By Gerrad Hall
August 02, 2018 at 12:00 PM EDT

When the second season of the Emmy-nominated Top Chef Junior premieres Sept. 8 on Universal Kids, only 12 talented young chefs will be competing for the top prize. But to get there, 23 of them head off to bootcamp, and EW has an exclusive look at that pre-season special, above.

Hosted by the series’ head judge Curtis Stone, he takes us behind the scenes, as we meet the competitors from all over the country hoping to make the cut. On Day 1, they have to impress the show’s culinary team, comprised of former Top Chef contestants Sandee Birdsong (season 3) and Jamie Lauren (season 5, All-Stars). First, the young chefs have to show off their knife-cut precision, and they also have to cook a medium-rare steak, perfectly sear tuna, and sauté vegetables.

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Twenty-three becomes 16 as they head into Day 2, where they have 45 minutes to prepare an original dish made from a grocery bag of mystery ingredients. Their creations involving pork chops, chicken, sole, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, and more are impressive, to say the least. And they did it all while properly freaking out from a surprise visit by Chef Stone.

Check out the video above to learn more about the young and talented competitors and to see which 12 will be cooking for the title of Top Chef Junior — and a $50,000 prize! — and get a sneak peek at the upcoming season. The series, hosted by Vanessa Lachey, premieres Sept. 8 at 6 p.m. ET/PT (5 p.m. CT) on Universal Kids.