When it comes to camp cuisine, there’s no better food critic than a Boy Scout.
Who better to judge the merit of food prepared outdoors than the inventors of the Cooking merit badge?
The fine folks at the Fox show MasterChef Junior sure think so. They invited 50 Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to serve as judges for an episode title “Scouts Honor.” (The episode — Season 5, Episode 9 — aired tonight.)
Would this be the greatest camp meal these Scouts have ever had, or will the Scouts go home hungry or, worse, with upset stomachs?
Find my full recap below, which you can enjoy with a side of gravy (yes, even outside in 90-degree weather).
‘Ultimate campfire cookout’
Get ready for the “ultimate campfire cookout,” the voice tells us. We’ll soon find out “who will lead their troop to victory and who will got lost in the wilderness.”
It’s the first Scouting-themed wordplay of the night, and I’m guessing it won’t be the last.
The 12 remaining junior home cooks are in the Santa Clarita mountains — 30 miles north of the MasterChef Junior kitchen.
Goodbye, air-conditioned comfort of the studio. Hello, hungry Scouts.
But first they have to find the campsite. Award-winning chef Gordon Ramsay and pastry chef Christina Tosi are a little lost. They’re trying — and struggling — to lead the young cooks to the site of the challenge. Maybe they can ask the Scouts for help navigating, too.
The ‘most intelligent and prepared guests’
Once they finally arrive, Ramsay and Tosi set the stage.
“Today you will serve some of our most intelligent and prepared guests that MasterChef Junior has ever welcomed: the Boy and Girl Scouts,” she says.
I see what she did there.
This challenge is extra cool for Evan, who is a Scout. In a funny moment, he raises two fingers and recites a special MasterChef Junior version of the Scout Oath.
“I promise to do my best to do my duty to MasterChef and to obey Gordon Ramsay,” Evan says.
Evan is named team captain, and Ramsay unveils the main ingredient. It’s not a typical camp staple like hot dogs or Dutch oven pizza. It’s bone-in pork chops.
Each team of six must prepare a pork chop entrée and two sides — all in 75 minutes.
Evan’s red team will prepare an apple-grilled pork chop, mashed potatoes and sautéed corn.
Peyton’s blue team is making Korean barbecue pork chops, purple cabbage coleslaw and potato pancakes.
‘Gravy, in 90-degree weather?’
But should team red’s potatoes have gravy? That’s the debate.
“Gravy, in 90 degree weather? I think that’s a bad idea,” Gonzalo says.
The team presses on until Ramsay gets a whiff of what’s happening. He shows a flash of his trademark anger.
“95 degrees and we’re serving a gravy? Get this sorted out,” he says. “Now.”
The gravy gets the boot.
Over on team blue, Peyton utters a sentence I’ve never heard on a Scout campout.
“We need more lemon,” she says. “I need that brightness.”
The young cooks have some advantages over traditional outdoor cooking. They have a large work space, an oven and kitchen gadgets like an immersion blender.
But what they don’t have much of is time.
‘Oh my goodness me. They’re hungry.’
“Red team, blue team, our Scouts are arriving!” Ramsay says.
And here they come. Dozens of uniformed Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts arrive from all directions, wearing backpacks and carrying hiking poles. They begin setting up tents. They raise an American flag to the top of a wooden pole.
“Amazing,” Ramsay says. “Oh my goodness me. They’re hungry.”
One of the Boy Scouts, whose name isn’t given, sounds ready to chow down.
“I think this meal will be better than any meal you could get on a camping trip, because the camping trip meal has to be fast and quick so you can keep going on your hikes and your activities,” he says.
Every camper gets a plate from each team. They’ll vote on their favorite, and the team with the most votes wins. The losing team will go to an elimination challenge where two members will go home.
‘It’s how you finish’
Scouts sound grateful as they pick up food. Each Boy Scout and Girl Scout says “thank you” to the chefs. Nice.
Probably my favorite part is how the Scouts vote for their favorite dish. No paper ballots here. The Scouts grab a bow and shoot an arrow at the color of the dish they like better.
Hit the red target for the red team and blue for blue.
When the arrows are counted, the winner — by a count of 63 percent to 37 percent — is Evan’s red team.
Yes, the team with the Boy Scout wins.
“We had a rough start,” Evan says, “but it’s not how you start. It’s how you finish.”
That’s the end of the Scouts’ involvement. Next, the cooks return to the MasterChef kitchen for the remainder of the episode, where the judges send Gonzalo and Lila home.
- At one point, one of the competitors says, “We can’t let these Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts down!” Don’t worry, tiny chefs, you can’t go wrong. After all, having a bad meal on a campout is a Scouting rite of passage.
- Nice line from Shayne, after one of the plates was found to contain a raw pork chop: “No one would earn a Scout badge right now with the way we’re cooking.”
- For the elimination challenge, the young cooks make macaroons. The dessert looked delicious, but I would’ve preferred everyone’s favorite campfire treat: s’mores..
Watch MasterChef Junior
Watch the episode “Scouts Honor” and find other MasterChef Junior content on the show’s website.