Inside a converted warehouse on land in Los Angeles where Howard Hughes once built aircraft, Fox’s popular “MasterChef” franchise looks to create a new generation of culinary stars.
Starting on Friday, Sept. 27, “MasterChef Junior” opens up the cooking competition to boys and girls ages 8 to 13. Like the adult amateur chefs, they will still be under the scrutiny and tutelage of chef Gordon Ramsay, restaurateur and winemaker Joe Bastianich and chef Graham Elliot.
Ramsay is known for his explosive temper, tough judgment and frequently salty language, especially on his other Fox culinary competition show, “Hell’s Kitchen.” But to listen to two of the kids involved, he’s not the one who made them nervous.
“The judges are very intimidating,” says 12-year-old Molly from Pasadena, Calif. to Zap2it. “Gordon is scary once you see him on TV, but he’s very, very nice once you meet him, very nice, very sweet. Joe Bastianich is the scariest, most intimidating person on this entire planet. He is so scary.
“I hope my station is in the back row, so he won’t come. I hope so, because he’s so scary. I’m just hoping he likes my food.”
As for Elliot, Molly says, “Graham is like a big, fluffy teddy bear. He’s so nice. It’s like there’s a mean one, a nice one and a scary one.”
“I know the judges can be portrayed as kind of strict,” says her friend Jewels, also 12, from Manalapan, N.J., “even mean in some cases. We have to remember that’s for adults. Hopefully they’re not going to talk to us like that. We are kids.”
Even though being judged on television can be scary, the young chefs discovered it can also be a lot of fun.
“I’m just really excited to work with them,” Jewels says. “Working with them is exciting, the thought of it. They’re such prominent figures in the culinary arts, the fact that we can say, ‘Oh, hey, Graham, how are you doing this morning? Hey, Joe … Oh, Gordon!’ You can have a conversation with them.
“It’s the coolest thing ever, to be able to hear feedback that they’re giving to you. It’s like a dream; somebody pinch me. But none of them were mean to me.”
“Joe just stares at you,” says Molly, “and you don’t want to look back.”
The show filmed back in the spring, and everyone knows it’s hard to keep a secret, especially if you’re a 12-year-old girl. But Molly has an answer all ready for her curious classmates.
“I went to Hawaii … duh!”
Along the way, the contestants – whittled from 24 to 12 by Friday, Oct. 4 – face a cupcake challenge, a tag-team beef Wellington challenge and a downtown restaurant takeover featuring a three-course meal. The ultimate winner will take home $100,000.