By: Nestor U. Torre
Philippine Daily InquireThe first telecast of the new kiddie cooking tilt, “Junior Master Chef, Pinoy Edition” on Saturday, August 27, fielded 60 preselected young, semifinalists vying for the really cool million-peso prize that are the culinary competition’s top plum. Having been a regular viewer of the original edition produced in Australia, we could readily compare “our” version to “theirs”:
The Australian show featured more naturally child-friendly judges; the Pinoy panel of chef-jurors is too consistently on its best behavior, so the effect is a bit stilted—and also too overwhelmingly complimentary, with all of the 20 young cooks who competed getting great reviews (the only “slightly negative” note struck was the comment that a fish dish was too bland and needed a bit more salt!).
We know that the jurors were being kind so as not to hurt the vulnerable kids’ feelings but such universal good cheer was too Pollyanna-ish to be believed.
So, when 10 of the 20 were eliminated at show’s end, some of them were shocked. If their dishes had been so absolutely wonderful, why did they lose? Why, indeed?
In the future, therefore, the jurors have to do better at being both supportive and objective. This is a competition, remember, and “talking down” to kids is a left-handed compliment that none of them should get.
Host Judy Ann Santos was also overly-kind, but she did well, otherwise. Just a tiny note: Since she’s still plump after delivering her first child, she needs a better stylist to help her cover up what needs to be temporarily hidden, ahem.
Now, to the young contestants: The Australian tilt’s kids amazed us with the precocious sophistication of their culinary skills. Their Pinoy counterparts, while also coming up with tasty dishes, generally hewed more basic cooking techniques. As they progress in the tilt, of course, they will be able to acquire more diverse techniques, and that’s all to the good.
On point of personality, it was instructive to see that more of the local kids resorted to juvenile behavior and reactions, unlike the young Australians, who came across as cool, pint-sized professionals. A number of the local contestants burst into tears, and several made a big deal about their disadvantaged origins, complaining that they weren’t “familiar” with some of the ingredients made available to them.
By the way, there was also a problem with the day’s specific cooking challenge, which was described as coming up with “dishes served during a typical Filipino fiesta”: A number of “better-advantaged” kids came up with more sophisticated western dishes that were ostensibly delicious, but did not fit that “Pinoy fiesta” description—and yet they were resoundingly praised by the judges. Shouldn’t they have lost some points, because the dishes weren’t what the specific challenge had ordered?
Well, these are pilot-show kinks that succeeding telecasts can iron out. What’s important is that young Pinoys are being enticed to be interested in cooking good, healthy food, instead of just wolfing down junk food.
Since our children’s health and creativity are key, these are definitely upbeat inputs that the show can be proud of.
Now, if only the jurors can tell it like it is, and the contestants can go beyond basic cooking skills, we’ll be in for a really dishy and yummy viewing treat every Saturday at 6:45 p.m., from here on in.