Child cooks masterful on televised competition
TORONTO — If you were blown away watching the kid contestants on the inaugural run of Masterchef Junior just wait for Season 2, says judge Graham Elliot. “We had no idea it was going to take off the way it did,” Elliot said during a recent stop in Toronto to shoot a guest appearance on the upcoming season of Masterchef Canada. “What’s really fun is that the level of cooking compared to Season 1 is even higher because everyone knows about it now.” Indeed, the pint-sized chefs on Masterchef Junior made a big impression. Apple-cheeked winner Alexander Weiss wowed audiences in the finale with his pan-seared veal chop over potato gnocchi and deconstructed napoleon cannoli. Elliot — who serves on the judging panel for Masterchef Junior and Masterchef with Gordon Ramsay and Joe Bastianich — says the contestant pool for the kid cooking show was not at all what he expected. “You think you’re going to get kids wanting to do the Hollywood thing, but you realize that cooking is this creative outlet now because kids are born into this food-TV lifestyle and experience new things and a lot of them are well travelled,” he said. “You see everyone that’s got this great passion for cooking and it’s contagious. By day two, Joe, Gordon and I forget that they’re even kids because of the level they’re putting up in terms of food, but also their level of concentration.” Viewers who watched the recent season of Masterchef noticed a drastic physical change in Elliot, who underwent weight-loss surgery just over a year ago, dropping some 150 pounds in the process. Masterchef Junior was part of the impetus, he said. “The big change, and you know Masterchef Junior was a part of it, is sitting up there talking to kids about eating healthy and about how they’re the future of America and they need to make these great choices, and I was 400 pounds... and just felt I was living this big lie and you need to try to lead by example, especially for my own kids.” In preparation for the upcoming season, Elliot said Masterchef Junior visited all 50 states and saw a diverse range of cooking styles. “Kids are doing things that are indicative of their region, their background and their upbringing, and also (there were) people that cook from the heart and it’s really rustic, kids that have a pretty privileged upbringing and have been to all the fancy French restaurants and done the tasting menus — so it’s really cool to see that gamut,” he said. Masterchef Junior airs Tuesday at 7 p.m. on Fox.