Chopped Junior: Tropical Vibes and guest judge Ziggy Marley

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On Chopped Junior: Tropical Vibes, the junior chefs use Caribbean flavors and spices with fish, fruit, and cookies.

Along with host Ted Allen, the judges are Scott Conant, Amanda Freitag, and guest host Ziggy Marley, who couldn’t be more perfect for this episode of Chopped Junior. The crew welcomes Ziggy and asks if he can handle Caribbean heat. Ziggy has a cook book of family recipes available, so there is a very good likelihood that he will be able to deal with anything thrown his way.

Introductions

  • Matthew Kellner: Matthew does a goofy dance as soon as he appears, and is in that awkward preteen phase. He cooks Italian and Mexican, and once was the lead singer in a Funky Monkeys rock group. His initial presentation is sort of messy.
  • Anna Ghai: Anna is from Palo Alto, CA, and she’s a bundle of smiling energy. Her huge, braces-filled grin likely comes from a great life of travel since her Swedish mother and Indian father are both travel agents. She’s been writing a food journal since she was five.
  • Violet Waterhouse: Violet is a 6th grade from Decatur, GA. She’s a self-taught vegetarian, but that doesn’t stop her from wearing pig-tails. She likes to make people laugh and considers her favorite style to be Vegetarian-Asian fusion
  • Khamari Chricton: Khamari is of Haitian and Jamaican descent, and thinks Jamaican food pumps you up. He’s soft-spoken, and wants to start a catering business with his mother. His initial presentation is very clean. Considering the episode theme, he’s the odds on favorite.

The first basket

Chopped Junior has the following contents in the first basket: monkfish tails (similar texture to a lobster tail), papaya, micro red amaranth (a micro green with minimal flavor, usually a garnish), jerk seasoning.

Thirty minutes are on the clock, and the kids take off running like there is an ice cream truck in back.

Matthew

He’s happy since he went to Caribbean on a cruise and often cooks fish. He plans on frying the fish in a beer-batter with some jerk seasoning. There will be a papaya salad on the side with oil, salt, pepper, and the amaranth. His final presentation is in a bowl and looks pretty clean.

  • Ziggy thinks there is good flavor on the fish.
  • Amanda loves the presentation, but thinks there needs to be more jerk seasoning or citrus.
  • Scott echoes Amanda and says champagne vinegar would be great. It needs acidity.

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Anna

She’s never to the Caribbean, but she’s cooked monkfish before. She’s preparing a jerky monkfish salad with Dijon vinaigrette. She says her plan gives her dish a “more sweeter spice.” (Adorbs.) Her spatula skills are pretty sloppy, and Ted has to open a package for her. The final product is a pretty vibrant and appealing salad.

  • Ziggy thinks it is very appealing looking.
  • Amanda likes the grilled papaya.
  • Scott says it needs more salt, because he has to be the contrarian this round.

Violet

Violet doesn’t eat meat, but cooks with it. She can do a lot with fish, and is whipping up some jerk monkfish wontons with ginger soy dipping sauce. Her skill with egg wash on the wontons proves she’s done it before. She has a slight lisp and doesn’t want her wontons to explode into “nothingneth” when in the deep fryer. Her amaranth had to be tossed because she burned it, but cooked a new batch just in time. The plate is large, bland, and the amaranth burnt hair.

  • Ziggy likes the creativity and hints of ginger.
  • Amanda thinks Violet did a good job on fish, and was super creative.
  • Scott loves the dipping sauce, but agrees the amaranth looks unappealing.

Khamari

He thinks it is so cool to meet Ziggy since he’s from Jamaica, and both love to cook. Khamari considers himself a master of spices, and is making tacos with papaya salsa. He de-seeds the papaya for the salsa, then adds cilantro and tomato. The amaranth is just tossed on top with no transformation. Ultimtely, he makes some very clean, restaurant-quality tacos.

