They’re Baaaack!

Another season of Master Chef Junior is upon us, and none too soon. My normal cynicism can be cast aside as I watch these talented kids cook up better meals than I ever could. Sure, they don’t always succeed, but when they do the results are nothing short of amazing. Master Chef Junior follows the same format as Master Chef – a collection of home cooks gathered from across the country that come together and compete to see who can become the Master Chef. Junior. It’s your typical rise to the top reality TV competition. For our panel of judges Fox brought in some culinary heavyweights:

Gordon Ramsay – Known more for his anger than his famous beef wellington or perfect scrambled eggs recipes, Gordon is the main host of the show. On the adult version of Master Chef, you can expect him to play up his outrage for the cameras and making cooks question their self-worth as both a chef and as a person but here on the kid version he prefers the disappointed father role. You can catch glimpses of what he might be like at home when he talks to some of the young chefs, exhibiting both pride and concern for the kiddos at different points. Still, he’s at his best when he mutters “oh dear” to himself as he stares into a slice of raw chicken and levels a child’s hope. Neat nature fact: there is a show on Netflix called lookalikes that I watched last night and there is a dude on there that has an uncanny resemblance to Gordon Ramsay. It’s terrifying. Bizarro Ramsay.

Christina Tosi – I wax and wane on whether or not I actually like her as a judge. Christina was brought in a few seasons ago to represent both women and the beleaguered baker. In the culinary world bakers and chefs are constantly warring with one another. One profession involves passion and creativity, where the other involves science and attention to details. This is a not so subtle metaphor for the battle of the sexes here. Christina is probably the most critical out of all 3 judges and it is clear to me that she has difficulty relating to children – like me. Rarely does she seem pleased with the kids unless they are baking. Kids should never be heard nor seen. Every few episodes there will be a baking specific challenge and it becomes the Christina Tosi show. She does not hesitate to let kids know they screwed up and I have to believe after taping she goes back stage and cackles at their failures. Basically, I get her.

Joe Bostianich – Welcome back Joe! I’ve missed you and your suits and your sneakers and your east coast attitude. This is Joe’s first season back after leaving us just a few seasons ago. Joe was a regular judge on the show but had to excuse himself to open a little restaurant empire you may have heard of…Eataly. Anyway, Joe is back and I couldn’t be happier. The way he interacts with the kids on the show is great. He treats them like tiny adults, and as peers. He has no problem speaking to them about investment models and trendy restaurants and the kids’ reactions are priceless. You can tell their parents never speak to them like that. Basically, I wish Joe was my dad.

So, with our entourage of judges assembled we must now go through the ritualistic culling of the herd to get to our main competitors. This year’s group of kids competing in Master Chef Jr. seems bigger than previous years. 24 boys and 24 girls are assembled to take part in an initial challenge to see who will earn the coveted white apron. The white apron is basically holy grail from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – those who are worthy may drink from the bounty of the grail and receive ever-lasting life (verified twitter handle) and those who are not disappear from relevance.

For the girls, Gordon tasks them with cooking the perfect filet mignon. He does a quick demo where he expertly creates a stunning filet using nothing more than some salt and pepper, rosemary, thyme and butter. Super easy right? Yep, that is exactly how it turns out in my house too. Now, I if I am being nitpicky he says his is a perfect mid-rare and well…it looks a bit more towards the rare than the mid-rare end of the scale which is fine because when I make filet in a skillet it comes out that way too. Same! I’ve learned to eat steak this way because I am a miserable home cook I guess. Still haven’t had ecoli though. After the brief 8 minute demo the girls have everything they need to prepare their perfect filet.

Now I’ll be honest – I had a hard time telling who is who and I am not going to commit to watching this episode again because:

  1. I don’t want to get emotionally invested in some kid that is going to be booted off at the end of the first episode
  2. This is the same case for boys episode – I won’t be watching it more than once for the same reason
  3. As with every reality tv show I need the producers to tell me who to care about after the blood-letting
  4. I’m not ready to pick favorites.

The girls cook filets, some get eliminated, some do not. Rinse, wash and repeat for the boys only this time they are cooking Chicken. I think it’s a poor choice to have little boys working with chicken versus steak only because little boys are much messier than little girls so there has to be salmonella EVERYWHERE at this point. Things got worse for the boys – somehow one of the kitchen towels gets set on fire but the kid who lit it up is as cool as a cucumber. Honestly, he couldn’t be bothered with it and I begin to question whether or not he knows how it happened in the first place.

There’s another boy, Tyler, an 8-year-old from Milford, DE, who is hilarious. He’s my early favorite but his dry chicken fingers and carrots, admittedly a bizarre combo, do not make the cut. Gordon tells the young dude that maybe a sauce like a spicy ketchup would have helped? He coolly tells Gordon maybe mustard. Ah well, he’s gone and I hardly knew him. I was really hoping for another Riley situation but sadly no. It was not meant to be.

With our kiddos in place for season 6 we are ready to get cooking. I’ll have some actual hot takes on the contestants (seems weird to say kids here, so I won’t) this week.

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