The second week of Junior Masterchef begins with the top 20 still to be decided. 7 spots remain.

We start with Gary and Anna announcing that 4 aprons are up for grabs, while Lily explains that she really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really wants to be the next Junior Masterchef, unaware that her Masterchef contract requires her to start each sentence with “I literally ….”. Matt Moran explains to the contestants that they must cook “the ultimate cake, for the ultimate guest” leaving them pondering who such a guest would be. Some whisper, “Donna Hay” “George” and “Matt Preston”. Their inability to grasp the meaning of the word “ultimate” is a searing indictment on Australia’s education system.

Suddenly Gary is making some pretty wild claims about the size of his pantry, before a rising curtain reveals a giant cake. Unfortunately for many viewers, a stripper doesn’t pop up out of the top of the cake. Fortunately for everyone, neither does George. Laithan show of his varied vocabulary when he says “Wow” three times as the inside of the cake is revealed to be full of sweet sugary ingredients, perfect for dessert making.

The contestants raid the pantry and collect ingredients for their desserts. Matt asks the contestants what they’re making, while Anna asks the contestants the same question, but in the style of a small child talking to its toys. Annabelle explains she’s making a chocolate cake with a doll’s head affixed to the top, based, she says, on the defining moments of Vlad the Impaler’s life, those moments being his love of impaling combined with his love of chocolate based desserts.

With 45 minutes left, tragedy strikes when Lily, who claimed she was making a “very soft cake” set about proving it by the rather drastic method of sliding it off the plate onto the floor, which did in fact suggest its softness. However, her rash decision soon caused her pangs of regret as she whimpered in an effort to get the judges attentions. Gary ran over to provide assistance, suffering only a small heart attack along the way, and helped Lily make another cake by making another cake for her.Meanwhile, Madi says she’s making a raspberry coconut cake and claims that “I love to cook it for my family because it makes them really happy because they’re all anorexic and this helps them spew.”

With 5 minutes to go, the kitchen really heats up as the ovens reach their optimal temperature. Jack shows everyone that he has been watching ‘Big People Masterchef’ by describing his meringue as one of “the pressure points of the dish”. He successfully flips his cake and is amazed by the clapping and screaming coming from the stands in support of him, unaware that the screaming was mainly as a result of the horrific image of Annabelle impaling a Barbie doll on top of her cake.With one minute to go there are lots of images of lots of children putting pieces of fruit on top of their cakes, but the one that stays in our minds and possibly our nightmares is the image of the child putting a mutilated doll on hers.

With the cooking done the ‘ultimate guest’ is revealed. Gary says that this person has the most important job in the country, but not so important that they can’t stop by and judge a bit of cooking for a reality television show, before introducing “our Prime Minister, Miss Julia Gillard” to gasps of shock, awe and John McEnroe impersonations. The PM strides out, confident in the knowledge that as none of the contestants vote she need pay little attention to what the focus groups are telling her about cakes at this time. She claims she’s never tried fifteen cakes in a row before, drawing shouts of “JULIAR” from some of the protesters in the crowd. Meanwhile, the Australian newspaper releases a Newspoll showing that 72% of Junior Masterchef contestants would have preferred Kevin Rudd to do the judging.

Annabelle, Fatima and Lily are first to bring up their cakes for tasting. Fatima is instantly eliminated for hat wearing. Lily’s double layered chocolate cake looks remarkably similar to the one Gary just cooked for her. The PM claims that Lily’s cake is incredibly light, lighter even than carbon dioxide, but she resists the urge to legislate a price on it. Annabelle’s chocolate dolly varden cake draws gasps of horror from the judges for its grotesque portrayal of the fashion industry and the toll it takes on young women, while Gary takes great pleasure in pulling off the dolly.

We are then treated to a cavalcade of young cooks and their cakes having stripes torn off them by a bitter and twisted PM. For example, she claims that someone’s cake is “first class”, that she “likes” the icing, and that she thinks “they’ve done a very good job”. No wonder this is our least popular Prime Minister in history. Hopefully the psychologists were on hand to limit the damage done.

