Junior Masterchef Review: No Amateur Cook Off

May 11, 2010 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

JUNIOR MASTERCHEF: Everyday this week, BBC1, 4.35pm ALERT ME

In a current media climate where children are demonised as either knife wielding thugs or feral orgiastic tribes wandering the streets in search of lurid pleasures, it’s refreshing to see a TV format that actively encourages the younger generation to take an interest in cooking and a healthy attitude to competition.

In the BBC’s quest to “find the best young chef in the country? they have stumbled upon – or rigorously auditioned – four confident, eloquent and undeniably talented kids from around the country battling it out for a quarter final spot.

The first part of the competition involved a quick Toad in the Hole master class which the children then have to replicate. Having successfully completed this they are then required to cook a three course meal of their own choice to present to the judges.

Jameel, aged 12 from Birmingham, rustles up a chicken in tomato curry dish followed by a scrumptious looking mango lassi – a traditional Indian yoghurt drink – taught to him by various generations in his family. The pride which he invested in his cooking was genuinely heart-warming and far surpassed my rather rudimentary cooking abilities. The other children, all aged between 9 and 12, also whipped up some impressive dishes ranging from Greek meatballs to salmon risotto and in the process revealed themselves to be accomplished young culinary practitioners.

Presented by John Torode and Nadia Sawahla, there is justifiably a less severe tone adopted by the judges when critiquing the children’s abilities – a refreshing change from witnessing Louis Walsh reducing a 12 year old girl to tears on The X-Factor. Indeed, the children seem to be perfectly happy to simply be a part of the experience, unless the tears hit the editing floor in case of parental outrage.

Junior Masterchef manages to entertain both adults and children – for whom the format has been adapted – and if it continues in this manner could be as important in shaping children’s perception of food and cooking as Jamie Oliver’s healthy eating campaign. The judgements may be soft and restrained but the children’s accomplishments are admirable.

Amber emerged victorious in the end but the enduring message of the show – delivered before the final verdict – was the edict “please go home and keep cooking because you are all talented?. It’s a positive note that teaches children the rather tortured – but true – idiom: ‘it’s not the winning that counts – it’s the taking part’. Not quite the same conclusions of similar talent based shows which, especially when compared to this, are snide and malicious and a blot on the TV landscape.