Young chef and fellow MasterChef Junior contestant Asher Niles flew all the way to Auburn/Opelika from Washington state to join Bryson McGlynn at a watch party for the show’s season finale, part one.

OPELIKA — This week’s episode of MasterChef Junior was Part One of the Season Nine Grand Finale. As he introduced the three finalists, the host of the show, world renowned Chef Gordon Ramsay, noted this was “the most competitive season ever.”
From 12 original contestants, the three remaining young chefs entered the competition kitchen dressed in monogrammed chef’s coats, including 11-year-old Michael from New Smyrna, Florida; 10-year-old Remy from Hollywood, Florida; and Bryson McGlynn from Opelika, who was 11 during filming of the show.
“It just feels amazing because this has always been my dream, and I really never thought I’d get this far,” Bryson said. “This is going to be one of the most important cooks of my life.”
The finale was filmed in front of a live studio audience. Fellow competitors who had been eliminated throughout the season, as well as each contestant’s families were there to cheer them on, including Bryson’s parents and grandparents. His father, Mike “Cheese” McGlynn, was beaming with pride as he spoke of his son, “Cheese Curd.”
“Bryson is a very sweet kid. He’s a very humble kid,” said Mike. “He’s also a little bit shy, but he absolutely loves to cook. Bryson started cooking with my wife and myself when he was probably about three, and he saw dad cooking on the competition circuit a lot and he wanted to do it, too. As a father, I couldn’t be [prouder] of him, and he is definitely a better cook than I am now.”
“I came into the MasterChef kitchen extremely scared,” Bryson explained. “This is a lot scarier than going to the world championships and grilling a steak. But then I won the first challenge, and that helped me believe in myself. I want to win so bad, because [cooking] has been a passion for me for all my life, and I’m hoping to keep that going.”
One of the three finalists will be named MasterChef Junior and will win the coveted trophy and take home a $100,000 cash prize. The winner will also receive a complete professional grade Viking kitchen appliance package, including a state-of-the-art range, refrigerator, cookware and more, as well as a utensil and bakeware package from Oxo.
For the final challenge, the young chefs were tasked with making a three-course meal for the judges, including an appetizer, entrée and dessert.
“We want to see cohesive menus tied together with a theme,” explained judge and celebrity chef Aaron Sanchez.
Michael planned to prepare a fresh seafood meal inspired by his Caribbean roots (his father is an award-winning chef from Trinidad). Bryson decided to prepare a meal inspired by “Southern Charm” that would showcase his experience from barbecue and grilling competitions with his dad. Remy’s meal, which she said was inspired by the generations of women in her family, would feature Cajun/New Orleans-style dishes.
First up, the contestants had one hour to create the first course — four servings of a sophisticated, restaurant-quality appetizer.
“Across your appetizers, we want to see you use a very particular MasterChef-level technique in your dishes,” Ramsay said. “Tonight, all three of you will have to flambe.”
“There’s so much pressure tonight,” said Remy, the only girl left in the competition. “The judges are definitely trying to make things harder for us. We already have to cook in the finale live in front of, like, hundreds of people, and then they want us to flambe? Like, what? I’ve only flambéed once ever, and it was in this kitchen, and it was so scary. I’m trying to stay focused, but I’m freaking out!”
Michael’s appetizer was a crab bisque with a crab salad with croutons in a tarragon and chive oil. He would flambe shallots with butter and elevate the dish by using caviar.
Bryson’s appetizer was prawns (shrimp) and hush puppies with a flambe rum marinade and a green tomato relish.
Remy’s appetizer was sea bass with a satsuma mimosa vinaigrette and a Friese crab mirliton salad (mirliton is like a cross between a squash and an apple). She flambéed the vinaigrette with an anise-flavored liqueur called Pernod, admitting she didn’t know how to pronounce it.
As the judges looked on, they were impressed with the young chefs’ attempts to demonstrate all they learned throughout the season. They noted the confidence with which each of the children cooked.
“It’s hard to lift these hush puppies, because you know they look sort-of rustic,” Ramsay said of Bryson’s dish. “Also, having the confidence to make sure these hush puppies are cooked properly — if they’re not, inside, not only stodgy and heavy in the corn meal, that could really fight against that sweetness of those beautiful, marinated prawns.
“Who’s the cook in your family?” judge Daphne Oz asked Bryson.
“Mostly my dad,” he replied. “My mom can’t cook, pretty much, at all,” he replied, as the camera showed his parents bursting into laughter.
“It’s true,” Shannon “Mama Cheesecake” McGlynn admitted with rosy cheeks.
