×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘MasterChef Junior’

Gordon Ramsay shows off his cuddly side in this kids cooking competition on Fox

With:

Gordon Ramsay, Joe Bastianich, Graham Elliot.

Fox enters the realm of kinder, gentler reality TV with “MasterChef Junior,” the latest series from the evidently inexhaustible Gordon Ramsay assembly line, but perhaps the first to position the U.K. chef as a cuddly teddy bear. Combining “Kids Say the Darndest Things” appeal with traditional cooking challenges, this mini “MasterChef” is ideally suited for Friday-night family viewing, but will have to overcome network TV’s lousy track record with tyke-driven competitions (e.g., long gone and largely forgotten “Kid Nation” and “American Juniors”) to succeed.

Anyone expecting Ramsay to play the foul-mouthed drill sergeant to a crop of underage culinary contestants is in for a disappointment. Instead, he kicks off the competition with the enthusiastic — and uncharacteristic — declaration “You’re all winners!”

Such cheery platitudes signal “MasterChef Junior” is taking cues from NBC’s current reality king “The Voice,” and a bit of ABC’s Friday-night breakout “Shark Tank,” in avoiding the nastiness and humiliation that characterizes Ramsay’s other Fox vehicles. Even as the group of 24 young chefs, ranging in age from 8 to 13, is whittled down to a top 12 in the one-hour premiere, criticism from Ramsay and fellow judges Joe Bastianich and Graham Elliot never becomes much harsher than “the apples are a little undercooked.”

Still, there’s something rather disconcerting about a competition that involves small children dicing ingredients with sharp knives and lugging around KitchenAid mixers. Fortunately, the show’s emphasis on professionalism helps keep any concerns over safety in check. These kids know their way around a good dish, and appear far more accomplished than the average “MasterChef” adult as they confidently step up to the challenges involving seafood, pasta (made from scratch!) and desserts.

While the rise of celebrity-chef culture surely plays a part in luring young hopefuls to a show like this (or Food Network’s recently launched “Rachel vs. Guy: Kids Cookoff”), “MasterChef Junior” isn’t trying to fool anyone with the disingenuous idea that these chosen few are somehow closer to achieving their dream careers, the way all-ages singing competitions routinely do. There are no promises of opening a restaurant (they’re kids for goodness sake!) or scoring a TV show (well, you never know), but the winner does receive a $100,000 cash prize.

Whatever motives they had for signing on, the show’s assemblage of pint-sized personalities demonstrates enough natural charm to sustain a season and potentially give both Fox and Ramsay another reliable reality franchise. As long as it doesn’t spark a questionable new craze (please, no “America’s Next Top Model Junior” or “The Junior Bachelor”), that seems as harmless as Ramsay’s nice guy makeover.

Popular on Variety

TV Review: 'MasterChef Junior'

(Series; Fox, Fri. Sept. 27, 8 p.m.)

Production:

Filmed in Los Angeles by Shine America and One Potato Two Potato.

Crew:

Executive producers, Elisabeth Murdoch, Eden Gaha, Paul Franklin, Robin Ashbrook, Gordon Ramsay, Adeline Ramage Rooney, Patricia Llewellyn, Ben Adler; co-executive producers, Yasmin Shackleton, Aaron Catling, Brian Smith; line producer, Brent Schwebel; director, Brian Smith. 60 MIN.

Cast:

Gordon Ramsay, Joe Bastianich, Graham Elliot.

More TV

  • Norman LearVariety Showrunners Dinner, Inside, Los

    Norman Lear Accepts Creative Conscience Award at Variety Showrunners Dinner

    Norman Lear accepted Variety’s Creative Conscience Award Tuesday night at the publication’s annual Showrunners Dinner. The award honors Lear for his work promoting important causes both inside and outside the entertainment industry. Lear, who appears on the current cover of Variety, recently renewed his overall deal at Sony Pictures Television. Speaking at the Showrunners Dinner [...]

  • Maria Bartiromo

    Maria Bartiromo Renews Pact With Fox News Media

    Maria Bartiromo will be on Fox Business Network and Fox News Channel for a while longer, after striking a new multi-year deal with Fox News Media. “Her exceptional insights and incredible work ethic have been of tremendous value to Fox Business and Fox News and we’re thrilled to have her continue anchoring each of her [...]

  • Lisa Simpson Tapped as Head of

    Lisa Simpson Tapped as New Head of Talent Relations at Fox Entertainment

    Fox Entertainment has appointed Lisa Simpson as its new head of talent relations. In her senior vice president role, Simpson will oversee the talent relations team, providing strategic support to all of the company’s talent and their representatives. She will report directly to Jean Guerin, executive vice president of publicity and corporate communications at the [...]

  • Mark-Paul Gosselaar 'Was Never Approached' for

    Mark-Paul Gosselaar Says He 'Was Never Approached' for 'Saved by the Bell' Revival

    The Bayside gang is reuniting, but Zack Morris isn’t invited — for the time being, at least. Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who played the good-looking yet incorrigible Zack in NBC’s beloved “Saved by the Bell” series, said he was never approached to take part in the show’s forthcoming TV sequel, which will reprise roles from Mario Lopez [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    How Showrunners Handled Staffing Season Amid WGA-ATA Feud

    This year’s TV staffing season wasn’t quite like any before. Described as a “free for all” by “Batwoman” creator and showrunner Caroline Dries and “like the Wild Wild West” by “Legacies” creator and showrunner Julie Plec, the WGA-ATA debacle has had deep-seated effects on the way showrunners staff their writers’ rooms and search for fresh [...]

  • 2020 TV Season Preview

    How 2020's Fall TV Season Is Already Shaping Up

    Aiming to stand out in a crowded field, broadcasters this season have leaned on the stability of their schedules and the return of established hits. But for many of the same reasons, they’ve also begun to seed the ground for next year’s crop of shows, considering that top performers like “How to Get Away With [...]

  • David E Kelley

    Looking Back on David E. Kelley's History-Making Double Emmy Wins 20 Years Later

    David E. Kelley thought there’d been a mistake. On Sept. 12, 1999, the prolific showrunner was backstage at the Shrine Auditorium, having just accepted the best drama series Emmy for “The Practice,” when he heard his name called again. Kelley immediately figured that the producers were summoning him out again to take the award away [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content