Two kids from metro Atlanta have made it all the way to the final round of competition in “MasterChef Junior” airing Thursday evening on Fox. The two-hour finale begins at 8 p.m.
Jasmine Stewart, who is 12 and lives in Milton, and Justise Mayberry, 11, of Sugar Hill are among the final four in the final cooking showdown of this culinary competition, now in its fifth season. The show features a series of challenges — from sushi and steaks to gingerbread houses and macaroons. These local chefs have wowed the judges with their creativity, talent and abilities well beyond their years, time and time again.
Last Thursday, they were part of a team that won a difficult cooking challenge, preparing a meal (pan-roasted scallops with polenta cakes and fried quail eggs for an appetizer, and pan-seared red snapper with purple potato gnocchi and chorizo-saffron lemon broth for the main dish) at a pop-up restaurant on the beach. Diners included food critics and magazine writers — all of whom were impressed by the dishes but had no idea their meals were prepared by kids — until after they finished the meal, and critiqued the dishes.
The host of the show is Gordon Ramsay, British star chef of “Hell’s Kitchen.” He is joined by renowned pastry chef Christina Tosi. Together, they coach and encourage the hopefuls to cook like pros and teach them the tricks of the trade along the way. On Thursday, one of the young chefs will be named the country’s newest MasterChef Junior and take home a trophy — and a $100,000 grand prize.
Surprise guests and diners have included renowned chef Wolfgang Puck and former first lady Michelle Obama. The Muppets also joined an episode.
During a recent episode, Jasmine was eliminated, but she, along with five other contestants, were brought back for another chance. She ended up winning her cooking challenge (she broke down a whole chicken) and has remained in the competition ever since.
In a recent interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jasmine, a sixth-grader at the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, said she draws inspiration from her parents.
“My mom loves to cook Southern food, and kind of homestyle cooking that makes you feel warm inside, and my dad loves to cook a lot of elaborate breakfast foods — things that wake you up in the morning and make you super-excited to start the day, like tomato pancakes or homemade French toast or crepes,” she said. “Another thing is our household is busy, but we can make quick, tasty and good food.”
Meanwhile, Justise, a sixth-grader at Lanier Middle School in Gwinnett County, also pointed to influences from her family.
“I was surrounded by it with my dad cooking all the time. Him being in the kitchen, that was the center of our house. That’s where we would hang out. I would always hang around him when he cooked, and it just kind of taught me to enjoy that and get used to it, and it’s something I enjoy now,” she told the AJC.
Special guests include Martha Stewart for the finale.