There’s nothing I love more than good reality television. It’s basically my bread and butter. With some of my favorite guilty pleasures winding down, though, I soon found myself in serious need of that reality fix. Enter MasterChef: Junior.
Any fan of Gordon Ramsay or MasterChef can tell you that this was just a disaster waiting to happen: kids…in the kitchen? Horrifying. Yet, when I sat down to binge watch the mere seven-episode season, I was surprised to find I loved every minute of it.
Twenty-four of the best home cooks in America entered the MasterChef kitchen, and all of them were under five feet tall. With ages ranging from eight to 13, these kids meant business. In the first episode alone I saw children half my age make sushi, macarons and a variety of fresh pastas. Watching MasterChef: Junior was both an entertaining and stressful experience; I found myself wringing my hands with worry at these tiny children handling large knives with such vigor.
The kids themselves were completely adorable. In the first episode, all of the competitors were happy to compete just for the MasterChef Junior Trophy. In the next episode, Ramsay introduced the $100,000 cash prize, which left the kids awestruck and unable to comprehend exactly how much money that entailed.
A favorite moment of mine was the talking head that featured the kids ruminating about what they could do with the money, including “throw a party” and “go to an amusement park.”
After the first eliminations, the youngest in the competition was nine-year-old Sarah and the oldest was 13-year-old Alexander. Don’t let age fool you, though, these kids could wipe the kitchen floor with you. Ramsay was not pulling any punches with his young competitors. He had the children face Mystery Box Challenges, create a perfect beef Wellington and even compete in the Restaurant Takeover Challenge.
While Ramsay’s trademark acidic persona was toned down for the kids, the judges were never anything but truthful with the competitors, letting each kid know what worked and what didn’t.
When the kids seemed to be overwhelmed, a judge was always nearby to provide a little bit of support. In fact, the show was filled with a variety of sweet and touching moments where the judges helped teach the kids and push them to grow as chefs.
What really held the show together, though, was the sheer camaraderie among the competitors. Reality competition shows are fun because we get to watch adults devolve into bickering children, but there was none of that in MasterChef: Junior. Instead, I was on the verge of tears at almost every elimination just because the rest of the competitors were so sad to see their new friends leave.
The show itself is obviously still predictable, as are all reality shows nowadays, but the sincerity and appreciation each competitor had for their rivals helped to pull away from what could have easily been a disaster.
These kids truly supported each other and that was refreshing. Reality shows, in their essences, are basically just a bunch of adults yelling at each other. MasterChef: Junior, which I am happy to report was renewed for a second season, was able to transcend that trope and deliver a strong show.