Masterchef is the juggernaught of Australian television at the moment.
I was living in the UK when it rose to prominence and became the must-see TV it is today. When I came back, everyone was talking about it. I even watched a few episodes myself. It was pretty good — the format was fun and intense, the food was sensational, and if you like to cook, educational too. It was like a serious blend of Iron Chef and Australian Idol. The only problem was that it made me insanely hungry.
Anyway, Masterchef Australia has taken things to the next level by introducing ‘Junior Masterchef’, which is essentially the same thing except with child contestants. From what I can gather they’re mostly between the 8 and 12 years old.
I initially thought the whole thing was a joke. It was an explosion or severed finger away from worldwide condemnation and multi-million dollar law suits. Yes, the parents are supervising, and yes, safety measures are in place, but seriously, kids cooking? What’s next? Lord of the Flies Live? (Actually, that would be a good show).
So I watched my first episode last night. At the start, I was very cynical because it felt so serious. The judges spoke in their usual exaggerated fashion and the kids stood stern faced with hands behind their backs. I was expecting to see kids running around, picking their noses and giving each other Chinese burns, but they were all so bizarrely mature and professional about the whole thing.
And when they started their cooking tasks, I was blown away. What’s going on with kids these days? They can actually cook, and cook extraordinarily well. They know what they’re doing. They know all the terms and the lingo. The stuff they make look pretty and I assume, given the judges’ responses, tastes not too shabby either. They put me to shame.
I first learned how to make jelly at age 8. Mix packet with water and freeze. And I didn’t do that particularly well either. I’m pretty sure my parents didn’t let me use the stove until I was much older than that. The question is, should kids be doing this sort of stuff? It feels so weird to me that kids are so knowledgeable and capable in the kitchen. And to put them on national TV under the spotlight, with all the stress and pressure that comes with it. But on the other hand, if they enjoy it and it’s safe, then why not? They could be getting up to much worse things nowadays, and having a useful hobby is not a bad thing, especially if they eventually want to head in that direction as a profession.
Whatever. It still freaked me out.