The kids are back in the kitchen! MasterChef Junior makes its triumphant return for season 8 on March 17. Gordon Ramsay and Aarón Sánchez are back as judges, alongside new judge Daphne Oz. The judges meet 16 of the top kid chefs in the country, and one will ultimately be crowned the MasterChef Junior champion.
HollywoodLife spoke EXCLUSIVELY with Aarón about why he loves MasterChef Junior and getting to mentor these young chefs. He raved over “supermom” Daphne and how she added to the Masterchef Junior experience. Aarón also admitted that even he gets emotional when the kids get upset on the show. Read our full Q&A below:
We are back for MasterChef Junior season 8. What keeps you coming back?
Chef Aarón Sánchez: I’ve been doing it a couple of times. To be honest, I kind of lost count of how many I’ve done, but it’s been great and I’ll tell you why. Because the amount of kids that are inspired by this process is infinite. To see their growth and their maturation through this process and cultivating their love for food, I think it’s amazing. And as a father of an 11-year-old, I can tell you right now that I’m very much in touch with where they’re at in life.
Is your son into cooking and taking after his dad?
Chef Aarón Sánchez: No. He’s a very healthy eater, I will give you that. But I’m kind of pleased that he doesn’t necessarily want to follow in my footsteps in that respect because I come from a long lineage of cooks. I’m a third-generation cookbook author. My mom, my grandmother, were great cooks and did it professionally. For me, I love the fact that he’s kind of separated himself. He’s very artistic and loves to draw. He likes making little movies. He’s just really cool in that respect. He’s very artistic and I just think that kind of falls in line with being a chef.
Daphne Oz is joining you as a new judge this season. What does she bring to the table as a new judge for MasterChef Junior?
Chef Aarón Sánchez: I mean, so many different things. Talk about a multidimensional, multi-dynamic, amazing human. I call it her supermom. Seriously, she is supermom. By the way, she’s such a fantastic cook. I can wax poetic about Daphne because she’s like my sister, and I just think the world of her and her dad. She took it upon herself to go to culinary school and do that process to have that credibility and have that skill set and that foundation. You can tell what she’s all about.
Cooking trends are ever-evolving. Is there something that you noticed amongst the youngsters this season?
Chef Aarón Sánchez: One of the things that I’ve understood is that they have much more of a bigger grasp on the world of food. Initially, when I started working with Masterchef Junior, I thought they had a very American perspective about their food. Now I think a lot of these kids are starting to go back into their family heritage and grabbing some of that inspiration. You’re starting to see that on the plates, which I think is interesting at their age to understand the importance of that. I found it fascinating.
This show continues to be as exciting as ever. How is season 8 raising the MasterChef Junior stakes?
Chef Aarón Sánchez: I mean, huge. First of all, as you mentioned earlier, Daphne’s presence is a huge game-changer. I think also what we’re doing as far as MasterChef season 8, we’re taking them out in the field. We’re doing all the fun things that get them interested as far as the novelty of things, like going to a medieval village. We have WWE personalities come in and cook with us. All these fun little bits keep them engaged, but it’s also the competitive nature of all these particular things that we’re doing with them. Whether you’re a wrestler, or whether you’re jousting in a medieval fest, there’s that competitive underlying message that I think they get, and I think that’s what makes it so cool.
Every time I watch it, it never ceases to make me tear up when the kids get emotional. Does it ever get to you when they cry?
Chef Aarón Sánchez: First of all, I’m the biggest paleta or Mexican pudding pop you’ve ever seen in your life. Gordon does us a huge favor and solid by being the one that says “it’s time to go.” If I did that, I would just not be able to control myself. Because when I see the kid with the quivering lip, I’m done. We’re both crying. I’m a dorky little guy. I’m the first guy to do it. It’s hard but I’m always taken back by their composure and the way that they’re able to have that sort of fortitude at the end when they get bad news. Bad news is part of life. It doesn’t always go your way. I think in the way we do it, we do it so beautifully and elegantly. I really applaud what we do in that respect.
What’s something that you’ve learned from these young kids that maybe you didn’t know before?
Chef Aarón Sánchez: I learn all the time. I learn about resiliency from them. They cut themselves and burn themselves a lot less than the adults, and that’s a fact. The adults seem to always have these kinds of mishaps. But with the kids, we have a bunch of 8 years old, and they know that’s hot, that’s sharp, and I’m not messing with that. I’ve learned that from them just as far as their awareness. Children have that beautiful sort of nonfilter, and they say prophetic things all the time. And I’m like, wow, I never thought of that. That’s cool. They’ve said hibiscus smells like bubblegum or something like that. And it’s like, maybe you’re right. That does smell like bubble gum.