Written by Jennifer Amato
I am a huge fan of cooking shows. At night and on the weekends, my TV is on a Food Network loop.
So, I was naturally interested to see how Gordon Ramsey would fare with a group of children, as I had never before watched MasterChef Junior but had seen his outlandish behavior on Hell’s Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares and MasterChef.
I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised while watching the opening intro and seeing explosions of confetti, Ramsey surprising the crowd dressed as a hippie, and him getting “slimed” with some sort of cream or gravy in the preview of the season.
The first activity on tonight’s episode was the 24 contestants, ages 8 to 13 from across the country, grabbing giant kitchen utensils to hit a giant piñata in the shape of Gordon Ramsey’s head in order to get their aprons. Throughout the cooking challenges, Ramsey jokes with the future chefs, offers them very kind but constructive criticism and shows a side of himself that I didn’t think existed – which is very refreshing and endearing. Although, part of me does wonder if at some point these kids will drive him crazy enough to push him over the edge and send him into a Hell’s Kitchen profanity-laden outburst he is known for. But I digress.
As far as the young chefs are concerned, if one were to shut his or her eyes and only listen to the show, discerning the difference between youth and adult chefs would be quite difficult, besides their high-pitched voices. Visually, other than pigtails and brightly colored clothing, the difference seems very slight as well. During their interviews, the children sound like professional chefs, aspiring to own their own restaurants and impress their parents and judges.
Sometimes MasterChef Junior seemed reminiscent of Kids Say the Darndest Things – with phrases such as, “When I was young …” “Candy saves your life …” and “Gordon Ramsey, what are you doing? You don’t choose the red wire! Haven’t you seen the movies?” before dynamite rains marshmallows over the entire kitchen.
Despite some elements of youthfulness, their faces show the same expressions as on the faces of chefs decades older than them: the same look of nerves and fear, the same determination, the same hunger for the grand prize of $100,000 and the title of MasterChef.
From the onset of the children’s interviews, I knew Kya was a sure-fire contender after saying, at age 8, that she wants to open a three-star Michelin restaurant. Therefore, I wasn’t surprised that she aced the burger challenge, which featured dishes such as a pork and ground venison burger, a waygu burger with balsamic ketchup, a chipotle burger, pickled Asian slaw and avocado relish. During the marshmallow dessert round, the pint-sized competitors offered options such as a banana split with sweet potato biscuits, marshmallow churros, an apple crostada with marshmallow whipped cream and raspberry marshmallow whoopee pie.
It was at this point that the competition got rough: Kade completely scorched his marshmallows with a blowtorch, while Alexander cried during the judging round because his plating was not acceptable. Unfortunately, both young chefs were sent home.
The chefs who remain in the competition who were highlighted during the interview segments, whom I assume will be top contenders this season, include: Avery, 9, of Baton Rouge, LA; Chad, 9, of Poughkeepsie, NY; Kya, 8, of San Marino, CA; Addison, 8, of Chicago, IL; Adam, 11, of Brooklyn, NY; Alexander, 10, of Phoenix, AZ; Zac, 12, of Orlando, FL; Ian, 8, of Beverly Shores, IN; Kyndall, 9, of Philadelphia, PA; Jesse, 11, of New York, NY; and Sam, 10, of Charleston, SC.
Will I continue to watch this season of MasterChef Junior to see who wins the competition? “Yes, chef!”
MasterChef Junior Rating: 10 out of 10