Posted Thursday, May 17, 2018 by RODNEY HOfirstname.lastname@example.org on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
Buford resident Quani Pointer, 13, is in position to give metro Atlanta the winner on Fox's "MasterChef Junior" for the second year in a row. The finale airs Friday on May 18.
He is now in the final three on the reality competition show, following in the footsteps of Jasmine Stewart of Milton, who won last year and made an appearance on last Friday's episode. (That now seventh grader is hosting a new online show "Jasmine's Delightful Desserts" for Craftsy Unlimited.)
Quani started less than promising in the first part of the competition, finishing in the bottom five times but managing to escape elimination each time. Then during the 10th episode, he won a challenge and found his culinary footing. He then came on top in two more competitions, including a key one last Friday in which he cooked a dish inspired by his grandmother that guaranteed him a spot in the final three.
Quani's black ink squid pasta with scallop shrimp in spicy puttanesca sauce with a Parmesan crisp impressed judge Gordon Ramsay.
"You're not a one-trick pony," said Ramsay, noting that Quani isn't just a great baker but he can cook, too.
"I didn't want to do white pasta," Quani explained on the show, "because of the other colors. Being black shows that the real hero of the dish is supposed to be the pasta."
Later, after the judges decided he had the best dish, Ramsay told Quani: "Young man, that dish showed finesse and such technical flair. It was executed brilliantly. Good job!"
The judges, as they decide who will win, will certainly appreciate Quani's maturation and improvement as the competition went along.
"I did stuff wrong then started doing them right," Quani said in an interview earlier this week. "I learned from my mistakes."
The judges, he added, "didn't expect my dishes to get better and better - and they did."
But Quani is up against two tough competitors. Beni is the likely favorite considering she is the only contestant this season who was never in a position to be cut a single time and has been in the winner's circle five times. Avery is equally formidable. She has been on the bottom only twice and has won five times as well.
"They're really good cooks," he acknowledged, "and it's going to take a lot to beat them."
He thinks he's an underdog at this stage. His mom Rebecca Pointer said watching him struggle early on in the early competitions was stressful. "It was an emotional roller coaster through the process," she said.
She told him during the taping to stay grounded and work hard during each challenge to ensure he had no regrets. She was thrilled to see him rise to the occasion.
The winner takes home $100,000 and a trophy. (The show was taped last year.) "The kids are more excited about the trophy," Rebecca noted with a chuckle.
Quani, who also plays soccer, said baking is his specialty. He is part entrepreneur, selling desserts and snacks at the games.
Here's video I took of Quani making cupcakes at his new home a few weeks back:
"MasterChef Junior" season 6 finale, 8 p.m. Friday, Fox