If you’re already missing your Gordon Ramsay reality cooking show fix after Next Level Chef’s finale, well, you don’t have to wait very long.
The cutest culinary competition of them all, Masterchef Junior, returns with an all-new season, yes, but also a new judge, too!
The Good Dish’s Daphne Oz joins Gordon Ramsay and Aarón Sánchez for Masterchef Junior’s eighth season. And it will be fun, wacky, impressive, and inspiring.
We caught up with the bubbly delight, Daphne Oz, to discuss being the new kid on Masterchef Junior, The Good Dish, and her new cookbook. Check out our conversation below!
How did you end up joining this season of Masterchef Junior? Did Ramsay call you up?
Yeah, I was fortunate to be asked to be a part of this eighth season of Masterchef Junior. Obviously, it’s a long-running pillar of food competitions. And it’s so exciting to get to play a role in shepherding these young chefs in their journey and love of food.
As a pretty competitive person and longtime fan of competitions in general, I was just so excited to get to be a part of a show that was so much a perfect balance of fun and excitement, and energy with lots of learning.
How does working on Masterchef Junior differ from working on The Good Dish?
The Good Dish is an easy show and place to come out and hang with friends, make some good recipes, take some good ideas home for what you’re going to cook tonight for dinner and hear some chat and thoughts on life as busy moms and working women.
Food is at the forefront, but it’s also beauty and fashion and what we’re thinking about with motherhood and relationships and all the rest of it.
I genuinely believe that television is still this critical place — on The Good Dish, you can come in and invest in relationships with people. You show up every day in their home, have lunch together, relax together, and be a bright spot — something uplifting and positive for them.
It’s very much about that connection you have back and forth with each other day after day.
Whereas Masterchef Junior is such high intensity, high energy; it’s a party in a bag.
You’re invested emotionally because you’re rooting for these kids, and you can’t believe that from 8-13 years old, they’re already so talented and incredibly capable.
You’re learning alongside them; you’re invited to be a part of all of them learning on the show. But you’re watching people throw down in a gauntlet. It’s a very different energy and experience!
Now, were you a young chef? Did you start cooking early like these contestants?
Yeah, I think so, not at their level. I definitely wasn’t making a perfect filet at six, but I grew up cooking with my mom and grandmother every day.
There are tons of people in my family. We always had big family dinners together, and family mealtime was such a special moment and highlight in my day.
I remember thinking about what we were going to make for meals together, brainstorming ideas, going shopping, cooking together, eating together; that’s just how I learned to love what food could do.
But I definitely didn’t have — some of these kids already feel like they’ve had cooking internships! [laughs] They’re making pasta from scratch.
They have no fear! I love that about them.
I’ve learned from that all the time that there is this fearlessness, energy, and creativity that they bring that sometimes you can lose sight of when you’re professionally trained and want to live up to a certain standard, or you’re abiding by certain ways of making a traditional cuisine.
These kids are unburdened by these things, and they just go for it!
They really are. They’re so bold and fearless, and they have such dynamic personalities. How did they inspire you while watching them?
One hundred percent, it’s that bold fearlessness. It’s also that resilience.
They are young kids, and they’re in a high-pressure, high-stakes environment, and week after week, they take what they learn and show up and give us even better than they had the week before.
And that’s really amazing because sometimes we’re our worst enemies. We take failures so personally, and we take them so permanently. Meanwhile, they are like, “Oh, no, that was last week. This week I’m going to win.” I love that!
You’re a mom, so do you think it gave you an advantage as far as how to interact with them and adapt to all these little kiddos?
I like to think so. I really love these kids. I was so proud of them and so happy to be a part of their culinary journey. Definitely, I just tried to be for them what I hope an influential adult will be in my kids’ lives one day.
Encouraging, supportive, and clear and giving them a path forward when they fall down in some way but also giving them the feedback that they need to succeed and trusting them to have that recovery moment and prove what they’re capable of.
I think kids feel so emboldened when adults give them a chance to do it on their own. I learned a lot about that, and I try to use that in my own parenting.
Have your kids gotten into cooking?
They love to cook! And it’s so cute, my older two will have their mock MasterChef Junior competitions, and they’re in the kitchen with me all the time.
What was the most sophisticated dish you saw this season from one of the contestants?
