Finally, someone shorter than George...

Junior MasterChef has picked up from where MasterChef left off this year, and really excelled in delivering a quality spin-off from it’s parent. What made it even more interesting was a different company (in this case, Shine Entertainment) are running the show. New company + new format of mega-hit normally equals tragedy. Thank goodness that’s not the case in this situation.

The season has rated well for Channel 10 (and God knows they needed it to). Certainly held it over The X Factor Australia (that’s a whole other post). Shine have stuck to a very similar format for Junior MasterChef – group challenges, mystery box, pressure tests, etc, but all have been made ‘child-friendly’. The emphasis is on competing & doing your best, as opposed to winning outright. Points are awarded for 1st, 2nd, 3rd, but it’s not immediate elimination – that’s been done in groups, and with the challenges last week we were delivered our final four contestants: Isabella (12), Sofia (12), Jack (12) & Siena (9).

This second last episode delivered on the formula in spades, as has the entire season. Celebrity chef guests; great cooking challenges; the large personalities of the hosts; the MasterChef kitchen; & the cheflings delivering amazing food, punching well above their weight. To see what is offered by these children has to send a very clear message to the next batch of adult contestants for MasterChef S03 – the bar has been raised. If a 9 year old can deliver a superb risotto (which has been the jinx dish for the adults so far), then you better step up. No excuses.

Do not feed the animals.

The child contestants are entirely encouraging of each other. And they mean it. You can also tell when they are disappointed with their performance or if something has upset them. With very little inner monologue we’re getting some very real, very raw emotion not based on drawing popularity. Sure, at times, the contestants are annoying. Sure, at times, they contestants may seem smug. Sure, at times, the contestants may end every sentence with an inflection that touches heaven. But on the whole, these kids are just little balls of exciting energy. An additional major difference is how the judges handle the contestants… much more kindly, more encouraging, less like they are apprentices – entirely understandable, and it’s (mostly) done very sensitively.

As always, there is stuff that could be improved (if it is to appear again in 2011). No more Anna Gare, please. From her incredibly poor posture to her inane, condescending remarks to the contestants, she was entirely not required. If the cheflings weren’t coached for their interviews then they’ve all watched too much reality TV. Too many edits of glib responses from the contestants. DO NOT giveaway the twists of what happens later in the episode through promos leading into the first ad break – this was an issue in S02 of adult MasterChef, and has crept into the final episodes of Junior MasterChef also. The wins of this show have far outweighed the losses. That kids are this excited about cooking (and this good) can only mean our future restaurants are already in good hands.

Junior MasterChef’s final 2 of Jack and Isabella are completely deserving of their places. The final episode will be an absolute winner if this semi-final episode is anything to go by.

P.S. Thank God for Flourball. It always knows just the right time to interrupt to build the suspense.


Image/Video sources: Channel 10.