Junior MasterChef has officially kicked off, and the judges were left absolutely shocked over the level of food being delivered.
During the first episode, the contestants were allowed to cook their signature dish, given the freedom to present to the judges anything they liked.
From Davidson Plum smores to lobster cooked to perfection, the judges Melissa Leong, Jock Zonfrillo and Andy Allen were truly swept away by the talent shown by the kids.
The top 14 were chosen from over 2000 applicants, and they include Ryan, the 11-year-old son of MasterChef season 10 winner, Sashi Cheliah, Ben, 10; Carter, 12; Dev, 13; Etka, 13; Filo, 12; Georgia, 11; Laura, 13; Phenix, 11; Porsha, 11; Ruby, 11; Salvo, 13; Tiffany, 14; and Vienna, 13.
However, it was Dev and Laura who took out the win in the first episode.
Dev delivered a platter of Lamb Mughlai Curry, with saffron rice, raita, chutney and smoked chicken kebab, which was a huge delight to the judges.
The 13-year-old was praised by his mother during the episode, who gushed about his cooking abilities.
The judges felt his emotional connection to his family and asked him to bring his framed photos of them down to the tasting table.
“What would your mum say if she saw all of this?” Melissa asked.
“I think she would be pretty proud,” he beamed, admitting he learnt everything from her.
Jock got emotional after tasting his food and seeing photos of his family.
“Mate, having your family here on the table, I’m on the verge of being emotional. I feel as if im eating at your table at home with your parents and your brothers. I can’t begin to explain how thankful I am that you have cooked this but I am so appreciative to have the opportunity to stand here and try the food with your family, albeit being a photograph, talking about your heritage with such pride.
“My mouth is watering, I’m having trouble speaking it’s watering so much,” Jock continued.
Melissa agreed. “This is food that I love to eat any day of the week, the fact that it is cooked by a Junior MasterChef… absolutely blows my mind. Well done.”
“Dev, your family will be proud and you should be proud,” Andy said. “That’s blown me away.”
Another frontrunner came in the form of Laura, who made a Winter Lime Granita.
“Oh wow,” Andy exclaimed. “All that in 75 minutes?”
When asked how she came up with the idea to put Szechuan pepper into a meringue, the judges were taken aback by her knowledge of food.
“I love the different type of pepper that Szechuan is. It just gives a tangy, kind of numbing flavour,” she expertly explained.
“I’m struggling to find the words, because I can’t… I’m struggling to be able to match this dish and you because it’s simply extraordinary,” explained Melissa.
“This could be any other season of MasterChef for sure,” she continued.
“The way that this has been construction is technically, so sophisticated. These are concepts that take years and years and years of training.”
“If this is the start, goodness knows where you could go next.”
Jock had to ask, “Are you related to Peter Gilmore? Because this is as good as a snow egg.”
The snow egg was one of the most technical and incredible dishes to ever be on MasterChef, introduced by chef Peter Gilmore during a pressure test challenge in 2018.
With Laura and Dev winning the first challenge, they are now able to ‘bang on the gong’, which will get them out of any elimination challenge, at any time of the competition.
“Trying to choose the dishes was actually one of the toughest decisions we have had to make in the MasterChef kitchen,” Jock admitted.
We have a very talented season ahead of us!