Local culinary prodigy wins MasterChef Jr. season nine


OPELIKA — The Cheese Curd did it!
Lee County’s own Bryson “Cheese Curd” McGlynn is America’s MasterChef Junior, a title he earned by competing on and ultimately winning season nine of the FOX TV cooking show, hosted by world-renowned Chef Gordon Ramsay.
On part two of the season nine finale, which aired Monday, May 20, Bryson won the coveted MasterChef Junior trophy and a cash prize of $100,000 along with 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.
From 12 original contestants ages 8 to 11, the three finalists were 11-year-old Michael from New Smyrna, Florida; 10-year-old Remy from Hollywood, Florida; and Bryson, from Opelika, who was 11 during filming of the show.
For the final challenge, the young chefs were tasked with making a three-course meal for the four judges, including a sophisticated, restaurant-quality appetizer, entrée and dessert. They had 60 minutes of preparation time for each course.
Last week in part one of the finale, the young chefs presented their appetizers to the judges. Michael prepared a crab bisque with a crab salad with croutons in a tarragon and chive oil. Remy’s appetizer was sea bass with a satsuma mimosa vinaigrette and a Friese crab mirliton salad. Bryson’s appetizer was prawns (shrimp) and hush puppies with a rum marinade and a green tomato relish.
There was no clear winning appetizer — all were judged equally visually appealing and delicious. The episode ended with the three finalists beginning to cook their entrées in front of a live studio audience, with family and former competitors cheering them on.
This week, in part two, the young chefs finished the entrées. The pressure was on.
“I’ve cooked a lot of steaks, but not a $100,000 steak!” said Bryson, who just finished sixth grade at Fox Run Middle School and participates in grilling competitions with his father, Mike McGlynn, a band director with Opelika city schools.
When the entrées were finished, the youngsters lined up to present them to the judges. Bryson prepared a Japanese wagyu filet mignon with a red wine reduction, squash puree and confit turnips.
“I felt really comfortable doing this, because I stuck to my roots,” he said. “I’m pretty sure I rocked it, and I’m just that much closer to that trophy.”
Michael made pan-seared halibut with sauteed purple kale, ginger-glazed Thumbelina carrots and an herb lime sauce. Remy’s entrée was shrimp and grits, a Tasso ham remoulade and collard greens.
Once again, all three entrées were nearly perfect, and the judges couldn’t decide upon a clear winner. Michael’s carrots were a bit undercooked, but the judges were impressed with his perfectly cooked halibut, which they called the most difficult cut of fish to cook because of its thickness and tendency to dry out. Remy’s dish, which she said was inspired by the women in her family, was also a hit with the judges.
As Bryson presented his wagyu filets to the judges, he appeared confident, even if a bit nervous.
“I just wanna make the South really, really proud,” he said.
“Absolute perfection right there,” Ramsay declared as he sliced into the steak, cooked rare. “Young man, the filet is cooked to utter perfection. Honestly. Congratulations.
“I love slicing through that and then diving into the puree. It does need a touch more seasoning because it’s creamy and its rich, but you took a risk young man, and it definitely paid off.”
“I think your purees are the perfect consistency,” added Ramsay’s daughter Tilly, a guest judge this season. “Watching you grow and being able to produce food like this is pretty amazing. I really enjoyed it.”
“Honestly, Bryson, you’re the meat guy, sure, but like, this is the meat king!” said judge Daphne Oz. “This is really good.”
Next up, it was time to prepare dessert.
“Right, the final round, the most technical course,” said Ramsay. “I mean, let’s be honest, desserts are all about timing, and you need to be precise… It needs to be perfect every step of the way.”
“The reality is, every round their execution’s been beautiful, the themes are coming through strong — it is such a toss-up at this point,” said Oz. “Who’s gonna just clinch that win?”
Michael prepared mini orange and olive oil pound cakes with citrus sauce and crème fraiche ice cream. Remy made chocolate hazelnut brownies with hazelnut brittle, chocolate mousse and raspberry coulis. Bryson prepared peanut butter mousse crunch cake with chocolate ganache and peanut brittle, decorated with gold leaf and an edible flower.
“I’m feeling really good right now,” he said as he worked.
“The deal with Bryson is his success on this dessert really relies on timing,” said judge Aaron Sanchez. “He’s gonna have to get that ganache right to its proper consistency and then let that cascade over, but it’s all depending when his peanut butter mousse sets.”
The studio audience burst into cheers and applauseawhen time expired, and the contestants embraced in a group hug, each filled with pride for themselves and each other for making it to the end.
“I’m feeling really, really nervous, but at the same time excited because I’ve proven myself since that first challenge to right now how much I improved,” Bryson said as he delivered the plates of dessert to the judges. “I want to make my dad proud, and I also want to make my hometown really proud.”
