I’ve never been a fan of cooking competition shows or cooking shows in general. I live in Brooklyn, where waiters launch into 10 minute soliloquies about a tomato’s history, so I don’t need to watch TV to get my daily dose of foodie jargon. So how did I become utterly obsessed with Masterchef Junior? The cop-out answer: the show caught me at a vulnerable time. So to save you from an afternoon of becoming a weeping, maternal mess with an inhumane craving for Beef Wellington, here are seven reasons to stay away from this show when your Aunt Period is in town.
1. The Aww Factor
Kids! Cooking! With truffle oil! At the moment, I have no intention of ever having children, but during each 45-minute episode, my maternal instinct kick into overdrive. The show is pretty shameless when it comes to shots of itty bitty kids struggling to carry stand mixers twice their size or tottering under giant, cupcake-laden trays. Sure, these kids can also be conniving reality-show sharks, but they’re also only 8-13 years old with chubby cheeks and highly developed knife skills—adorable.
2. Nice Gordon Ramsay
If you don’t believe the cuteness is contagious, just take a look at Gordon Ramsay, whose anger issues are legendary. But around these kids, he suddenly becomes Father Christmas. When a kid breaks down because her mixer is stuck in batter or her whipped cream didn’t achieve stiff peaks, Gordon goes straight into Father-of-the-Year mode and dries their tears with his reassuring British presence. One thing, though, Gordon: never ask a 12-year old if she has a boyfriend—it’s non sequitur and weird.
3. Mean Gordon Ramsay
Of course, Gordon wouldn’t be on television if he didn’t get a chance to have at least one blood vessel-popping tantrum. During the restaurant-takeover challenge, he had a signature hissyfit, and peppered throughout the show, he unleashes biting insults that make you want to shelter the children in your bosom. On the flip side, it’s almost cathartic to see him get his aggression out, albeit on small children. Stupid kids, you end up thinking, wrapped in your Snuggie with a hot water bottle, they can’t even properly fillet a Branzino. What has the world come to?
3. Inferiority Complexes
But just when you start to feeling all high and mighty, you realize that these kids are in middle school and they can plate sushi and cook filet mignon. When I was nine years old, I couldn’t open a box of Kraft cheese shells without getting a paper cut. Meanwhile, these kids are explaining their disdain for blue cheese and baking dainty macarons that would make the ghost of Julia Child weep. Prepare to regret your wasted childhood spent having fun and playing Nintendo, when you could’ve been learning how to perfect coq au vin.
4. Jack & Sarah
For me, there were two breakout stars. The most obvious one is Sarah, the pint-sized terror whose deep-fried sardines left Joe Bastianich starry-eyed and isn’t one to let her is fuel for the soul. These two kids represent the yin and the yang of your current condition, and having them on your screen will inevitably leave you as defensive as a mother bear waking up from hibernation.
5. The Non-Stop Cravings
The food. Sweet Jesus, the food. It’s somewhat disheartening to be assaulted with visions of perfectly plated Chilean sea bass and majestic layer cakes, while you’re choking down a frost-bitten Lean Pocket. I have no idea what candied fennel and pureed figs taste like, but I know I’d like it shoved down my gullet now, please. I’d wake up in the middle of the night, yearning for seared crab cakes with garlic aioli. And I don’t even know what aioli is.
6. Bat-sh*t Crazy Names
Blame Park Slope, but some of the contestant’s names will make your eye twitch. After a while, though, I started considering the name Aioli for my first born.
7. Never-ending Tears
Crying on reality shows is a given, and the amount of tears shed on this show is enough to float an ark. It’s hard not to join in after a while, especially when you’re watching a nine year old’s culinary dreams being shattered. You find yourself crying along with the girl whose blue cheese souffle didn’t rise. And the kid whose puff pastry didn’t puff. And the little guy who had the audacity to use processed American cheese. Needless to say, it’s a slippery slope, and Midol is no help when it comes to the deluge of emotions this show induces. Masterchef Junior stans, you have been warned.