cooking up a (kid’s) storm

Junior MasterChef Australia

Image via Wikipedia

These days, I like to watch Masterchef. My favorite is the Australian edition, but I’ll watch the British celebrity edition in a pinch. I love watching them run into the pantry, choose ingredients, and create something beautiful out of what is pretty much thin air. I love the Mystery box challenges, when they have to make something out of sometimes very random ingredients. And I even like the cook-offs, even though it means someone you like might be going home.

I think one of the reasons I revel in the high-pressure kitchen situations so much is that although I love to cook and bake, I could never be a professional chef. The pressure! And the stress! And the senior cooks and/or customers that demolish what ever beautiful thing you’ve made with a careless comment. Ugh, no. I prefer to cook for people of my ability level, as they appreciate what I’ve made, are perhaps sometimes even a bit impressed, and are always nice to me. Less chance of me bursting into tears in the kitchen that way and more fun all around.

Anyway, back to Masterchef. The only thing I like better than Masterchef: Australia is Junior Masterchef. These kids are tiny – nine to thirteen years old – but they can cook! They’ll cook duck at first sight if you tell them to, think up creative ways to win challenges, decorate cakes quite professionally…whatever the judges throw at them, they can do. And more. And the challenges really are at a grown-up level, which makes it all so amazing to watch.

But what I love most about Junior Masterchef is how supportive the judges are. They say something kind about every kid’s dish before starting with the critique. You can see the kids’ self-esteem growing and they do better with every episode. Seriously, it’s hard to not talk down to kids but not expect the impossible from them either, and these judges have struck just the right balance. Plus, the kids tackle everything with such excitement – no jaded cooks on this show! (It’s funny, one of the only places you could see they were kids was when the two finalists were more excited about the prize of a trip to Tokio then the 10.000 dollars in a trust fund. Money is still abstract to them, while they can totally relate to a trip to Disneyland Tokio.)

I’ll admit I got so invested in the kids on the show that the grande finale last week left me teary-eyed. I’d like to say that I probably teared up because I had been working really hard and was exhausted,but then again, Extreme Makeover: the home edition hits me that way too sometimes, so I probably just am that emotional. Whatever, I am so looking forward to the second season.

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