Candace Ganger
December 11, 2015 6:32 am

There’s nothing like snuggling up in my big, fuzzy robe on a Friday night and watching my prime time obsession, MasterChef Junior. Yes, that’s how I start the weekend and it rocks.

If you’ve never seen the show, the concept originated in the UK over two decades ago and is much like most cooking competitions. There is a theme, such as a mystery box of ingredients or whatever the celeb judges (Gordon Ramsey, Graham Elliot, and Christina Tosi) deem the topic of the week, plus a time limit the contestants must adhere to. In that time, contestants create a meal of the century in order to move forward, or they risk being eliminated. The thing that makes this show a standout? All of the contestants are kids.

These junior chefs are wildly impressive, and not just because of their chopping and sautéing skills. Throughout the course of the series, these talented kids have dropped a wealth of wisdom I’ve since applied to my own life. Here’s what they’ve taught me.

Never, ever quit

Being a writer means hearing the word NO. A lot. Like more than most people realize. Rejection is part of the process and really never gets any easier. Just recently a random pass left me curled in a ball on the floor. I often question if creating art is truly my path or if I’d be better off in any other field (miming, anyone?). And though I love writing with everything in me, at times, the mere task of checking emails can be a humiliating and painful to-do.

In seeing how these amazing, little chefs compete, it’s beyond obvious quitting isn’t an option. Not ever. Even when faced with an overwhelming task, like baking 3 three-layer cakes in 60 minutes, they stay focused and get it done, obstacles and all. So I guess if kids—ages 8 to 12—never give up on their dreams, I shouldn’t either. Right? Right.

Give each challenge 100%

I’m sure there are times when these kids don’t completely feel like cooking their little hearts out, but they get in there and do it anyway. Most of us have times we aren’t feeling work but have to because bills and food and life. The way to deal is to be completely present and do your very best. That’s it. No magic formula there, only the decision to do it. These kids play to win, and that level of fearlessness and commitment to difficult tasks is inspiring. At least if you fail, you can walk away knowing you did all you could and that’s a reward in itself. Though, cookies help, too.

Play to your strengths

We all have flaws that might hinder our abilities in times of stress. For the MC kids, some may not have superior knife skills while others might be lacking in the baking department. But instead of letting us see them sweat, they focus on what they can do best. Make a savory dish out of doughnuts and marshmallows? Sounds terrifying. But they’ve proven they can do it by highlighting what they do know and the rest falls into place.  So when in doubt (or failing miserably), accentuate the positives (your Alfredo is bland but you totally ruled at plating!)and you’ll exude that winner’s attitude, too.

It’s OK to cry

Sometimes, no matter what you do, the only thing that relieves some of the frustration is literally to sob. In these 4 seasons of MasterChef Junior, there have been plenty of tears over lost challenges. And it’s totally valid—and probably cathartic. Whereas adult contestants may stifle their emotions, kids aren’t ashamed to let it all out, and that’s such an important thing. There have been many times I tried to avoid crying, whether I was disappointed in myself or frustrated I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped. But holding those feelings in won’t help. If anything, it might make things worse.

Win or lose, it really is how you play the game

We’ve all heard the cliché saying but it’s true—not just on a reality cooking show but in life. On MasterChef Junior, these contestant have shown that if you’re kind, respectful, and a team player (even to win individually), it won’t matter if you win or lose. People will remember you for having integrity and compassion, two amazing traits that make you a winner in life. And if you don’t succeed at something and feel like acting out, just remember: Gordon Ramsey is always waiting to call you out on it so. Just. Don’t.

(Images via Fox)

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