By Oscar Wolfe and Ali Kaplan
Oscar: MasterChef Junior is one of my favorite shows. I love it because most cooking shows are just a bunch of professional chefs sitting around and talking about the boring dish that they just made. On Master Chef Junior, it’s kids my age cooking up ridiculously awesome food. Grown ups like the show too—my dad is still obsessed with Oona even though she was eliminated two seasons ago! I like the contestants who have big personalities but still actually cook well.
Mom: Knowing how much Oscar loves the show, I perked up when a friend forwarded an email announcing open casting calls for the next season. Not for Oscar—he needs to learn how to butter toast before we starting auditioning for cooking competitions! I exaggerate….not by a lot. But I’m not one to talk, since I’m not much of a chef myself. It would be great to have my kids cook gourmet dinners…I just can’t figure out when, as a parent, you know they’re ready to use sharp knives and hot pans. Maybe when they know what it means to flambé and chiffonade (that’s a fancy name for rolling and slicing—I Googled it!).
Until then, we talked to MasterChef Junior casting producer Kelly Mack for scoop on the show, and how to make a great impression at the upcoming tryouts : June 25 in Chicago (Season 4 champ Addison will be there!) and New Orleans; July 9 in Los Angeles and Jacksonville; July 16 in New York City and Houston.
We can’t get over the dishes those young contestants cook up. How good do your cooking skills need to be to apply?
Honestly, what we’re looking for is potential—kids who have a passion for food and cooking and really want to excel at something.
How important is personality, compared to actual cooking skills?
It’s more about the passion and the potential. There are plenty of kids who go far that are not bouncing off the walls.
So what happens at the open casting call?
We give a couple of basic culinary tests—thing all kids within the 8-13 age range can tackle with ease. We have food judges (host Gordon Ramsay won’t be there) who chat with the kids, see where they’re at food-wise, and also get sense of who they are.
Who has impressed you the most during your time with the show?
In Season 4, I was blown away by Zach. He was 11 or 12, and this kid can cook! Not just spaghetti and meatballs, either. Each season, the kids’ talent and ability for being so young blows my mind.
How long does it take to film an entire season of MasterChef Junior?
Somewhere around 6-8 weeks. Although the kids are not physically at school, they have to stay on top of their work. We have teachers who work with them on set. Homework does not get away from them!
Is Gordon Ramsay nice when the cameras aren’t rolling?
Poor Gordon. You know, he has four kids of his own. He’s a really nice guy. The man has some high standards, for sure. But with kids, you see the softer side of him. He does take on more of a mentorship role. A little bit.
What advice do you have for kids who want to try out?
You’re there to have fun. Although it can be an intimidating process, just remember to be yourself, and have fun. Let your talents and personality shine through. A lot of kids have their own apron – I encourage everyone to bring it. Sometimes, the judges can get a sense of who you are just based on that apron.
For more details, visit masterchefjuniorcasting.com