Things are heating up in the MasterChef Junior kitchen!
In this exclusive sneak peek of Thursday’s new episode, the six remaining home cooks, ranging in age from eight to 13, are put to the test as they compete in the show’s pop-up restaurant challenge for a spot in the coveted semi-finals. ET was invited to the Malibu, California, set to see it all go down.
“This is where we go up a level,” Chef Gordon Ramsay tells ET. “This is where we sort of really hone in on that incredible talent. So are they good enough to run a restaurant?”
But the challenge of dishing out 2-course, 5-star luxury meals for a pack of VIP guests doesn’t come easy for these young contestants and Chef Gordon Ramsay doesn’t hold back his frustrations with the teams.
Ramsay admits the biggest challenge of coaching and mentoring kids is “finding that line in terms of how far to push them.” But he stands by his approach because “the results are there.”
“Each and every individual has different weaknesses and strengths, so we focus on weaknesses and improve their strengths,” he explains. “We got the greenlight from the parents, you know, to put them under pressure, and I think that's healthy at their age, and even if they never want to open a restaurant, just as a life skill, is crucial, but we go far.”
Fellow judge Chef Christina Tosi insists the young cooks' ages are not a true reflection of their culinary skills, but she does admit that pushing the kids to their boundaries can be “grueling” on them.
“It comes with tears, it comes with a lot of emotion,” she says. “It’s the hardest part but it's easily the most rewarding part of this show.”
For fans at home who have seen Gordon Ramsay’s no-holds-barred approach on TV and wonder if that’s what he’s really like in person, take it from this intrepid reporter who got a taste of Ramsay’s bolstering personality, he is a straight shooter-- which is why he’s so good at what he does.
Need proof? Watch the video above for an exclusive look behind the scenes of the pop-up restaurant challenge.
MasterChef Junior airs Thursdays at 8/7c on Fox.