Five metro Atlanta children will showcase their culinary skills and passion for food in the fifth season of "MasterChef Junior" on Fox, premiering on Thursday.
They are among 40 talented kids between ages 8 and 13 who were selected from a nationwide search for the best junior home cooks across the country.
The culinary competition features a series of delicious challenges — from steak to scallops to cupcakes. They also must cook a meal for more than 40 first responders, and will get a culinary challenge from former first lady Michelle Obama. This season will also include the first-ever vegan challenge. Surprise guests and diners will include renowned chef Wolfgang Puck and the Muppets.
The host is Gordon Ramsay, British star chef of "Hell's Kitchen." He is joined by renowned pastry chef Christina Tosi. Together, these food experts coach and encourage the hopefuls to cook like pros and teach them the tricks of the trade along the way.
One of the young chefs will be named the country's newest MasterChef Junior and will take home a trophy — and a $100,000 grand prize. The show will air Thursdays from 8-9 p.m. on Fox.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently interviewed three of the five local contestants about their love of cooking and about being on the show, which was filmed in Los Angeles. They were not allowed to discuss the results. (The first two episodes will likely include all of the contestants, but Fox would not confirm exactly when the Atlanta area contestants will be on the show.)
Londyn Green, 10, of Atlanta: Londyn started cooking when she was about 3 years old and developed a strong interest by the time she was 6.
One of four children, Londyn said the best part of cooking is sharing the experience with her family. “It puts a smile on my face, and I like it when my whole family helps to cook and we are all together,” she said.
Londyn said her favorite dishes to make include vegetarian lasagna, jerk chicken with couscous and a saffron rice dish with bacon.
About being on the show: “It was a great opportunity and Gordon was so funny and nice. He teaches us like a professional chef, and he is basically our mentor.”
Jasmine Stewart, 12, of Milton: Jasmine vividly remembers helping her mom make pancakes when she was 3 years old, and it didn't get off to a great start.
She cracked an egg and it broke into many pieces, with the yolk and egg white and bits of shell spilling all over her. “But my mom told me it was OK and we tried again, and it went well. And the pancakes turned out really great,” she said.
Jasmine said cooking provides an outlet for her to express herself and be creative. “I really enjoy cooking. It creates a free place for your mind and for me,” she said. Her favorite dishes to make include cupcakes, steaks, burgers and salad.
Jasmine said she decided to audition after her mom heard about the search and local auditions at a hotel in Atlanta. She said the audition started with a lengthy interview and she was then asked to cook an egg on the spot.
About the show: “I never would have dreamed I would make it to the top 40. It was wonderful to be in a competition doing something I love.”
Justise Mayberry, 11, of Sugar Hill: Justise remembers cooking with her dad as soon as she could reach the counter, and by age 9 her parents trusted her to slice vegetables with knives and use the stove.
She said one of her top priorities when cooking is to prepare healthy meals. For example, she incorporates many vegetables, including onions, peppers and carrots, into a shrimp and linguine meal, one of her favorite dishes.
About cooking, Justise said, “It just makes me happy. It’s something that brings the family together and helps me not get bored.”
Being on the show has inspired her to prepare more ambitious dishes, she said. Since returning from filming the show, she recently made a steak dinner with Brussels sprouts, spinach and bacon. But this time, she made a bacon maple cream sauce to pour on top.
“MasterChef Junior,” 8-9 p.m. Thursdays, Fox