Top Chef Junior
We got the host of Family Channel's Top Chef Junior to open up about her experience on the show, what it's like being inspired by nine-year-olds and how to get your own kids helping out with the cooking.
If there's one lesson to take away from Family Channel's Top Chef Junior, it's that anything an adult can do in the kitchen, a kid can too—and sometimes, they do it even better.
The show follows 12 contestants as they cook their way through a series of increasingly complicated culinary challenges, take part in educational excursions, compete in team and elimination challenges and learn from celebrity guest judges.
It's a terrific show to enjoy as a family, as you can gain inspiration from these budding chefs together. Each episode is chock-full of useful tips and cooking advice for people of all experience levels in the kitchen. "There's something about watching contestants with the minds and palettes of a child but with the skills of an adult that's really fun," says Vanessa. "I get inspiration from the show all the time. I get home and I think, If a 15-year-old can do this, I'm going to try it!"
We sat down with Vanessa to find out more about the show and learn her tips for getting your own kids in the kitchen.
Canadian Living: How does the Junior series compare to the original Top Chef show?
Vanessa Lachey: The tone is naturally altered because the contestants are 9-14 years old, but to be completely honest—and I know that my co-host, Curtis Stone, would say the same thing—these young kids are chefs. They're here to be chefs; they bring it, and we give them the same challenges we do on Top Chef.
In a way, the contestants are more free with their imagination, because they're not so jaded by the idea of what other people will think. They just want to try stuff! They're excited to sous vide for the first time, or deep fry for the first time. Sometimes the results are amazing, because they have this innate ability to mix seasonings, and they know what they love, and they love to cook.
CL: Do the contestants get any advice or assistance that doesn't make it into the show?
VL: As hosts, we don't help them, but the kids do get courses before they go to shoot. For example, Curtis owns the restaurant and butcher shop Glen LA, and—without giving too much away— in this season, he gives them a master course to teach them about the situation they're about to face. We also have different guest judges, and when they come on, they give the kids [assistance or pointers]. For example, if we have a baker come in, we'll have her teach them her secrets for how she became one of the most successful bakers in the country. So each episode definitely does have an element of them learning something before they get to the next level.
CL: Do you learn anything yourself from watching the contestants throughout the show?
VL: I don't know about you, but I'm not a chef, I'm a wannabe chef. Like most people in the country, I didn't go to culinary school, I'm no culinary expert, but love to share the gift of food. To see it through the minds of the contestants, it's a lot more tangible. I feel like this is very user-friendly show that kids and parents can watch and experience together. I really learn from these young chefs, and [what I cook as a result] ends up being super yummy, and then my kids tell me "this is also what we like to eat!" Also, the contestants are so much more resilient than we are; [even when they're eliminated,] they just see the silver lining in the cloudiest of days.
CL: Any tips for parents wanting to get their own kids more involved in the kitchen?
VL: This is a tip I got from Curtis himself: just put them in the kitchen. Don't be scared of what the kitchen is. In fact, teaching them at a young age will help them learn more about kitchen safety. Because if you leave your kid in the playroom while you cook dinner, you're going to have to clean up the mess they made in that room after dinner. But if you put them in the kitchen while you're cooking dinner, you're still going to have to clean up the mess they make, but now they're with you, learning and watching you cook.
Don't miss it! Sit down with your kids every Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET/PT to enjoy Top Chef Junior on Family Channel. Season two begins on Tuesday, October 2 with new episodes airing Tuesday and Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET/PT for the first two weeks!