Smells like tween spirit

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Television - DEBBIE SCHIPP Ju­nior Masterchef, TDT, tonight, 7.30

KIDS and cook­ing proved a rat­ings win­ner for the MasterChef Aus­tralia fran­chise last year.

This year, TDT may well be hop­ing Ju­nior MasterChef proves a palate cleanser for au­di­ences left dis­il­lu­sioned by the way the se­nior ver­sion of the show ended in early Au­gust.

Crit­i­cised for be­ing too long, overly dra­matic and miss­ing the like­able ingredients which made it a rat­ings win­ner, MasterChef Aus­tralia ’ s fi­nale left a bad taste in view­ers’ mouths with a three-hour split fi­nale de­signed to boost the dis­ap­point­ing rat­ings of TDT’s The Renovators.

Two months on, it’s up to the kids to make amends. Ac­cord­ing to new full-time Ju­nior MasterChef judge Matt Mo­ran, the young­sters are up to the task. Mo­ran is step­ping out of the hefty shadow of Matt Pre­ston to take up full­time duty on the show as Pre­ston takes a break from the for­mat.

For Mo­ran, and fel­low-judges Ge­orge Calom­baris and Gary Me­hi­gan, it means there’s been no respite – film­ing of Ju­nior MasterChef be­gan straight af­ter the fi­nale of the se­nior ver­sion. But the in­jec­tion of kids, Mo­ran says, has been as much of a re­fresher for the adults as a hol­i­day.

‘‘ Work­ing ev­ery day with a stack of fired-up, tal­ented young­sters be­tween nine and 12 years old will do that,’’ he says. ‘‘ They’re just great kids. They’re en­thu­si­as­tic and ridicu­lously tal­ented.

‘‘ And that en­thu­si­asm is in­fec­tious. You just can’t help but be lifted by it.’’

Af­ter putting in a sea­son as fourth judge on the se­nior MasterChef al­ready in 2011, Mo­ran con­cedes au­di­ences may find the ju­nior ver­sion a wel­come break. ‘‘ I think I ac­tu­ally like the kids’ ver­sion bet­ter,’’ Mo­ran says.

‘‘ It’s about the raw­ness and the pure de­light in cook­ing. This is pos­i­tive, free spir­ited, there’s no con­tro­versy. There’s no nas­ti­ness, there are no crush­ing dis­ap­point­ments. They speak their mind, there are no agen­das.

‘‘ The only thing we have to watch is our swear­ing. And I’m do­ing pretty good with that.

‘‘ Yes, we have a swear jar. The fine is $ 20. It goes to char­ity at the end of pro­duc­tion and it’s less than $ 100 half-way through shoot­ing.’’ Celebrity cook and TV per­son­al­ity Anna Gare has re­joined the adults on the judges’ panel for sea­son two, but in the first week of the show – top 50 week – it’s an­other high­pro­file fe­male who cap­tures the kids’ at­ten­tion when Prime Min­is­ter Ju­lia Gil­lard drops in. There’s also a sur­prise in­ter­na­tional ad­ven­ture and the reg­u­lar mys­tery box chal­lenges as the sea­son un­folds.

Mo­ran has two chil­dren of his own who ‘‘ love to eat, but aren’t too con­cerned with the prepa­ra­tion’’, so he is bowled over by the tal­ents of the Ju­nior MasterChef crop.

‘‘ These guys just blow me away. They are pro­duc­ing food you would not be­lieve,’’ he says.

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