I expect somewhere backstage at MasterChef Junior, Gordon Ramsay has a swear jar. And if the out-takes are as I imagine them, there might be enough in there for a down payment on a condo.
On-camera, though, MasterChef Junior's premiere last Friday was like watching a drill sergeant have a turn at playing Barney the Dinosaur.
Yes, they're kids, aged 8-13 (although the eight-year-old, Nathan, was among the 12-out-of-24 who got sent home last week - crying as if his life was over). But I guess a part of me was hoping this would turn out to be some perverse gastronomic version of Bad Santa.
Instead, the judges were all uncharacteristically nice - even Joe Bastianich, who is arguably even more brutally frank on the regular MasterChef than Ramsay (and even more inclined to throw people's best efforts into the garbage in disgust).
Instead, virtually everything the kids made was "top-notch" and "restaurant quality" and "10-out-of-10." Graham Elliot even pronounced the tiger shrimp/sea scallop pasta prepared by Troy (who advanced) as "tiny little nuggets of love." Hey Graham, you're one big nugget of love.
Really, the only hint you ever got that anybody was going home would come from the occasional glowing backhand ("Slightly undercooked in the middle, but otherwise a first-rate job." Yup, he's going home).
That said, as a parent (and therefore more accustomed to children as food critics than cooks), I was gobsmacked to see Grade School kids make all sorts of pasta from scratch, let alone a technically-perfect molten-lava cake. And, though we are usually advised not to let children play with knives, 12-year-old Roen is a freakin' ninja rock-star in the making, cutting up and presenting a sushi dish that looked better (and I'm guessing tasted better) than anything I've had in the metropolis I call home.
Basically, I wanted to kidnap them and convert my own kitchen into a literal child-labour sweat-shop.
The parity of their precocious skills hinted that there were other factors as work than the sheer deliciousness of what the moppets had on offer. The show was edited to showcase the kids saying the darnedest things - like nine-year-old Sarah, who maintained women make better cooks than men because, "Even in the olden days, they were cooking and men were just sitting there, watching TV." Archeological evidence is inconclusive on this point.
Sarah was put through, of course, as were some pubescent divas who'll display more of their mad skills and personality Friday.
But if this were the grownup MasterChef, nasty little Nathan (whose showboating included doing the splits after a challenge) would have been a shoo-in as designated villain/brat - the obnoxious Krissi of this little group.
Instead he was tossed. An act of mercy, really. Who wants to start out life as one of the most hated kids in America?