When time expired, the three youngsters embraced in a group hug, congratulating each other as the former contestants yelled out encouragement and the studio audience cheered.
First up, Bryson presented his appetizer to the judges.
“Appetizer round, it was definitely a little scary, and I’m just hoping that the hush puppies are thoroughly cooked, and I’m hoping that they can see my Southern charm on my plate,” said Bryson.”
“Congrats on making an ugly hush puppy look beautiful,” Ramsay told Bryson. “Well done.”
“Your plating has developed so much out of this competition,” said Ramsay’s daughter, guest judge Tilly Ramsay. “This is a lot more refined, and I’m really excited to try it.”
“The inside of these hush puppies, you know, if they’re wet and undercooked inside we can’t eat these things,” the elder Ramsay said, slicing into one. He held it up for the camera and declared, “Cooked absolutely spot-on, well done.”
The judges each took a bite.
“Hush puppies are cooked beautifully,” Ramsay said. “Seriously, the inside is moist, the outside is crispy, but it’s just seasoned beautifully. The hero here is that marinated shrimp, but [it needs] more sauce — hush puppies soak up that sauce and it’s disappeared.
“You’ve made hush puppies elegant, young man,” Ramsay concluded. “Really well done.”
“You know, we don’t have hush puppies in the U.K., so I’ve only had them a handful of times,” said Tilly. “These are by far the best I’ve ever had, and I need that recipe for sure.”
“Bryson, these shrimp are phenomenal,” said Oz. “They are moist and punched up with that great marinade. The green tomato relish, I think if I’m gonna nitpick, work on your knife cuts, give us a little more finesse on that, ‘cause your flavors are powerful. This is summer on a plate as told by Bryson. So good!”
“Bryson, you really took the time to connect the seasoning from the marinade into the actual hush puppies, so I appreciate that a lot,” said Sanchez. “These ruby red shrimp is something that we look forward to in the South, and you celebrated it and made it truly Bryson. Good job.”
The judges also praised Remy’s pan-seared sea bass, calling it her best dish of the competition, and they were equally impressed with Michael’s bisque, calling it a “beautiful expression of crab.”
“You three, those appetizers were incredible,” Ramsay said. “This is gonna be a real fight to the finish, and do not tell the home cooks from the adult show, but tonight some of your dishes were a lot better. Well done!”
Sanchez told the contestants they were all on equal footing going into the second course.
“Guys, there’s no frontrunner just yet, so keep up the amazing work as you take on the next course. It’s time for the entrée.”
Michael will prepare a pan-seared halibut with sauteed purple kale, ginger-glazed Thumbelina carrots and an herb lime sauce.
Bryson will prepare a Japanese wagyu filet mignon with a red wine reduction, squash puree and confit turnips.
Remy will prepare shrimp and grits, a Tasso ham remoulade and collard greens.
The contestants were given one hour to prepare their entrees.
“I feel really confident, because I’m a grilling and barbecue competitor,” Bryson said. “This entrée is me. This is me and my dad.
“The meat needs to be a perfect temperature, and if it’s not perfect, I’m not winning that trophy,” he said. “This is the most stress I’ve ever felt. It just feels like, just nerve-wracking and a little crazy.”
As the contestants began cooking, the judges discussed how they looked forward to the tasting.
“Bryson, with that wagyu, it sounds incredible,” Ramsay said.
“The components in his dish are very stripped down, so he’s really counting on the cook of the wagyu to be exceptional,” added Sanchez.
“This guy cooks in competitions using meats like this, so this should be in his wheelhouse,” Ramsay replied. “But, again, get this wagyu overcooked, and it’s dry.”
Ramsay approached Bryson as he cooked and asked, “We feeling good?”
“Yes, chef,” the Cheese Curd replied.
“What’s the rub on that wagyu?” Ramsay asked.
“A little bit of granulated honey, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder,” Bryson said, and Ramsay cautioned him not to use too much heat on the stove so the honey would not burn the spices.
“So [the wagyu] needs to be seared, but don’t go too crazy, right?” Ramsay said. “What’s going with it?”
“A red wine reduction, which is what I’m starting on right now,” Bryson responded, adding he would be pan-searing the turnips.
“Right, love that,” Ramsay said. “Good luck.”
“I’m a little shaky right now,” Bryson said. “I’ve cooked a lot of steaks, but not a $100,000 steak!”
Part One of the finale ended with 30 minutes left in the cook. In Part Two of the finale, which will air on FOX network at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 20, the chefs will present their entrees and prepare their desserts.