“Bryson, I’m just wrestling to believe that the same young man who showed up in this kitchen cooking humongous pieces of meat and now tonight is here using tweezers to delicately lay edible flowers and gold leaf onto a homemade glossy ganache-covered peanut butter pie — who are you?” said Oz.
“It looks divine, seriously. Well done,” said Ramsay, who then asked Bryson to explain the texture he was going for.
“So the bottom, the base, should be crispy,” Bryson said. “It should have a good chocolate flavor. The middle should be creamy, and the top should be kind-of gooey.”
“Let’s see,” said Ramsay, cutting into the dessert.
Each judge’s face expressed pleasure as they tasted it.
“Bryson, it’s delicious,” Ramsay said. “The ganache is super rich and it’s just a really nice coating over that peanut butter. I was nervous about the peanut butter mousse being slightly liquid, but it’s set beautifully.”
“Bryson, I’m just super impressed that you finished with that little bit of sea salt — I felt it did add a lot to your dish,” said Tilly. “I think you had some risky moves tonight, but you really pulled it off.”
“Bryson, this is, like, the most adult, sophisticated, melt-in-your-mouth peanut butter cup I think I’ve ever had,” added Oz. “The mousse is really balanced. It’s silky, it’s smooth, beautiful.”
“Bryson, you brought bling to the dessert, my brother, and it tastes fantastic, and you didn’t fall prey to putting too many things on top of it,” said Sanchez. “You wanted the ganache to really be sort-of the star of this dessert, so really good job young man.”
As he returned to the stage, Tilly said quietly to her fellow judges, “Day one, I don’t think I’d have expected Bryson to make this, but he’s grown as a person and a chef, and it’s really amazing.”
“Congratulations to all three of you,” Ramsay said to the contestants. “The judges now need to judge all of you on the entire meal. Every course, every detail. Then, very soon, one of you three will be crowned MasterChef Junior winner.”
The judges then retreated to discuss the three courses overall and determine a winner.
“This journey has been epic,” said Sanchez. “I can’t believe that these young kids came in there and showed us this kind of performance tonight.”
They discussed each young chef’s overall menu — calling Remy’s “a celebration of New Orleans and of female ancestors” and calling Michael’s “a nod to Florida and Caribbean influences.
“Bryson, he really did bring the Southern roots with him,” said Ramsay. “From the get-go, the hushpuppies and that beautiful shrimp — that was a great example of humble ingredients really elevated.”
“It was definitely the best [appetizer] I tasted all night,” added Tilly.
Regarding his entrée, Oz said, “At first I was a little bit nervous, because it was not his finest work plating-wise, but the flavor on those pieces were so delicious.”
“And then this peanut butter beautiful chocolate dessert,” added Ramsay, “Exceptional.”
“It was decadent but not too heavy,” said Sanchez.
“You know these menus need to be cohesive, so which menu from these three amazing finalists delivered?” Ramsay asked.
“What I was most impressed by and what I thought was really cool from Remy tonight was she’s an executer. She makes beautiful food consistently,” said Oz.
“Michael really highlighted his family’s cultural roots, and I have to commend him, because he didn’t play it safe,” said Ramsay.
“If you look at Bryson, you’re talking, you know, he’s a Southern barbecue, meat carnivore, and then coming here and showing his elegance and his refinement — I thought, wow, what an evolution,” Sanchez said. “Very impressive.”
Ultimately, the judges made their decision, and returned to the set, which was vibrating with excitement and cheers from the audience.
“Michael, Bryson and Remy, those were three incredible meals,” Ramsay said. “I would be happy to serve any of those dishes in any of my restaurants tonight. Well done, all three of you.”
“It just feels amazing because I’ve always watched MasterChef, and I really never thought I’d get this far, and it’s just a dream, honestly,” Bryson said.
“Now, we’ve never had a closer finale in the history of this show,” Ramsay said. “Michael, a talented Florida fisherman, tonight you’ve mastered those incredible Caribbean flavors.
“Bryson, do you know what, young man?” he asked. “There is one word that would define your time here in the MasterChef kitchen. It’s ‘respect’ — for your cooking and the respect you show everyone in this entire competition.
“Remy, every time you walked in this kitchen, you were a burst of energy packed with sunshine,” Ramsay said. “Well done.”
“You guys are three incredibly talented home cooks, but only one of you can win it all,” he told the finalists. “The winner of MasterChef Junior season nine… congratulations [go] to Bryson!”
The Cheese Curd burst into tears of joy, and the other contestants offered sincere congratulations. Confetti fell upon the studio as the audience cheered and Bryson’s family joined him on stage in an embrace. His mother, Shannon McGlynn (aka Mama Cheesecake) wiped her eyes, while his father, Mike, beamed with pride.
“I feel amazing — this is honestly a dream come true,” Bryson said, raising the trophy and seeing his face on a banner that will now hang in the MasterChef Junior kitchen for seasons to come. “I’m so excited right now.
“I’m the MasterChef Junior champion!”