Oh no. Very talented children. In a STUNNING! turn for the worse, I feel more creaky and less accomplished than ever before now that I have watched a 9-year-old whip up a molten lava cake with glazed raspberries that Gordon Ramsay awarded “a 10 out of 10.” It’s MasterChef…Junior!

It’s just the premiere, of course, but I think I expected more of Gordon’s signature aggression and nastiness in any sort of MasterChef production. I guess that’s coming later in the season, or, he’s just going to be really nice to everyone the whole time because they’re kids. That’ll be sweet — all three of the judges had heartwarming interactions with the contestants — but it won’t be the same MC we know and love/tolerate. I’m missing the bitchery so far. Maybe that’s okay! We’ll wait and see.

Some quick highlights of tonight’s Junior premiere:

–Whippersnapper Jack, 10, turning down Joe Bastianich’s offer to partner with him on a restaurant after Joe tasted his seared crab cake with celery seed aioli (gimme gimme gimme!)

–Gordon telling Molly from Pasadena that her fish tacos with homemade tortillas would make her an absolute fortune in a New York taco truck… “If you could drive.”

–It’s hard to let down truly talented, non-obnoxious children on television, and the judges did it with such tact. “Sadly, not all of you can progress” is really so true, in life! “Please hang onto those aprons and wear them with pride.” Aww!

–Sage, 13: “I don’t know who the bald one is” (re: Bastianich)

–Gordon putting on Dara’s inflatable bow headband, which I sort of wish didn’t exist, but whatever, she’s a child. With a semi-threatening “death stare.” And an herb and cheese spaetzle with rack of lamb and mint sauce with Greek yogurt that I wanted to devour.

–There’s a girl named “Jewels.” That’s a highlight in itself, but also: Gordon attempted to orchestrate an onscreen romance between Jewels and “Tommy back there,” whom Gordon suggested Jewels “put on the side” like a little bit of mustard. LINE OF THE NIGHT: “Hopefully when I have a boyfriend, he won’t be mustard.”

–Graham Elliot calling Troy’s sea scallop pasta with tiger shrimp “giant little nuggets of love.”

–Sarah, 9 (baker of the aforementioned lava cake), on why girls make better chefs than guys: “Even in the olden days, they were cooking and men were just sitting there, watching TV.”

–Rambunctious tiny monster Nathan doing the splits as Graham announced “Well done, all of you!” at the end of the dessert round. I’m glad he’s not moving on; he was that annoying. (Sorry! Agh, it IS hard to mock children. I’m the monster.) Nathan does, however, threaten to come back next year. Perhaps he’ll no longer need the stepstool.

–Alexander, 13, is both the oldest contestant (he’s ancient!) and seemingly the most advanced, expertly whipping up some pistachio macaroons with a vanilla bean dulce de leche filling that Graham wanted to take into the corner and “just mow down.” He looks like what a cartoon character of a young chef would be — a bit roly-poly and ruddy, with one of the sweetest faces I’ve ever seen in my long (LONG) life.

The Top 12: Knife-wielding ninja Roen, Molly, Jack, 12-year-old Brooklyn shyster (with major Bri glasses!) Sofia, Jewels, Dara, Troy, Tommy, Gavin, Sarah, Alexander, and Kaylen, in whose world “mint and lime go really good together.”

What do you think of the Junior format? Who’s your favorite overachieving youngster so far?

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