After the tasting there are very few surprises as Jack, Madi, Gracie and Lily/Gary are awarded aprons and move into the top 20, ensuring there were now another 11 people who will never vote for Julia Gillard. What is surprising is that no one made a joke about the Prime Minister, elections and “just desserts”. However, the time for jokes passes as she leaves the set and rides off into the sunset for the continuing battle of good versus evil, right versus wrong, and one political party fixated on polling and focus groups versus another political party fixated on polling and focus groups.

And so to the final heat to decide who would take the remaining three places in the top 20 was upon us. This one is an Italian challenge, with guest judge Alessandro Pavoni. Astute viewers may remember Pavoni as the restaurateur whose apprentice and he were beaten by Masterchef contestants for immunity pins earlier this year. Pavoni, to his credit, has decided to again face the rigours of Masterchef, though was wise to aim a bit lower and take on children first.
Gary introduces Pavoni with the claim that “he has been making pasta since he was 8 years old”. Hopefully he’s nearly finished. Pavoni’s name draws looks of wonder, awe, but mostly bewilderment from the children, as he strides out confidently, knowing that he could literally crush three at a time. Gary then further compounds racial and body size stereotypes by claiming that you can’t cook pasta without a fat, old, Italian woman, as he introduces Pavoni’s Australian nonna, Nonna Maria.

Jimmy and Fatima wear hats and Fintan names his dishes using a strong Italian accent, each one providing evidence for the reasonableness, and indeed the desirability of, using corporal punishment. Zac says he’s making a beetroot gnocchi with a burnt butter sauce, though he fails to add that the burnt part was purely accidental.

Gary states that it’s time to “get down to the nitty gritty and tasting time”, unaware that gritty, if not nitty, will be a predominant flavour in some of the dishes. Fintan is called up for tasting, though only so we can hear more of his lovely authentic Italian accent, along with Aya. As the tasting proceeds, the soundtrack for a tacky 80s porn film plays in the background. Pavoni says that he wouldn’t have any problems selling Aya’s dishes in his restaurant, if only his restaurant hadn’t been closed down after he became the laughing stock of the food industry for losing twice on Masterchef.

Pavoni is similarly effusive when it comes to Zac’s prawns and beetroot leaf gnocchi. In fact, Pavoni is so taken aback, he suggests Zak should have an Italian passport, though he doesn’t offer any clues how a 12 year old Australian would go about defrauding the Italian and European Union immigration authorities. At the same time, Nonna Maria claims that Zak cooks prawns better than she does, a crime punishable by death in her village.

With the tasting over, it comes time to hand out the aprons with the little logo and names on them, which Zac described as an item “every kid in Australia wants, even orphans”. Fortunately for Zac he gets his wish, along with Aya and Hannah, taking the last spots in the top 20 that may or may not have been reserved for orphans. Gary asks the top 20 if they’re ” ready to cook like never before”, presumably meaning without adult supervision and with real knives. None of the contestants provides a definitive answer.

And so the caravan of crap TV rolls on to Monday and we see the top 20 in the opening credits jumping around with various foodstuffs. To be honest the vision of children jumping around as various liquids and foodstuffs fly across the screen is vaguely disturbing and suggestive of something unmentionable. So let’s not mention it.

The kids jumps out of the car and instantly espy a range of living poultry which presumably they will be required to slaughter, pluck and gut at a later date, but for the moment we get to enjoy the sweetness of children and baby animals together as nature intended. Inside, Gary pumps up the excitement as he refers to the Masterchef kitchen as “this famous space”, only just below the Pantheon, the Colosseum, and the Big Pineapple in terms of historical relevance. Matt Moran claims their cooking skills will go through the roof, as the orchestra goes through the roof, followed by the hyperbole.