Well, I can’t tell you the specifics, but we literally saw kids making pasta from scratch. We saw kids breaking down whole format fish and other animals.
We also do the cooking demos as judges for them to learn alongside us. And if they did a show where you were blind to who was cooking the food and had to guess how old the chef was, I promise you that you’d never known their ages.
The show is known for some crazy, kooky, fun, wacky challenges; what was the most memorable?
One of the first ones we did was a great icebreaker for me but also hilarious; we did a full Renaissance Fair. We got dressed up, and they had to find a costume that would fit over my eight-month belly. Gordon and Aarón jousted, and the kids were cooking in like 100 temperatures.
It was so crazy and intense. It was so fun to watch. You’re learning along the way. You’re invested in these kids. Gordon, Aarón, and I were adding color and flair. It was just a good time.
Sometimes Gordon and Aarón are as bad as the kids. Did you have to keep them in line?
[laughs] I will say it’s very fun. Obviously, I’m the new girl on the block.
Gordon and Aarón have this very brotherly relationship, they are each other’s biggest allies and supporters, but they also rib on each other all the time. So I had to be there to, you know, keep the peace. But sometimes, I get on, too. I play both sides.
So you had no issues transitioning in as the newbie.
Well, we’ll let the audience be the judge of that. But I’ve always been a part of a big family. I feel like I jumped into a well-oiled machine with this incredible production and crew and the incredible fun and friendliness of their relationships that they very graciously let me jump into. I had a really good time!
I saw a couple of the episodes already, and you fit in perfectly and were fun to watch.
Aww, thank you! Thank you so much.
So can you talk about The Good Dish and your upcoming book?
Yes, definitely. Thank you!
So The Good Dish is a daily cooking and lifetime talk show. It’s hosted by myself, Gail Simmons, and Jamika Pessoa, so an all-female cast and our energy is like a sisterhood.
It’s very much about getting into the kitchen, having fun, getting together, supporting each other, learning something, and feeling like you have this hand up, help in the kitchen that makes you feel — it’s not a chore, it’s not another job at the end of the day.
It’s something you genuinely look forward to because it makes you feel good. It makes you look good.
We’re covering everything delicious in daytime. So yes, food is our lens, but we’re also doing fashion, beauty, motherhood, and being busy working women and anything that’s on our brains for the day.
I think it’s a beautiful bright spot, that’s what I heard from our viewers, and that’s the most rewarding thing to hear people say, “You made me feel confident about trying this dish,” ” I loved this tip you shared.” You forget how much of that connection we all miss, and it’s been so much fun to be a part of that in people’s homes every day with The Good Dish.
And my new cookbook is called Eat Your Heart Out. It’s all fun, no-fuss food to celebrate eating clean. It’s 150 recipes free from gluten and refined sugar.
It’s really my testament to the fact that taking care of ourselves should always be delicious.
I was getting so sick and tired of being made to feel like if I wanted to eat healthily, I had to suffer.
People who follow me on social media or watch me know how I like to cook and eat. I’m all about big flavor and bold impact, and Eat Your Heart Out details a reset that I created over the past five years to use whenever I feel my healthy habits need to be renewed.
Whether it’s to jumpstart weight loss after pregnancy or when I’ve been celebrating too much or stressing too much, and I’ve stopped making conscientious choices, this is a great, empowering reset to use and the 150 recipes I love to use when I’m doing it to jumpstart those good habits again.
And it’s out, April, right?
Since this is TV Fanatic, I have to ask — when you aren’t being a supermom, what TV shows do you love to watch?
Oh my gosh. Can I tell you? I’m such a TV junkie. I’m obsessed! I sometimes fantasize about having a day where I can just watch TV for a long time, popcorn in bed, and all that. I feel like I haven’t gotten to see anything in such a long time.
I’m really looking forward to Bridgerton’s return. I loved the first season. I just downloaded Euphoria. I’m a big fan of 24 and Homeland and all those suspense-driven dramas, so I redownloaded 24 to watch it again. Oh, I love Ozark, and I just downloaded Manifest.
You can catch Daphne Oz on the season premiere of MasterChef Junior airing March 17 at 8/7c on FOX!
Don’t forget to check her out on The Good Dish and look for her cookbook!
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.