challenge, he’s allowed to not only sit out the next round, guaranteeing his advancement into Episode Three, but to pick the food for the round he’s skipping. In the pantry, each of the judges reveals his favorite food from when he was Jack’s age. Joe unveils chicken wings, Graham a cheesburger (because look at the guy), and Gordon a lincoln log stack of fishsticks.
Jack: Oh that reminds me of a joke! Do you like fishsticks?
Graham: That shit’s played out, homie. Now pick my fucking cheeseburger.
Jack: Yes sir.
Joe: No. Continue the joke.
So Jack decides that his fellow mini-chefs will each make a gourmet cheeseburger, a move he specifically makes to take down his biggest competition: 13-year-old Alexander, the kid who is practically unstoppable but also an insufferable almost-ginger prima donna. Jack reasons that Alexander will overthink the burger and foul it up with unbridled ambition, signaling thus the show’s first sign of innocence lost. Of course, Alexander prepares one of the judges’ three favorite burgers of the night, along with Gavin—who just seems sincerely happy to be there—and Kaylen—who adorably makes her “Around the World” burger out of chiefly Mediterranean fare. No, instead Jack’s choice knocks out Tommy and Molly, the two oldest chefs next to Alexander, but their departure is pretty much expected, because Tommy makes a fucking turkey burger with American cheese, a dish that even Gordon Ramsay can’t help but openly disdain, and Molly buries an Asian-themed burger in kimchi and rice patties.
Still, the judges send them off with a barrage of compliments and then make them come over and shake each of their hands like they’re obligatorily saying goodbye to their grandpas. Tommy bemoans having to leave because he can no longer use all of the incredible kitchen equipment or have access to such a wonderful variety of food. And then Sarah, the youngest of the group at a hardy 9, tells the camera that she’s sad to see any of her friends go. Her friends. The sincerity, just…my god.
The Whipped Challenge
Because MasterChef is basically just a series of miniature competitions passing on minor advantages from one briefly strengthened but ultimately teased ego to the next, the three best burgermeisters from Episode Two—Alexander, Gavin, and Kaylen—are pit in a three-person challenge to determine who will gain a slight advantage in the next competition.
The judges tell the three winners that this challenge will test their whipping skills. They’ll start with heavy cream and will race to achieve a consistency which the judges inform the children is called, in professional parlance, “stiff peaks.”
Jack: That’s what she said!
HA! Right guys?
Did I use that right? I’m only 10. I have no idea.
The three will whip the crap out of the cream until one of them raises his or her whisk in the air and shouts, “Whipped!” The first person to do this is of course Alexander, but not before Sarah goes feral to cheer on her favorite milquetoast, Gavin, displaying an intensity betrayed by the little girl’s tiny demeanor.
Sarah: WHIP IT LIKE A MAN, GAVIN. WHIP IT LIKE A MAN.
Gavin: I feel like this isn’t the last time in my life I’ll have someone shouting that at me.
Alexander hollers, “Whipped,” holds his whisk aloft, and gestures in a way winners have been gesturing since the Dawn of Man.
To add to the shenanigans, the judges then relate how the whippedness of the cream will be truly gauged: each of the kids will turn his or her bowl of whipped cream over the head of one of the judges, and if it is in fact composed of stiff peaks then nothing should happen and each judge will stay clean.
Alexander goes first, and his peaks are so stiff Graham’s head stays dry. Not so for Gordon or Joe, though covered in big spoogey clots of cream they suddenly feel whimsical enough to launch an impromptu food fight, which the kids fucking love. It’s like goddamn Family Double Dare for a minute or two. Even the prissy Alexander guffaws and dumps his stiff peaks on Graham’s head. Graham, a man of pure class, wastes no time taking the opportunity to dance like he’s in a minstrel show.
Sofia sums up the scene perfectly, her words barely covering an underlying sense of dread.
Sofia: Joe kinda looks like Freddy Krueger meets the Michelin guy?
Junior MasterChef Team Challenge #1
With just ten kids remaining, easy to divide into a manageable five duos, it’s time for the inaugural tag-team challenge. Alexander’s advantage? He gets to choose who is paired with whom. Here’s where he demonstrates an unsurprisingly calculating mind, which with his age and sophistication means he’s pretty much a sure bet in winning this thing. At this point he’d have to royally fuck something up to go down, but seeing as how he’s done nothing but garner glowing praise from the judges, his losing is unlikely.
First, Alexander picks Troy as his partner, weighing Troy’s competence against his desire to take out competition by making sure he’s teamed with someone who can quickly get on the same page. He pairs Roen with Jewels, aligning two of the weaker cooks, figuring that it’d be too much of a miracle for both of them to prove him wrong. He pairs Dara—who will, we now know, wear those Minnie Mouse bows throughout the whole season—with Sarah, a move that Dara suspects is a blatant way to knock her out, while Sara is openly offended by the obviousness of Alexander’s aims.
