Extremes in TV Cooking Competitions

The kids competing in Junior MasterChef Australia

Contestants in Junior Masterchef Australia Season 2. Image via Star World.

I’m a sucker for cooking shows.

I remember tuning in to this Chinese cooking show when I was a little girl, and how I loved the clatter, the sizzle, the knifes flashing at kung fu speed, though I understood not a word. Even then, cooking shows fascinated me — watching people cook, in general, fascinate me. Cooking to me is magic, and seeing it happen gave me endless thrills.

The cooking show genre has its own heartthrobs and bombshells, as evidenced by hotties such as Rocco and Curtis, Giada and Nigella. (I did write about hottie chefs before.) Add a little reality, a little competition, and you’ve got a sub-genre that can be totally addictive! There’s Iron Chef (Japan and America), MasterChef, Top Chef, The Next Food Network Star, Throwdown with Bobby Flay… and a whole slew of others.

But there are two that I’ve been watching the past couple of weekends that I feel stand at either end of the cooking competition gamut. At one extreme is the high adrenaline action-suspense-thriller type, Hell’s Kitchen, and at the other end is Junior MasterChef — a cotton candy sweet, children’s-educational type of show.

Hell’s Kitchen (USA)

This show is definitely not for the faint-hearted. I get headaches and get palpitations from this one. It’s like watching 24 sometimes. Tough-talking, potty-mouthed Chef Gordon Ramsay is as in-your-face as it gets, and the contestants take their cue from that and project their own versions of it — whether they have the skills and talents to back it up or not. There’s lots of cursing and swearing, lots of fast-paced action, and lots of alliances that fall apart as fast as they’re made. It’s a vicious, dog-eat-dog, throw each other under the bus kind of environment. And some foodies get a kick out of that.

Chef Ramsay

Image via Star World

Junior MasterChef (Australia)

This one is the antithesis of Hell’s Kitchen. Junior MasterChef Australia is comparatively laid back and relaxed. And where rage, tension, and terror reign supreme in Hell’s Kitchen, in this show from down under, it’s all about friendship, inspiration, positivity, and really adorable and talented kids! Everybody’s really, really nice! The judges are just as critical, but much less harsh. The contestants are sweet and supportive to each other, but no less competitive. It’s all sunshine and rainbows, but in its own way, it’s just as entertaining as the doom and damnation of Hell’s Kitchen.

Greta from Season 2

For more on kiddie cooks, check out Midori’s post about Kids in the Kitchen.

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