Kids cooking competitions: Darling or dangerous?
LOS ANGELES – Are there too many kids in the kitchen?
“Hell’s Kitchen” star Gordon Ramsay, restaurateur Joe Bastianich, and chef Graham Elliot mentor and critique a group of budding age 8-13 cooks on FOX’s “MasterChef Junior.”
Over on the Food Network, there’s the popular “Rachael v. Guy: Kids Cook-Off” where Rachel Ray and Guy Fieri each head up a team of young pot stirrers in a series of weekly challenges.
“MasterChef Junior” gives one kid the boot every week. “Kids Cook-Off” keeps all the kids on until a winner is revealed at the end. But both have fans wondering if it’s wise to have young ones bouncing about with big, sharp knives, navigating burning ovens, and stressing over the texture of their Chilean Sea Bass, not to mention getting judged on their cooking techniques at such a tender age.
“I'm watching #masterchefjunior. First I was like this thing is dangerous for kids, but OMG they are so talented!” one tweeted. Others called the concept downright “scary,” as other viewers made observations like “is it ok for them to use knives that big?” as well as “what every parent wants is their child surrounded by knives and Gordon Ramsay.”
Chef Elliott says the worries are for naught.
“I have three boys of my own and wanted to make sure that I treated the contestants the way I would want my kids to be treated,” Elliot told FOX411. “But I feel I’m pretty consistent in how I judge and critique on both ‘MasterChef’ and ‘MasterChef Junior,’ regardless of the contestants ages.”
Despite their age, the competitors are more like mini adults than kids making cookies to take to school fundraisers.
“I really loved cooking and I just like seeing people’s reactions and getting feedback. Gordon Ramsay was a huge inspiration for me since I was really young… I always thought he was a good role model for me,” said one of the show’s stars, 13-year-old Alexander from New York City. “I’ve been trying to learn flambéing and usually my parents will be around while I do that or when I use alcohol to cook. But I do (most) things on my own.”
Like any aspiring pro, this contestant is all about perfecting the art and learning from his mistakes.
“I recently cooked a duck breast for the first time on my own, and I didn’t really understand how, so I was just kinda playing around with it, and when I was rendering down the duck fat, it didn’t render down, it stayed raw, because I had an extremely hot pan,” Alexander lamented. “I learned after eating raw duck fat.”
Dangerous or not, people are flocking to the cooking kiddies. The “MasterChef Junior” premiere jumped over 50 percent to give FOX its highest Friday rating in more than two years, and the Food Network has just renewed its “Cook-Off” offering.
“I couldn’t believe how talented, professional and driven all of the kids were. I think all three of us judges were simply blown away,” Elliot enthused to FOX411. “I was a huge fan of cuisine and cooking at an early age, but didn’t take it seriously the way these guys do until I was 17.”
“MasterChef Junior” airs Friday, 8-9PM ET/PT on FOX.