Modern culture is obsessed with celebrities and image, so right now the fancy food business is at the forefront of pop culture. This public hunger for celebrity chefs has generated many high-pressure competition shows, the most eyebrow-raising for me being “MasterChef Junior.” This series, entering its fourth season this Friday, features contestants between the ages of eight and thirteen competing for the title of MasterChef Junior and a $100,000 cash prize. Featuring the same line-up of judges as “MasterChef,” the junior version awards us the opportunity to hear Gordon Ramsay light up a room full of children the same way he delighted us by tearing down loser restaurant owners in “Kitchen Nightmares.”
Isn’t it wonderful that in this modern age of streaming, at any time we can have a blond, angry British chef yelling at people on our screen? It makes you feel good because you’re not that person he’s yelling at, someone else is—someone else’s child.
The problem with “chef-testant” reality TV is that it paints an entirely inaccurate picture of what a career in restaurants would actually be like. Believe it or not, head chefs do not earn their jobs and titles by competing against other chefs with clever ingredients and a limited amount of time in front a panel of sporadically appropriate judges (Jewel? Really?). They typically work their rear ends off for years as line cooks, earning less than what they need to live on, hoping that their 15-hour days will eventually translate into a promotion, and only after years of consistency and a hyper work ethic will they one day be lucky enough to receive the top job.