Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

MasterChef Junior: “Restaurant Takeover”

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These restaurant takeover challenges are always the best part of MasterChef Junior. It’s one thing to be able to cook restaurant-ready dishes for the judges, but it’s a whole different thing entirely to be able to cook quite literally restaurant-ready dishes in an actual restaurant for real-life patrons expecting to be served quality food. This week, the six remaining contestants on MasterChef Junior take over Comme Ça, where the Hollywood clientele have no idea that they’re being served food made by children.

As the winners of last week’s elimination challenge, Andrew and Jimmy are appointed as team leaders. For the red team, Andrew picks Nathan and Jenna. Jimmy, leading the blue team, works with Ayla and Kayla. The two appetizers on the menu are a mediterranean octopus and sausage with chickpea cakes and an English pea ravioli with carrots and spiced greek yogurt. Those are complicated enough, but the main course gets even trickier with the two options of a skate wing with capers and green beans and a flat iron steak with herb butter and pommes aligot.

Right off the bat, the teams struggle to find their footing. As a team leader, Andrew mistakes yelling for a sense of authority. He aggressively tells his teammates what everyone is doing without pausing to let anyone else speak. We’ve seen this kind of assertive behavior from Andrew before; it’s presumably why the judges have said he has a head chef mentality already. But Andrew pushes it too far this week, and Gordon rightfully calls him out for showing off.

Part of what makes the restaurant takeover so great is that Gordon Ramsay is being his truest self. While in the MasterChef kitchen, Ramsay tends to tone down his personality for the kids, favoring a calmer, more parent-like attitude. He doesn’t necessarily coddle them, but he certainly brings a gentleness to the challenges that we don’t normally see from him. But as the expediter in the kitchen, that all goes out the door and Gordon Ramsay becomes Gordon Ramsay, the yelling, fiery chef who won’t hesitate to tell you you’re messing everything up. The only difference here is that he doesn’t spit out the expletives (I imagine this is very hard for him). Tonight, he calls out Andrew. He shouts at Jimmy for handing him dirty plates. He tells Kayla she needs to get her head in the game. He criticizes Ayla’s inability to manage time well. He loses it when Jenna burns her fifth chickpea cake. At one point, he actually asks Andrew to leave the kitchen to get some fresh air outside because the kid reacted to a small fire by blowing on it. It’s a chaotic episode, but the intensity matches the high stakes of the challenge.

For as much as I’ve complained about this show getting predictable, I couldn’t call this judges’ choice this week. And according to them, it was a very tough one to make. The blue team had two fires in the kitchen, but the red ream never really got a handle on their time management. The results could have favored either team, and I would have bought it. The judges end up picking the blue team as the winners, making them safe from eliminations.

And again, I have a bit of a macro-MasterChef problem with the way the eliminations work in a restaurant takeover-type challenge. It seems unfair that the contestants eliminated have to be from the same team. I understand that granting the winning team gives the contestants more of an incentive to win and work together, but isn’t it possible that two of the weakest cooks in the challenge could actually be from either team? I’m not necessarily saying that members of the blue team deserved to go home more so than Ayla and Kayla, but it might have added an interesting layer to the competition if everyone on the winning team wasn’t necessarily safe. It seems unfair to me that Ayla and Kayla should bear the full costs of the red team’s failures, especially since the team’s main shortcoming had to do with communication, something Jimmy as the team leader should have taken care of.


Stray observations:

  • Nathan throws some serious shade at Andrew for blowing on that fire.
  • It seems very cruel that the episode where we finally get some testimonials from Ayla ends up being her last episode.
  • To his credit, Andrew did take Ramsay’s advice and adjusted his leadership strategy. I wonder if the results would have looked a lot different if that hadn’t happened.
  • With Ayla and Kayla out, I am fully on Team Jenna for the rest of the season.
  • Words the kids use to describe working with Gordon in the kitchen: scary, horrifying, stressful, nightmare.