MasterChef Junior S01E02: mYsTeRy BoX cHaLlEnGe!

[Ed. Note: Sarah Ramos is an actress, director, and writer. Fox’s new series MasterChef Junior combines her (I assume) love of children, chefs, and cooking competitions in which children pretend to be adult chefs, so she will be taking us through the season!]

Ermagerd, yer gurs it’s a mYsTeRy BoX cHaLlEnGe! I have never watched MasterChef Senior before, so to me “Mystery Box Challenge” sounds like an arbitrary name used to make one challenge that is almost exactly like all of the other challenges seem different. But apparently it’s a big deal –- apparently it is such a big that there are counterfeit mystery boxes somewhere on the market. At least that is what Alexander implies when he says he is excited to use a REAL one.

The kids also have a special ingredient in their mystery boxes. Guess what it is! Is it a tablet, Sarah (age 11)?

It’s a tablet! So the contestants all use their tablets to phone a friend. Some of them just call their families to say hi, because No RuLeZ! One of them says he is “really excited to get advice from one of my mom’s best friends!” Personally, I don’t like getting advice from my mom’s friends even if they’re nice, but that is just me. I’m not a child-chef who has proved that he’s more talented than his parents’ bridge partners, so I really don’t even know what that’s “like.” LOL – Moms. Sorry, moms. I’m sure it’s probably fun to Skype your mom’s best friend. Anyway, then Jack (age 10) calls his friend Frank (age 100?) who owns a restaurant in Queens, New York called Frankly Thai. (Obviously.)

Jack later clarifies that Frank is his “dad’s friend,” which made me feel more comfortable, I guess? Either more comfortable or less comfortable. But the thing is, even though Jack’s filet mignon and shrimp won the Mystery Box Challenge (go Jack! Ooa Ooa!), the real takeaway from the episode was Judge Joe Bastianich’s desire to strike up a camaraderie with a child.

In the first episode, I noticed when Joe used Jack’s Hawaiian shirt as a way to talk to Jack about poker –- “Do you play poker?” “No” “That’ll be a great poker shirt for when you do.” (Maybe Jack is never going to play poker, Joe. You don’t know him.) But I didn’t mention it because it wasn’t the weirdest thing that happened. In episode two, though, Joe talks about Jack’s Hawaiian shirt AGAIN! Look, sure, Jack is wearing the same shirt. But I don’t see anyone making comments about Judge Graham Elliot’s vest! Joe also decides to compliment Jack’s dish by asking Jack, “Do you like carpentry –- working with your hands and hammers?” — totally normal and chill -– “Because you nailed it.” Actually, I’m pretty sure this is how judges talk to the adult contestants, so nevermind, whatever, seems super chill, I don’t even know why I brought it up. I think Jack really likes Joe now. #malebonding

Anyways, Jack does win the challenge so he doesn’t have to cook in the next one (even though he loves cooking?) and he gets to pick what the other contestants have to make. He picks Graham Elliot’s favorite childhood food, the hamburger, more classically known as the “party in a bun.”

Jack hopes Alexander (age 13) will over-think the burger and “put ridiculous toppings on it” which makes me like Jack. But Alexander doesn’t over-think it because he is a wre-e-ecking ball. Alexander makes beef sliders with black aioli (mm mm mm) and Gordon Ramsay tells him that he has “a natural gift.” Of course Joe makes things weirdly intense again because that is how best to deal with children. When Alexander tells Joe that he makes sliders for his family at home, Joe says:

Yep, he does. Not too much to riff about there, Joe, but whatever! The point is that Gavin, Alexander, and Kaylen make the best burgers and Jewels, Tommy, and Molly make the worst dry turkey Korean breakfast burgers. When Tommy and Molly are “let go,” the understatedly painful topic of Avril Lavigne’s debut album, Ramsay says something about how the kids should proudly wear their aprons when they cook for their family and friends. Jeez Louise, Ramsay might as well have said, “When you’re cooking for your boring nobody mom’s best friend in your dingy home, remember those glorious moments when you got to cook for Joe Bastianich, Graham Elliot, and me ON TELEVISION.” But it’s okay because Ramsay HAS to believe that he’s important because if he doesn’t believe in himself, who will? There is nothing like a souvenir apron to remind you that nothing in life is better than being on television and if you ever feel sad cooking for your boring mom’s stupid best friend, you must keep your eye on the television prize. #factsonly. In conclusion, the winner of this contest gets 100,000 dollars.