On a traditional family trip to a restaurant, kids receive a children's menu filled with items loaded with saturated fat and white carbohydrates. Take Applebee's, for example, which features options ranging from mini cheeseburgers to grilled cheese to Kraft macaroni and cheese, with a choice of Oreo Cookie Shake and Oreo Cookie Sundae for dessert. Showing that kids can acquire more sophisticated and healthy palates: "MasterChef Junior" on October 25, during which Chef Gordon Ramsay invited his tiny crew of cooks to take over a restaurant.
The family-friendly TV show has made a point of demonstrating how parents can raise children with adventurous palates who are eager to try foods that might make some adults shudder (snails, anyone?). The secret: Invite your kids to cook with you, as Chef Gordon joyfully proves (and yes, parents, he succeeds in cooking without dropping a single curse). In a nation where solving the childhood obesity crisis remains a mystery, this show leads the way.
"MasterChef Junior" stars children between the ages of eight and 13. Although all have shown in previous episodes that they're brave enough to try different foods, it's been a gradual process. But the October 25 "restaurant takeover" episode showed their progress in experimenting with healthy foods in the kitchen.
Although the little cooks initially hesitated when Chef Gordon told them that they were cooking for a sophisticated group of diners in an upscale restaurant, they loyally followed their leader with a bold "Yes, Chef!"
(We'll allow room for the one youthful rebel in the crowd, the usually beaming Alexander, who whispered: "I think the judges are out of their minds.")
The executive chef for the restaurant showed the kids how to make the appetizers and main dishes in a tutorial, emphasizing presentation as well as flavor. Just as with the original MasterChef, host Gordon was joined by restaurateur and winemaker Joe Bastianich and chef Graham Elliot to judge the kids.
However, in contrast to the adult version of the show, all the judges display their softer side and provide the kids with kindness rather than curses. But although he didn't swear, Gordon did appear to be in dire need of a large serving of Pepto-Bismol with an appetizer of Advil.
"C'mon, kids," he groaned several times, clasping his head with both hands and whimpering as the children argued among themselves and produced the orders too slowly for his taste.
"It looks like a dog's dinner," mourned Gordon at one point, returning a dish to the kids to redo.
At the end, the diners were asked to rate the blue team and red team chefs. Their scores, combined with the taste test of the executive chef and the judges themselves, were used to decide which children would move to the next challenge.
Best moment of the show: When Gordon introduced the chefs to the diners, who applauded and even gave the children a standing ovation.
Saddest moment of the show: When two weeping, sobbing children were told they had to leave the show. With hugs from Gordon and the other judges, they left with promises to keep cooking.
Funniest moment of the season thus far: Declared one young girl, faced with a "mystery box" brimming over with liver: "This is so not gummy bears."
- Click here to read about Chef Gordon's personal success as a triathlete: How he lost 30 pounds
- Learn how Chef Gordon taught the kids to love liver by clicking here
- Discover how Chef Gordon is teaching kids to eat right by clicking here