For the first time in Masterchef Junior history, two of my favourite contestants have gone head-to-head in an astounding culinary battle. And for the first time, I felt that both contestants deserved the title of Masterchef Junior. (Poor Riley though – he was my original favourite, but he got booted out of the competition early. Don’t worry, baby – I’m sure you have a brilliant future in the food world!)
First up is Nathan Odom, a 12 year old from California. He is one of this season’s dark horses – mysterious, not very vocal, but with a sophisticated palate and a cool head even during tough challenges. He won my heart when he made French macarons (much like Season 1’s Alexander Weiss).
Next is a lovable 11-year-old New Jersey native named Andrew Zappley. At first I was fascinated because he reminded me so much of my own 13-year-old brother in so many ways. As the season progressed, I came not only to respect Andrew’s obvious skill and talent in the kitchen, but I also got to see his kindness and fairness. He helps out his fellow competitors and he honestly tries to do the best he can to get along with all of them.
Here are the dishes they prepared!
Nathan prepared roasted fennel gratin with French ham and fennel salad.
Andrew had roasted beets, toasted pumpernickel bread and herbed ricotta cheese.
Nathan’s gratin was a bit undercooked, but the judges loved the flavour and the brightness of the fennel salad. They also raved about Andrew’s appetizer. The first round ended in what seemed to be a tie.
Nathan served herb-crusted rack of lamb with white asparagus puree.
Andrew served beef cheek ravioli with homemade pasta, pan sauce and shaved Parmesan cheese.
Because of Andrew’s earlier error (re: taking the beef out of the pressure cooker too early), Nathan won the entree round.
Nathan prepared an Earl Grey and Meyer lemon tart with blood orange coulis.
Andrew prepared rice pudding with verjus reduction. Chef Ramsay loved it so much that he said he was going to cook it himself.
Overall, based on the judge’s reactions, Andrew won the dessert round although Nathan’s dessert was also deemed delicious and subtle.
Nathan won! Congratulations! Now he has 100,000 USD, the title of Junior Masterchef, and the coveted Masterchef trophy. Well done!
I think Andrew would have definitely won if he had allowed his beef cheek to stay longer in the pressure cooker. But he was a good sport – he still congratulated Nathan heartily and was genuinely happy for his competitor.
It was a bit heart-rending for me because I loved both contestants. I’m happy that Nathan won, but I’m also sad because Andrew deserved it too.
Anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing these two in the future. Who knows what they’ll cook up?
Thanks for reading! ’til next time.