Tue. Jun 25th, 2024

The pint-size prodigies, ages 8 to 13 years old, have managed to reveal the lighter side of television Chef Gordon Ramsay, enticing him with dishes that manage to rival those made by adult competitors on MasterChef. In the premiere episode, these tiny chefs compete in group rounds that conclude with half being eliminated after producing a seafood, homemade pasta or dessert dish. Those who were not eliminated partake in a mystery box and elimination challenge, both mirroring the show’s predecessor, MasterChef.
These prodigies are adorable, running around the pantry, bouncing on their tippy toes struggling to reach key ingredients for their next culinary creation. Their excitement illuminates the heart and soul and extinguishes the fire in the explosive personality of Chef Gordon Ramsay. Known for slamming plates, raw or overcooked food into trashcans in his famous restaurants, viewers most commonly recognize the British chef with the sculpted blonde hair from his show, Hell’s Kitchen. When he became the co-producer of MasterChef in July 2010, he did not leave his quirky anecdotes for terribly cooked food and bad temper behind, at least for the adults. Along with fellow judges, Joe Bastianich and Graham Elliot, Chef Ramsay calls all the children “winners” and offers words of encouragement even if scallops are overcooked or a 9-year-old drops an expensive beef wellington on the floor.
This is a family-friendly cooking competition with a genuine desire to see kids succeed. However, there are a few eye-roll-worthy moments when the children claim to have sophisticated pallets and express their plans for spending the $100,000 prize money. Some of the most frivolous plans include a big party, refusing to share winnings with their siblings or the people who probably encouraged them to do the show in the first place, their parents. While their adult counterparts share their culinary dreams regarding paying off debts, starting a family or purchasing a restaurant, these kids squeal in delight after receiving a white apron with their names at the top in red lettering or anticipate placing the MasterChef Junior trophy in their room.
In addition to the prize money, these junior chefs compete for the opportunity to win a three to five year scholarship to a culinary academy of their choice. Winning a scholarship relieves stressed parents financially however; these chefs are hardly at an age to ignore the influence of their parents when making life-changing career decisions. Perhaps this prize would be more beneficial for a group of older chefs who are sure they wish to enter culinary school and are closer than nine years from applying to college.
MasterChef Junior has managed to replace the beloved raging bull chef with a cuddly teddy bear; however, audiences would be appalled by a grown man yelling at a 9-year-old, spit flying from his lips into her face. Such antics are the reputation of Chef Ramsey. In a recent episode, the kids were separated into pairs and cooked one of Chef Ramsey’s famous dishes, beef wellington. Competitors on Hell’s Kitchen and MasterChef have failed numerous times, attempting to perfect this dish. Countless competitors have presented their plates to Chef Ramsey, the wellington wrapped in lightly browned dough waiting to be sliced for a taste. Chef Ramsey is known to relate a terribly cooked wellington to snot, “cooked to f***,” or if words elude him, he will slam the wellington down on the counter in front of him causing the dough to fly on its surroundings, splattering the other chefs and their aprons.
This is the Chef Ramsey that viewers want to see. When he is insulting the other chefs for trying to serve raw or overcooked food to his customers, making them admit that they do not belong in the kitchen, viewers breathe a sigh of relief that they are not in front of him but also cannot look away; however, when a 9-year-old drops her silver tray containing beef wellington, and proceeds to serve it to the judges; they smile and enact the five second rule. Gordon Ramsey, instead of berating the small chefs in front of him for placing a raw or overcooked dish in front of him, offers words of encouragement. A “better luck next time” attitude is a far cry from his usual “get the f*** out” or “f*** off.”
Overall, the quality of the dishes and the children’s knowledge of culinary cuisine is extraordinary. Few 9-year-olds can say they know how to make an almond-crusted Chilean Sea Bass, homemade Sushi, Gnocchi or a fired Molten Lava Cake, the chocolate insides seem to melt onto the plate as a judge cuts it in half for tasting. The show’s encouraging atmosphere is a healthy environment for children who still enjoy rainbows, unicorns, and cartoons, and dread returning to school, which seems to be the overwhelming reason for avoiding elimination. MasterChef Junior offers a nice atmosphere filled with smiles and cute children who are unable to responsibly reap the benefits of winning the competition. The show lacks a sense of realism and the pressures of working in a professional kitchen. In the real world, head chefs yell at their staff for dropping food in the kitchen and wasting expensive cooking ingredients. MasterChef Junior tolerates and excuses pint size chefs for refusing to use ingredients if they smell gross and take delight when they drool over white aprons with their names embossed in red lettering.
Despite the show’s family-friendly qualities, is America really interested in a cooking show that features naïve culinary prodigies in an unrealistic setting? Also, why give a child $100,000 and a scholarship to a college of their choice if they are unprepared and probably undecided about their future and career choice? MasterChef Junior should feature high school students who are preparing to attend college and have a definite interest in culinary school. Instead, Chef Ramsey made the mistake of choosing the next top tiny chefs to compete for the master chef trophy, trading his cynical and devilish demeanor with that of a lackluster man who, along with his fellow judges, encourages children to reach for a dream that they are unprepared to fulfill.
Kellie Carle is a graduate student concentrating on English creative writing. She can be reached at KC793959@wcupa.edu.

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