The idea of a cookery program relying upon the culinary talents of children under the age of 14 should strike fear in the heart of most parents, add in the incredible Gordon Ramsay with his well known four letter rants and concern for these kids rises, but tonight’s competition, which consisted of tears and hugs, erased the worry that this whole Masterchef Junior thing was a bad idea. These 16 children possessed a calm and poise in front of the camera and in the kitchen that was impressive to the nth degree. Ages ranging from 8 to 13, the kids were anything but, whilst wielding sharp knives, mixing complex herbs and spices and cooking delightful looking dishes that, according to Gordon and his two “assistants” tasted as good as they looked.
In the first test, the mystery box challenge, Coco from Texas had a bit of bother when she thought her mashed potatoes were too salty. In a move that proves Mr. Ramsay is not the ogre he’s made out to be, he came to Coco’s rescue and after having a taste of the suspect mash, revealed that they were fine. The Chef then went on to explain to the girl what had happened. When Gordon revealed that he has three daughters at home, his expertise with the distraught young contestant made perfect sense.
Unfortunately for Coco, even though she recovered from this initial setback, the Texas lass left at the end of the show. All of the children were a curious mix of optimistic youth, surprising levels of confidence and considering the young cookery contestants’ response to Isabella’s upset tears later on, lots of reassurances and hugs. It was incredible to see the amount of talent that these youngster’s displayed and amazing to see the level of expertise and the complexity of the dishes prepared.
Missing out on the first season of Masterchef Junior, where there were 24 initial competitors, made the viewing of the second season a real treat. The “next generation” in the new season are all amazing children and Gordon along with the other two Masterchef judges Graham Elliot and Paul Bastianich do a splendid job interacting with the youthful cooks who all want to win. This must be one of the best shows on television at the moment in terms of reality TV.
The kids react, for the most part, like children when faced with certain things. When Natalie wins the Mystery Box challenge and also gets immunity as well as the privilege of choosing the next thing that her peers have to cook, she picks chicken as the dish to be conquered. She actually had three different birds to chose from as duck and turkey were also possible menu choices. The remaining competitors had to go back to the pantry to see what they had to cook and when the 15 kids were faced with live chickens in the room, their reactions were priceless.
Thus far, Oona appears to be the Dakota Fanning of Masterchef, the junior edition. In other words a little mature for her age, a grownup in a 9 year old’s body. Sam is the most serious Masterchef contestant and Sean, at 12, the most adept at “making a dollar’s worth of chicken wings into a 20 dollar dish.” Abby, is easily the funniest as she has a refreshing honesty which warms the heart. The highlight of the show however was when Isabella had a disaster with her Chicken Parmesan which was undercooked. Clearly upset when she returned to her area, the girl was in floods of tears and every child in the competition came to comfort her with hugs and reassurance. So perhaps the most impressive and entertaining thing about Masterchef apart from all that incredible talent was the amount each contestant cared about the others. This is just a brilliant show and it airs Tuesdays on FOX.
By Michael Smith