Eight episodes into the current season of “MasterChef” on Fox, Juni Cuevas of Raleigh got his chance to be team leader for one of the cooking competition show's pressure-packed challenges.
The contestants were charged with cooking for the wedding of Season 7 “MasterChef” winner Shaun O’Neale, and Shaun wanted duck breasts and scallops on the menu.
But first, Juni and Julia were named captains and told to pick their teams.
During the selection process, Juni was asked who he did not want on his team and he didn’t hesitate to say he didn’t want Shanika because, "I don't like her in the kitchen." So he skipped Shanika and she went to Julia’s team.
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Then after the teams were selected, Juni and Julia were told to switch teams — meaning each had to captain teams they didn’t want.
Right off the bat, Juni’s Blue Team wasn’t on board with his menu ideas. He wanted to pair the scallop appetizer with farro, and with his pan-seared duck breast entree, he wanted orange-zest mashed potatoes. There were groans from his team members, but they went along. When judge Gordon Ramsay spoke out about the choices, they altered the menu.
“As a vegetarian of over ten years, I don’t cook with scallops, I don’t cook with duck,” Juni told the camera. “But I’m confident in my ability to cook anything that’s put in front of me.”
Julia’s Red Team wasn’t without problems, either, with Ramsay at one point throwing scallops prepared by her team into a field.
Juni switched to roasted garlic mashed potatoes for the pan-seared duck, but Shanika tried to get him to do a fondant potato instead. Juni declined. "Go with the little funky mashed potatoes then," Shanika said.
Ramsay didn't like the mashed potatoes, which were diced poorly.
"I'm starting to lose confidence, things are just falling apart," Juni told the camera.
Ramsay liked the fondant potato idea, so they switched to that.
Ramsay berated the team for not having good leadership and told them to have a meeting and pick a leader or he would come in and run the team. Taylor told Juni she was willing to lead the team if he was OK with it. "Who am I to fight this," Juni said, giving up leadership.
Shanika was her usual gracious self. "Sorry, Juni," she said. "Your voice wasn't loud enough and your ideas suck."
But Juni still got a pep talk from Ramsay: "Young man, I know you can do better. You may not be captain of the Blue Team but it doesn't mean you have to give up."
The Red Team had big trouble too — they served raw duck and had to scramble to come up with food to serve their guests.
The wedding guests had to pick the team that served the best meal and in the end, the Red Team won, making them safe from elimination.
Who went home?
That was bad news for Juni, since someone from the Blue Team had to go home, and team captains are extremely vulnerable in these situations. The twist on Wednesday night's show was there was no elimination challenge for Juni to try to cook his way into safety. Instead, the judges — Gordon Ramsay, Aaron Sanchez and Joe Bastianich — picked one contestant for immediate elimination.
Ramsay addressed Juni: "Juni, possibly one of the worst performing captains that I've ever witnessed. Ever. You let go of your responsibility."
After Ramsay confirmed that Juni would be leaving, he continued: "You know, young man, you came in with a spark and charisma and we love that attitude," Ramsay said.
Juni got a chance to speak before leaving. "I thank you for everything you taught me," he told the judges, and then looked toward his fellow home cooks. "And I thank you all for the lovely friendships, and I wish you the best of luck."
Juni, the son of Mexican immigrants and whose mother was deported seven years ago, told the camera what being on "MasterChef" meant to him.
"It's sad that my journey is ending so soon, but the fact that I've been able to cook great dishes and that I have even stepped into the 'MasterChef' kitchen — and Gordon Ramsay has tasted my food. How many people can say that they have done that?
"I think that when my mom sees this she's going to be even more proud of me. She's going to see that I've really ignited the fire to keep it going."