‘MasterChef Junior’ season 8 episode 1 recap: Which pint-sized chef is eliminated first in ‘Punch and Munch’? [UPDATING LIVE BLOG]

The best young home cooks between the ages of eight and 13 have been cast to compete in Season 8 of “MasterChef Junior” on Fox. Once again, Gordon Ramsay leads the judging panel and is joined by renowned chef Aarón Sánchez and Emmy-winning talk show host Daphne Oz. The winner of “MasterChef Junior” wins the coveted trophy and $100,000. They’ll also take home a brand new Viking kitchen, amazing countertop appliances, kitchen tools, bakeware and a trip to Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.

SEE Aarón Sánchez on ‘MasterChef Junior’ season 8 and challenging Gordon Ramsay in the kitchen: ‘I could kick his ass’ 

Below, read our minute-by-minute “MasterChef Junior” recap of Season 8, Episode 1, titled “Junior Edition: Punch and Munch,” to find out what happened Thursday, March 17 at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT. Then be sure to sound off in the comments section about your favorite young cooks on Fox’s reality TV show and who you think has what it takes to win the entire competition.

SEE Daphne Oz on joining Gordon Ramsay for ‘MasterChef Junior’

Keep refreshing/reloading this “MasterChef Junior” live blog for the most recent updates.

8:00 p.m. — Thousands of aspiring young cooks applied to be part of the latest season of “MasterChef Junior.” The 50 most talented were invited to Los Angeles with their parents to compete for a spot in the biggest cooking competition in the world. Gordon’s culinary team of experts tasted and scored every dish before inviting 16 kids to compete in the MasterChef kitchen for the judges.

8:08 p.m. — Gordon and Aarón welcome the excited group of junior competitors to the kitchen. These kids are adorable and bring so much energy into the room. Next, Gordon introduces the newest judge to the panel, Daphne. Gordon warns, “She looks sweet, but she is tough as nails.” Daphne walks out and screams out, “Bring on the aprons!” As confetti and aprons fall from the ceiling, the kids scream some more and look more pumped than ever to get started. Time to get to work!

8:12 p.m. — For the first challenge, each cook will “punch their way to victory.” One at a time, each of them is called up to a wall where they punch through a square with mystery ingredients inside. Then, they have to make a dish that highlights and celebrates that ingredient. Gordon warns, “You may find something slimy, stinky or even alive!” Everyone takes their turn at the wall. Liya is mortified when she pulls out a slimy eel! Cruz pulls out a huge octopus and looks completely unfazed, lol. Keep an eye on that one! He might be hard to rattle. Blake grabs a live crawfish, A’Dan gets a live lobster and everyone else got more typical ingredients. They have 60 minutes to make a dish highlighting the ingredient they punched out. Time starts now!

8:20 p.m. — Grayson confesses he’s extremely nervous because he’s never cooked with his ingredient, okra, before. He’s never even tasted it! Jillian talks about how she was diagnosed with epilepsy, which stopped her from leaving the house and playing sports. Instead, she joined her grandma in the kitchen and that’s how Jillian’s love for cooking started. Freddy is from Philadelphia and he has a really fun confidence about him. He says he learned to cook from the chefs his dad sharpens knives for at home. Abir is highlighted next, and he’s doing a lava cake with kiwis. Interesting! Daphne says she’s never heard of such a thing, but she can’t wait to try it. Abir says if he wins $100,000 he will open an ice cream shop with “out of this world” flavors.”

8:25 p.m. — Gordon catches up with Liya, who grabbed the eel earlier. Her parents own two restaurants. They’re both from Taiwan and Liya helps the chefs in both restaurants in the kitchen. She has decided to make soy honey barbecue eel, which I can’t even fathom coming up with. Meanwhile, Cruz is feeling good about his octopus because he loves cooking seafood and pasta. Cruz is tiny and just cool as a cucumber! Even smaller is Ivy, who is standing on her tip-toes on top of the stool to reach the countertop. She is making an apricot cobbler because she loves baking and she thinks she has it “in the bag.”

