‘Cheese Curd Update’


LEE COUNTY — The tension was thick as the seven remaining contestants entered the arena in Monday night’s episode of MasterChef Junior, but the atmosphere at Moe’s Original Barbecue at Bent Creek was festive, as friends, family and fans of Opelika’s Bryson McGlynn gathered to watch him on the FOX television cooking competition.
This fifth episode began with mystery boxes containing ingredients for the week’s challenge.
“I see the mystery boxes, and I’m like, I know there’s been some really crazy things or just nasty stuff, so I don’t know what’s gonna pop out of that mystery box,” said Bryson. “Like, I’m super duper scared.”
As the young chefs revealed the contents of their boxes, they responded with “ews” and “ughs” and grimacing faces.
“We’ve done a little snooping and we’ve learned everyone’s least favorite ingredient — welcome to your nightmare challenge,” world-renowned Chef Gordon Ramsay told the unhappy youngsters. “You have to turn something you hate into something delicious on a plate.”
For the aspiring chefs, who range in age from 8 to 12, the “nightmares” included bleu cheese, tomatoes, oysters, mushrooms, kale, anchovies and Bryson’s nemesis ingredient, lima beans.
“Oh, they smell terrible!” he said in disgust.
As has been the case all season, the judges admonished the youngsters to taste their dishes as they prepared them, but this time the tastings were met with a lot of complaining and an abundance of “yucks” and “blechs.”
“I think this is really the hardest challenge yet,” said 8-year-old Jordyn from Greensboro, North Carolina. “How do I make this thing that’s ugly and gross turn into something restaurant quality?” she said of the kale in front of her, which she described as looking like “the Grinch’s brain.”
“Ugh!” said Bryson, nicknamed Cheese Curd, as he put his lima beans in a skillet. “I do not like lima beans because my school ruined it. I mean, they serve them every single week, they’re soaked in butter — it’s terrible!”
To make the most of a “gross” situation, Bryson leaned on his Southern roots, opting to prepare succotash, a dish of lima beans mixed with corn and tomatoes, to serve alongside a lamb roast. When it was time for Bryson to taste test his lima bean creation, Ramsay took the opportunity to have a little fun.
“Let me get a barf bag, just in case,” Ramsay said, holding a plastic bag under Bryson’s chin. “Take your time, there’s only one lima bean, come on, you’ve got this, go on buddy!”
But Bryson’s facial expression made the elder chef relent, and he mercifully allowed the youngster to spit it out.
During the watch party at Moe’s, Bryson told The Observer the tasting ended up being a good thing, because he discovered his succotash needed more vinegar before being presented for judging.
When preparation time ended, four dishes were chosen as the evening’s best, and the winning junior chef would receive a collection of electric bicycles for their family as a prize. Three dishes were deemed unacceptable, one of which would send a competitor home.
Bryson was relieved when his name was called as one of the potential winners.
“I feel really good about my dish, and I’m hoping to really, really wow the judges,” he said of his perfectly-cooked, medium rare parmesan-crusted lamb chops with lima bean succotash.
“You showed a lot of finesse, a lot of technique, so good job,” said one of the judges.
“This is garden fresh, vibrant, and I love that you hit it with vinegar,” said another. “You really nailed that cook on your least favorite — but now maybe signature — lima bean dish.”
Ramsay said while Bryson’s lamb was “cooked beautifully,” the succotash needed “a bit more heat — it’s just on the verge of being a little bit dull.”
“You’ve made the lamb the hero of the plate as opposed to the lima beans,” the chef told Cheese Curd, who listened to the judges and absorbed their critiques.
The winning dish was a mushroom-rubbed ribeye with mushroom callaloo and sweet plantains, prepared by 11-year-old Michael from New Smyrna, Florida, who was inspired by his Caribbean roots. The junior chef eliminated was 9-year-old Lilo from Ann Arbor, Michigan, whose oyster dish was ambitious but fell short.
In next week’s episode, the six remaining contestants will face a “double-sweet” challenge, including a pancake relay race and preparation of an ice cream dessert. The show airs Mon-days on FOX network at 7 p.m. The Observer will provide continuing coverage, and fans can keep up with Bryson on his Cookin’ with Cheese Curd page on Facebook.