Even as reality shows always try to build to a crescendo, by the time a show reaches the point when only two contestants remain, many of the elements that originally make it feel frenetic and engaging are stripped away, meaning a finale can seem a bit empty compared to earlier episodes. This was abundantly clear during last night’s MasterChef Junior, which is at its best when the kitchen is stuffed with children tumbling around like overcaffeinated puppies. But during the finale, Samuel and Logan each completed cooking their final three dishes, and there was still more than half an episode to go.
The thing about both Logan and Samuel is not that they’re bad chefs or uninteresting boys. But the fascination they exhibit with the cooking process seems to be just that: a fascination with the process. It doesn’t seem like either of them really like food all that much. In other words, the finale of MasterChef Junior was missing any sense that the people involved loved food, and so a certain level of warmth was lost, too. Granted, that’s perhaps an unreasonable expectation to have of children, but all the same, watching three rich white guys judge two small white boys, I found myself wondering if it could be a more interesting and diverse experience.
Ultimately, Samuel and Logan’s battle for the title was a high-quality, if airless, affair. Twelve-year-old Samuel maintained his high level of technique and upper-crust taste by pursuing an Asian-themed menu, with particular highlights including a seared arctic char and kaffir lime panna cotta. His dessert featured raspberries frozen and crushed with liquid nitrogen to make a crunchy topping, but his modern technique strangely didn’t stop him from also dismissing his opponent’s use of a smoking gun as a gimmick. Ah, youth. Meanwhile, 11-year-old Logan went for a fairly classical menu, and the preparation of his entree, a salt-crusted branzino, was an unmitigated success.
The judges fell over themselves in praising the meal, declaring several dishes, “The best they’d ever had on the show.” Those aren’t particularly surprising comments considering the level of skill displayed by Logan and Samuel throughout and positivity is nice, but eventually it becomes mere noise if it’s ubiquitous. And ultimately, if everything was praised, how do you come up with a winner?
Somehow, they managed, and in the end, it was Logan who was victorious (just as late-season editing might have suggested), despite Samuel being the heavy favorite for much of the season. Logan is overjoyed, Samuel is disheartened, and everything plays out as you’d expect. The downside of children competing against each other is that in the end, only one of them wins, no matter how excited Samuel is to include his time logged in the MasterChef kitchen on his applications for high school. Thus ends another fine season of MasterChef Junior. Congrats, Logan!