8:30 p.m. — Gordon compliments A’Dan for breaking down his live lobster like a pro. The 10-year old from Atlanta learned to cook from his dad, grandma and uncle. Today he’s making creamy grits with lobster and pancetta. A’Dan has never cooked lobster before, but his dad taught him that seafood is delicate. Over at Grayson’s table, he has decided to make pan-seared red snapper to compliment his okra ingredient. He plans to prepare both fried and pickled okra. He rattles off a bunch more things he plans to do, but I can’t even understand half the words coming out of this 11-year old’s mouth. Grayson’s culinary vocabulary is too advanced for me! Over at another station, 10-year old Andrew says his mother taught him to cook, but when he’s not in the kitchen he likes playing hockey. His dream when he’s older? To own a restaurant called Puck Cafe. Of course!

8:35 p.m. — Molly is another 10-year old and she’s from Missouri. Her dad is the “chicken king” and travels the world doing competitive barbecue. Molly is thrilled to be cooking chicken wings for the judges tonight. A station over, 11-year old Blake is working on his crawfish. He is from Illinois so this isn’t a familiar ingredient for the youngster. He’s adding rice pilaf and wilted spinach. He also dreams of opening his own restaurant, but he wants to sit back and let his employees do the work! LOL! At last, time has run out and the kids have plated their dishes. Time for judgement!

8:45 p.m. — The judges pace the room looking for the best and worst dishes of the night. First, they will call up their three favorite dishes. 10-year old Liya is called up first and presents her Soy & Honey Glazed Eel with Rice Vermicelli and Ginger Vinaigrette. Gordon calls the Taiwanese dish “delicious.” Daphne compliments her for making eel the star. Next up is Grayson! The 11-year old serves up Lemon Verbena Snapper with Fried Okra, Pickled Okra and Marinated Okra Seeds, Peach Chutney and Yuzu Butter Sauce. Gordon says it looks restaurant quality. Aarón compliments Grayson for not being afraid of the okra. The last young cook in the top three is A’Dan. This 10-year brings the judges Lobster with Creamy Grits and Crumbled Pancetta. Gordon is impressed with A’Dan’s confidence. Aarón says the butter poaching was spot on. Daphne calls it “stunning.” Liya, Grayson and A’Dan are declared safe from elimination and head up to the balcony.

8:55 p.m. — Now it’s time to call out the three worst dishes of the night. Abir is first and the 10-year old presents Molten Chocolate Lava Cake with Brûléed Kiwi. Aarón says Abir’s lack of experience with kiwi shows. It looks like a mess. Gordon thinks the molten is tasty, but he doesn’t like the kiwi. Daphne says the chocolate cake is delicious, but the kiwi is not the star it should be. Next up is Ivy, who begins crying immediately when her name is called. Ivy made Apricot Cobbler with Cinnamon Oat Crumble, Bavarian Cream with Toasted Almonds. Gordon says the cobbler needed more time in the oven. He also says the cream isn’t good, so she shouldn’t have served it. Daphne at least enjoyed the apricots. Aarón likes the “jammy” consistency. Last up is Blake. The 11-year old serves up Lemon Pepper Crawfish with Rice Pilaf and Wilted Spinach. Aarón says the crawfish are very overcooked. Gordon says Blake has seasoned the spinach properly, but the dish isn’t balanced.

8:59 p.m. — Abir, Ivy or Blake is about to be the first contestant sent home this season. The three judges debate and eventually make a decision. Daphne says there is just one dish that she would have sent back to the kitchen if she received it at a restaurant. The person leaving “MasterChef Junior” is Blake. The youngster keeps his head up, and Aarón says that shows a lot about his character. Gordon makes the young man promise to keep cooking. Blake is bummed, but he’s proud he made the Top 16.

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