  • Ziggy thinks it’s big for an appetizer.
  • Amanda says the seasoning is on point, but wants some fat to bring it together.
  • Scott believes there is a perfect balance of spice, loves the tomato addition, and says it has a Caribbean feel.

First Round Chop

Matthew gets cut for not having enough jerk seasoning, and not enough acid.

The second basket

Chopped Junior has the following contents in the second basket: red snapper fillets, ripe plantains, mango, cream of coconut. Ted asks if they’re ready, and says, “Time starts now!”

Anna

The plan is pan-seared red snapper with mango & coconut cream puree. Some cinnamon, cayenne, and hot smoked paprika is added to the fish. She’s combining the plantains with cinnamon and has cooked them many times before, but deep fried them because of time constraints. Her fish looks horrible while cooking, and the cream of coconut puree ends up looking like runny eggs. Her final plate looks monochrome because she forgot about her kale. She still smiles like it’s the best day of her life.

  • Amanda says it has a good tropical feel, but needs a green element.
  • Scott thinks it is really good. Both the fish and plantains are cooked perfectly.

Violet

She’s here to prove vegetarians can cook anything. Just like Anna, she’s making pan-seared red snapper. Conversely, she’s pairing her fish with a mango salsa (coconut, cilantro, and tomatoes). Plantain hash is the plan, but there isn’t enough time. Instead the plantains get tossed into the salsa. Her final plate looks real fresh. The dish is topped with a coconut vinaigrette. Violette is a real sweetheart. She had extra time and helped Anna plate.

  • Ziggy says she made a very creative vinaigrette.
  • Amanda thinks the plantain is a little raw.
  • Scott likes the seasoning, but thinks Violet should have boiled or mashed the plantains. Samwise had the idea first.

Khamari

He puts garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne on pan-seared red snapper. He’s putting it on a bed of coconut mash with a fried plantain & mango sauce. He realizes the mangoes aren’t ripe, so they go in the sauce. Normally he’d fry the plantains twice like his mom, but there isn’t enough time for the second round. His final plate looks a bit bland and the mango sauce has the same tint as the Yellow Bastard from Sin City.

    • Ziggy asks about the mangoes because of the image above.
    • Amanda thinks it’s cooked well.
    • Scott compliments the overall bite.

Second Round Chop

Later Violet. Ziggy says you did a great job, but the plantains weren’t cooked.

The third basket

Chopped Junior has the following contents in the third basket: Lime sugar cookies, guava paste, kiwi, white chocolate chips. Both kids agree it’s a good basket. Anna continues to be adorable and tries to take off early. Ted reels her back in like a minnow and then lets the two start.

Anna

She’s making kiwi and guava paste clafoutis with lime cookie crumble, despite not knowing how to pronounce clafoutis. Her cuteness overload is sweeter than anything either of the kids can bake, however, she’s worried about raw clafoutis. Her strategy is to get the dessert in the oven quickly. She’s happy about using the lime cookies, and adds fresh lime to kick it up a notch. As a final blow, Anna drizzled chocolate on top.

  • Ziggy likes the taste of kiwi and the sauce.
  • Amanda thinks it’s great, but the chocolate is too much sweetness.
  • Scott: “Delicious!”

Khamari

Lime, white chocolate chip cupcakes with buttercream frosting and raspberry kiwi sauce are on the menu. He plans to be calm and cool, combining the guava with water for the glaze. Khamari pulls his cupcakes out with less than a minute to go, and puts frosting on the side because of the heat.

  • Ziggy says overall it’s a very good cupcake.
  • Amanda thinks it’s slightly under cooked in middle of cupcake.
  • Scott compliments a cupcake in a really short amount of time, but says it’s not perfect.

Next: Something to curb the appetite

Final Chop

Khamari is chopped. Amanda said it doesn’t feel right, but the mango sauce hurt him, and the dessert wasn’t cooked 100% all the way through. Anna is elated and hugs Ted.

Chopped Junior is on the Food Network Tuesday nights.