Sara: Man. Fuck you.
Sofia and Gavin make up the fourth team, presumably to latch a busybody prone to mistakes with poor Gavin, who will just do whatever he’s told. This leaves Jack and Kaylen, mostly by default.
Each team has 65 minutes to serve a beef wellington with mashed potatoes and broccolini. Joe, as he’s wont to do, emphasizes the sheer insanity of what they’re requiring these young people to accomplish.
Joe: To ask young cooks of this age to execute a beef wellington…well I think we might be out of the realm of what’s possible.
Graham: This is literally impossible, doe.
Dom: Man. Fuck you.
What follows is the show’s first foray into chaos and desperation. Alexander immediately barks orders at Troy—if anything that Alexander does could bear a modicum of bark—and Troy immediately gets teary-eyed and defensive.
Troy: Man, I know. Just. Dude. Lay off. Bro.
But Alexander is right again, of course, when Troy insists on not brushing the meat with mustard before it goes in the blast oven, even though Gordon expressly said to do so. I mean, I get it: I’d be stupidly defiant too if Alexander kept micromanaging everything I did, and I’m 30 years old.
Dara: You are so old it’s gross.
Dom: Oh yeah? Nice bow, idiot.
Dara and Sara grow to hate one another throughout their 65 minutes: Sarah drawing genuine pleasure from yelling at Dara, or just yelling in general, and Dara still miffed about getting stuck with a super shorty. When Sarah drops the tray with the finished wellington, Dara looks about ready to tear off her oversized bow and strangle her teammate with it. To Sara’s credit, the wellington stays on the tray, so no harm no foul, and everyone but Dara thinks it was pretty cute what just happened.
Dara: I’m gonna flick that bitch in the nose.
Sara: BEST FRENEMIES FOR LIFE.
Jack is unable to quell the spazmo surging inside him, and he devolves into a frenzy of panicked gestures, like he’s a defeated accountant on April 14th.
Kaylen keeps her cool, even while Jack strokes out.
Jack: Quick quick quick quick quick quick quick quick. You need to go quick.
Kaylen: I think you broke your brain.
Roen and Jewels prove Alexander’s got his shit together by totally failing to communicate, staying, compared to the racket caused by the rest of the teams, miserably silent. It takes Graham, consummate chatterer, to ask Roen why the two of them aren’t talking.
Graham: Yikes, son, you need to speak up. Why aren’t you bruhs parlaying?
Roen: Er, well, er, because—
Graham: Shut your stupid child mouth. That was a rhetorical question, fam.
Gavin and Sofia seem to be doing alright. Gavin always has this look on his face like he’s witnessing an event that will irreparably damage his psyche, and Sofia always looks like she will in no way tolerate pussies, but together their clearly delineated hierarchy of power means they waste no time in defining just who wears the pants here.
And…time’s up. Tasting proceeds. Alexander and Troy’s wellington goes first, it showered with compliments, deemed perfect by the judges, etc. Zippitydoo. Dara and Sarah, despite their fumbling, fare just as well, so much so that there’s some glee to be had from the grumpy look on Alexander’s face when Gordon tells Dara and Sarah that their wellington is giving the first duo’s a run for its money.
Sofia and Gavin come up with something serviceable, their only mistake a too-thick puff pastry, leaving it slightly undercooked. But then Jack and Kaylen hit a roadblock. While their broccoli turns out well, their wellington ends up overdone, which Gordon chocks up to a dearth of mushroom spread. This does not bode well for Jack’s sanity.
Leave it, though, to Roen and Jewels to really shit the bed, when Jewels’s seasoning of the beef encourages Gordon to resort to his old churlish ways.
Gordon: It’s like I’m eating a mouthful of salt. Disgusting.
Gordon: What a shame.
Dom: So…no “tee hee”?
God this is so awkward.
This is how Gordon represents the act of oversalting:
This, along with Graham’s dancing like he’s the frog from the WB, means that I cannot wait for the judges to continue to make inappropriate gestures in front of children.
After returning to their station to await the judges’ decision, Roen and Jewels know they’re fucked, and no measure of praying or good thoughts keeps them from inevitably getting kicked off the show, but not before Jack forgets all decorum and basically makes Roen cry.
Next Time On MasterChef Junior
Eight remain, and while Alexander continues to destroy all competition in his path, the rest of the kids will increasingly realize they need to start playing dirty to stay in the game. Will Dara and Sarah blossom into certifiable arch nemeses? Will Gavin snap and will we find him covered in blood, standing over Alexander’s disemboweled corpse? Will Troy finally brush those fucking bangs out of his face? There is only more carnage to come.