Anna reveals the Masterchef scoreboard, which will keep a running tally of the contestants’ progress. They start with a mystery box challenge, with the boxes containing a carton of eggs. The challenge requires them to use 12 eggs in their recipes. No one jumps at the idea of making a 12 egg omelette. Suddenly Marcus discovers a serious fault in the pantry when he finds out that the producers have put half the ingredients out of reach.

Chandler appears on screen decrying the difficulty of the task, while viewers note his age and join the dots: he was born when Friends was at its most popular. Meanwhile Jack becomes the 10th contestant to mix his metaphors when he says he’s “chopped a bit of more than he can chew”. Lily mispronounces chorizo “chorizio” and pavlova “pavalova”, and when Gary asks if she takes after her grandmother, she replies, “Yes. Usually with a knife.” Mireade wants to make a homemade tomato sauce , but isn’t allowed to go home. Jack describes the disaster that is his cooking as “just like a disaster”.

On the other side of the kitchen, Lily almost rolls her rolled Pavlova off the front of her bench, but Matt Moran intervenes, saving Gary the prospect of cooking for her again. With time on his hands, Gary produces the series first set of puns involving eggs and some variant of the word “crack”.

With the cooking over, Hannah and Jack are the first ones called up. Jack claims to have butterflies everywhere, but only produces a ‘70s sponge cake’, and the insectivores lurking in the kitchen, hoping for a free meal, leave disappointed. Gracie and Aleisha are called up next, followed by Lily and Dee. Dee’s oeufs a la neige, literally translated to ‘balls in the snow’, is a triumph of flavour, presentation and winter based nudity.

A shot of the chickens outside, looking for their 240 lost eggs, fills our screens, before we’re back inside for the final decision. Gracie takes 3rd place, Jack takes 2nd (but gets first for overacting), but Lily “cracks” the big time, leaving the rest with “egg” on their faces, and comes out of her “shell” to go to the top of the “pecking order”. Kill me now.

Without a moment to waste the theme of the next challenge is revealed to be Greek, and who does it Greek style better than George? Lots of Greek people probably, but George comes out anyway. George claims that Greeks need lots of great food to celebrate, remaining silent on the important contribution that alcohol and illicit drugs make. The contestants are required to cook something Greek, with one of three core ingredients: spatchcock, lamb and squid. To find out which, they break plates to reveal the name of the core ingredient underneath, which they then shout out. Did no one think it inappropriate to have a bunch of 10-12 year olds shouting out a word with ‘cock’ in it?

Jack gets squid and he explains his concern. “If you over cook squid” he begins, “it becomes really leathery, like a leather shoe, or a leather jacket, or a portmanteau (but only one made of leather), or Leatherface from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, One, Two and Three, or a leather apron. You get the idea . But if you cook it perfectly it’s soft and melts in your mouth. Of course, if you cook it between perfect and overcooking it you might get some leather apparel that melts in your mouth I guess. ”

Greta has spatchcock and she makes much of her ability to multi-task with the many elements on the go. In fact, she’s so busy explaining how good she is at multi-tasking, she completely forgets about her spatchcock until she notices smoke pouring out of the oven.

When it comes time to do the judging, Gary congratulates Jack on his presentation, which he says “makes you want to eat it”. Unfortunately he adds that tasting it makes you want to do the opposite. Dee’s little chicken legs are well received, but his food knows no such glory. Gary claims that he would put Greta’s spatchcock in his restaurant, but fails to inform her that he would do it only to attract the cockroaches. Kieren claims that being Greek means that this is his territory, and this is the first clue that we have so far that the series is being filmed inside the Greek embassy.

At the end of the tasting comes the judging. Indigo comes in 3rd with her roasted spatchcock. Jack comes in 2nd with his not quite leathery squid. But the winner, with her cranberry stuffed lamb, is Madi.

Only one episode into the top 20 and already Jack is proving to be the person to beat. Will he remain on top for the entire series? Probably not. Will he be the most annoying contestant on a reality TV show since Carlo of Big Brother who infamously washed his unmentionables in the kitchen sink? Only time will tell.

Junior MasterChef – Sun/Mon 7:30pm, Ch10.